More fiber: Just what the doctor ordered

grits with apples, bananas, raisins,

grits with apples, bananas, raisins,

I know it’s important to get enough fiber to help with constipation, but I’ve also read that it can help prevent disease. How does that work?  

New research is coming out all the time about the health benefits of a high-fiber diet, and you’re right, they go way beyond helping to keep you “regular.”

Unfortunately, most Americans consume only about 10 to 15 grams of fiber a day. The recommendation for adults under 50 is 25 grams a day for women and 38 grams for men. Those over 50 should get 25 grams a day for women and 30 for men — still much higher than the average.

Studies have long associated high-fiber diets with a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes, but two recent studies show even more benefits:

  • A Harvard University study published in Pediatrics indicates that young women who eat the most fiber have a lower risk of breast cancer later in life. The researchers believe fiber helps reduce high estrogen levels in the blood, which are one cause of breast cancer. The reduced risk was significant: For each additional 10 grams of daily fiber intake as a young adult, risk dropped by 13 percent. Fiber from fruits and vegetables seemed to have the greatest effect.
  • A recent University of Nebraska study indicates a high-fiber diet could reduce the risk of lung disease. Researchers studied data from people 40 to 79 years old and found that for those who had the highest fiber intake (at least 18 grams a day), 68 percent had normal lung function and only 15 percent had airway restrictions. For those with the lowest fiber consumption, only 50 percent had normal lung function and 30 percent had airway restrictions. Researchers believe that fiber’s role in reducing inflammation throughout the body may play a role in helping the lungs. In addition, studies have shown that a high-fiber diet changes the microflora in the gut, which could reduce infections and, researchers speculate, may release lung-protective chemicals in the body.

Eating an ample amount of high-fiber foods should provide plenty of both soluble and insoluble types of fiber, both of which provide benefits.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel, which can help prevent fats and sugars from being absorbed by the body, reducing blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Some studies indicate high soluble fiber intake can reduce the risk of coronary artery disease and stroke by 40 to 50 percent.

Insoluble fiber, which comes from a plant’s cell walls, provides bulk to stools, helping prevent constipation, hemorrhoids and chronic diarrhea, and helps with digestion.

To increase fiber intake, eat five to six servings of fruits and vegetables a day, along with a couple of servings of whole grains or legumes. A serving includes a medium-sized fruit; a half-cup of fruit, most vegetables, beans, whole-grain pasta or brown rice; a cup of raw leafy greens; or a slice of 100 percent whole-wheat bread.

For more on fiber, see the National Institutes of Health web page, www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/dietaryfiber.html.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Dan Remley, Ohio State University Extension specialist in Food, Nutrition and Wellness.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Exercise important, but calories count more

chow_012916-177402469I have been doing more walking and other exercise since the first of the year, but I haven’t been losing much weight. Shouldn’t I see some results on the scale?   

First, it’s excellent that you’re boosting your activity. It’s no surprise that most Americans need more exercise, but the U.S. Surgeon General reported recently on the extent of the issue: Less than half of U.S. adults get enough physical activity each day to reduce their risk of developing a chronic disease, including diabetes, cancer, or heart or lung disease. Even worse, only one-quarter of teens in high school get enough. So, no matter what the scale says, keep it up.

With weight loss, remember that exercise is only part of the equation, and many studies indicate that it’s a smaller part than you might think. Although both physical activity and eating right play a role, research indicates that reducing calories is far more important in shedding pounds.

It’s easy to overestimate the calories you think you might be burning when you take a nice, brisk walk. Everybody — and every body — is different, but you can go beyond taking a wild guess by using online tools to help you gauge what you might be burning off. One such tool, the Physical Activity Calorie Counter, is available under “Healthy Living” on the website of the American Council on Exercise, acefitness.org. There, you can plug in your body weight and time spent on an activity, and you get an estimate of calories burned. Here are some examples for a 150-pound person:

  • A half-hour casual walk (a mile in 30 minutes): 68 calories. That won’t even burn off the 80 calories in one Snickers Fun Size candy bar.
  • A half-hour very brisk walk (a mile in 15 minutes): 170 calories, not enough to expend the 240 calories in a 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola.
  • An hour of very fast cycling (12-13 mph): 544 calories. That’s significant, but it wouldn’t be enough to offset the 430 calories in a Panera Cinnamon Crunch Bagel plus the 130 calories in reduced-fat plain cream cheese you put on it.

Calorie-wise, passing on one or two treats each day adds up. Water is a great zero-calorie choice of beverage, and you’ll want to enjoy just half of your bagel or skip the cream cheese before you jump on your bike. That said, it bears repeating that physical activity in and of itself provides health benefits. How much is recommended?

  • Adults should get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity over the course of a week. Moderate activity is enough to increase your breathing and heart rate, but you should still able to talk during the activity. With vigorous activity, such as jogging or running, you can’t say more than a few words without taking a breath.
  • Adults also need muscle-strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups two or more days a week.
  • Children should get an hour of moderate-intensity activity every day.

Learn more from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at cdc.gov/physicalactivity.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carol Smathers, Ohio State University Extension specialist in Youth Nutrition and Wellness.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

New dietary guidelines target added sugars

hand holding soda can pouring in metaphor of sugar content

When the new Dietary Guidelines were announced a few weeks ago, I heard a lot about the recommendation to limit added sugars. But I’m sure that they’ve said that for years. Is there something new?  

In previous editions of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans — which are revised and re-issued every five years — the recommendation was simply to limit added sugars. There were no specific targets. In the new guidelines, the experts went a step further and gave an actual limit, recommending that we consume no more than 10 percent of our daily calorie intake in added sugars.

That means if you’re consuming 1,800 calories a day — the estimated level needed for a moderately active woman over 50, for example, or a sedentary woman under 50 — you should consume no more than 180 calories, or 45 grams, a day in added sugars. A typical 12-ounce can of soda has about 40 grams of added sugar. Three tablespoons of maple syrup have 36 grams. A slice of store-bought pecan pie has about 33 grams.

The reason behind the new recommendation is this: If you’re eating enough food from all the food groups — vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and protein — to meet your nutrient needs, you just won’t have many more extra calories to play with and still maintain a healthy weight.

According to data gathered by the Dietary Guidelines committee, American adults currently average about 13 percent of their calorie intake from added sugars. Children, teens and young adults tend to eat much more. Nearly half the added sugars Americans consume come from beverages, and nearly one-third come from snacks and sweets, so those might be good places to start cutting back. But added sugars are included in a lot of processed foods. It’s important to be aware of what you’re eating.

To be clear, the 10 percent limit is solely for added sugars — that is, sweeteners added to other foods for flavor, such as sugar in your coffee, or for functional purposes, such as preservation, viscosity, texture, body and browning capacity. The sugars that occur naturally in milk and fruit come loaded with other nutrients — a good tradeoff. But even those products can have added sugars. Flavored milk and sugar-sweetened fruit juice beverages are just two examples to watch out for.

Currently, it can be difficult to differentiate between sugars that occur naturally in a food and sugars that are added. The Nutrient Facts label simply lists “sugars” as a subcategory under “carbohydrates” and doesn’t explain if some or all of those sugars are added. The Food and Drug Administration is finalizing a new Nutrition Facts label, and it looks like it will include added sugars specifically. In the meantime, look for these items on the ingredients list as a clue: brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, trehalose and turbinado sugar.

For more on the new Dietary Guidelines, see health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carolyn Gunther, Ohio State University Extension specialist in Community Nutrition Education.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Cruciferous vegetables packed with nutrients

Assortment of cabbages

Assortment of cabbages

What are cruciferous vegetables, and what kind of health benefits do they provide?  

More than two dozen types of vegetables are cruciferous, so named because most have flowers with four petals, resembling a cross. They are generally cool-weather vegetables, so you likely will see good prices on them in the produce section of the grocery store at this time of year.

Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, radishes, horseradish, wasabi, turnips, rutabaga, arugula, bok choi, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi and watercress.

Horticulturally, they belong to the same family (Cruciferae, or Brassicaceae), and all have sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates. Glucosinolates benefit the plants by naturally protecting them from some pests. They are also believed to benefit human health.

When we cook, chew and digest cruciferous vegetables, glucosinolates break down and form different phytochemicals, including indoles and isothiocyanates, that are biologically active. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, studies in the laboratory indicate that these compounds seem to:

  • Decrease inflammation, which is associated with a large number of chronic illnesses, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.
  • Suppress enzymes that are known to activate carcinogens.
  • Stimulate enzymes that deactivate carcinogens and decrease the ability of cancer cells to spread.

Despite these promising results in the lab, the AICR says results from studies in humans are inconsistent. It could be that the compounds are affected by differences in how people cook and prepare the food. Or it could be that genetic differences affect how each person’s body reacts to the compounds.

Although the research on precise health benefits of glucosinolates from cruciferous vegetables is far from settled, these vegetables still have several other nutrients that benefit health. Most are very high in vitamin C. Broccoli, for example, is also high in folate, manganese, potassium and fiber, and provides other vitamins and minerals. Dark green members of the cruciferous vegetable family, including broccoli, are a substantial source of vitamin K.

Because so many types of cruciferous vegetables are high in vitamin K, it’s important to note that anyone taking the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin) needs to monitor their intake. Sudden increases or decreases of vitamin K can cause serious changes in the effectiveness of this prescription medicine. It’s extremely important for anyone taking warfarin to keep their vitamin K intake consistent from day to day.

For others, though, it’s probably a good idea to increase consumption of cruciferous vegetables. For more information, including research, tips for preparing them and recipes, see the AICR’s website at aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/broccoli-cruciferous.html.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Irene Hatsu, Ohio State University Extension specialist in Food Security.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Think long, hard before choosing raw milk

chow_010816-481189962What are the risks and benefits of raw milk?  

If you ask proponents of raw milk, the product offers a range of benefits. But if you ask scientists, public health authorities or food safety experts — or those who have suffered severe illnesses from consumption of raw milk and products made from it — the risks far outweigh any potential upside.

Raw milk was in the news recently when routine testing found Listeria bacteria in raw milk from a dairy in Pennsylvania, where sales of the product are legal. Fortunately, no illnesses were reported.  In Ohio, raw milk cannot be sold for human consumption, but consumers can participate in “herd-share agreements” in which they own part of a herd and can collect raw milk from it.

Listeria are one of many organisms killed with pasteurization, which heats milk to a specific temperature for a set period of time to kill bacteria responsible for diseases, such as Campylobacter, Salmonella and E. coli. Pasteurization is generally recognized by health professionals as one of the most effective food safety interventions ever.

While pasteurization removes 99.999 percent of bacteria, it can’t provide a 100 percent guarantee of safety. But the risk from raw milk is much greater. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the risk of illness from raw milk is at least 150 times greater than the risk from pasteurized milk.

In addition, the health benefits of raw milk are unclear. In a 2014 Johns Hopkins University review of studies, authors found no evidence that the benefits from drinking raw milk outweigh the risks.

Despite the risks, some states have legalized the sale of raw milk in order to give consumers a choice. With rising interest in raw, unprocessed foods and increased availability, illnesses linked to raw milk are increasing.

A 2015 study in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases reported that the average annual number of outbreaks caused by raw milk was four times higher from 2007-2012 than it was from 1993-2006. In addition, the number of outbreaks linked to raw milk increased from 30 from 2007-2009 to 51 in 2010-2012. Those 81 outbreaks caused 979 illnesses and 73 hospitalizations.

Although outbreaks are increasing, they are still relatively rare because there are still relatively few raw milk consumers. That’s one reason why many feel safe drinking unpasteurized milk: You can drink it for years and never suffer ill effects.

But that’s a false sense of security, health officials say. Unpasteurized milk can carry bacteria that cause disease. And the potential for harm goes beyond a few days of tummy troubles: These bacteria can cause life-threatening diseases that can result in kidney failure, stroke or paralysis. The risk is particularly high for young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems due to conditions such as cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS or an organ transplant.

Before you make a decision for you and your family, please review information from the CDC, including three videos of people telling their stories of serious illnesses linked to raw milk, at go.osu.edu/CDCrawmilk.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Sanja Ilic, Ohio State University Extension field specialist in Food Safety.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Be aware of how much processed meat you eat

chow_121815-119435047I have been trying to avoid processed meat because I heard it is linked to cancer. But this year, my family is serving ham for Christmas dinner. Ham is processed, right? Should I ask my family to serve something else?  

Yes, ham is a processed meat, and it’s great that you’re aware of the concerns raised about eating too much of it. But most health professionals would say you don’t have to worry about one dinner. It’s your overall pattern of eating that really matters.

Studies have linked processed meat with an increased risk of cancer for years. A report issued in October 2015 raised the issue’s profile significantly. That’s when the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said there is “sufficient” evidence to label processed meat as a carcinogen, as well as “limited” evidence linking red meat, such as beef, pork and lamb, with cancer.

The evidence for both types of meat is strongest in relation to colorectal cancers, which are cancers of the colon and rectum, or large intestine.

Processed meat includes meat that has been salted, cured, fermented, smoked or processed in other ways in order to enhance flavor and improve preservation. This includes not only ham, bacon, sausage and hot dogs, but corned beef, beef jerky, canned meat and most lunchmeats, as well — even those made from chicken and turkey.

WHO said eating just 1.75 ounces of processed meat a day could increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. To put that in perspective, the American Cancer Society reports that the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 4.7 percent — slightly higher for men, slightly lower for women. An increase of 18 percent would raise the risk to about 5.5 percent. It’s important to note that other factors, including obesity, inactivity, alcohol consumption and other dietary habits, as well as a genetic predisposition, also increase the risk of colorectal cancer. On the other hand, diets rich in fruits and vegetables are linked with a lower risk for many types of cancer.

Since 2007, the American Institute of Cancer Research, or AICR, has recommended avoiding processed meats, even though it remains unclear precisely what it is about them that raises cancer risk. One possibility is related to the compounds formed from the nitrates and nitrites that are added to processed meats to preserve color and prevent spoilage. These days, you might see lunchmeat and other types of processed meat labeled “nitrate/nitrite-free,” but the AICR is reserving judgment on these products for now. They still are likely to be smoked, salted or cured, all of which also elevate the risk of cancer.

Instead of worrying about the holiday ham, you might consider keeping a log of how much processed meat you eat over the course of a normal week. It might be a lot less than you think. Or it might be more. Being aware is the first step.

The AICR recommends opting for fresh chicken or fish most of the time, or trying different sources of protein such as eggs and tofu. But don’t worry about the occasional slice of ham.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Dan Remley, Ohio State University Extension field specialist in Food, Nutrition and Wellness.

Have a great holiday! Chow Line is taking two weeks off. The next column is scheduled for Jan. 8, 2016.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Make water festive for holiday gatherings

chow_121115-494561024We are hosting several parties over the holidays. Many of our friends are more health-conscious these days, and I would like to serve some healthy but festive beverages. Any ideas?  

Clean, fresh water is among the healthiest beverages out there. It’s calorie- and sugar-free and, when you get it from the tap, it’s about as inexpensive as you can get. The Harvard School of Public Health has gone so far as to state outright that “water is the best choice” for quenching your thirst and rehydrating your body, which uses water in every one of its biochemical reactions as well as for metabolism, breathing, sweating and removal of waste.

Choosing water or other calorie-free or low-calorie beverages has benefits all year round. Replacing two 20-ounce sugary soft drinks a week with a calorie- and sugar-free option saves nearly 25,000 calories and more than 1,700 teaspoons of added sugar over the course of a year. So, your guests will likely thank you for serving water in some way.

You could also consider providing other healthful options in addition to tap water, such as sugar-free sparkling flavored waters, nonalcoholic beers and sparkling ciders at the wet bar. Another idea: Make a simple nonalcoholic punch from a variety of juices, iced tea and club soda, and keep it cool with an ice ring made of water and pureed fruit.

Or, you can just add some punch (not literally) to water from your kitchen tap to dress it up for a holiday party. Although some of us can think of nothing more refreshing than a glass of crisp cold water — straight up or on the rocks — some people might find it less than festive.

Here are some ideas that will help your water make a splash (again, not literally) during the holidays:

  • Slice cucumbers and add them to the pitcher along with sprigs of slightly crushed fresh peppermint. The result is a cool, refreshing, thirst-quenching drink.
  • Add raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. Allow them to be slightly crushed as you stir them in with ice. You may want to have a cocktail strainer on hand to allow guests to choose whether the berries flow into the glass or not. Either way, the water wili have a subtle sweetness.
  • Opt for a citrus or melon theme: Slice lemons, limes and oranges or cut chunks of cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon and let them float in the pitcher.
  • Think ahead and freeze fruits into ice cubes that you add to the pitcher, so the water contains even more fruit as the ice melts.

In addition, put some thought into the container itself. A nice clear glass pitcher is fine as a fallback, but consider other options, too, including a wine carafe or a large beverage dispenser with a spigot.

And finally, no matter what you might add to water for your party guests, keep food safety in mind. Thoroughly rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water before adding them to the container. For citrus fruits or vegetables with a rind, like cucumbers, scrub them with a vegetable brush as you rinse.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carol Smathers, Ohio State University Extension field specialist in Youth, Nutrition and Wellness.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

With kids, emphasize whole fruit over juice

chow_120415-496953208My grandchildren will be spending a few days with us during the holidays. My daughter, their mother, mentioned the other day that she hoped I wouldn’t overload them on soft drinks and juice while they’re here. I can understand soft drinks, but what’s wrong with fruit juice?  

Times have changed. Back in the day, pediatricians and nutrition professionals encouraged parents to serve children 100 percent fruit juice as a healthy source of vitamin C and other nutrients. It wasn’t unusual to see a toddler toddling around with a sippy cup of juice from morning till night.

But there are downsides to drinking so much fruit juice, too. That’s why, for more than a decade, authorities have recommended that juice consumption be limited to just 4-6 ounces a day for children 1 to 6 years old, and 8-12 ounces for older children. For people of all ages, fruit juice should be limited to half of your daily fruit consumption.

What could be wrong with fruit juice? The American Academy of Pediatrics, among other health authorities, offers these insights:

  • Too much juice can lead to the consumption of too many calories. Six ounces of orange juice, for example, contains about the same number of calories as a large orange, but the juice isn’t nearly as filling as the whole fruit. That could lead to eating other, less nutrient-dense foods with even more calories.
  • Drinking juice instead of milk could mean a reduced intake of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium and zinc — nutrients children need for healthy growth.
  • Excessive amounts of juice can cause diarrhea.
  • Prolonged exposure to juice has been associated with the development of cavities.

With all that in mind, the pediatricians’ association provided guidance on fruit juice consmuption in 2001. The recommendations include:

  • Fruit juice should not be introduced into the diet of infants before 6 months of age. It offers no nutritional benefits over breast milk or infant formula.
  • Infants should not be given juice from bottles or easily transportable covered cups that allow them to consume juice easily throughout the day. Infants should not be given juice at bedtime.
  • Children should be encouraged to eat whole fruits to meet their recommended daily fruit intake.
  • Infants, children, and adolescents should not consume unpasteurized juice, which may contain pathogens that could cause serious illness.
  • Fruit juice should be provided as part of a meal or snack, not served on its own.

It’s worth noting that these recommendations are related to 100 percent fruit juice, whether or not it’s reconstituted from concentrate. Similar beverages, often labeled as “fruit drink” or “fruit cocktail,” often contain added sugars and provide as little as 10 percent real juice. Look at the labels.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carolyn Gunther, Ohio State University Extension state specialist in Community Nutrition Education.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

7 ways to make food donations count

chow_112415-495735448During this time of year, I often make donations to food drives. I normally just take older items from my pantry that I haven’t found a use for, but I wonder if instead I should be buying new. Are there guidelines I should be following?  

As long as the food is safe for human consumption, your local food pantry will likely be grateful for the donation, especially these days.

According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released in September, an estimated 14 percent of American households were food insecure at some point during 2014. That includes 5.6 percent experiencing “very low food security,” which means that one or more household members went without food at times because they didn’t have enough money or other resources for food. In Ohio, 7.5 percent of households experienced very low food security — worse than every state except for Arkansas, Maine and Missouri. As a result, food pantries report increased demand and, of course, the need for increased donations.

Here are some ideas found on several organizations’ websites to increase the chances that your donations are worthwhile:

  • Consider focusing on shelf-stable sources of protein. Examples include peanut butter; beans, either canned or dried; trail mix or nuts; canned chili, soups or stews; and canned tuna, salmon or chicken.
  • Pantry staples, such as rice, pasta, flour, cereal, canned vegetables, tomato sauce and cooking oils are always welcome. If you can spring for healthier options, such as whole-grain pasta, brown rice, high-fiber low-sugar cereal and low-sodium vegetables, all the better.
  • At this time of year, think about items for holiday meals: canned yams, cranberry sauce, boxed stuffing, instant mashed potatoes — even green beans, mushroom soup and dried onion rings.
  • Refrain from donating anything in glass jars, torn packages or in cans that are rusted, dented, or (heaven forbid) bulging. Food pantries generally can’t accept foods that are past their expiration date, but they take foods less than a year past a “best by” date. If you’re not certain, ask.
  • Most pantries prefer not to distribute junk food such as candy, chips and soft drinks. Limit the donation of such foods.
  • Some pantries also distribute personal care items, such as deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, bar soap, body wash, toilet paper, and toothpaste and toothbrushes.
  • Finally, consider donating money instead of products. Food pantries can use monetary donations to purchase items from regional food banks, which in turn use donations for their own purchases. For example, the Mid-Ohio Foodbank reports that it can turn $1 in donated cash into $10 worth of food and groceries to feed the hungry. It may not feel as satisfying as clearing out your pantry, but monetary donations can go a long way to help alleviate the plight of those who need a helping hand.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Irene Hatsu, Ohio State University Extension state specialist in Food Security. This week’s column is being sent out a few days early, ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Do not (I repeat) do not rinse the turkey

chow_112015-508424345I see conflicting guidance about whether or not to rinse the turkey before roasting it. So, should I or shouldn’t I?

Despite what you might read in your favorite cookbook or go-to online recipe site, food safety authorities are steadfast in their warning not to rinse off raw turkey.

This has been the recommendation for years, in fact. Unfortunately, if you search the Internet, you may find many faulty recommendations that involve rinsing and pat drying the turkey before setting it in the roasting pan. This just doesn’t make sense, and causes more problems than it solves.

The reason is twofold: First, rinsing doesn’t work. It’s true that raw poultry sold in the U.S. is often contaminated with Campylobacter, Salmonella or some other bacteria. It’s also true that poultry is the fourth most common food associated with foodborne illness, and the most common culprit behind deaths from foodborne illness in the U.S. But research by the British Food Standards Agency between 2000 and 2003 showed that rinsing off whole poultry, or beef for that matter, does not actually remove all of the bacteria from the surface of the meat.

Second, and even more important, the act of rinsing off the turkey can actually splatter some bacteria from the surface of the meat all over your sink, onto your kitchen counter and over to anything that happens to be around it — the just-washed breakfast dishes in the drainer, for example, or the cutting board where you’re about to prepare a relish tray. Some estimates say the splatter can spread up to 3 feet away. The researchers examined what happens when people rinse off raw meat, and they concluded that the only effect is that it actually increases the likelihood of contaminating your hands and nearby surfaces. And it’s likely to strike places where you’ll be preparing foods that will not be cooked or roasted in an oven for a few hours where all that bacteria will be destroyed.

What’s more, most people don’t clean up properly. According to the research, people tend to wipe down a counter or sink with a damp cloth and figure they’ve taken care of any microbiological hazard. Sure, you may be more careful than that. After the turkey is in the oven you might wash everything down with hot, soapy water, rinse it off, let it dry and then follow up with a santizing cloth or bleach solution. But it’s Thanksgiving Day — do you really have time for that? Wouldn’t you agree that it’s much easier not to rinse off the turkey in the first place?

So, if your step-by-step guide to preparing Thanksgiving dinner includes the recommendation to rinse off the turkey, please skip that step, and you can feel quite smug about the decision. But be sure to wash your hands, and do so properly — with soap, for at least 20 seconds, rinsing under warm running water, and drying with a clean cloth or paper towel. Washing your hands properly and often is the best thing you can do to prevent foodborne illness.

For more food safety guidance for the holidays and all year round, see foodsafety.gov.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Sanja Ilic, Ohio State University Extension state specialist in Food Safety.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.