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.

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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.

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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.

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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.