Qn of the Month: Besides Calcium, Are There Other Nutrients Important for Bones?

A: Absolutely!! Calcium and (to a lesser extent) vitamin D, have both long been in the media spotlight in years past for their role in bone health. However, your body needs MUCH more than just calcium and vitamin D to make and maintain healthy bones. Bone modeling and mineralization is a complex metabolically active process – one that extends throughout your life, and requires a good adequate supply of key nutrients.

Besides calcium and vitamin D, other key nutrients include protein, vitamin B-12, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K, vitamin C, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients (plant nutrients). Research is also now uncovering other nutrients potentially important in bones such boron, phosphorous, copper, manganese, zinc, flavonoids and soy isoflavones. Except vitamin B-12 (now found in quite a few fortified foods such as fortified plant based milks, fortified breakfast cereals and certain brands of nutritional yeast), most naturally occurring plant foods provide many of these bone nutrients, many of which can be found all within the same plant food!  Not surprisingly, there is now the view that instead of individual nutrients or supplements, a whole foods or ‘whole diet’ approach is needed to combat preventable diseases such as osteoporosis.

This in a sense is why a plant-based diet is so beneficial to the body, because the array of fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts and other whole foods eaten daily provide a rich substrate for bone by giving key nutrients to the body. It is possible that there are still many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients in plant foods (which are not discovered scientifically yet) that work synergistically to improve or maintain bone health. Recent research also suggests that when planned well, a vegan/plant-based diet can provide adequate nutrients for good bone health. So eat an array of plant based foods regularly everyday! However, don’t forget physical activity! For to make and keep strong bones, regular weight bearing physical activity is important!

[Sources:
1. Higgs J, Derbyshire E, Styles K. Nutrition and osteoporosis prevention for the orthopaedic surgeon: A wholefoods approach. EFORT Open Rev. 2017 Jun 23;2(6):300-308. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5508855/pdf/eor-2-300.pdf. Accessed November 30, 2017.

2. Knurick JR, Johnston CS, Wherry SJ, Aguayo I. Comparison of correlates of bone mineral density in individuals adhering to lacto-ovo, vegan, or omnivore diets: a cross-sectional investigation. Nutrients. 2015 May 11;7(5):3416-26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4446759/. Accessed November 30, 2017.

3. Mangels AR. Bone nutrients for vegetarians. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jul;100 Suppl 1:469S-75S. Epub 2014 Jun 4. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/100/Supplement_1/469S.long. Accessed November 30, 2017.

4. Tucker, KL. Vegetarian diets and bone status. Am J Clin Nutr 2014; 100 (suppl): 329S – 35S. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/100/Supplement_1/329S.full.pdf+html. Accessed November 27, 2017.

5. Anderson JJ. Plant-based diets and bone health: nutritional implications. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Sep;70(3 Suppl):539S-542S. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/70/3/539s.long. Accessed November 30, 2017.]

 

 

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Qn of the Month: Is there a Difference Between a Vegan Diet and a Whole-Foods, Plant-Based Diet?

 

A Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet (image credit: forksoverknives.com)

A: I think there is! Others may disagree. Let me tell you why I think there could be potential differences, depending on the actual dietary practices of the individual. A person on a vegan diet subsists on plant-based foods and excludes all animal protein foods and products from the diet. However, it is entirely possible to be on a vegan diet and still not have a very nutritious overall diet. For example, such a person could eat no animal products but still have a substantial portion of his or her daily intake from processed commercial ‘animal product-free’ and refined ready-to-eat foods, filling up on foods such as biscuits, crackers, sugary cookies, chips, cakes, and different vegetarian alternative or dairy-free alternatives that provide many calories but are not nutrient dense. The same could apply to a vegetarian who excludes most animal-based products (but still include dairy, eggs, fish or a combination of these categories). Such a person could also still eat many commercially processed and refined foods that are not ‘animal-based products’ but essentially be on a ‘junk food’ vegetarian diet. I’m not saying that one should never eat such foods (I do at times!), but the real question is what proportion these foods make up in one’s diet.

What about a whole foods plant-based diet? There is a great infographic (see above) and definition given in a Forks Over Knives post written by Naomi Imatame-Yun (see source). The definition she gives is this: “A whole-food, plant-based diet is centered on whole, unrefined, or minimally refined plants. It’s a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes; and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil.”

Hence, a person who is on a whole foods plant-based diet would tend to completely omit or minimize animal–based foods from the diet, while focusing on eating foods that are unprocessed and unrefined (in its natural form) that can be eaten raw or consumed after cooking. Such a dietary pattern would yield a more nutritionally rich overall diet, with many of the vitamin, mineral and nutrient benefits from eating whole foods.

This is not to say that a person on a vegetarian or vegan diet may not have the same focus on whole foods, but I think the emphasize on unprocessed and refined foods (in my mind) is stronger on a whole foods, plant-based diet. Why do I say that? Because in my experience transitioning over to a plant-based diet, I have found it relatively straightforward to gradually reduce the amount and kinds of animal-based foods from our family’s diet, while adding in more vegetables and pulses and finding commercially processed vegetarian alternatives to some of the products we have been used to having (like dairy-free cheeses and vegan margarine instead of butter). But now I see the real challenge is to incorporate more whole foods into our family’s diet, and not be simply substituting or depending heavily on the myriad of commercially processed foods out in the market that are not ‘animal-based’. These could include grain commercial products like vegetarian cookies, crackers and biscuits, as well as commercially processed vegetarian versions of familiar animal-based products, that provide calories but may not be very nutrient dense. In our modern day society though, it may be more challenging to achieve a whole foods plant-based diet because of the abundance and ease of using these ready prepared processed foods. I think there is a place for using these products, but it should not take our eyes and focus off of intentionally building a healthy eating pattern around primarily whole foods and plant-based foods.

 

(Source:

  1. Imatome-Yun, N. forksoverknives.com. Plant-Based Primer: The Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Plant-Based Diet. https://www.forksoverknives.com/plant-based-primer-beginners-guide-starting-plant-based-diet/. January 3, 2017. Accessed October 30, 2017.)

Qn of the Month: Just How Does a Citrus Peeler Work?

Can this be true? – Dietitianmom.com

A: When I recently attended an educational presentation, we were given each a citrus peeler as a ‘take-home’ gift. It looked like a strange green plastic contraption to me and I wasn’t sure how to use it. The presentation facilitator stressed that it was not a toy. Up to now, I had been simply using a knife to score 4-5 incision lines into the orange skin (rather like a basketball’s design) from top to bottom around the orange, and then peeling the skin off that way. This method worked pretty well, especially if the skin of the orange is already thick. So honestly, I didn’t feel an urge to use this new citrus peeler I received, and wasn’t planning to, if it wasn’t for the slogan etched into the utensil, “World’s Best Citrus PeelerTM”. Could this really be the world’s BEST citrus peeler? I had to find out.

But how do I use this gadget? Funnily enough, there are plenty of videos on YouTube showing one how to use a citrus peeler, but none looked like the one I had. So I had to figure it out myself. As it turned out, it is a simple process involving only 2 main steps. First, holding a washed orange firmly with your left hand, and the citrus peeler in your right hand (with your thumb and index finger in the grooves of the gadget):

  • Press the citrus peeler firmly into the orange skin to score at least 4-5 lines into the orange skin (from top to bottom) all the way around the orange.

Step 1 – Dietitianmom.com

  • Use the top sharper pointed edge of the citrus peeler to then an indentation into the top of the orange and then pull each section of skin away from the orange flesh.
  • Repeat on all sides until the orange
    skin has been removed.

Step 2 – Dietitianmom.com

That’s it! The instructions above are given assuming the right hand is the dominant hand, so feel free to switch hands if you are left-handed.  I’m sure you can try using the citrus peeler on other citrus fruits like grapefruit, lemons or limes.

When would a citrus peeler be most useful? I guess this would be places where it isn’t convenient to take a knife… Examples might be when you are planning to go on a picnic or onto the airplane (if you want fresh fruit for yourself or your kids!). Children could also learn how to use the citrus peeler and then be able to help more in the kitchen.

What other uses do you have for your citrus peeler?

Qn of the Month: What is in Rhubarb?

It is interesting how in every place one lives in, there are certain foods found more commonly in that location. In the Southern part of the United States, this might be okra, iced tea and hush puppies. In the United Kingdom, this might be minced pies and mulled apple cider. In this part of Canada where our family is living now, I’ve noticed that the rhubarb pie seems to be featured at nearly every potluck or dinner event. I’m not complaining as it’s delicious, but it has caused me to look more closely into this delectable vegetable.

Yes, that’s right. Even though rhubarb may have a ‘fruity’ taste and is often found in desserts, jams, jellies and sauces, it is actually a vegetable. But beware, only the stalks of this plant should be eaten, primarily because the leaves contain a high oxalic acid content.

So what’s in rhubarb? It turns out that rhubarb is rich in many nutrients such as protein, calcium, potassium, vitamin K. Just one cup of diced raw rhubarb (122 grams in weight) provides 26 calories, 1.1 grams of protein, 2.2 grams of total dietary fiber, 105 milligrams of calcium, 0.27 milligrams of iron, 351 milligrams of potassium and 35.7 micrograms of vitamin K. It also provides small amounts of vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin E, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium. Its calcium content is equivalent to nearly two and a half cups of raw chopped broccoli! To compare, one cup of broccoli (91 grams in weight) provides 43 milligrams of calcium.

Since rhubarb has a tart acidic flavor, it is often sweetened with a lot of sugar or honey before incorporating into desserts. However, instead of adding a lot of sugar or honey, try combining this vegetable with sweet fruits like apples, pears or strawberries to add to ice-cream or baked desserts. Alternatively, use unsweetened rhubarb to make into sauces for savory dishes.

(Sources:

  1. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov. Accessed July 26, 2017.
  2. Ipatenco S. Can You Eat Rhubarb Leaves? http://www.livestrong.com. http://www.livestrong.com/article/491897-can-you-eat-rhubarb-leaves/. Updated July 18, 2017. Accessed July 26, 2017.
  3. Kerns M. How Many Calories Are in a Cup of Cooked Rhubarb With No Added Sugar? http://www.livestrong.com. http://www.livestrong.com/article/302281-how-many-calories-are-in-a-cup-of-cooked-rhubarb-with-no-added-sugar/. Updated November 9, 2015. Accessed July 26, 2017.)

Qn of the Month: You Say ‘Yam’, I Say ‘Sweet Potato’…Which Is It?

 

Are You a Yam or Sweet Potato? – Dietitianmom.com

A: A sweet potato! Although both yams and sweet potatoes are edible starchy root tubers, there are differences in their outer and inner appearances. Plainly speaking, the red-skinned and orange fleshed tubers we find commonly labelled as ‘yams’ in grocery stores in the United States are actually sweet potatoes! How did this happen? These ‘yams’ were labelled so originally by shippers and producers to distinguish them from the white potatoes, using the English form of the African word “nyami”. And that name stuck. Today, the United States Department of Agriculture requires these sweet potatoes to be labelled with both terms ‘yam’ and ‘sweet potato’. Personally, I think that makes it more confusing…Depending on the specific variety of sweet potato, the flesh of sweet potatoes can actually be anywhere from pale yellowish to a rich orange hue. In the United States there are two common types of sweet potatoes sold: a firmer pale yellow flesh with a golden skin and a soft sweeter kind with a deep orange flesh.

What about real yams? According to the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, “A true yam is a starchy edible root of the Dioscorea genus, and is generally imported to America from the Caribbean. It is rough and scaly and very low in beta carotene.” So as it turns out, there is more than just a name difference, and the dish we frequently serve at special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas is actually made from sweet potatoes, not yams!

(Sources:

  1. North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission. What is the difference between a sweet potato and a yam? http://www.ncsweetpotatoes.com/sweet-potatoes-101/difference-between-yam-and-sweet-potato/. Accessed June 20, 2017.
  2. Sweet Potato or Yam? Endurance Magazine. Endurancemag.com. November 2013.
  3. Foster K. What’s the Difference Between Yams and Sweet Potatoes? http://www.theKitchnn.com. http://www.thekitchn.com/whats-the-difference-between-yams-and-sweet-potatoes-word-of-mouth-211176. Published October 6, 2014. Accessed June 20, 2016.)

 

Qn of the Month: Do Different Brands of Baby Cereal Provide the Same Nutrition?

A: No! Although there are some similarities, there appears to be more differences between different brands of baby cereal products, even between different brand products of the same type of cereal.  How so? Read on.

Generally all infant cereals are fortified in certain nutrients such as iron, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. Baby cereal products also contain (per serving) similar amounts of macronutrients such as calories, carbohydrates, fats and protein. However, major differences exist. For example, in Canada, Nestle Gerber’s® baby oat infant cereal provides in a (5 tablespoons or 28 grams) serving the following: 15% Daily Value (DV) of calcium, 60% DV of vitamin B12, 100% DV of iron and 0 grams of fiber. But a comparable (1/3 cup or 30 grams) serving of Heinz’s baby oat cereal provides more iron (110% of DV iron), 4 times the amount of calcium (60% DV of calcium), 2 grams of fiber but absolutely no vitamin B12! Not only that, Nestle Gerber’s® baby oat infant cereal contains in a serving 30% DV of biotin, 15% DV of iodide, 15 % DV of zinc and 30% DV of magnesium. However, a similar serving size of Heinz’s baby oat cereal contains no biotin or iodide, only 6% DV of zinc and halfthe quantity of magnesium (15% DV)! It appears that Heinz’sbaby oat cereal is a really good source of iron and calcium per serving, but not so much of the other nutrients.

For plant-based mums, be aware that though you would expect infant cereal to be vegan or vegetarian, that may not be the case. In fact, both the Nestle Gerber’s® baby oat infant cereal and Heinz’s baby oat cereal contain dry skim milk as part of the ingredients! So the next time you go shopping, make sure to check the nutrition facts panel of the infant baby cereal you are planning to buy, to see what nutrition your baby will really be getting from consuming that particular product!

Qn of the Month: Are Legumes & Pulses Just Different Terms for the Same Thing?

 

A: What exactly are legumes and are they the same as pulses? The terms ‘legumes’, ‘pulses’ and ‘beans’ can certainly all be very confusing. A helpful way to keep these straight is to remember that ‘legumes’ is the overall umbrella name, just like ‘fruits’ is the umbrella name for a huge category of different types and varieties of fruits. Legumes simply refer to all plants whose fruit is enclosed in a pod. However, pulses only refer to the dried seed itself. So under legumes are 3 main subcategories: soybeans and peanuts, pulses and fresh beans/peas. I like this graphic from Pulse Canada which illustrates these categories aptly (see source citation for more details):

 

Pulses include dried beans, dried peas, lentils and chickpeas. Pulses are cheap, nutrient dense, low in fat, available throughout the year, and are high in protein and fiber. Soybeans and peanuts are separated out into their own separate subcategory due to their higher fat content. Legumes are also super versatile, as they can be cooked to the age appropriate texture in a variety of forms (e.g., pureed, mashed, or whole/halved but in soft cooked forms) for infants, toddlers and children of varying ages depending on their stage of oral motor development.

 

(Source: Pulse Canada. http://www.pulsecanada.com/about-us/what-is-a-pulse. Accessed March 15, 2017.)