Dietary pattersn determine ehalth more than single foods and beverages

Soda Taxes vs Dietary Guidelines: Which Can Best Improve Our Diets?

This post was written as a guest blog for Americans for Food & Beverage Choice. You can read the original post here.

Are you one of the millions of people who eagerly awaited the release of each new Harry Potter book over the past 20 years and snatched up a copy to read as soon as it came out? That sort of describes how registered dietitian nutritionists, like me, feel about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). A new edition is published every five years to provide health professionals and policy makers with the latest nutrition science to guide our eating advice for the nation.

I know that probably doesn’t sound as exciting as a day at Hogwarts Academy, but it supplies me with many of the tricks of the trade I need to do my job!

The most recent edition of the DGA was published this year, so it’s still fresh on my mind. A key message throughout the 200+ page document is the importance of dietary patterns over single foods or nutrients in determining diet quality.  The DGA define dietary patterns as:

“…the quantities, proportions, variety or combinations of different foods and beverages in diets, and the frequency with which they are habitually consumed.”

It goes on to say that a healthy eating pattern should include everything from vegetables and fruits to grains, dairy, protein and even oils. It also says our eating patterns should limit excess saturated and trans fats, added sugars and sodium.

“As you can see, there’s much more we need to include in our diets than exclude to be healthy.”


This all came to mind as I followed the news of soda taxes being proposed in several cities across the country this year. It made me wonder how taxing sugar-sweetened beverages was going to help Americans achieve the goals outlined in the DGA? Reducing added sugars is important, but it shouldn’t overshadow all of the other ways Americans can improve their diets – or worse yet – lead them to think reducing added sugars is the only thing that matters.  And sadly, there may be some evidence of just that.

Soda consumption in the U.S. has been declining for the past 30 years while obesity and unhealthy diets persist. Maybe it’s time for legislators to propose bills that will help Americans achieve better dietary patterns instead of focusing so much on sugars since the DGA also clearly state, “…the eating pattern may be more predictive of overall health status and disease risk than individual foods or nutrients.”

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

 

Tips top pack healthy lower sugar lunches for kids

Back to School: Packing a Healthy Lunch

This blog was originally written for CalorieControl.org. You can read that  post here.

If you’ve stepped into an air-conditioned store to get out of the August heat, then you know retailers are all stocked up to help us get our children ready to go back to school. Everything from highlighters to hand sanitizer is on the shelves to satisfy the “must have” list for kids in every grade. I recall one of the biggest back-to-school decisions my sons made each year was finding just the right lunch box they could carry with pride into the cafeteria. Having their favorite superhero on the outside was all that mattered to them!

What goes inside all those carefully selected lunch boxes has taken on greater significance over the last 16 years since September was first declared National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. It was launched to focus attention on the need for kids across the country to lead healthier lives and prevent the early onset of obesity. Providing our children with a balanced and nutritious midday meal is an important way we can do just that.

Feeding Kids Right for Success in School and Life

Children need to be properly nourished to reach both their physical and intellectual potential. Even when they look fit and appear to be thriving, an inadequate diet can set the stage for future health problems. Eating well-planned meals and snacks each day is one of the best ways to ensure that all of the essential nutrients children need for growth and development are being consumed.

The routines of the school day provide an ideal way to help children form good eating habits that can last a lifetime. Starting with breakfast – either at home or in school – kids need to refuel their bodies in the morning after the overnight fast and get key nutrients that will make them ready to learn. A mid-morning snack also may be needed by younger children, or a breakfast split into two parts, to carry them over until their next meal.

When the lunch bell rings at school it’s time for kids of all ages to eat something nourishing, socialize with friends and, hopefully, get some physical activity. Sitting behind a desk all day is not good for children or adults, so taking advantage of this, and every other opportunity to get up and move around is perfect practice for a healthy lifestyle.

By the time the school day ends, most children are hungry and thirsty. That’s a good time to offer them nutrient-rich foods and beverages to replace any they may not have eaten at breakfast or lunch rather than letting them fill up on less nutritious snacks. Some popular options include cut-up vegetables and hummus, whole wheat crackers and cheese or a fruit smoothie made with yogurt. The goal is to reenergize and rehydrate them for their afternoon activities without letting them get too full to eat their dinner.

Making time to eat with your children each evening can provide one of the biggest boosts to their well-being, regardless of what is served. Research reported in the Family Dinner Project indicates children who eat with their family have higher self-confidence, better grades in school and lower rates of obesity among other benefits. Getting them involved in meal planning and preparation adds to their success by teaching them skills they will need the rest of their lives.

What About Weight Gain in Children?

Preventing unwanted weight gain in children requires that they get enough calories to support normal rates of growth and physical activity, but not much more than that. It is a delicate balance that must be adjusted to meet their changing needs, such as when their activity level slows down after their regular sport season ends.

Replacing some of the added sugars in your child’s diet with a low-calorie sweetener, like aspartame, is one way to reduce unneeded calories and make many of the foods and beverages you want them to eat and drink more enjoyable. Lower calorie, reduced fat and/or sugar-free products can also be substituted for their regular counterparts to help create more balanced menus. (See examples in the chart below.)

Making Healthy Meals and Snacks Part of Your Back-to-School Plan

While plenty of attention goes into making sure the first packed lunch of the year a good one, it’s important that every lunch is as good as the first. One way to do that is to create an idea board—like a Pinterest board—to use as a template for packing lunches. Start by drawing a grid similar to the one illustrated, and then let your child list items under each food group heading that he or she likes, will eat in school and can be easily assembled each day. Remind your children they don’t have to limit themselves to “traditional” lunch foods as long as the items belong in the designated group.

You can see sample foods found in each group on ChooseMyPlate.gov along with the recommended daily servings for children of different ages and the suggested portion sizes. Following the My Plate Daily Checklist will allow you to see how many calories your child needs each day and how to be sure they are getting all of the nutrients they need in their meals and snacks, without exceeding their recommended caloric allowance.

Once the chart is completed lunches can be packed using any combination of foods from each list as long as your child will eat them. All you have to do is make sure the items on the chart are on hand at the start of each week!

Sample School Lunch Planning Chart with Lower Sugar Options

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Even the best dietary supplements and vitamin products cannot replace what we get from food

Food As Medicine: Vitamins, Supplements & Other Dietary Products

EVEN THE BEST DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS AND VITAMIN PRODUCTS CANNOT REPLACE WHAT WE GET FROM FOOD

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

Those of us who believe a long life is related to a good diet have something to celebrate this year. In 1912 the term vitamin was first used to describe the compounds in food necessary to prevent nutritional deficiencies.  Now our use of the word vitamin, and the supplements and dietary products they’re found in, is 100 years old!

A Brief History of Food

Before the isolation of the first vitamin and recognition of its importance to health, all people had to worry about when it came to food was getting enough to eat to stay alive. Food choice was based solely on availability. We ate what we could hunt, catch or gather, and when the “local” food supply diminished, we moved on to find food in other places.

Eventually, the ability to grow plants and raise animals made it possible to stay in one place a bit longer, but did not insure there would always be enough food to go around. Unpredictable changes in the weather and other environmental conditions made a feast or famine existence a way of life for most of the world right into the 20th Century.

Advances in agricultural practices in the mid-1900s resulted in bigger crop yields while improvements in storage and distribution allowed more food to reach more people. Finally, there was enough food to allow the nutritional quality to become a point of distinction when making food decisions.

Is the Food Supply Getting Better or Worse?

Many people today think our food is not as good as it used to be. There is no doubt in my mind that what I eat now is quite different from what I ate in my childhood, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the goodness of the food.

An increase in the variety and quantity of food available explains, in part, why what we eat has changed over time. Another reason is the increased information we have about food composition and our nutritional needs. It certainly has become easier to question the quality of our food since we started seeing Nutrition Facts on labels. They weren’t always there.

But I don’t blame the food industry for making food more appealing, convenient, and inexpensive. I also don’t blame them for using all of the technology at their disposal to develop new products and market them so people will want to buy them. That’s their job.

It’s my job to decide what I want to eat. At the end of the day, the quality of my food choices rests entirely with me.

That is why when people ask me what are the best dietary supplements, I always say choose your food wisely. Thirteen unique vitamins have been identified in the last 100 years. The most recent discovery was in 1941 for Folic Acid, also known as folate or vitamin B9. Other possible vitamins to be added to the list are currently under review.

The only way to be sure you are ingesting everything you need for optimal health is to consume a varied diet, because that is where the nutrients are. Vitamins and other dietary products can supplement what you eat, but cannot be relied on to replace food.

 

Concerns about health and salt use have fueled sale of sea salts, but are they really different?

Healthy Salt? Debating the Benefits of Sea Salts

CONCERNS ABOUT HEALTH AND SALT USE HAVE FUELED SALE OF SEA SALTS, BUT ARE THEY REALLY DIFFERENT?

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

It’s hard to talk about health and salt in the same sentence, but every once in a while something comes along that forces the issue. This time it’s sea salts. The pitch being made by promoters is that sea salt contains all of the other minerals found in sea water, while regular table salt is processed to remove them. They claim those minerals are what make sea salt a healthy salt.

This is the point where I say, “Show me the evidence.”

What Makes Sea Salts Different?

All salt comes from the sea, so technically, it’s all sea salt. Some is evaporated from today’s oceans and salt water lakes, some is mined from deposits left from evaporated sea beds that are thousands of years old. When first collected the salt contains a variety of minerals, such as sulfate, magnesium, calcium and potassium.

Table salt is processed to remove the trace minerals and environmental impurities to create a product that has a consistent composition, size and taste.  Anti-clumping agents are added to many commercial brands so the salt flows freely. Iodine may also be added to provide a needed source of this essential mineral.

The first thing you’ll notice about see sea salt is that is isn’t always snow white. The color comes from the impurities that remain in it, like clay and volcanic ash, and the trace minerals. The next visual difference is the size of the crystals. They’re much larger than table salt, more like kosher salt, so don’t expect them to come out of a standard salt shaker.

If you put a few crystals on the tip of your tongue, you’ll find they don’t dissolve instantly. When they do, the taste may be milder or stronger than table salt, depending on the variety you’re sampling. Professional chefs say sea salts provide a fresher flavor to the foods they are added to, but you may not notice the difference.

Now for the big difference: Price. Sea salts cost anywhere from 2 to 10 times more that common table salt!

 Do Trace Minerals Make Sea Salt a Healthy Salt?

All of the other minerals found in sea salt are necessary for good health, but there are not enough of them in a teaspoon of sea salt to make it a useful source. And there are plenty of other ways to get those minerals, specifically from vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low fat dairy products — all foods we need to eat more of.

The most abundant mineral in sea salt is sodium. In fact, sea salt has the same amount of sodium as table salt, and that’s the problem. Dietary guidelines recommend reducing sodium consumption to lower blood pressure and risk for stroke. Sea salt offers no advantage over table salt when it comes to lowering sodium intake.

To see whether people might use less sea salt than table salt due to the texture and taste differences, researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada designed a study to measure that.  They published their findings in Food Research International and reported subjects did not use any less. Their conclusion was sea salt was not a viable option for reducing sodium in the diet.

What this means for anyone looking for a way to enjoy good health and salt is this: Use less salt no matter how much you pay for it!

Menopause does not automatically lead to weight gain

Is Weight Gain Inevitable After Menopause?

WEIGHT GAIN WITH MENOPAUSE ISN’T A GIVEN AS YOU AGE. THESE SIMPLE STEPS CAN HELP YOU AVOID UNWANTED WEIGHT GAIN OR EVEN SHED POUNDS.

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

The gradual changes in hormones and metabolism that occur in a woman’s body during the menopausal transition can result in weight gain if she is not prepared to deal with them.  Adjustments can be made on both the food and activity side of the ledger to keep those unwanted pounds at bay. These steps can also lower the risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes that accompany menopause.

Make a Substitution: Because your metabolic rate slows down with age, you can begin gaining weight without eating more calories. To offset this, look for something you eat or drink every day and find a substitution that has 50-100 fewer calories. You can get that by switching from cream to low-fat milk in your coffee or eating a 4 ounce chicken cutlet at dinner instead of 6 ounces.

Add an Activity:  As all the running around you once did with the kids begins to wind down, you need a new activity to keep you moving.  This is a perfect time to sign up for dance lessons, volunteer to usher at a theater, or do some digging in a community garden.

Take a Stand: Every new appliance and technological gadget you’ve got in your home and job increase the time you spend sitting, and that expands the area you sit on. Take a stand and find reasons to get up off your butt. You can stand when letting your freshly painted nails dry, waiting for your hair color to set, talking or texting on your smart phone, flipping through a magazine in a doctor’s office, waiting for a prescription to be filled.

Do-It-Yourself: It’s tempting to use your extra income to outsource household chores, but that just denies you the chance to be more active.  Washing the windows, mowing the lawn, vacuuming the floors, polishing the car, painting the bathroom, and weeding the garden are all great ways to stay in shape!

Change the China: The amount of food we eat and beverages we drink is directly related to the size of the plates, bowls and glasses we use. By switching to smaller ones we can scale down our portions without even noticing the change. Measure the diameter of your plates and the volume of your bowls, glasses, and mugs and look for a 25% reduction in the size of the replacements.

Spread Out the Protein: Muscle mass diminishes as we age, and the less muscle we have the slower our metabolism becomes, which makes it easier to gain weight. The best ways to preserve muscles are to use them in resistance exercises and feed them plenty of protein. Including at least 20 grams of protein at each meal will do a better job than consuming most of your protein in just one meal.

Weigh Yourself Weekly: You may have never reached your personal goal weight, but by this point in your life you should know what your best weight is. Give yourself a reasonable fluctuation range of 3 pounds around that number, then step on the scale on a weekly basis and be ready to take action if you go beyond that.

Seek expert advice about food and nutrition

Why We Still Need Experts in the Information Age

This post was written as a guest blog for Americans for Food and Beverage Choice. You can read the original post here.

I was at a meeting with my tax accountant last April and she had a can of diet soda on her desk when I arrived. “You must think I’m terrible for drinking this stuff” she said, but added, “the caffeine gives me the boost I need when putting in late hours during tax season and the sugar-free option helps me avoid unwanted calories.”

While I’m usually the one asking her for professional advice when we’re together, this was clearly a situation where she needed my expertise, so I asked her why she thought I would disapprove of her beverage choice. Her answer surprised us both.

She said she had seen so many alarming reports about sugar and artificial sweeteners that she simply believed all sweet tasting drinks must be bad for her. Then when I asked her where she had read these reports, she admitted she didn’t have a clue. “They’re all over the Internet” she sheepishly said.  She went on to say that must sound pretty foolish coming from a person who deals in the cold hard facts of accounting, but when it came to nutrition facts, it was all a blur to her.

I told her I could relate to her feelings since I am equally baffled by financial matters, but fortunately, I could rely on her expertise to set me straight. Now I was going to return the favor.

I explained that sweet drinks – whether made with sugar, high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners –could be a regular part of her diet as long as all of her nutritional needs were being met and she did not exceed her energy requirements. The problem isn’t the sweet drinks, I told her; it’s not getting the second half of that equation right.

To make the point hit home I explained diet and exercise were like an accounting ledger. The nutrients column needs daily deposits and the activity column needs regular expenditures. “Good nutrition is all about checks and balances,” I said, not any single food or ingredient. If you budget properly you can “afford” to eat anything, just like a good financial budget allows you to buy what you want. She nodded in agreement.

When our visit was over she thanked me for the gentle nudge to be more critical of where she gets her food and nutrition information, and said if she has a question, she’ll consult an expert. “You have my number” I told her, “and don’t be afraid to use it for expert advice.”

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

 

Robyn Flipse, Registered Dietitian and Cultural Anthropologist

Meet Health Goes Strong Writer Robyn Flipse

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

REGISTERED DIETITIAN. CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGIST. FRIEND TO ALL FOODS.

Some say timing is everything, and for me I would have to say that is true when it comes to my chosen profession.  I became a registered dietitian in the 1970s during the food revolution triggered by two books: Rachel Carson’s The Silent Spring and Adelle Davis’s Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit. (Anyone who has a personal Woodstock story read them both.) Little did I know that what we eat would remain headline news throughout the rest of the 20th century and into the 21st !

My good timing lead to a career bringing diet and health information to a public whose appetite is never satisfied. I have provided hundreds of television, radio and print interviews; presented at international symposia; appeared in national media tours; and created Internet videos to meet the demand for more food and nutrition news.

Even after writing three books and a website column (that became my first blog once the word “blog” was invented), I still had more to say. Then along came the offer to become a blogger for Health Goes Strong in September 2011. I write as The Everyday Dietitian and hope to keep posting until everyone has had their fill!

What I Know Now That I Didn’t Know at 20

Without a doubt, I know that time is more valuable than money. Time is the universal equalizer, and the more of it you have the richer your life will be. In fact, everything I know about eating and exercise comes down to having enough time to put into practice. That is why all of my career decisions have been based on how to spend fewer hours working so I’ll have more time for living well.

Another under-appreciated nugget I learned later in life is that the shoes you wear will determine how fit you’ll be. There are literally millions of steps that go untaken when wearing fashionable, but impractical shoes. Once I figured that out, I never let my footwear keep me from climbing the stairs, parking on the perimeter, or dancing at a wedding. Modern technology is destined to make us all fat and sedentary, but you can fight back with a comfortable pair of shoes.

What I know About Eating That Most People Don’t

Nutrition information does not make people eat better. It just allows them to know more about what’s in their food and how it can affect their health.  Making the right food choices each and every day takes motivation (plus time, skill, and money). Finding your source of motivation to eat well is the key to overcoming all of the cultural distractions that have been blamed for making us fat and unhealthy. Government regulations can’t make unmotivated people eat right, just as seductive advertising can’t keep the motivated from doing so.

Some things I’ve written that you really should read.

Getting Motivated to Eat Right

Beware of Footwear That Can Make You Fat This Holiday Season 

Childhood Obesity: 5 Things Every Parent Should Know 

Heart Healthy Foods You May Have Missed

Some Heart Healthy Foods You May Have Missed

LOOK FOR THESE HEART HEALTHY FOODS THAT DON’T GET THE ATTENTION THEY DESERVE

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

When looking for foods that can improve your heart health, many of the ones most often recommended are either expensive, not easy to find, or are foods you don’t like. That doesn’t mean you have no chance of lowering your risk factors for heart disease through diet. The same attributes in those commonly named “heart-healthy” foods are found in many other more palatable options.

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Sardines – Salmon gets all the attention when it comes to fatty fish, but sardines are one of the most concentrated sources of the omega-3 fats DHA and EPA you can get, and at a much lower price all year round. The oils in fatty fish help lower triglycerides in the blood and reduce blood pressure and irregular heart rhythms. A 3-ounce serving eaten twice a week is all you need.

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Black beans – Oatmeal is recognized as being good for your heart, but dry beans, like black beans, have the same benefits and are far more versatile in the diet. Beans are a good source of soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol and keeps it from being absorbed. They are also rich in phytonutrients, like flavonoids, that can inhibit the clumping of platelets in the blood. Eating ½ cup a day can make a difference.

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Raisins –Like blueberries, raisins are rich in antioxidants that help reduce cardiovascular risk factors, such as blood pressure, total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and markers for inflammation. Unlike blueberries, raisins are convenient to have on hand no matter what the season. Enjoy ¼ cup as a fruit serving daily.

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Popcorn – Whole grains don’t just in the form of breads and cereals. Popcorn is a whole grain and a good source of polyphenols, a naturally occurring antioxidant, that improves heart health. It’s very budget friendly and a satisfying snack as long as it’s prepared without excess salt and oil.

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Milk– Most often associated with calcium, milk is also high in potassium which is maintain the fluid balance in the body and help the kidneys eliminate excess sodium. With as much potassium as a medium banana, every 8 ounce glass of fat free milk you drink is a great way to keep your heart strong.

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Plant Stanols and Sterols – These compounds are found in very small amounts in fruits, vegetables, and grains. They help block the absorption of cholesterol, but there is not enough of them in foods to get the 2 grams a day needed for cholesterol-lowering benefits. Daily use of foods fortified with stanols and sterols, such as Minute Maid Heart Wise Orange juice and Benecol spread, is an valuable way to supplement a heart-healthy diet.

Barley Can Help Control Type 2 Diabetes

A Secret Weapon to Help Control Diabetes: Barley

BARLEY PROVIDES MANY BENEFITS THAT CAN HELP CONTROL TYPE 2 DIABETES.

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

No one wants to learn they have diabetes, yet nearly one in four Americans over the age of 60 receives this news. Many others have pre-diabetes, a condition where their blood glucose level is higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. If you fall into either category, an ancient grain can help you control your blood glucose and offer other protection against type 2 diabetes.

Barley, once known as a “food of the Gladiators,” has a unique profile of nutrients that makes it a great defender against diabetes and worth adding to your diet.

Of course, no single food can prevent or cure diabetes. But some foods do offer more protection than others, so it makes sense to include them in your meals as often as possible. And diabetes isn’t the only disease that barley offers protection against, so everyone who cares about their health can benefit by eating more barley.

Barley can help with your battle against diabetes in these ways:

High in Soluble Fiber

Soluble fiber has the ability to form a gel when it mixes with liquids in the stomach. The presence of this gel slows down the emptying of the stomach, which prevents carbohydrates from being absorbed too quickly and raising blood glucose levels. One cup of cooked whole grain barley contains 14 grams (g) total fiber, with 3g soluble and 11g insoluble. A cup of cooked pearl barley contains 6g total fiber, 2g soluble and 4g insoluble.

Low Glycemic Index

People with diabetes experience fluctuations in their blood glucose level after eating carbohydrate-rich foods. Different amounts and types of carbohydrates have a different impact on blood glucose. A measurement known as the glycemic index (GI) ranks foods according to their ability to raise blood glucose. The lower the GI, the less impact it has on blood glucose levels. Barley has a GI of 25, compared to 58 for oatmeal, 55 for brown rice and 45 for pasta.

Rich in Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that acts as a co-factor in more than 300 enzymes in the body, including enzymes involved in the production and secretion of insulin and the use of glucose. Studies show magnesium levels are lower in people with diabetes than in the general population. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for magnesium for adults is 420 mg for men and 320 for women. One cup of cooked whole grain barley contains 122mg of magnesium while a cup of pearled barley provides 34mg.

Find more information here: Living Healthy with Diabetes Barley Foods Recipes

Are you ready to include more barley in your diet?

White vegetables have same health benefits as more colorful ones and many culinary advantages

White Vegetables Offer Health and Culinary Benefits

WHITE VEGETABLES HAVE SAME HEALTH BENEFITS AS MORE COLORFUL ONES AND MANY CULINARY ADVANTAGES

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

There’s so much talk about the health benefits of eating colorful fruits and vegetables, I think the white ones get over looked. That’s too bad because they are a source of important nutrients, just like the more colorful ones, and winter is the perfect time to incorporate the many white vegetables into your meals while they are in season.

The most popular white vegetables eaten year round are potatoes, onions, and cauliflower. But the cold weather months are when parsnips, turnips, and kohlrabi should be added to your shopping list. You’ve probably seen them in the produce aisle and walked right past them in pursuit of some dark green kale or bright orange squash, but don’t be deceived by their pale hue. They are nutrition powerhouses, too.

Another way to get more white vegetables into your diet is by adding more of the aromatic varieties to your recipes. Think garlic, shallots, leek, and ginger to provide a big boost of flavor to any dish. If your salads need more crunch during the long winter months when garden is bare, turn to white jicama and Jerusalem artichokes, also known as Sunchokes. Both can be eaten raw or cooked and stored in the refrigerator for 1-3 weeks.

And don’t forget mushrooms, my personal favorite! They are one of the most versatile white vegetables you can have in your kitchen. Mushrooms provide a meaty texture, the savory taste known as umami, and an important source of Vitamin D, which no other vegetable has. They are also low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free and very low in sodium.

For recipes and information on storage and selections visit:

Fruits & Veggies More Matters

U.S. Potato Board

Mushroom Council