Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
Researchers at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University have published a study that finds more nutrients–including heart-healthy fatty acids and proteins–in organic milk than in non-organic milk. NBC News has more:
“There’s really no debate around the world — when you feed dairy cows more grass, you improve the fatty acid profile of milk. You also increase the protein level,” [study author Charles] Benbrook says. On the other hand, cows fed a corn-based diet produce milk that’s higher in omega-6 fatty acids.
The reason organic milk is healthier comes down to its ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which is lower than in regular milk. A diet containing too many omega-6 fatty acids and not enough omega-3s has been linked to heart disease, as well as cancer, inflammation and autoimmune diseases. That’s because your gut converts omega-6s to arachidonic acid, which can cause inflammation. But the anti-inflammatory powers of omega-3s help to counterbalance that reaction, which is why keeping that ratio low is so important. (An omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 2.3 to 1 is best for heart health, research suggests.)
“It’s true that both omega 6s and omega 3s are essential – we have to have some of them,” Benbrook says. “But it’s when they get out of balance, the adverse health effects appear to kick in.”
If organic milk is out of your budget, conventional milk is still OK – but choose whole milk, rather than skim or 2 percent. “The heart-healthy fatty acids in milk are part of milk’s overall fat content,” Benbrook says. “This benefit will be reduced about 50 percent when people choose 2 percent fat milk, and by about two-thirds when purchasing skim or low-fat dairy products.”
Even if you don’t consume dairy, Benbrook says the larger message here is to try to cut back on foods that are very high in soybean or corn oil, both of which have high omega-6 to omega-3 ratios – things like fried foods, or chips.
Learn how to make healthy homemade baby food with our guide. Then, check out which 20 snacks kids find irresistible.
Image: Glass of milk, via Shutterstock
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Valentine's Day Treats: Strawberry Milk
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Child Health, Must Read, New Research
Friday, December 6th, 2013
The school lunch “hour” is a misnomer at schools across the country, many of which give students as little as 15 minutes to eat lunch. NPR reports:
At many public schools today, kids are lucky to get more than 15 minutes to eat. Some get even less time.
And parents and administrators are concerned that a lack of time to eat is unhealthful, especially given that about one-third of American kids are overweight or obese.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that students get at least 20 minutes for lunch. But that means 20 minutes to actually sit down and eat — excluding time waiting in line or walking from class to cafeteria.
At Oakland High [in California], over 80 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. And officially, students get about 40 minutes for the meal. But Jennifer LeBarre, Oakland Unified School District’s nutrition services director, admits that the actual table time is far shorter. At times it’s just 10 minutes.
“I think it’s a legitimate complaint that there’s not enough time to eat,” LeBarre says. “If we are being asked to eat our lunch in 10 minutes, that’s not enough for us. So I really think we need to really work more for the 20-minute table time.”
Oakland High is hardly alone. In a wide-ranging by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, 20 percent of parents of students from kindergarten through fifth grade surveyed said their child only gets 15 minutes or less to eat.
Ironically, relatively new federal school-nutrition guideline changes may be making the situation worse. Under federal rules, schools have to increase the availability and consumption of fruits and vegetables — among other changes. It’s part of an effort to improve nutrition and combat childhood obesity.
But eating more healthful foods can take more time, LeBarre says. “It’s going to take longer to eat a salad than it will to eat french fries.”
Image: School lunch box, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
Amid reports that a growing number of kids are showing up at emergency rooms with gastritis, an irritation of the stomach lining, health officials are warning parents that super spicy foods including chips and crackers may not be safe for kids. More from ABC News:
Dr. Martha Rivera, a pediatrician at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles, said she sees between five and six cases of children with gastritis daily.
“We have a population who loves to eat the hot spicy, not real foods, and they come in with these real complaints,” Rivera told KABC-TV.
Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency room physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, said he believes that the flavoring coating the chips and snacks is what might be causing the stomach pH to change, rather than just the spiciness of the snacks. For example, he said he hasn’t had a lot of people coming in doubled over from eating too much spicy salsa.
“In the past, I had not seen any problems with snack food until spicy flavoring became more popular,” said Glatter.
Glatter said it wasn’t just the high fat or high salt content that the kids or adolescents crave but the actual burn of the spicy flavoring.
“It’s almost like a food addiction. They seek out the burn,” said Glatter. “It’s a little thrill-seeking. ‘It’s like how much can I tolerate?’ and I’ve seen a number of children who eat four or five bags and come in screaming in pain.”
Image: Spicy snacks, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, November 7th, 2013
The Food and Drug Administration of the federal government has announced a that partially hydrogenated oils, which are a major source of “trans fats” in processed foods, are no longer “generally recognized as safe” in the U.S. food supply. The move is considered a first step toward a ban of the artificial fats in most foods, as CNN.com reports:
If the preliminary determination is finalized, according to the FDA, then partially hydrogenated oils will become food additives that could not be used in food without approval. Foods with unapproved additives cannot legally be sold.
Trans fat can be found in processed foods including desserts, microwave popcorn products, frozen pizza, margarine and coffee creamer, and has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
Partially hydrogenated oil is formed when hydrogen is added to liquid oils to make solid fats, like shortening and margarine. It increases the shelf life and the flavor of foods. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, or shortening, was used in American kitchens as early as 1911.
However, in recent years many food manufacturers have taken steps to limit or eliminate trans fat from their products.
McDonald’s, for instance, stopped cooking its french fries in trans fat more than a decade ago. The company’s website says all its fried menu items are free of trans fat.
New York City in 2007 adopted a regulation banning partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and spreads in restaurants.
Trans fat intake among American consumers decreased from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to about a gram a day in 2012, according to the FDA.
However, “current intake remains a significant public health concern,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a written statement.
There is no safe level of consumption of trans fat, Hamburg said. It has been shown to raise the “bad,” or LDL, cholesterol.
Image: Margarine on bread, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, November 7th, 2013
Fast food restaurant chains have slowed down televised advertisements, but they are ramping up efforts to market to younger customers by using social media outlets, according to a new study by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. More from Time.com:
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The researchers studied 18 of the top fast food chains in the U.S. and documented the changes in the nutritional quality of the food they served, as well as their marketing campaigns to kids and teens on TV and online.
Since 2010, kids between the ages of 6 to 11 saw 10% fewer TV ads for fast foods, and more of these ads included healthier meals, such as fruit snacks and salads.
But the positive trend also hid some less encouraging news. While the youngest kids were seeing fewer TV ads, older kids and teens still saw about three to five fast food advertisements on television every day. Appeals to teens on social media also surged, and while children saw more advertisements for healthier fast food options, these made up only a quarter of the fast food ads viewed by these kids, and only 1% of kids’ meals at these chains met healthy nutritional standards.
The results highlight the challenge that families face in improving children’s diets, as such enticements to consume high calorie, high fat meals continue to surround them. A recent study published in the journal PLOS One reported, for example, that fast food ads targeting kids were more likely to include toys and giveaways, which are a nearly irresistible draw for younger kids. And research suggests that these types of marketing campaigns seed lasting emotional connections to brands, making children more likely to continue eating at fast food chains and take their own families there as adults.