Nutrition News: Healthy Food Choices, Fructose and Trans Fat Under Fire, Top Produce Picks in June
This month brings us not only the official beginning of summer (on June 21), but also all of those wonderful summer fruits and vegetables to add to our healthy diets. Look for sweet strawberries, thick asparagus spears, fresh peas, juicy peaches, earthy summer beats, and green garlic and spring garlic to appear at your local farmers market or CSA. “It is brilliant whole grilled and on pizza, or mince it and use it as you would garlic cloves or leeks, where it will impart a slightly milder, rounder flavor,” cookbook author and food blogger Tara O’Brady told Time.
If you want to help someone make healthy food choices, tell them what they should eat, not what they shouldn’t. New research by the Cornell Food and Brand Lab suggests that people respond much more favorably to positive messages about healthy foods to choose rather than negative messages about harmful foods to avoid. Fear just isn’t an effective motivator. “If you’re a parent,” the study’s lead author and the Cornell Food and Brand Lab director Brian Wansink, Ph.D., advised, “it’s better to focus on the benefits of broccoli and not the harms of hamburgers.”
Speaking of foods to approach with caution, a new study concluded that in a calorie-for-calorie matchup pitting fructose against simple sugar glucose, fructose brought a significant increase in weight gain, physical inactivity and body fat. The study, conducted on mice at the University of Illinois’ Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, is of particular concern for U.S. diets that are replete with soft drinks and processed foods containing high-fructose corn syrup. Although both mouse groups took in the same average number of calories overall and the same number of calories from sugar, the fructose-fed mice showed higher body weight, liver mass and fat mass than those that were fed glucose. And while the reasons are still under investigation, the authors conclude, “one thing is certain: high intake of fructose by itself adds pounds.”
Almost a decade ago, it became illegal for New York City restaurants to serve foods containing trans fats, which raise cholesterol and clog arteries. Now the Food and Drug Administration is expected to make a similar case against trans fats nationwide. The New York Post reports that the FDA is poised to restrict the use of trans fats throughout the food industry, suggesting the decision could come as early as June 15. “It’s about time,” Dr. Thomas Farley, NYC’s health commissioner under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, told the Post. Trans fats, often found in foods via “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” should “never should have gotten into our food supply in the first place,” Farley said. “It’s toxic over the long term and it’s easy to get rid of.”
Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish .