Is Fruit Juice Actually Healthy for Children?

 

Juice is one sugary beverage that people perceive as healthy, compared to other sweetened beverages like sports drinks and sodas. People may consider juice to be healthy simply because it comes from fruit; however, the high sugar content is a red flag that can lead to issues further down the road. Some juices even have large amounts of added sugars in it on top of the great amount of natural sugars from the fruit itself. So why are we insisting on giving our children juice?

 

Juice is usually well-liked and tolerated by young children, which may be why we find it easy to give to our children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting juice to 4 oz for children 1-3 year, 4-6 oz for children 4-6 years, and 8 oz for children 7-18 years of age. Juice is not recommended for children under the age of 1 year. On average, children ages 2-5 consume 10 ounces of juice per day. Kids certainly don’t need as much juice as we think! While juice may provide several vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, too much juice in a child’s diet can contribute to certain health conditions such as obesity and tooth decay.

 

Obesity rates in the United States have risen over the years and affects 19% of children. That is a large percentage of children! Perhaps sugary beverages including juice are contributing to that statistic. Juice has high amounts of natural sugars and calories and lacks the fiber one would get from eating whole fruits. It’s a beverage that can be drank quite quickly and easily, and without the fiber content, does not keep bellies feeling full. Lacking satiety may lead to more snacking and increased calorie intake throughout the day. Diabetes typically goes hand in hand with obesity as well. Research shows that consuming juice is associated with increased risk of diabetes. However, we see the opposite with certain fresh fruit—we see a decreased risk of diabetes. Fresh fruit is recommended over fruit juice any day!

 

While fruit juice is not a necessary part of obtaining an adequate diet, you should consider the following if you choose to incorporate it in your child’s diet. It is recommended that the juice be 100% fresh or reconstituted fruit juice. Consider watering down juice to cut out some calories and sugars. Children should not be given juice in a bottle or sippy cup, especially at night in bed, as this promotes tooth decay.     

 

As a society, we need to aim for lower obesity and diabetes rates in the United States. By restricting high sugar beverages like juice, we can promote healthy diets and lifestyles that can prevent unwanted health conditions.

Resources:

  1. Kit BK, Fakhouri TH, Park S, Nielsen SJ, Ogden CL. Trends in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among youth and adults in the United States: 1999–2010. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jul 1;98(1):180–8..
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics Recommends No Fruit Juice For Children Under 1 Year [Internet]. [cited 2018 Aug 30]. Available from: https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Recommends-No-Fruit-Juice-For-Children-Under-1-Year.aspx

 

Thank you to dietetic intern Molly Lowery for her contributions to and creation of this post.

Is Bone Broth Healthy?

Recently in the food world, the “super food” bone broth has been a huge hit due to its supposed variety of health benefits. Some people have even started drinking bone broth in place of their morning coffee or tea. Bone broth has been acclaimed to sooth arthritis and boost immune function while also smoothing and strengthening skin. To clear the air, there is nothing new about today’s bone broth. Bone broth, or stock, has been used in cooking in many cultures around the world for centuries. Bone broth can be made from bones, tendons, ligaments, and skin from beef, poultry, pork, and fish. These animal components are simmered in water over several hours and can be consumed hot as it is or incorporated into soups, gravies, and other dishes. So what about bone broth makes it a health food?

 

Sadly, little research has been done with bone broth and therefore, the supposed health benefits have little evidence to back them up. Bone broth has peaked scientists’ interest for over 80 years. A research study regarding nutritional benefits of bone broth dating back to 1934 in The Archives of Disease in Childhood came to the conclusion that bone broths are not of  “great nutritional value”. Over the years, there have been few studies on bone broth with indefinite conclusions. The medical journal Chest published a study in 1978 concluded that chicken soup helps clear nasal passages. The study found that consuming hot chicken soup significantly increased flow of mucus significantly better than consuming cold or hot water. While results appeared to be significant in this study, it is important to point out that there were only 15 subjects involved. Not to discount the study’s results, however, a small amount of participants like this suggests for further research to be done. Another piece of research surrounding chicken soup was published in the Chest in 2000. Researchers concluded that chicken soup might reduce inflammation. Laboratory test results showed that consuming chicken soup lowered the activity of the white blood cells called neutrophils. This specific type of white blood cell is the immediate responder when there is an inflammatory response within the body. While this study reports positive outcomes, the study was not confirmed in a controlled group of participants.

 

One of the few factual pieces of health information is that bone broth is a good source of protein. One cup of bone broth has about 5 grams of protein. Proteins are the fundamental pieces of muscles, bones, cartilage, and skin. Bone broth has also been suggested as a post-workout drink to replace lost electrolytes when exercising. High concentrations of electrolytes, such as sodium and chloride, are easily lost through sweat.

 

Several other health claims have been made about bone broth with no scientific evidence to support them. A few are listed below:

 

Claim 1: Bone broth strengthens bones because of the calcium content. Even though bones simmer in the broth for hours at a time, little calcium is released from the bones into the broth. The amount is so little that will not significantly increase bone strengthen or prevent bone conditions such as osteoporosis.

 

Claim 2: Bone broth relieves join pain. Arthritis occurs due to a loss of collagen, which is protein that provides padding for the joints. The collagen found in bone broth is not directly absorbed and transferred directly to the joint to prevent joint pain. Dietary collagen protein is broken down into amino acids just like any other protein food source. These amino acids are then used to help build and repair components of the body including skin, cartilage, and bone; however, they will not immediately transfer to the joints to relieve pain.

 

Claim 3: Bone broth helps firm and smooth skin. While collagen plays a structural role in skin just like it does with joints, it isn’t directly absorbed through the skin either.

 

The sad truth about supposed “superfoods” is that there is no one food that has all the health properties that the body needs. The body requires a variety of nutrients, vitamins and minerals and we are unable to obtain those from one specific food source. It is important to incorporate a wide variety of all food groups in your diet in order to nourish your body properly. While bone broth is most likely harmless, it does not have the curing capabilities that the media construes. Incorporating bone broth into a healthy balanced diet may help promote health overall, however, it will not be the magic ingredient that cures one from any illness.

 

Resources:

  1. McCance RA, Sheldon W, Widdowson EM. Bone and vegetable broth. Arch Dis Child. 1934 Aug;9(52):251–8.
  2. Taking Stock Of Bone Broth: Sorry, No Cure-All Here [Internet]. NPR.org. [cited 2018 Aug 28]. Available from: https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/02/10/384948585/taking-stock-of-bone-broth-sorry-no-cure-all-here
  3. Publishing HH. What’s the scoop on bone soup? [Internet]. Harvard Health. [cited 2018 Aug 28]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthy-eating/whats-the-scoop-on-bone-soup

Thank you to dietetic intern Molly Lowery for her contributions to and creation of this post.

Is Almond Milk Good for You?

April 2, 2018 by  
Filed under Consumer awareness, Dairy

It seems that dairy is usually the first group of foods that people eliminate from their diet when having indigestion or irritable bowel symptoms. In turn, they typically choose to replace dairy with products like soy milk, rice milk, or almond milk. These products are quite popular as they are advertised as vegan-friendly, lactose-free, and fortified with calcium and vitamin D. As time has progressed, other dairy-free “milk” alternatives have been added to the market coming from sources such as coconuts, cashews, and quinoa.

While these products give a dairy-free option for people with lactose-intolerance, we often see healthy people choose milk alternatives solely to follow the popular nutrition fad at the time instead of out of medical necessity, such as a milk allergy. It is imperative that we educate ourselves on the health benefits of dairy products and what nutrients may be missing or lacking in the diet if we choose to eliminate them.

Almond milk is one of the most popular dairy-free milk alternatives.

But is it actually a healthy choice? Cow’s milk provides us with nutrients such as calcium, protein, vitamin B12, and riboflavin. While calcium and vitamin D are added into almond milk during processing, it lacks the other nutrients that cow’s milk provides us with. For most adults, it is recommended that a person consume 10-35% of their diet from protein sources. Dairy provides protein that allows the body to build and repair muscle and tissues as well as providing the foundation for cartilage, skin, and bones. An 8-oz serving of almond milk provides about 1 g of protein compared to 8 g from 2% cow’s milk. There is hardly any protein in almond milk! Protein is important to consume during aging because of the natural muscle degeneration.

Added sugars are a huge culprit in almond milk! To provide a more satisfying taste for consumers, almond milk comes in a several flavors such as vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. Adding these flavors usually means adding unnecessary sugars into the almond milk. Sugar is typically the second most abundant ingredient in these products.

One 8-oz serving of sweetened chocolate almond milk contains up to 20 g of sugar compared to 12g of 2% cow’s milk. It is important to point out that the sugars (lactose) in dairy products are natural sugars and are not added. While dairy alternatives may seem like a healthy choice, be aware of what you actually are drinking. If you choose to purchase a dairy-free product, try choosing the unsweetened version to reduce unnecessary sugar intake.

One thing that is often overlooked is the high level of processing almond milk undergoes. Due to the processing, many additives and preservatives are included. These additives include substances such as xanthan gum or gellan gum, which are used as a thickener to achieve a creamy mouthfeel. Cow’s milk does not include any of these additives. The only substances added to cow’s milk are typically vitamin A and vitamin D.

While some people may a digestive intolerance to dairy products, the food group as a whole is recommended to be included in the daily diet for those otherwise healthy. Cow’s milk provides the body with many nutrients not found in almond milk. Cow’s milk also avoids unnecessary added substances such as sugar and food thickeners, which are often added into almond milk. Consider all of the health facts before choosing your next milk or milk alternative.

Thank you to dietetic intern Molly Lowery for her creation of and contributions to this blog post.

National Nutrition Month

March 1, 2018 by  
Filed under Consumer awareness, General

March is known as National Nutrition Month as accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. National Nutrition Month brings focus to nutrition education in areas of sustainability, healthy food choices, healthful eating and physical activity. This year National Nutrition Month has an important theme, “Go Further with Food”, encouraging people to shop locally, conserving resources and being environmentally friendly, all while adding healthful and nutritious foods into your diet.

A great tip to shop locally is to locate local farmers markets which often provide fun, fresh foods, fruits and vegetables that are often more affordable and more flavorful than local grocery stores. When you promote nearby farms/growers by buying locally you are conserving natural resources and promoting food procurement that has minimal effect on the environment. The environmental impact of growing and transporting food is not often though about; however, the miles driven for food delivery from farm to grocery stores and markets can have a detrimental impact on the environment and an indirect impact on human health.

The Community Food Security Coalition states, “Agriculture, food, and communities are three systems that interact in many ways. While these interactions are beneficial to human health, they can also compromise it, as four of the ten leading causes of death are related to dietary and lifestyle factors.”

Plan ahead for your shopping needs so that you only purchase what is needed and prevent food waste. Be sure that you know how to prepare the foods that you’ve purchased. If you have questions about how to store, preserve and/or prepare the foods on your list, ask a local farmer at the market or even a clerk at the grocery store.

Registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy spokesperson Libby Mills says, ”Sustainability is about making the best possible choices for your health, the health of the community, the environment and those producing your food. Sustainable practices build strong communities, diverse ecosystems and healthy individuals.” Now that sounds like something to celebrate!

Happy National Nutrition Month!

What’s a Superfood Anyway

 

While most of us can agree that the idea of a “superfood” is supposed to be something that is good for our health, you might be surprised to find out there’s no real consensus about what defines a super food.

Superfood is a term that gets thrown around a lot. Sometimes it pertains to berries, other times you see it ascribed to grains or seeds, and there’s no shortage of packaged and processed snack foods that are touting the superfood label.

But a unique study by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease sought to define what really is a superfood.

Now, these researchers steered clear of the somewhat controversial term “superfood” and decided instead to call their subject matters “powerhouse fruits and vegetables”. And what they did was to study the relative nutrient density of 47 different pieces of produce to analyze which ones were PFVs (powerhouse fruits and vegetables).

To qualify as a PFV, a fruit or vegetable had to have 10% or more daily value per 100 calories of 17 different qualifying nutrients. Based on the nutrient analysis, here are the top 10 “powerhouse fruits and vegetables”, ranked in order from highest nutrient density score:

  1. Watercress
  2. Chinese cabbage
  3. Chard
  4. Beet green
  5. Spinach
  6. Chicory
  7. Leaf lettuce
  8. Parsley
  9. Romaine lettuce
  10. Collard greens

You might have noticed a pattern here – that these are mostly dark green leafy vegetables. If you’re looking for an area where you can make an improvement in the nutrient density of your diet, try adding more greens to your meals. You can do so in salads, stews, sautéed or even ground up and mixed into patties to help cut meat when you’re enjoying burgers or meatloaf.

To see the rest of the PFV list of fruits and vegetables and their rankings, check out the CDC article here.

When Vegetarian Diets go Bad

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the benefits – and drawbacks – of a primarily plant-based diet.

A recent article in the New York Times buy Jane E. Brody entitled “Good Vegan, Bad Vegan” brought some of these issues to light. Her article was based on opinions about and feedback from another popular publication, the documentary “What the Health“, a controversial movie with many questionable premises billing itself as “The Health Movie Health Organizations Don’t Want You to See”.

Brody points out in her article some of the same points that many dietitians and other nutrition and health advocates regularly repeat, that even vegetarian diets, if not properly planned and balanced can be unhealthy.

Take this sample vegetarian meal “plan” for example:

  • Sugary cereal with vanilla (sweetened) soy milk for breakfast
  • White pasta with pesto and high-sodium canned soup for lunch
  • Refined white carb crackers and salty soy cheese for snack
  • Grilled vegan cheese sandwich on white bread with canned green beans for dinner

Now of course this menu is a big exaggerated…but you get the point: there are no animal foods in that diet, but there is a ton of added sugar, salt, and refined white carbs that also aren’t so great for you either. Not enough fiber either…

While cutting back on your reliance on animal protein can be good for your health – and the environment – there are certainly ways to incorporate small amounts of animal foods responsibly in a diet that is well-balanced!

  • If you’re a heavy meat-eater, try making at least one day a week meatless. (Check out meatlessmonday.com for inspiration)
  • Focus on plants you can eat MORE of – aim for at least one serving of fruits and/or vegetables every time you sit down for a meal or snack
  • Be picky about processed food – don’t forget that even processed vegetarian foods can be devoid of important nutrients or have high amounts of added sugar and/or salt

What’s Up with the New Food Label?

September 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer awareness, Food Labels

Back in 2016, the FDA announced sweeping changes that would be coming to its Nutrition Facts Panel.

Nutrition professionals and health advocacy groups were excited about almost all of these changes, including:

  • Long-waited addition of the Added Sugars line under Carbohydrates that will help consumers differentiate between natural versus added sugar in their foods
  • More realistic portion sizes and bigger font call out of calories in a package
  • Updated list of nutrients (vitamin D and potassium) replacing ones we get enough of (vitamins A and C)

 

 

But if you’re still waiting for the roll out of the new label, don’t hold your breath. The FDA recently announced that it is proposing to extend the compliance dates for Nutrition Facts Label Final Rules from July 26, 2018 to January 1, 2020. The rationale is that this will give manufacturers additional time to comply.

In the meantime, consumers will have to continue relying on the current version of the food label, which hasn’t changed much since its original roll-out in 1992.

What’s Up with Milk Substitutes?

Cruise the dairy aisle of your nearest grocery store and the “milk” aisle will blow you away.

Most likely because there’s a decreasing amount of conventional cow’s milk available for sale but a LOT of milk alternatives.

So what exactly is a milk alternative – and who might benefit from drinking one?

Milk alternatives are non-cow’s milk beverages that provide some (or in some cases, all) of the nutrient benefits of milk.

These includes foods like almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk and rice milk.

But you have to be careful when it comes to milk substitutes because not all of them are created the same.

Calcium

Cow’s milk is hands down the best source of dietary calcium. It is very well absorbed and found in higher quantities in dairy foods than in any other food category.

But some people can’t handle cow’s milk, either because of allergy, intolerance, or personal preference.

Most milk substitutes today do contain calcium – but always check your labels. There’s no point in drinking a milk substitute if it is not fortified with calcium.

Protein

Cow’s milk is a great source of protein, with about 8 grams per cup of cow’s milk. Many milk substitutes do contain protein, but some don’t have as much as you would think.

A good example of this is almond milk. Almond milk (even though it comes from high protein almonds) retains very little protein after processing.

You’re likely getting enough protein elsewhere in your diet, but especially for children you want to make sure that almond milk is a good fit (by checking with your primary care practitioner or dietitian) if you’re withholding cow’s milk for whatever reason.

Sugar

Cow’s milk contains 12 grams of sugar per cup – but it’s naturally occurring milk sugar, lactose.

Many milk substitutes have added sugar in the form of vanilla or other flavoring. Nobody needs to be getting added sugars from their milk substitutes, so look instead for plain or unsweetened versions if you’re looking at a substitutes.

The bottom line is: milk alternatives can be a good way for a person who doesn’t drink cow’s milk to get some important nutrients. You do have to be an educated consumer though, and read those labels, to make sure you’re really getting the best bet when it comes to an alternative.

Can Vitamins Help Your Hair, Skin and Nails?

Sounds pretty simple: take a “high potency” vitamin cocktail and your hair, skin and nails will magically start to shine.

But is there any truth to the claims that dietary supplements can help improve hair, skin and nail health?

In short: no.

You see, the B vitamin biotin is associated with nail (and even a bit of hair and skin) health. But that’s when a diet includes an ample amount of biotin.

Having a sub-par diet and then topping it off with a biotin pill chase, isn’t going to do the trick.

A diet that is inadequate in biotin will result in poor hair, skin and nail health (as will a diet that has inadequate dietary fat).

But bulking up on biotin supplements will not make your hair, skin and nail health better.

Your best bet is to round out your diet with foods that are natural sources of biotin like nuts, eggs, avocados, vegetables, meat and fish.

Let the food based source of biotin work its magic, and save your money from those supplements, which in this case don’t do any good!

Cutting Boards 101

Ask yourself:

How many cutting boards are in your kitchen right now? (Come on…be honest!)

And for about how long have they been there?

Cutting boards are one of those things we take for granted. You buy a few, keep them forever, and don’t really think about what they represent.

A great cutting board review article in USA Today recently summed it up best, saying, “If you think about it, cutting boards are kind of doomed from the start; they’re the crime scene for pretty much every meal you make in the kitchen.”

That’s right, you dissect meat, you carve up vegetables, you splatter food all over your cutting board…and they never fight you back.

But….do they?

Cutting Board Safety

You see…you have to be careful when it comes to cutting boards. Cross contamination of foods can lead to food borne illness, and cutting boards don’t keep forever.

Here are a few tips on cutting board cleanliness:

  • Use two cutting boards: one for raw meat, poultry and seafood and another for ready-to-eat foods such as fruits and vegetables
  • Wash all cutting boards thoroughly in hot, soapy water
  • Throw out cutting boards that have visible cracks, crevices or knife scars since harmful bacteria can live here

If you’re looking for a reason to swap out some of your kitchen gear, cleaning up your cutting board game might be a good first place to start!

 

 

 

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