April 1, 2013

Should You Be Concerned About the Wax Coatings on Produce?

It’s not the wax, but what is trapped in the wax that you want to avoid. Waxes are used to seal in moisture and keep apples, green peppers, and other firm produce fresh. Even organic produce uses waxes, such as beeswax and carnauba wax. There is no evidence that these waxes pose any health problems. However, the waxes used on conventional produce can seal in pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides used during the growing of this produce. They also are sometimes mixed with fungicides to maintain quality during storage.

Washing apples or peeling other produce, such as eggplant, that has been treated with wax significantly reduces harmful residues. For example, a Consumer Reports study found that more than half of the washed produce had no detectable pesticide residues and even the produce with residues showed a drop in the amount of pesticides from 30%  to nearly 100%  compared to unwashed produce.

There is no need to buy expense produce soaps. You can remove waxes and pesticides with diluted Ivory soap or any liquid dish soap and a sturdy vegetable brush. Be sure to rinse well. Peeling produce, such as apples, and removing the outer leaves from vegetables like lettuce also are ways to reduce pesticide exposure. Organic produce typically has lower levels of wax and pesticides than conventional produce, if you can afford the extra cost. Keep in mind, the health benefits of fruits and vegetables far out-weigh any possible health risk, so don’t avoid the produce department for fear of pesticides or a little wax.

Photo Credit: purpletwinkie via Compfight

Just Do This Today

1. Check your kitchen cupboards and throw out anything you know is junk, undermining you and your family’s health. Start stocking the kitchen with foods that support success, not weight gain and disease.

2. At the restaurant, get fussy. Ask for steamed veggies instead of the fries, salad dressing on the side and toss the croutons, and/or split an entree.

3. At dinner tonight, serve yourself half your normal portion. Eat slowly. Wait. If you still are PHYSICALLY hungry (no going back if you all you want to do is eat more), go back for a small second., then stop there. You’ll find you are just as full on less food.

4. Try a generic version of one of your staple foods. You may find it tastes just as good, but costs less.

Hot Off the Diet Press

1. Whole Grain Sleuthing: Many starchy products have jumped on the whole-grain bandwagon. Most are junk in disguise. How can you tell if a product really is a good source of whole grain? That’s what researchers at Harvard School of Public Health set out to clarify. In this study, more than 500 products, including breads, bagels, cereals, crackers, granola bars, chips, and more were critiqued based on five recommended whole-grain criteria, including:

  1. The whole grain stamp
  2. Whole grain as a first ingredient
  3. Whole grain as a first ingredient without sugar
  4. The word “whole” before any grain in the ingredients
  5. The content of total carbohydrate to fiber of less than or equal to 10:1. Total calories, trans fat, sugars, and sodium also were taken into account.

Results showed that the least helpful criteria was the whole grain stamp. These foods had higher calories and sugar. The American Heart Association’s 10:1 ratio showed healthier foods, with less sugar, salt, and trans fat. (For example, a slice of bread that had 20 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of fiber would have a ratio of 10:1.) Foods that listed whole grain first on the ingredient list and had no added sugars were almost as healthy as the ones using the 10:1 ratio.

Mozaffarian R, Lee R, Kennedy M, et al: Identifying whole grain foods. Public Health Nutrition 2013; January 4: 1-10.

2. Fructose on the Hot Seat: The glut of fructose now added to processed foods does not dampen appetite and can cause people to overeat, resulting in weight gain, state researchers at Yale University in New Have, Connecticut. In this study, appetite-related changes in blood flow in the hypothalamic region of the brains of 20 healthy adults were monitored after the subjects had consumed either glucose or fructose. Results showed that levels of hormones that play a role in feeling full were high after ingestion of glucose, but there were much smaller increases in hormones associated with satiety when fructose was consumed. While the researchers warn that this does not prove fructose is responsible for the obesity epidemic in this country, but it suggests that the use of high fructose corn syrups is at least a contributor to the problem.

Page K, Chan O, Arora J, et al: Effects of fructose vs glucose on regional cerebral blood flow in brain regions involved with appetite and reward pathways. Journal of the American Medical Association 2013;309:63-70.

3. Vitamin D: New Recommendations: The European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis (ESCEO) has established new guidelines for vitamin D status. In their review of the research, they conclude that serum vitamin D levels less than 50nmol/L increases the risk for bone turnover, bone loss, and possibly demineralization effects, as well as increased frailty, nonvertebral and hip fractures, and all-cause mortality, compared to serum levels above this amount. ESCEO recommends that 50nmol/L (or 20ng/mL) should be the minimum serum vitamin D level to ensure optimal bone health. Below this level, people should supplement with 800 to 1000IU of vitamin D daily. One exception to the rule is elderly people who are at elevated risk for falls and fractures. ESCEO recommends these patients aim for a serum vitamin D level of 75nmol/L (or 30 ng/mL).  They also add assurance that vitamin D supplementation up to 10,000IU a day is safe.

Rizzoli R, Boonen S, Brandi M, Et al: Vitamin D supplementation in elderly or postmenopausal women. Current Medical Research and Opinion 2013;January 15th.

Food & Mood Tip – Iron-Clad Rules

If you are a woman, teenager, or pre-adolescent and your thinking is on a down-hill slide, you could be iron deficient. Young children, teenage girls, and women during the childbearing years – especially those who exercise, have been pregnant within the past two years, or consume diets of less than 2,500 calories – are at particular risk for iron deficiency. In fact, iron is the most common nutrient deficiency – estimates are as high as 80% of active women and 20% of women in general have low iron levels.

What does iron have to do with thinking? Iron is the key oxygen-carrier in the body and the brain. This mineral also is a component of numerous brain enzymes that help regulate brain function. When iron levels decrease, the brain and nerve cells are starved for oxygen, resulting in fatigue, memory loss, poor concentration, lack of motivation, shortened attention span, and reduced work performance.

The first line of defense is to eat more iron-rich foods, including extra-lean red meat, cooked dried beans and peas, dark green leafy vegetables, and dried apricots. Cook in cast-iron pots and the iron will leach out of the pot and into the food, raising the iron content of the meal several fold. Also, drink vitamin C-rich orange juice with iron-rich meals to boost iron absorption.

Eat Your Way to Sexy This Week: Sexy-Up with a Multi

For healthy people who just want to feel a bit sexier, a multiple vitamin and mineral is the place to start. Nutrients are supplied as teams in food, so if your diet is low in one nutrient, it’s a sure bet it’s low in others, too. A multiple is a convenient, inexpensive way to supply a balance of nutrients, while avoiding secondary deficiencies that result when you take too much of one nutrient and crowd out another. For example, many of the minerals compete for absorption, so taking a large dose of one, such as iron, could result in a deficiency of another, such as copper or zinc. Take a good multi and you won’t have to worry about that.

In general, 100 to 200% of the Daily Value for each nutrient as listed on the label is sufficient. Megavitamin-mineral therapy – consuming 10-times or more of the Daily Value – implies more is better or therapeutic, but, usually is a waste of money.

Mood-Boosting Recipe – Chicken Salad with Chutney and Toasted Coconut

(From The Food & Mood Cookbook: Recipes for Eating Well and Feeling Your Best
by Elizabeth Somer and Jeanette Williams)

A wonderful chicken salad, jazzed up with crunch, tropical coconut chutney flavors, and a light, creamy base.  A mood-satisfying salad that not only leaves your taste buds tantalized, it leaves your body fully energized, since it supplies an entire day’s worth of some B vitamins and whopping amounts of iron, potassium, selenium, and zinc.


2 tablespoons coconut, shredded, already sweetened
3 tablespoons of your favorite chutney (mango is good)
2 tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 cups cooked chicken, diced or shredded
1 pear, peeled and diced
1/4 cup golden raisins
4 cups mixed greens
2 tablespoons slivered almonds


1) Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

2) Spread coconut in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake for 2-3 minutes, until starting to brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Set aside.

3) In a large bowl, combine chutney, mayonnaise, and curry. Stir to mix.

4) Add chicken, diced pear, and raisins. Toss gently to coat mixture.

5) Divide salad greens on four salad plates. Top with 1 /2 cup chicken salad. Sprinkle toasted coconut and slivered almonds. Makes 4 (approximately 1 1 /2 cup) servings

Nutritional Analysis per serving: 280 Calories; 20 percent fat (6 grams); 1.9 grams saturated fat; 47 percent protein; 33 percent carbohydrate; 3.4 grams fiber.

Answers to “Do You Know?” from last issue:

What is nutritionally better for you, honey or table sugar?
Don’t be lead astray by sweet misconceptions. All sugars, with the exception of blackstrap molasses, are nutritional wastelands. Granted, honey has minuscule amounts of some minerals, but not enough to make a dent in a person’s daily needs. For example, it takes 11 cups of honey to supply a woman’s daily need for iron; it would take 19 cups of honey to supply the calcium in one cup of nonfat milk. Honey is a natural sweetener and a few tablespoons a day instead of the pounds of refined sugar many Americans are eating is a safe addition to the diet. But don’t be fooled into thinking your doing anything more for your health than satisfying your sweet tooth.

What is better for you, frozen yogurt or ice cream?
Yogurt is hot right now with all the buzz about probiotics and their benefits to health. However, there is little chance most of those healthy bacteria survive in sub-zero temperatures, while many frozen yogurts are just as high, or higher, in fat, sugar, and/or calories, as ice cream.  For example, Haagen-Dazs frozen coffee Yogurt has 400 calories in a cup, while Breyers Double Churn Free Caramel Swirl ice cream has half the calories and no fat in the same amount.

Instead read labels and choose frozen yogurts or ice cream that supply no more than 150 calories and 2 grams fat/ half cup. To ensure you’re getting those healthy probiotics, choose plain, nonfat yogurt and top it with fresh fruit or a little jam.

Photo Credit: sea turtle via Compfight

Do You Know?

Is fish really brain food?

Do carrots really improve your eyesight?

Check next week for the answers….

Label Lingo – Omega-3s on Labels

Most of us know that the omega-3s are good for us. But, there are three omega-3 fats and they are not all created equal. The omega-3 fat in flax, walnuts, soy, and other vegetables is ALA (alpha linolenic acid). It lowers heart disease risk and inflammation, but has not shown any benefits yet when it comes to mood, mind, or memory. The other two omega-3s, EPA and DHA are found only in seafood and algae. They not only lower heart disease and inflammation, but show promise in lowering depression, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s risk. Of the two, DHA appears to be most effective, with up to 97% of the omega-3s in the brain being DHA. A recent study from Oxford also found DHA supplements improved reading scores and behavior in up to 50% of children.

If you don’t eat omega-3-rich salmon twice a week, then you either must supplement or look for foods fortified with these fats. But, that is a tricky business. Just because a food says it is rich in omega-3s, doesn’t mean it has any EPA or DHA. More than likely those eggs or that cereal has ALA, so you won’t be getting the biggest nutritional bang for your buck. Look for the label logo “life’sDHA” to ensure the product has the right omega-3.

The Daily Menu

Put know how into practice with this simple, nutritious meal plan. Eliminate the snacks  if you want to cut additional calories. And, with all the menus in my newsletter, feel free to tweak to your food preferences and choices.

Scrambled eggs made with 2/3 cup liquid egg substitute. (Spray pan with cooking spray)
1 slice whole wheat toast topped with 1 tablespoon apple butter
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 cup grapefruit juice

Mid-Morning Snack:
1 small bran muffin (2 oz)
1 orange
1 cup 1% low-fat milk

2 cups vegetable soup
1 piece French bread
1 cup strawberries dunked in 3 tablespoons fat-free dark chocolate syrup

Mid-Afternoon Snack:
1 /2 whole grain bagel w/ 2 tbsp. Peanut butter
6 ounces tomato juice

Dinner and Dessert
1 serving Chicken Salad with Chutney and Toasted Coconut
1 slice whole wheat bread
1 cup hot cocoa made with nonfat milk

Fruit Parfait
Layer in a parfait glass:
1 /2 cup papaya, chopped
1/3 cup fresh or thawed raspberries
1 /2 cup low-fat, plain yogurt
Top with: 2 tablespoons light dessert topping

Nutritional Analysis for the day: 2000 Calories; 25% fat; 12 grams saturated fat; 19% protein; 56% carbohydrate; 37 grams fiber.