Added sugar in yogurt can be hard to identify

chow_022616-78617919A friend recently read a book on healthful eating and is now telling me I should stop eating yogurt because it contains so much sugar. I normally have a 6-ounce container after dinner, and I admit I was surprised at the sugar content when I looked at the label. Should I cut back?  

First, take a second look at the label that surprised you so much. Currently, the Nutrition Facts label simply lists the amount of sugar in a product as a subset of its carbohydrates. This sugar can be naturally occurring, such as the sugars from the milk or fruit in the yogurt, or it can be sugars added during processing, such as sucrose, honey or high-fructose corn syrup. You can’t tell which is which from the Nutrition Facts label.

Nutrition professionals have long differentiated between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars. Added sugars are often called “empty calories” because they aren’t accompanied by vitamins, minerals or other beneficial nutrients. For example, when you consume sugar from milk or yogurt (lactose), you get calcium, too. When you consume sugar from an orange (fructose, glucose and sucrose), you also get vitamin C plus a whole host of other nutrients. But added sugar doesn’t provide much more than added calories.

The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugars to no more than 10 percent of your daily calorie intake. If you normally eat 2,000 calories a day, that’s 200 calories from added sugars, or 50 grams of added sugars a day. If you normally eat 1,600 calories a day, that’s means 40 grams of added sugars.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently proposing changes to the Nutrition Facts label so it would be easy for consumers to see how much of the sugar in a product is naturally occurring and how much is added. But in the meantime, figuring it out can take some detective work.

For yogurt, first look at the ingredients list for sugars. If they are listed in the first few ingredients, then the product could be high in added sugars. To get a ballpark estimate of how much of the sugar is “added sugar,” compare the Nutrition Facts label of a similar yogurt that is sugar-free. If your yogurt has 25 grams of sugar, and the plain or artificially sweetened comparable yogurt has 12 grams, you can assume there are about 13 grams of added sugar in your yogurt.

Is that too much? It’s hard to say. Those 13 grams could be perfectly reasonable depending on what else you eat over the course of a day. But if it’s just one of many foods with added sugars you commonly eat, it could put you over the top.

If it’s something you’re concerned about, you could try yogurt made with zero-calorie artificial sweeteners. Or if that doesn’t appeal to you, what about plain yogurt topped with fresh berries or other fruit? Or, just trim back added sugars from other foods and keep enjoying your nightly treat.

It’s good be more aware of added sugars that you may not have known about, but it’s also important to look at the whole diet. You have options.

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, food security specialist with Ohio State University Extension.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

 

Be aware of risks of growing, eating sprouts

chow_02916-453448601My teenage son has taken a keen interest in healthy eating, and as part of this, he has started growing his own sprouts. I remember there was an issue with raw sprouts a few years ago. Are they safe to grow and eat?  

It’s great that your son is interested in eating more healthfully, and if you do any home gardening, you know how inspiring it is to grow and enjoy your own food.

But raw sprouts do have some inherent issues related to food safety. In the last 20 years, there have been at least 30 outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with different types of raw and lightly cooked sprouts. A 2011 outbreak from fenugreek sprouts in Germany made thousands of people ill and was linked to 50 deaths.

Most sprout-related outbreaks are caused by Salmonella and toxin-producing E. coli, and often the bacteria is traced back to the seed.

And therein lies the problem: The warm, moist conditions seeds need to sprout into, well, sprouts, whether at home or in a commercial facility, are also exactly the type of conditions bacteria need to multiply rapidly. And since any bacteria on the seed is incorporated into the sprout, you can’t even partially remove it like when you rinse other types of produce under running water.

The opportunity for problems to arise is great enough that public health authorities urge anyone who is at greatest risk of foodborne illness, including children younger than 5, the elderly, pregnant women or anyone with a chronic health condition such as diabetes or cancer, to refrain from eating raw sprouts all together.

If your son is otherwise healthy, the sprouts he grows may not pose a serious health risk. But it might be wise to be on the lookout for signs of foodborne illness, which can strike anywhere from few hours up to eight days after ingesting the bacteria. Symptoms include cramps, diarrhea, fever and vomiting.

In addition, encourage your son to reduce the chance of illness as much as possible by following recommended practices. The University of California has a fact sheet, “Growing Seed Sprouts at Home,” online at anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8151.pdf. It includes detailed recommendations for buying, treating and growing sprout seeds to minimize risk. For example, the fact sheet spells out how to soak seeds in a hydrogen peroxide solution, followed by rinsing them and soaking them in clean water. At that point, you can remove any debris or other seed material that floats to the surface — an important step, as, the fact sheet says, most contamination has been tied to that material.

The authors also emphasize the need to carefully sanitize the containers used for sprouting the seed and provide thorough instructions for doing so. However, even with carefully following the steps outlined in the fact sheet, be aware that there is still no way to guarantee the safety of raw sprouts that are contaminated prior to germination.

For more information about food safety, 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, food safety specialist with Ohio State University Extension.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Sodium still a concern with pricey types of salt

chow_021216-186234502My wife recently bought some pink Himalayan salt. Besides being pretty, it’s expensive and isn’t even iodized. Is it somehow healthier?  

Different types of salt might provide distinct flavors. Some chefs and others with refined palates swear by one type or another. Others, though, really can’t tell a difference.

As far as nutrition goes, your instincts are correct. All salt contains sodium, which is the nutrient of concern when it comes to salt. Americans average about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day, but the recommended level is 2,300 milligrams, or even less — 1,500 milligrams a day for people over 50, African Americans, or anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.

The body needs a modest amount of sodium, but 9 in 10 Americans go way overboard, contributing to high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney stones, osteoporosis and even headaches. In fact, according to a 2010 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, if everyone reduced their sodium intake to recommended amounts, up to 66,000 strokes and 99,000 heart attacks could be prevented annually.

Different kinds of salt might provide varying amounts of sodium, but the levels between them are negligible. It’s important to know, too, that the vast majority of sodium consumed in the American diet comes from highly processed foods. A cup of soup contains up to 940 milligrams of sodium. One slice of bologna has almost 300 milligrams. A slice of bread may have up to 230 milligrams.

That’s one reason it’s so important to read Nutrition Facts labels and examine them for sodium content, or purchase foods with “sodium-free” or “very low sodium” on the label.

You should also be aware that the salt used in processed foods is rarely, if ever, iodized. In the U.S., iodine started to be added to table salt in 1924 to reduce the risk of goiter, which is an enlarged thyroid gland resulting from iodine deficiency. Adults need about 150 micrograms of iodine a day, and most of it comes naturally from foods: fish, including cod, tuna, shrimp and other types of seafood; dairy products; and breads and cereals. Fruits and vegetables also provide varying amounts of iodine, depending on how much is in the soil where they’re grown. So, with a healthful, balanced diet, it’s likely you don’t need the iodine — much less the sodium — delivered from the saltshaker. A quarter-teaspoon of iodized salt provides 95 micrograms of iodine and nearly 600 milligrams of sodium.

To reduce sodium, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends:

  • Buy fresh, frozen (no sauce) or no salt added canned vegetables.
  • Use fresh poultry, fish, pork and lean meat rather than canned or processed meats. Check to see if saline or salt solution has been added — if so, choose another brand.
  • Limit your use of sauces, mixes and “instant” products, including flavored rice and ready-made pasta.

For more details, see cdc.gov/salt.

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 Colleen Spees, registered dietitian and assistant professor with Ohio State University Extension and The Ohio State University’s Division of Medical Dietetics and Health Science.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

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.