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: How Do Canola Oil, Olive Oil and Sunflower Oil Compare to One Another?

Which is the fairest of them all? -Dietitianmom.com

Which is the fairest of them all? -Dietitianmom.com

A: Have you ever wondered which vegetable oil you should be using more of and which of these three oils -canola, olive or sunflower- is the ‘fairest of them all’? Of course these oils have different smoke points and so have various uses in cooking, but which is really most beneficial to consume? I was curious about this, so decided to do some research into it, and was surprised by what I found.

Canola, olive and sunflower oil all carry the same caloric weight (1 teaspoon giving 40 calories), but there are notable differences. For example, of the three, olive oil provides the most monounsaturated fatty acids (approximately 3.3 grams per teaspoon). Olive oil also has a decent vitamin K content but can’t compare to canola oil, which has about 16 times the amount of vitamin K as sunflower oil (3.2 micrograms of vitamin K in a teaspoon of canola oil compared to 0.2 micrograms of vitamin K in a teaspoon of sunflower oil)! Canola oil also has slightly more vitamin E and slightly less monounsaturated fatty acids than olive oil. Sunflower oil has the lowest vitamin K content.

You may be wondering, “Are there any benefits to consuming sunflower oil then?” The answer is, “Yes!” Of the three types of oil, sunflower oil (with less than 60% linoleic content) actually has the highest vitamin E content (1.85 milligrams of alpha-tocopherol per teaspoon compared to 0.65 milligrams in a teaspoon of olive oil). This may not seem like a lot, but small amounts do add up. Just two and a quarter teaspoons of this type of sunflower oil would provide approximately the amount of vitamin E in one avocado! Sunflower oil also has a decent monounsaturated fatty acid content (about 2/3 that of olive oil per teaspoon), and has four times the amount of polyunsaturated fatty acid content of olive oil. The polyunsaturated fatty acid content of sunflower oil is actually about 40 percent higher than that in canola oil. Recall that both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids.

So the take home message? If you ask me, it brings home the point that it is important to consume a variety of foods in one’s diet, and not just stick to one type. By consuming a variety of vegetable oils, you can maximize the nutritional benefits of each kind of oil – especially since they have different smoke points. So keep this in mind, the next time you cook, stir-fry, roast, bake or make salad dressing. Your family will benefit too!

(Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov. Accessed December 27, 2016.)

Qn of the Month: How Can I Reduce the Arsenic Content of Rice Through Cooking?

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Cooking Rice to Reduce Arsenic Levels – dietitianmom.com

A: One of the ways to reduce the arsenic content of rice prior to consumption is through cooking.  Here is the rice cooking method that both FDA and Consumer Reports suggest to help reduce the final arsenic content in cooked rice: Cook one cup of rice in 5-6 cups of water. Note that you would need to use a big pot to cook the rice on the stove if you employ this method. Apparently this is a traditional method of cooking rice, but it does produce a more watery product. Based on experience, I recommend the following to minimize the water content of the cooked rice and reduce its sogginess:

  • Using a big pot (a pasta drainer pot with holes in the lid works great!), rinse and wash 1 cup of rice. Then add 5-6 cups of water.
  • Bring water in the pot to a boil on medium heat with the cover on. Once the water starts to boil, turn down the fire so that the pot is just simmering and cover the pot again. Set the timer for 15-20 minutes.
  • Once the timer is up, take a spoon to check and taste to see whether the rice is done. If it is, immediately turn off the fire, and drain as much of the excess liquid from the pot as you can.
  • Then let the pot sit uncovered for at least 5-10 minutes to allow further excess moisture to evaporate.

Optimal cooking times can vary depending on the type of rice you use (e.g., brown rice versus white rice, short grain versus long grain). In general, brown rice will take a bit longer than white rice to cook through. To help reduce cooking time for brown rice, soak it beforehand for a few hours in cold water, then discard the water prior to rinsing the rice. Also, feel free to increase the number of cups of rice you cook at one time depending on your family’s size. Just add the corresponding ratio of water prior to cooking and know that the overall cooking time will need to be extended.

Note also that even if you use these steps above to prepare your rice, the cooked rice will still turn out a bit ‘wet’ or soggy, so you may have to get used to the change in texture over time. It would also be helpful to rinse the rice a few times in water before beginning the cooking process. Although rinsing and cooking the rice in excess water will inevitably lower its nutritional content (especially as rice grain products in the United States are often enriched with iron, folate, thiamin and niacin), it may be well worth it if the arsenic content of the rice could possibly be reduced by as much as 50 percent! Plus, any amount of B vitamins and folate lost through this cooking method can likely be made up quite easily through certain other foods consumed.

(Sources:
Questions & Answers: Arsenic in Rice and Rice Products. US Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/food/foodborneillnesscontaminants/metals/ucm319948.htm. Updated August 4, 2014. Accessed June 19, 2015.

How Much Arsenic is in Your Rice. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2015/01/how-much-arsenic-is-in-your-rice/index.htm. November 2014. Accessed June 19, 2015.)

The Wonders of Kale

 

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I’m sure we’ve all heard of this wonder vegetable before, but what’s really so great about kale? From far and up close it just looks like a bunch of thick dark curly leaves. Isn’t it just like any of the other dark leafy greens? I decided to do a bit of investigating. As it turns out, kale is really a lot more than a ‘one hit wonder’!

Kale is part of the Brassica family, which includes cruciferous vegetables like Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage. There are actually 3 varieties of kale (curly, ornamental and dinosaur types). The benefits of eating kale are enormous. One cup of chopped raw kale provides almost 3g of protein, 2.4g fiber, 100mg calcium, nearly 1mg of iron, 80mg vitamin C, 335µg vitamin A and 472µg vitamin K. In fact, leafy greens like collard greens, turnip greens, spinach, mustard greens and Swiss chard all pale in comparison to kale in terms of these nutrients. One cup of raw chopped kale actually has 3 times more calcium and protein than spinach, 4 times more vitamin A than mustard greens, and about the same amount of vitamin C as an orange. Along with important anti-cancer antioxidants like carotenoids and flavonoids , kale also provides eye-health promoting lutein and zeaxanthin compounds. And all this for only about $1 US dollar for a raw bunch!

So how can you eat kale? Incorporate it into your cooking like other green leafy vegetables. For example, use kale in a salad, throw chopped kale into stews, soups, lasagna, quiche, pasta or add sautéed kale onto pizza. If you’re more adventurous, make pesto sauce with it, turn it into ‘kale’slaw (instead of using cabbage), blend it into green smoothies or even use it instead of flour/corn tortillas as a burrito shell. Heck, I bet you can even steam or boil and blend it down to make a kale puree for baby. I feel I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of incorporating this power veggie into my family!

Breastfeeding Nutrition: Country Specific Recommendations

Here are a few specific nutrient recommendations for breastfeeding women in the United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK). As you’ll see, some of these differ, so choose which recommendations you want to follow!

UNITED STATES

Fish Intake & Mercury—
Fish is a good source of vitamins, minerals and essential omega 3 fatty acids. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends an average daily intake of 200-300mg of omega 3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (docosahexaenoic acid [DHA]). This can be met through the consumption of 1-2 portions of fish a week. The general guideline is to aim for 8-12 ounces of cooked fish a week, choosing lower mercury containing fish (examples are herring, canned light tuna, salmon, flounder, tilapia, trout, pollock, catfish) while avoiding intake of predatory fish (e.g., shark, pike, marlin, King mackerel, swordfish, tile fish) due to their likely higher mercury levels. For the same reason, choose light canned tuna instead of canned “white” tuna (albacore). If you consume canned “white” tuna (albacore), have less than 6 ounces a week. If you don’t include fish in your diet, then some non-fish sources of omega 3 fatty acids are canola oil, soybean oil, ground flaxseed and walnuts.

Calcium—
In the United States, the calcium recommendations are the same for adult breastfeeding and pregnant women (19-50 years of age) at 1000mg/day. Look for calcium rich sources like dairy products, calcium and vitamin D fortified drinks, breakfast cereals and breads fortified with calcium.

Vitamin D—
For a breastfeeding mother, 600 international units (IU) or 15 ug of vitamin D is recommended daily. It is generally easier to meet these recommended vitamin D intakes in the United States because more commercial products tend to be fortified with vitamin D. Examples are many cow’s milk, yogurts, and cheese dairy products, calcium and vitamin D fortified soy milk and juices, and breakfast cereals like General Mills Total® cereal.

Vitamin & Mineral Supplementation—
According to the AAP, there are currently no routine recommendations for maternal supplements during breastfeeding, though many doctors recommend continued use of prenatal vitamins. Poorly nourished mothers or those on selective vegan diets may need multivitamin and omega 3 supplements.

UNITED KINGDOM

Fish Intake & Mercury—
Breastfeeding women are recommended to have no more than 2 portions of an oily fish a week (examples of oily fish are fresh tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, pilchards and trout). If predatory fish like shark, swordfish, marlin are consumed, it is recommended that no more than 1 portion of these fish are consumed a week. There is no restriction on the amount of canned tuna a breastfeeding woman can have. In the UK, however, canned tuna does not count as oily fish as they are low in the good fats and in vitamin D due to the processing methods used.

Calcium—
Calcium recommendations actually jump from 700mg a day for an adult pregnant woman to 1250mg a day for a breastfeeding mother! One cup of milk has about 300mg of calcium, so this would mean aiming for at least 3-4 servings of calcium rich products a day. Examples are dairy products like cow’s milk, yogurt, cheeses, fromage frais; calcium and vitamin D enriched oat milk, rice milk and soy milk (note that ‘organic’ versions mean these are not fortified with calcium or vitamin D); calcium fortified breads and cereals.

Vitamin D—
The UK Department of Health recommends that all pregnant and breastfeeding women have 400 international units (IU) or 10 ug of vitamin D daily. Some food sources of vitamin D include oily fish, fortified margarine and eggs. Here are also some foods on the market that are fortified with both calcium and vitamin D: certain breakfast cereals like Kellogg’s Corn Flakes®, Weetabix Crunchy Bran®, Ready Brek® porridge, and calcium and vitamin D fortified cow’s milk alternatives like soy milk, rice milk and oat milk.

Though food in the diet can contribute to vitamin D levels, it may be difficult to obtain enough vitamin D from diet alone (especially in the UK where many foods on the market like dairy products are not fortified with vitamin D). Our bodies can also manufacture vitamin D through modest exposure to direct UVB sunlight. However, factors like variable weather conditions, use of sunscreens, different skin types and cultural practices may all impact on vitamin D levels. So for those who find it hard to get enough vitamin D from the sun and their diet, a vitamin D supplement might be needed.

Does My Baby Need Vitamins?

UNITED STATES

The FACTS:
Of all the vitamins, I think the most crucial for your infant is vitamin D because breast milk provides limited amounts of vitamin D, so if you are exclusively or partially breastfeeding then it is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in the United States to give your baby a daily dose of 400 International Units (IU) of a vitamin D supplement starting from soon after birth. If you are doing mixed feedings with formula, your baby will need at least 27 ounces (about 800 ml) of standard formula to get 400 IU of vitamin D. Hence, the AAP also recommends a daily 400 IU vitamin D supplement for all nonbreastfed and partially breastfed babies getting less than 1 liter of vitamin D fortified infant formula (1000ml) a day. The AAP further recommends that older children and adolescents who are not getting 400 IU vitamin D from at least 1 liter of vitamin D fortified milk a day or through other vitamin D rich sources, should also receive a 400 IU vitamin D supplement daily (one 8 ounce serving of a glass of milk provides roughly 100 IU vitamin D).

It is worth noting that in 2010, the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) in the United States recommended an increase in the RDA for vitamin D to 600 IU or 15 micrograms (mcg) per day for children over one year of age. It is likely that the current AAP recommendation of 400 IUs per day will be reconsidered.

 

The EXPERIENCE:

There are MANY infant vitamin supplements on the US market (compared to the 2 or 3 main brands/products I tend to recommend in the UK!). The local pharmacies and retail shops carry products like Enfamil Poly-Vi-Sol, Poly-Vi-Sol with iron, Tri-Vi-Sol (Vit A, D, C) or D-Vi-Sol (vit D). But online from websites like Amazon, there are a lot more products offered like Carlson Labs Vit D Baby Drops 400IU, Twinlab Infant Care Multivit Drops with DHA and D Drops Liquid Vit D3. Most of the vit D seems to be in D3 form.

I happened to be by a CVS, so I got the Enfamil Poly-Vi-Sol product to try. It tastes horrible! I found I had to wait till my baby was taking 3-4 tbsp of baby rice/oatmeal at a sitting, before I could begin adding a few vitamin drops into the food without it affecting the taste of the food much. Either that, or I needed to put the vitamin drops into mashed avocado, or into very sweet foods like yoghurt or sweet wheat cereal which helped to dilute the sweetness. I also ended up ordering an infant vitamin D supplement (Carlson’s brand Super Daily D3 for Baby) online as it was recommended to be tasteless and only one drop a day was needed (compared to 1ml a day for the Poly-Vi-Sol). I tried this out and it’s true—it’s absolutely tasteless and only one drop is needed! I wish I had known about this sooner. So if you are exclusively or mainly breastfeeding and need to give a vitamin D supplement right away, I would recommend going for a ‘tasteless ‘or ‘taste neutral’ product, which can also be put on the nipple before letting the baby latch on, or easily put onto the spoon when feeding the baby solids. Hope this helps!

UNITED KINGDOM

The FACTS:
The UK Department of Health recommends that all babies and young children from 6 months to 5 years of age receive vitamin supplement drops containing vitamins A, C and D. In particular it is important that these supplements contain vitamin D to meet this age group’s vitamin D requirements of 280 – 340 International Units (IU) or 7-8.5 micrograms a day. Babies who are fed infant formula (which are already fortified with vitamin D) would not need vitamin drops until they are having an intake of less than 500ml of formula a day. In addition, breastfed babies may need to start vitamin D supplement drops from one month of age if their mothers did have not take any vitamin D supplements during pregnancy.

The EXPERIENCE:
In the UK, there are fewer vitamin infant drops products available on the market. Some possible options are Dalivit and Abidec brands. If you qualify, your child may be able to receive free vitamin drops through the Healthy Start program available in some areas. In terms of giving your baby vitamin drops, if he or she refuses to take the drops off a spoon or syringe, then adding the vitamin drops to the baby’s food often works well.