Eat fruit, but know how it affects blood sugar

Fruit Harvest Selection in BowlsI know I should be eating more fresh fruit, but I have type 2 diabetes. Last weekend I enjoyed a few slices of watermelon, and I was surprised when I tested my blood sugar and saw that it spiked over 200. Should I forget about eating more fresh fruit?

No! Fresh fruit should be included in every diet, even if you have diabetes. Aim for 1.5-2 cups a day.

Fresh fruit contains all sorts of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber. As you probably experienced with the watermelon, fruit can also satisfy your sweet tooth while providing huge nutritional benefits that cake and candy simply don’t offer.

But you should be aware that, as with any carbohydrate-containing foods, portion size matters to your blood sugar. And, different fruits have different levels of carbohydrates and fiber, both of which affect your blood sugar, or blood glucose. You likely already know that unmanaged high blood glucose can cause serious, even life-threatening consequences, including blindness, kidney disease, heart and vascular disease, and neuropathy (a disease of the nervous system).

The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes keep their blood glucose level to less than 180 milligrams per deciliter of blood two hours after eating. For people without diabetes, the normal level is less than 140 mg/dl. You and your doctor may have set your after-meals target lower, but whatever the case, it’s good to recognize what might spike your blood sugar so you can take steps to reduce your risk.

Fruits lower in carbohydrate and higher in fiber will likely have less of an effect on your blood sugar. Below is the calorie, carbohydrate and fiber content for specific portion sizes of some common fruits. Find information about other fruits in the National Nutrition Database, available under “What’s In Food” atnutrition.gov.

  • Raspberries, 1 cup (4.3 ounces): 65 calories, 15 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams fiber.
  • Peach, medium (5.3 ounces, about 1 cup sliced): 60 calories, 14 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber.
  • Strawberries, 1 cup halves (5.4 ounces): 50 calories, 12 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber.
  • Orange, 1 cup sections (6.5 ounces): 85 calories, 21 grams carbohydrate, 4.5 grams fiber.
  • Blueberries, 1 cup (5.2 ounces): 85 calories, 21 grams carbohydrate, 3.5 grams fiber.
  • Apple, extra small (3.5 ounces, about 1 cup sliced): 55 calories, 21 grams carbohydrate, 3.5 grams fiber.
  • Cantaloupe, 1 cup diced (5.5 ounces): 55 calories, 13 grams carbohydrate, 1.5 grams fiber.
  • Banana, extra large (5.4 ounces, about 1 cup sliced): 135 calories, 35 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber.
  • Honeydew, 1 cup diced (6 ounces): 60 calories, 15 grams carbohydrate, 1.5 grams fiber.
  • Grapes, 1 cup (5.3 ounces): 105 calories, 27 grams carbohydrate, 1.5 grams fiber.
  • Watermelon, 1 cup diced (5.4 ounces): 45 calories, 11.5 grams carbohydrate, 0.5 grams fiber.

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, specialist in Food, Nutrition and Wellness with Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

 

Smoothies can boost fruit, calcium intake

photo: Hemera

photo: Hemera

My teenage daughter has a sudden affinity for smoothies. She is making them all the time. Is this something I should encourage?

Smoothies can be a great way for anyone to consume more produce, and even additional calcium if milk, yogurt or calcium-fortified juice is part of the mix.

And most teens need more fruits, vegetables and calcium in their diets. A 2006 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that less than 1 percent of boys and less than 4 percent of girls aged 14 to 18 years ate the recommended amount of produce. (For girls 14-18, the recommended amount is 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day. Boys that age need an extra half-cup of each.)

Both boys and girls from 14 to 18 years need 1,300 milligrams of calcium a day — about the amount in 4.5 cups of milk. A national nutrition survey in 2005-2006 found that 42 percent of teen boys and only 10 percent of teen girls consumed enough calcium every day.

So, in a word, yes! If your daughter’s smoothies help her consume enough produce and calcium day to day, by all means encourage her on her smoothie craze. But it’s important to make sure they’re healthy beverages, not sugar-laden frozen slushies or milkshakes in disguise.

When prepared healthfully, smoothies can provide a big boost in nutrition. According to a study published in Health Education and Behavior in 2015, when smoothies were introduced as an option at school breakfasts at a middle school and high school in Utah, students eating a full cup of fruit during breakfast increased from 4.3 percent to a whopping 45.1 percent.

Another study, published in the Journal of Child Nutrition and Management in 2015, showed that 68 percent of high school students who chose yogurt as a breakfast option didn’t choose milk, suggesting that yogurt products — including many smoothies — may offer an appealing calcium-rich alternative for non-milk drinkers.

The smoothies made for the Utah school study included milk or juice, vanilla yogurt, and fruit — usually bananas, strawberries, pineapple and mandarin oranges, but sometimes cherries and pears — and even spinach for green smoothies. No extra sugar, frozen yogurt or ice cream was added — a good guideline for keeping the nutritional profile of a smoothie high. Adding ice will provide a nice chill and help lower the calorie count. Using frozen fruit — even frozen bananas — helps keep a smoothie thick with or without ice cubes.

For healthy recipe ideas, try the “Fruits and Veggies: More Matters” website atfruitsandveggiesmorematters.org. Click on “Recipes” and choose “Beverages and Smoothies.” You will find 16 pages of recipes for everything from an Orange Banana Frosty to a Watermelon Strawberry Shake (no ice cream included).

In addition, consider introducing your daughter to choosemyplate.gov/teens. This website encourages teens to adopt healthy food and activity habits to last a lifetime.

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 Carol Smathers, Youth Nutrition and Wellness specialist with Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Time is ripe to eat more fruits, veggies

chow_071715_460407859I was hoping I would begin to eat more fruits and vegetables during the summer, but I have to admit I haven’t gotten into the habit yet. Any ideas to help get me started?

It’s easy to get into a rut when it comes to what we eat day in and day out. If you’re not accustomed to snacking on fruits and vegetables and including them in meals, you might feel — just as with any new habit — a bit stymied on how to start.

That could be why a new study found that only about 1 in 10 Americans eats enough produce. That’s right — not only are you not alone in your produce-deficit diet, you’re in the vast majority.

According to the study, conducted by researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 13 percent of Americans consumed the recommended 1.5-2 cups of fruit a day in 2013, and less than 9 percent consumed the recommended 2-3 cups of vegetables a day.

The report also provided a state-by-state analysis, and it showed Ohioans faring even worse, with only 11 percent eating enough fruit and 7 percent eating enough vegetables. If you’re interested in the details, you can read more by searching for “State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables” on www.cdc.gov. The results are disheartening, given that research shows over and over that eating plenty of produce provides protection against heart disease, diabetes, some types of cancer and other chronic illnesses.

An easy way to adopt eating new foods is to make them readily available. Buy some easy-to-consume produce such as baby carrots, apples, peaches, plums, bananas, or any “grab-and-go” fruit or vegetable, as well as bagged salads or microwaveable steam-in-the-bag frozen veggies that you enjoy eating. Store them in a place where you can easily see them to give yourself a visual reminder. Incorporate them into your dietary routine throughout the day: If you pack your lunch, include a piece of produce. If you normally grab a granola bar to eat on the way to work, take some grapes or berries instead.

Be sure to congratulate yourself at every step of the process: when you buy the produce, when you take it from the fridge, and when you eat it. Even a very simple internal “Good for you!” is helpful to ingrain a new healthy habit into your daily routine.

For fresh ideas, go to the “Fruit and Veggies: More Matters” website at www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org. Among its recommendations:

  • Eat produce first. One study showed that serving produce first makes it more likely that people will put it on their plates than if it’s served last.
  • Incorporate fruits and vegetables into your regular dishes. Add grapes to chicken salad. Add a can of vegetables to your favorite soup.
  • Build meals around fruits and vegetables instead of serving them on the side: Think stir fries, stuffed peppers and cauliflower casseroles.

The website offers plenty of other information, including recipes, lists of produce in season, and ideas to getting more fruits and vegetables. Check it out and get inspired.

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’s food security specialist.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

When good fruit goes bad

177423860When I hear about a recall involving fresh produce, how can I find out if the fruits and vegetables in my refrigerator are affected? If I buy organic produce, am I safe?

Information about recent recalls and food safety alerts are available on the front page of foodsafety.gov.

This listing contains information from both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which oversees 80 percent of the nation’s food supply including produce, seafood and dairy, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is in charge of meat, poultry and processed egg products. For foods covered just by the FDA, see www.fda.gov/safety/recalls for recall information going back 60 days.

For recalled fresh produce check the FDA list. You can run a specific search by using the product name as a keyword. By clicking on the name of the product, you’ll see a description and the pictures of the product that was recalled and the retailers that sold the item.  Packaged products that have been recalled will have a date, and a production lot number to look for on the package. For bulk produce without a label, check with the store where you bought the product to find out if your items are part of the recall.

If you do have a product that’s been recalled, follow the FDA’s advice and don’t take any chances. Either throw it away or take it back to the store and ask for a refund.

To be on the safe side, the FDA recommends that you should also:

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds (count it out — it’s longer than you might think) with soap and warm water after handling the recalled items.
  • Wash any surface that the recalled items have touched, including refrigerator shelves or bins, countertops, bowls or plates, with soap and warm water.

Unfortunately, organic produce isn’t immune to food safety problems.  For example, one brand of organic mangos sold in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Jersey and Texas was the subject of a recall in May due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. A more recent recall of peaches, nectarines, plums and pluots (a cross between a plum and an apricot) included both conventional and organic produce, because they were packed in the same facility where, again, Listeria was found.

Anyone can sign up to get automatic alerts about recalls by email or text. Just go tofoodsafety.gov/recalls/alerts to sign up.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s 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 for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Safety first at u-pick farms

492022639I’m taking my children to pick-your-own farms for the first time this summer. Any tips?

First — have fun! Of course, that’s the whole point, with the added benefit of getting the freshest produce possible.

But you also need to keep in mind some food safety considerations. Although consuming fruits and vegetables is associated with all sorts of health benefits, it’s also possible to be exposed to bacteria and other microorganisms that could cause foodborne illness.

The most important thing to remember is for you and your children to wash your hands, and do it often and properly. Here are some guidelines:

  • Wash hands before picking fruit, after going to the bathroom, after eating, and after any hand-to-face contact, such as after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • When washing your hands, first wet your hands, then lather up with soap and wash for 20 seconds. That’s a lot longer than you might think. A common piece of advice is to sing “Happy Birthday” twice while rubbing your hands together, especially around your fingernails and knuckles. Scrub well.
  • Rinse thoroughly, and dry your hands and wrists with a fresh paper towel.

If there’s no water available, use hand wipes to remove any surface dirt, and follow up with a hand sanitizer.

Some other considerations include:

  • Don’t pick fruit that has fallen on the ground.
  • Use clean containers. Some operations provide containers; others ask that you bring your own.
  • Leave Fido at home. Dogs and other pets can’t be expected to be sanitary in the great outdoors.
  • Bring a cooler with ice or cold packs with you so you can start chilling the fruit quickly. After being picked, berries and other perishable foods shouldn’t be left at room temperature for more than two hours — one hour if it’s hotter than 90 degrees (like it can get in a hot car).
  • At home, rinse the fruit thoroughly under running water — use the spray for fragile produce, like berries — before storing in the refrigerator. Use a colander for smaller pieces.

For more information, Ohio State University Extension offers two fact sheets free online: Food Safety in Berry Patch, at go.osu.edu/fdsfberry, and Safe Handling of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, atgo.osu.edu/fdsffrtveg.

Other tips for visiting pick-your-own operations are available at pickyourown.org/pickingtips.htm.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s 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.

Wax off, wax on? Waxed produce OK

452415655Why is there a waxy substance on some of the fruits and vegetables I buy at the grocery store? Is it safe?

Some fruits and vegetables, especially those grown in warm climates, produce a natural waxy coating on the surface to prevent too much moisture from being lost.

When the crops are harvested and thoroughly cleaned before packaging and shipping, this natural wax is removed. If the wax isn’t present, produce that needs to travel a long distance may arrive damaged. So, produce handlers apply a thin coating of new wax to replace what was lost.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, applying the wax coating is helpful because it:

  • Helps the produce retain moisture and stay fresh.
  • Protects the produce from bruising and inhibits mold.
  • Prevents other physical damage or disease from harming the produce.
  • Enhances the product’s appearance.

While the wax can be made from several different materials, they all have to be approved by the FDA as safe to consume. Also, any fresh produce that is waxed must be labeled. The FDA recommends consumers look for labels that say, “Coated with food-grade vegetable-, petroleum-, beeswax-, or shellac-based wax or resin, to maintain freshness.”

Although “petroleum” and “shellac” are substances we don’t normally consume, the amount used is very small: A piece of waxed produce has only a drop or two of the microscopic coating. Still, for organic produce, the National Organic Program says wax can be applied only to non-edible portions of produce, except for organic citrus that can be waxed even though rinds could be used in juices and baking.

Wax is most often applied to apples, cucumbers, lemons, limes, oranges, other citrus fruit, bell peppers, eggplant and potatoes, although other types of produce also could be coated.

Since the coating is perfectly edible, there’s no need to worry about removing it before eating. Just rinse your produce, as usual, under running water. For cucumbers or other firm produce with a tougher rind, the FDA recommends using a vegetable scrub brush while rinsing under running water. You should do this even for produce that you intend to peel, especially cantaloupe. Doing so reduces the risk that any contaminants on the surface get onto the flesh as you cut through or otherwise handle the produce.

For more information on fresh produce, see the FDA web page at http://bit.ly/rawproduce.

Use ‘Top 10’ lists to add variety

Occasionally I see lists of the “top 10” most nutritious fruits and vegetables, but they’re never quite the same as each other. How much should I pay attention to these kinds of lists?

Trying to list the “best” fruits and vegetables is always going to vary depending on the criteria used. Sometimes those lists rank produce according to their vitamin and fiber content; sometimes they focus on in-season produce.

Often, such lists are generated according to the antioxidants in different foods. Those are typically based on a food’s “ORAC” score, which stands for “oxygen radical absorbency capacity,” a test-tube measurement that estimates a food’s overall antioxidant potential. However, ORAC scores don’t include the bioavailablity of these health-promoting substances — something that just can’t be measured currently.

Still, it’s always interesting to take a look at such lists. Inevitably, they provide some inspiration for trying a wider variety of fruits and vegetables, which is always a good thing. Consuming many different kinds of fruits and vegetables is the key to getting the most bang for your produce buck.

One way to make sure you’re getting a good variety of produce is to pay attention to their color. The pigments in produce often indicate the type of nutrients and, particularly, the phytonutrients the food contains. Phytonutrients are substances that plants produce for their own good, to protect themselves from plant diseases and other potential harm. Luckily, they also appear to protect human health as well.

Some phytonutrients are actually plant pigments. So, consuming a wide variety of differently colored fruits and vegetables is a good way to ensure you’re getting a good variety of both nutrients and phytonutrients. Focus on these:

  • Green, including spinach and other leafy greens, broccoli, okra, green pepper, kiwifruit, green grapes, honeydew and limes.
  • Orange and deep yellow, including corn, sweet potatoes, yellow peppers, carrots, grapefruit, peaches, pineapple and cataloupe.
  • Purple and blue, including eggplant, purple cabbage, blueberries and blackberries, plums and raisins.
  • Red, including red peppers, red potatoes, tomatoes, rhubarb, red onions, pink grapefruit, watermelon, red grapes, cherries and cranberries.
  • White, tan and brown, including cauliflower, jicama, onions, potatoes, turnips, bananas, brown-skinned pears and dates.

For more information and ideas, see http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/.

Chow Line is a service of 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, 43210-1044, or filipic.3@osu.edu.