Nutrition News: Dining Out Risks, When to Eat, and How Healthy is Your Snack Bar?

Eating out may elevate blood pressure, night meals boost blood sugar, and an apple (and some green tea) a day really can keep the doctor away.
  Another Reason to Cook at Home

Most of us enjoy a nice meal in a restaurant now and then, but a new study has found a link between eating out and hypertension. Researchers at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore found that young adults (18 to 40 years old) who ate meals away from home had an elevated rate of prehypertension and hypertension. Even eating out one extra time, the researchers found, boosted the odds of prehypertension by 6 percent. The study, conducted via a survey of university students of Asian descent, underscores how important it is to be aware of the salt and calorie content of the foods you eat, according to the research team.

Better to Be an A.M. Eater?

It’s not only what you eat but when you eat it that makes a difference. A big meal eaten at night boosts blood sugar more than the same meal eaten in the morning, a new study indicates. According to research led by a team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the evening elevation of post-meal glucose levels held regardless of when participants in the study slept. This may mean shift workers who sleep during the day and are up at night are at a heightened risk for lowered glucose tolerance and diabetes.

How Healthy Is Your Snack Bar?

Are Kind bars healthy? Available in many varieties, they often contain fruit, nuts and whole grains, but the Food and Drug Administration has taken issue with the use of the word “healthy” on Kind bar labels. The agency sent the company a “ warning letter,” dated March 17 and released to the public this week, outlining its concerns, among them that four kinds of Kind bars exceed the threshold of saturated fat that products must stay within to be labeled “healthy” (containing up to 5 grams, while the limit is 1 gram) and the use of the “plus” symbol on some packaging to indicate additional antioxidants, protein and/or fiber, which may not adhere to strict FDA guidelines. Kind says it is working to comply with the FDA standards. But in the meantime, should health-minded eaters stay away from Kind bars? Not necessarily. Some experts argue that thinking has changed on what is healthful and FDA guidelines need another look. Nuts, a key contributor to the fat content of Kind bars, are "probably one of the healthiest choices you can make in a diet," Harvard University epidemiology and nutrition expert Walter Willett tells NPR’s The Salt.

One Good Apple

You know what they say about an apple a day keeping the doctor away? There’s new evidence that eating foods containing high amounts of compounds call polyphenols — like apples and green tea — may indeed provide protective health benefits. In a recent study, the polyphenols in these foods were shown to block the signaling molecule VEGF, which plays a role in chronic conditions like cancer, heart disease and stroke. The study, conducted by scientists from the Institute of Food Research, is the first to indicate “that polyphenols can directly interact with VEGF to block its signals, at the levels you would see in the bloodstream after eating polyphenol-rich foods,” according to a release from Norwich BioScience Institutes.

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