Fructose intolerance manageable with proper diet

My son has been complaining recently about tummy aches after eating certain fruits like grapes and watermelon. Lately, he can’t seem to tolerate apple juice even though it’s his favorite drink. Could the fruit be causing his pain? I thought that feeding him fruits was a healthy choice?

Generally, fruits and vegetables are a healthy choice for children. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it is recommended that children ages 2-3 eat 1 cup of fruit per day, those ages 4-8 consume 1-1.5 cups, those ages 9-13 consume 1.5 cups, and those 14-18 consume 1.5-2 cups of fruit per day.

Fruits, fruit juices and some vegetables, however, contain a naturally occurring sugar known as fructose. Fructose is also found in honey, table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup used to sweeten many processed foods and beverages. Some people may suffer from fructose intolerance, a condition in which the body’s digestive system doesn’t absorb fructose properly. This can result in abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and gas for some.

According to a 2010 study by the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), fructose intolerance is common in children with recurrent or functional abdominal pain, but the condition can be effectively managed with a low-fructose diet. It seems the condition is more prevalent in teenage girls who suffer from chronic abdominal pain, the study’s authors said.

According to the study, “Fructose Intolerance/Malabsorption and Recurrent Abdominal Pain in Children,” fructose intolerance in children is typically diagnosed by exclusion, meaning other gastrointestinal conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are ruled out as the cause of the abdominal pain.

Once these have been ruled out, your doctor can test your son for fructose intolerance by administering a fructose breath test, which measures the rise in hydrogen in a person’s breath after an oral dose of fructose, according to the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Health Team.

If your child is diagnosed with fructose intolerance, you should see a registered dietitian to determine foods that are OK to eat and those that should be avoided. Generally, people with fructose intolerance should limit their intake of high-fructose foods such as juices, apples, grapes, watermelon, asparagus, peas and zucchini, according to the Mayo Clinic.

While it may be difficult to both find foods with low fructose and get your son to not eat foods with high fructose, there is good news for those with fructose intolerance: The ACG study found that more than half of patients who are fructose intolerant are able to maintain a low-fructose diet and are able to notice an immediate improvement in their symptoms.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.  Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Irene Hatsu, state specialist in food security for Ohio State University Extension.

Ham probably cooked, but read the label

We’re having ham for Christmas dinner this year. I believe ham is already cooked, but when I was growing up, I remember my mother always put a glaze on it and baked it in the oven for several hours. Do I have to do that, or can I just warm it up before serving? 

Most ham sold in the U.S. is cured and fully cooked, but even in that case, it can still take several hours to warm in the oven. At 325 degrees F, a 6-pound bone-in cooked smoked ham would take nearly 2.5 hours to heat to an internal temperature of 140 degrees. That’s the temperature recommended for reheating most precooked ham sold in the U.S.

But be forewarned: There are many different types of ham. Your best bet is to always follow the preparation guidelines on the label. Some types of ham might have all the looks and appearances of being ready-to-eat, but aren’t. In that case, the label will prominently say “Cook thoroughly” or something similar and will have cooking instructions. You don’t want to miss that.

Most products labeled as “ham” come from the hind leg of a hog, anywhere from the middle of the shank bone (that’s the round leg bone you might see — and have to cut around — in some hams) up to the hip bone, which is called the “aitch” on hogs and cattle. The upper part, the butt end (which is exactly what you think it is), has more fat and so it’s often thought of as more flavorful.

If you find yourself with a “picnic ham,” you’re really eating pork shoulder that’s been cured so it tastes much like regular ham. If you ever buy a whole hog for the freezer, you’ll get two whole fresh hams, which is ham meat that hasn’t been cured and is more like pork than traditional ham. And, of course, you might also see turkey ham at the store, which is a bird of another feather altogether.

Most ham sold in the U.S. is “city ham,” which is wet-cured with brine and often smoked or injected with smoke flavoring. Cooking may occur during this process, but, again, it’s important to check the label. Country ham, on the other hand, is dry-cured with salt, then is hung to dry for several months and often smoked as well. Country ham is much saltier than city ham and requires soaking in water for hours to let some of the salt leach out before cooking.

A spiral-sliced ham is safe to eat without reheating. If you do want to serve it warm, be careful not to dry it out. Cover it with heavy foil and heat it at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes a pound, until it reaches 140 F. Leftovers, or spiral ham that has been repackaged outside of the original facility, should be heated to 165 degrees F.

A boneless ham is a product that undergoes more processing than other types of ham. It is made by chopping or sectioning the meat into smaller pieces, and, like other types of processed meat, it is tumbled and massaged to allow the pieces to stick together in a particular shape.

Any ham that’s not ready-to-eat needs to be cooked to reach at least 145 degrees F internal temperature, and allowed to rest at least three minutes before cutting and serving.

For more details, go to fsis.usda.gov and search for “Ham and Food Safety.”

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, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

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

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Healthy eating: The gift that keeps on giving

My grandchildren are coming for an extended visit over the holidays. I’ve been concerned about some of their eating habits, but as their grandma, I don’t want to make a big deal about it. What are some subtle things I can do while they’re here to encourage them to eat a little better?

What a great grandma! You deserve kudos for noticing potentially damaging eating habits developing in your grandchildren and caring enough to nudge them in a healthier direction.

Here are some ideas to try from youth nutrition specialists with Ohio State University Extension:

  • Adopt a “water first for thirst” policy. When the grandkids ask for something to drink, pour a nice big glass of ice water for them instead of high-sugar soft drinks or other beverages. Experts generally recommend children 4-8 years old drink 4 cups of water a day (without added sweeteners), and that increases to 7-8 cups for ages 9-13, and 8-11 cups for ages 14-18. For teens, that translates into drinking enough water to fill a 2-liter bottle. Lowfat (unflavored) milk also is a nutritious option. However, limit 100 percent fruit juice to less than 8 ounces a day, and avoid sweetened drinks altogether. Consider dressing up water by adding strawberry and orange slices or cucumber slices and mint.
  • Start a tradition of making healthful smoothies for breakfast or an afternoon snack. Just pack the blender full of fruit, such as bananas, strawberries, pineapple, peaches or mandarin oranges, plus ice cubes, yogurt and juice. You could even add fresh spinach for green smoothies. No need for extra sugar or ice cream. For thicker smoothies, try using frozen fruit.
  • Speaking of fruits and vegetables, keep a good variety on hand and make it as easy as possible for your grandchildren to eat. Depending on how old your grandchildren are, try slicing fruits and vegetables into bite-size pieces. In one study, younger elementary-school students said they found whole fruit to be too cumbersome to eat comfortably, and started eating much more of it when fruit was sliced for them. For preschoolers, be sure to cut grapes and cherry tomatoes in half before serving to be sure they aren’t a choking hazard.
  • While you’re at it, double up on vegetables both for snacks and during meals — most children don’t eat nearly enough. For snacks, consider having a large clear bowl in the fridge with ready-to-eat baby carrots, celery sticks, bell pepper strips, cucumber slices, and broccoli and cauliflower florets.
  • Other healthful snacks to consider keeping around include nuts, whole-grain crackers, rice cakes and air-popped popcorn.
  • Pay special attention when you’re eating out, when it’s very easy to overconsume empty calories. Try to steer them away from fried and breaded foods, even fried fish, chicken and vegetables. If french fries or potato chips come with a meal, ask if it’s possible to substitute a salad, fruit or soup.

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, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

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

This column is being distributed earlier in the week than usual in anticipation of the Thanksgiving holiday.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Steel yourself: ’Tis the season for sweet treats

 I don’t usually have much of a sweet tooth, but during the holidays I tend to go overboard on cookies and other baked goods at parties and when people bring treats to the office. This year, it seems to have started already. Any ideas to help me keep in control?

Actually, it sounds like you may be a step ahead of most people. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, about 70 percent of U.S. adults and children consume more added sugars than recommended — and not just during the holidays.

The guidelines say to keep added sugars to less than 10 percent of daily calorie intake. That means if your recommended calorie intake is 2,000 calories, your goal should be to keep sweets to a maximum of 200 calories a day.

It’s hard to estimate how many homemade gingerbread cookies or slices of pecan pie that might be. But since you can find added sugars in many types of foods and beverages, including salad dressing, yogurt and energy drinks, it’s a good idea to do what you can to limit the holiday treats to a reasonable amount — one or two small items a day, at most.

You’re probably thinking that, during the holidays, that’s easier said than done. But here are some thoughts to keep in mind as the celebrations begin:

Decide in advance that you’ll choose only the treats you will truly, deeply enjoy. Some sweets are definitely worth the indulgence, but, let’s face it, others aren’t. Give yourself permission not to sample items for fear of insulting the baker (even if it’s your supervisor at work or your very best friend), and make up your mind now to pass on the items that aren’t your very favorites. And for those treats that are worthwhile, imagine taking one modest portion from the platter and slowly savoring each bite. Many dietitians recommend this mindful approach to eating not just during the holidays but all year round to reduce the extra, empty calories we often mindlessly consume.

Find ways to cut back on other added sugars in your diet this time of year. Sugar-sweetened soda, fruit drinks, coffee and other beverages account for nearly half the added sugars that Americans typically consume. Opting for ice water, sparkling water, or plain coffee or tea instead of high-sugar drinks most of the time can go a long way to allowing you to feel just fine about indulging in an iced butter cookie or slice of pumpkin roll. And beverages are just one aspect of the diet to consider. If you normally have cereal with added sugars or toast with jelly for breakfast, for example, choose unsweetened alternatives during this time of year.

At holiday gatherings, position yourself so the goodies aren’t in your line of vision. Remember the old joke about the “see-food” diet? It’s true — visual cues are often hard to ignore. But you can make this work for you, too. Keep a fruit bowl on your kitchen counter to make it easy to grab an apple before you leave for a party. Filling up on fruits and vegetables always makes it easier to blithely decline an extra treat.

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, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Irene Hatsu, state specialist in food security for Ohio State University Extension.

For a PDF version of this column, please click here.

Managing diabetes is not always easy

 My husband has type 2 diabetes, and lately he has been frustrated about his blood sugar. Even though he gives himself the proper dose of insulin according to his carbohydrate intake, his glucose levels often don’t go down as much as they should. He has a doctor’s appointment, but can you shed some light about what’s going on?

Talking with his doctor, or a registered dietitian or diabetes educator, to gain some insight is a good idea. But many things can affect blood glucose levels. He might need to adjust his insulin, but physical activity, or lack of it, can make a big difference. Worry, frustration and feelings of burnout regarding diabetes have also been associated with higher blood sugar levels, according to a 2010 study in the journal Diabetes Care. The biology and the science behind insulin and blood sugars aren’t as cut and dried as you might wish.

Your husband also might benefit from a new online course developed by Ohio State University Extension. “Dining with Diabetes: Beyond the Kitchen” is available for free at go.osu.edu/DWD_BTK, as part of the online eXtension campus, which is a service of the U.S. Cooperative Extension System. The course includes:

  • Narrated PowerPoint presentations on “Carbohydrates,” “Fats and Sodium,” and “Vitamins, Minerals and Fiber.”
  • Videos with ideas on making smarter decisions at the grocery store.
  • Links to information from authoritative sources.
  • Quizzes to test your knowledge.
  • The ability to post questions and experiences — and to read those of other participants.

Participants who sign up and view all presentations and videos, complete the quizzes, and submit a final evaluation are eligible for a quarterly drawing for a $100 Amazon gift card.

Your husband might particularly be interested in one of the resources available in the course, a blog post from the Joslin Diabetes Center. It describes how a high-fat meal can affect blood glucose, both by slowing the time it takes for the glucose to be digested and reach the bloodstream, and by affecting the liver’s ability to absorb glucose. Depending on your husband’s eating habits, this might help explain what’s happening with him.

The online course is an offshoot of in-person Dining with Diabetes classes offered periodically in 27 Ohio counties by OSU Extension. The three-session program, co-presented by an Extension educator and a certified diabetes educator, provides information on menu planning, carbohydrate counting and other topics, and includes live cooking demonstrations of healthy recipes with taste-testing. To find out if the program is offered near you, contact your county Extension office. Find it at go.osu.edu/extoffices.

Living with the ups and downs of diabetes can be aggravating. But getting answers to questions when they arise, and connecting with others facing the same issues, can help.

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, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: November is National Diabetes Month. This column was reviewed by Dan Remley, Food, Nutrition and Wellness field specialist for Ohio State University Extension.

Steam, roast vegetables to retain nutrients

 What is the best way to cook vegetables so nutrients aren’t destroyed?

You’re right — the heat involved in cooking vegetables can destroy some nutrients, but for others, it actually enhances their absorbability. For example, both beta carotene (think carrots) and its relative, lycopene (tomatoes), are more easily absorbed by the body after cooking. Cooking changes the structure of these nutrients’ molecules, allowing our bodies to absorb them much more efficiently. Adding some healthy fat, such as olive or canola oil, also helps.

With different nutrients reacting differently to the cooking process, it can get confusing. As a general rule, limit cooking time: The less time a vegetable is exposed to heat, the more nutrients it will retain.

You’ll also want to limit the amount of water that vegetables are exposed to in both food preparation and cooking, because water-soluble vitamins, such as folate and vitamin C, easily leach out when vegetables are soaked or cooked in lots of water. So boiling vegetables in a pot full of water should almost always be your last choice if you want to maximize retention of nutrients.

Steaming is a great option, either in the microwave oven or on the stovetop. The cooking process is fast, which limits the vegetables’ exposure to heat, and it prevents vegetables from sitting in water.

In the microwave, the steam and the energy itself work together to heat vegetables rapidly. Because microwave ovens widely differ in wattage, it might take some trial and error so vegetables cook evenly and don’t get overdone. Believe it or not, it can be helpful to read the appliance manual and follow its recommendations. If you can’t find your copy, look online. Whether in the microwave oven or on the stovetop, be sure to use a tightly lidded container so the steam doesn’t escape and the vegetables cook more quickly.

Dry methods of cooking, such as roasting or grilling, are other great options. Be sure to coat vegetables with a thin layer of oil to help their surfaces heat more quickly, allowing them to cook faster. Dry cooking methods also remove moisture, helping create a richer, more intense flavor than other cooking methods.

Whatever cooking method you choose, keep these other nutrient-retaining hints in mind:

  • If a vegetable has an edible skin — potatoes or summer squash, for example — leave it on. Many nutrients are concentrated in or just below the skin, and the skin protects the vegetables from losing nutrients during the cooking process.
  • When cutting vegetables before cooking, opt for larger chunks. The less surface area that’s exposed to heat, the fewer nutrients you’ll lose.
  • Don’t crowd. Cook vegetables in a loose pile or a single layer to allow the heat to access all food surfaces quickly and evenly. Again, the quicker vegetables cook, the more nutrients you get.

Cooking vegetables properly just might encourage you to eat more of them. Berkeley Wellness, part of the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, has a helpful guide, “60+ Healthy Ways to Cook Vegetables” at berkeleywellness.com — search for “cooking vegetables.”

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, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or filipic.3@osu.edu. Please note new postal address as of Oct. 20, 2016.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carolyn Gunther, community nutrition specialist for Ohio State University Extension.

 

New strategies to combat peanut allergies

My grandson is just 5 months old, and I noticed that my daughter and son-in-law gave him a small amount of peanut butter recently. I didn’t say anything, but I thought very young children should avoid peanuts to reduce the chance a peanut allergy might develop. Should I speak up?

Young children, particularly those under age 4, do need to avoid whole peanuts — because they’re a choking hazard. But your grandson’s parents seem to be in the know on the latest research.

It’s true that for many years, the medical community advised against feeding peanut products at an early age in the hope that it would help reduce the risk of peanut allergies. In fact, in 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics made the guidance official, recommending that children not be given peanut products until age 3. But peanut allergies didn’t wane. According to a study based on scientific phone surveys conducted with parents in 1997, 2002 and 2008, the rate of peanut allergies in children younger than 18 years increased over those years from 0.4 percent to 0.8 percent to 1.4 percent — nearly quadrupling in those 11 years. The trends were obvious, and in 2008, the pediatrics group rescinded its 2000 recommendation.

Now, we have clearer evidence about what might be the best course of action. The issue is important, because, as most people realize, peanut allergies can be serious, potentially causing anaphylaxis, which can send the body into shock and is sometimes fatal.

Newer studies show that introducing peanut products to babies as young as 4 to 11 months old appears to actually reduce their risk of developing a peanut allergy. The latest study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in September, reviewed 146 previous studies and found that early introduction of small amounts of peanut products could reduce development of the food allergy by 18 cases per 1,000 children. It might not sound like much, but it is significant in terms of reducing such risks. In addition, the same study found that babies given small amounts of eggs when they were 4-6 months old were less likely to develop egg allergies.

Still, parents need to be cautious, especially for children who are at higher risk. According to HealthyChildren.org, an American Academy of Pediatrics website, any child who has ever had a rash from peanuts, or any other reaction to them, shouldn’t be given peanut products. The “early introduction” strategy might be helpful for other children who are at higher risk, such as those with other known food allergies or eczema, but parents should try introducing peanuts to those children only under a doctor’s watchful eye. For children without any extra risk, however, parents may consider spreading a thin layer of creamy (not chunky) peanut butter on a cracker or piece of bread or giving their young children other foods with peanut butter in them. Be sure young children are supervised and sitting up whenever they eat.

For more information, see HealthyChildren.org and search for peanut allergies.

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, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Please note new postal address as of Oct. 20, 2016.

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

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Yogurt: So many choices, lots to like

 There seem to be a lot more kinds of yogurt than there ever used to be. I like it, but is yogurt really that popular?

Yogurt has made big gains over the years. Although it’s leveling off, yogurt consumption has more than doubled over the last 15 years, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. During that time, Greek yogurt appeared on the market and quickly gained steam, now accounting for about half of all yogurt sales.

What’s the appeal? Yogurt has a lot going for it. It has a good amount of calcium, although the amount can vary. To determine how much calcium is in your favorite yogurt, look for the Percent Daily Value for calcium listed on the Nutrition Facts label, and multiply it by 1,000 mg, which is the Daily Value for calcium. For example, if the label says a serving of your yogurt has 25 percent (0.25) of the Daily Value for calcium, then it has 250 mg. To compare, a cup of milk has about 300 mg.

It’s important to note that the recommended daily amount of calcium for people varies, from 1,300 mg for 9- to 18-year-olds, to 1,200 mg for men 71 and older and women 51 and older, to 1,000 mg for those in between. So, you have to do a little mental math to know if you’re getting enough. Fortunately, when the new Nutrition Facts labels appear on foods in 2018, they’ll list the actual amount of calcium in grams.

Also like milk, yogurt has a good amount of protein. A cup of plain low-fat yogurt has 12 grams of protein, compared with 8 grams in a cup of 2 percent milk. Again, your mileage may vary with the type of yogurt. To verify, check the Nutrition Facts.

Most types of yogurt also contain beneficial bacteria naturally found in the intestinal tract, but which can sometimes use a boost. These live cultures, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, can improve digestive health and strengthen your immune system. Unfortunately, you can’t really tell how much of this bacteria is in the yogurt you eat. Even in yogurt with a “Live and Active Cultures” seal, which verifies the yogurt had at least 100 million cultures per gram (or 10 million for frozen yogurt) at the time it was made, the number of good bacteria can fade over time.

Although yogurt is a highly nutritious food, flavored varieties might contain more added sugar than you’re comfortable with. Flavored regular yogurt often has about 24-30 grams of carbohydrates, some from added sugars and some naturally from the sugars in the yogurt’s milk and fruit. Light varieties, with low- or no-calorie sweeteners, have half as many carbs. When the new Nutrition Facts labels come out, you’ll be able to easily see how much of the carbohydrate is from added sugars.

Or, opt for plain yogurt. It won’t have any added sugars, and you can add your own flavorings, such as vanilla, or top it with fresh or frozen berries yourself.

Plain whole-milk Greek yogurt is also a good substitute for sour cream. Along with some added tang, it provides fewer calories (190 per cup compared to 480 in sour cream), less fat (9 grams compared to 45), more protein (20 grams compared to 5) and more calcium (250 mg compared to 7). So, it’s worth an experiment or two to see how it might work in your recipes.

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, field specialist in Food, Nutrition and Wellness for Ohio State University Extension.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

What will happen when fiber is no longer fiber

 I understand that the recommendation for fiber intake is going up. When will we see that reflected on Nutrition Facts labels?

The new labels should be on foods by July 2018. And you’re right, the Daily Value — the number on Nutrition Facts labels that indicates the recommended intake for nutrients — is increasing from 25 grams of fiber a day to 28. As with any Daily Value number, this is the recommended level for someone eating a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. The higher number is based on findings of the Institute of Medicine, which recommends that people consume 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed. Unfortunately, most people don’t get nearly that amount.

Along with Daily Value update, the Food and Drug Administration also actually provided a definition of what counts as fiber for Nutrition Facts labels. And unless the rules are updated before taking effect, some fiber that’s included in many processed foods today won’t meet the new standard.

There are many different types of fiber, and they don’t all act in the body the same way. So, in the new definition, the FDA requires that any fiber included on the Nutrition Facts listing have an established “beneficial physiological effect” — that is, it has to be considered beneficial to human health. Such benefits include reduced blood glucose, cholesterol or blood pressure; increased satiety, which would help people reduce calorie intake; improved laxation or bowel function; and increased absorption of minerals, such as calcium.

The FDA will allow any fiber that’s intrinsic and intact in the food itself — the fiber naturally found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, for example — to be included in the grams listed under “fiber” on the new labels. But it won’t include everything.

Today, food manufacturers often extract and isolate fiber from foods to add to high-fiber breakfast bars, protein shakes, cereals, breads, yogurts, granolas and even calorie-free sweeteners. They can also chemically synthesize some types of fiber.

These “isolated or synthetic” types of fiber not only provide additional fiber to the processed food, but also often help provide the flavor and texture that the food manufacturer is looking for in the finished product. However, not all types of this kind of fiber have been shown to have the human health benefits the FDA is looking for.

So far, the FDA lists 25 fibers in this category as making the grade, allowing them to be counted as fiber. They include psyllium husk, guar gum, pectin and cellulose. But in its review of the scientific literature, the FDA could not find health benefits of other types of fiber often used in processed foods, including inulin, bamboo fiber, soy fiber, pea fiber and wheat fiber. As it stands now, those ingredients, like all fiber, would have to be included in the amount of carbohydrate in the food but would not be counted in the amount of fiber.

The agency could update the list of what’s allowed to be included in the fiber listing as scientific evidence develops. But as it stands today, many of the “high-fiber” foods you see on grocery store shelves may no longer meet that criteria under the new rules.

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, orfilipic.3@osu.edu.

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

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

 

The scoop on fresh, homegrown tomatoes

 We are enjoying fresh vegetables from our garden, especially the tomatoes. But we have a disagreement about whether or not they are actually healthier than store-bought fresh or even canned tomatoes. We each think we’ve read information that contradicts the other. Who’s right?

You’re both right, depending on a few factors.

There are few things better than biting into a fully ripe, meaty, juicy tomato fresh-picked from the garden. And as long as it doesn’t sit around on the kitchen counter very long, you will get the peak amount of nutrition that the tomato has to offer.

Homegrown vegetables have two things going in their favor over store-bought: They have a longer time on the vine, and they have a shorter time in storage and, of course, transport. Tomatoes sold at the grocery store are usually picked before they’re completely ripe so they can withstand the rigors of being boxed up and transported across the state, the country or even the ocean. Before they’re sold, they’re ripened artificially with ethylene, a gas that plants actually produce naturally. But that results in a ripeness that’s not quite the same as when you pick that love apple off the vine yourself at peak maturity. That’s when fruits and vegetables typically have the most vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.

To retain the most nutrients, store your fresh produce properly. While 55 degrees F is the optimal storage temperature for tomatoes, room temperature will do, and keep them out of direct sunlight. Proper storage helps slow the respiration process. After being picked, produce continues to “breathe,” or respire, breaking down carbohydrates to use as energy and resulting in the loss of flavor and nutrients. Some types of produce, such as asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, peas and sweet corn, have higher respiration rates than others and are more perishable. Others, such as apples, garlic, grapes, onions and potatoes, have low respiration rates, allowing them to be stored for a longer time and still retain their quality. Tomatoes are in between, classified with carrots, peaches, pears, lettuce and peppers as having a moderate respiration rate.

When produce is commercially canned or frozen, it is processed immediately after harvest to take advantage of the product’s peak ripeness and to lock in as many nutrients as possible. The product is then stored in a way to protect it from heat, light and oxygen, all of which naturally destroy nutrients. So, compared with “fresh” produce that may have been picked before it was fully ripe and spent days or weeks in less-than-optimal storage or transport conditions, canned and frozen versions often retain more of the original nutrients.

Canned tomatoes also provide another benefit: A phytonutrient in tomatoes, lycopene, is absorbed more readily by the body from processed tomatoes than fresh. Lycopene has been associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer. So, in that way, canned tomatoes are more beneficial than fresh.

For more about nutrients in tomatoes and other produce, see go.osu.edu/frshtoms.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Irene Hatsu, food security specialist for Ohio State University Extension.

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, orfilipic.3@osu.edu.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.