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    Archive for the ‘broccoli’ Category

    Busting Monsanto’s ‘Better’ Broccoli

    Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing the most blog-worthy moments from the American Dietetic Association’s 2011 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE), which wrapped up yesterday. Okay, how is this for “did April Fool’s get moved to September?”: Monsanto had a booth there. Yes, at a nutrition and health expo. Among their souvenirs: Monsanto-branded soybean-based chapstick. I’ll let you sit with that one for a minute.

    Continue Reading »


    You Ask, I Answer: Broccoli, Sprouts, & Swiss Chard Bad for Thyroid Health?

    broccoli-sproutsI would so appreciate it if you would comment on the raw broccoli/thyroid problem issue that I have come across on blogs.

    I have been steaming my broccoli for the past year after reading far too many articles that state one should not eat it raw.

    I trust your advise more than the anonymous blogs out there, and I would love your thoughts.

    — Michael (Last name unknown)
    Via the blog

    Is Swiss chard part of the brassica family?  I thought it was a chenopod.

    My understanding is that all brassicas contain a goitrogen, but one that is killed off in cooking, unlike that in soy. Not that I can think of any time I’ve ever wanted to eat raw Swiss chard!

    What about broccoli sprouts, though?

    Are they better, worse or much the same as headed broccoli for those with thyroid issues?

    — Polly (Last name unknown)
    Via the blog

    Michael: unless you have a thyroid condition, there is no need for you to worry about eating raw broccoli.

    Cruciferous vegetables (including bok choy, broccoli, and kale), contain goitrogenic compounds called isothiocyanates, which can exacerbate already-existing thyroid issues.

    Let’s make this very clear, though — cruciferous vegetables do not cause thyroid problems.  In fact, isothiocyanates are wonderfully healthy compounds that  have been linked to decreased risk for a number of cancers.

    It’s worth pointing out, too, that even individuals with thyroid problems can still eat a limited amount of cruciferous vegetables (no more than one and a half cups per week).

    Cooking does indeed lower these vegetables’ goitrogen content  — by roughly a third.

    Polly: Swiss chard is technically a member of the beet family.

    However, since it contains a very similar nutrient profile to cruciferous vegetables, it is considered “one of the bunch” (in the same way that quinoa and amaranth are talked about as whole grains even though they are technically seeds).

    One thing Swiss chard doesn’t provide that cruciferous vegetables do?  Isothiocyanates!

    Broccoli sprouts, meanwhile, are very high in goitrogens — more so than raw broccoli florets.


    You Ask, I Answer: Choline

    1B7796CD98BAE223AFF6643CFAF1A7What is choline?  Why is it good for us and which foods contain it?

    — @Monica_San Diego, @noelty5
    Via Twitter

    I received these tweets soon after I tweeted that 90 percent of adults in the United States do not get sufficient amounts of choline in their diets.

    Choline is an essential nutrient (‘essential’ meaning we must get it from food) that is often referred to as a “vitamin-like organic substance” that has a lot in common with the B vitamins (it is not, however, an out-and-out B vitamin).

    Choline has a number of important functions, including:

    • Proper functioning of neurotransmitters
    • Overall liver and gallbladder health
    • Fetal neural and spinal development
    • Cell permeability (allowing cells to absorb fats adequately and excrete necessary metabolites)
    • Phospholipid synthesis (necessary for cellular structure)
    • Cardiovascular health (choline helps lower homocysteine levels; high homocysteine levels are a significant risk factor for heart disease)

    As far as food sources go, these are your best bets:

    • Beef
    • Broccoli
    • Cauliflower
    • Egg yolk
    • Lentils
    • Salmon
    • Shrimp
    • Soy beans
    • Peanuts
    • Wheat germ
    • Salmon

    Men should aim for 550 milligrams a day. Women, meanwhile, need to shoot for 425.

    Multiple research studies have concluded that consistent, long-term deficiencies increase one’s risk of developing fatty liver, liver cancer, and heart disease.


    You Ask, I Answer: Soy & Thyroid Issues

    iStock_Soy_Bean_On_PodI’ve read the soy is a goitrogen.

    Could it exacerbate hypothyroidism?

    — Corey Clark
    (location withheld)

    Certain compounds in soy can exacerbate — but not cause — thyroid issues by limiting the uptake of iodine and thereby causing goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland).

    Keep in mind, though, that these same compounds are also found in vegetables that belong to the Brassica family of plants (i.e.: broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, mustard greens, kale) as well as strawberries, pears, and peanuts.

    These foods are only a concern for people who already have underactive thyroids.

    Two tips to keep in mind:

    1. Cooking the above-mentioned vegetables lessens their inhibiting effect on thyroid function.
    2. It appears that fermentation reduces goitrogenic compounds, so tempeh (fermented soybeans) can be safely consumed in small amounts by those with underactive thyroids.

    Survey Results: Calcium Education

    calcium-richThe latest Small Bites survey asked visitors if they perceived mainstream advice on calcium-rich foods to be too focused on dairy products.  Ninety-two percent of the sixty-seven respondents said “yes.”

    I certainly think consumer knowledge and awareness of non-dairy sources of calcium in the United States — and other Western nations — is practically non-existent.

    Although dairy products certainly offer calcium, so do some leafy green vegetables (bok choy, kale, mustard greens, and collard greens), canned fish (salmon with bones, sardines), chickpeas, tempeh, and almonds.

    Part of the “problem” is that the majority of educational materials on calcium are paid for — and distributed — by the National Dairy Council, which not only plunks down $100 million annually in advertising, but also doles out as much money in the way of research grants.

    I recently conducted a small-scale research project which, among other things, examined calcium awareness among vegans and non-vegans.

    One part of the questionnaire respondents were asked to fill out included a food frequency questionnaire which included 41 foods that were high, moderate, or low sources of calcium.

    A subsequent question asked respondents to list any foods in that list they were not aware contained calcium.  Almost two thirds of those surveyed were surprised to see broccoli, kale, mustard greens, bok choy, chickpeas, and tempeh make the list.

    Hey, PETA, how about giving the silly publicity gimmicks a break (you know, like your campaigns to have breast milk in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream or change the name of the Pet Shop Boys to The Rescue Shelter Boys?) and investing a significant amount of money in educational materials for the general population on non-dairy sources of calcium?


    The Lowdown on Calcium

    Calcium is one of the most misunderstood nutrients.

    The range of confusion varies from those who think dairy products contain the most absorbable type of this mineral to people who think spinach is a great source of calcium.

    Let’s clarify these points.

    Are dairy products a good source of calcium? Yes. After all, eight ounces of milk provide a third of the daily value of calcium.

    Are dairy products the only way to get calcium? Absolutely not.

    Do dairy products provide calcium with the highest bioavailability? No.

    Consider the following:

    Eight ounces (one cup) of milk contain 300 milligrams of calcium.

    A half cup of cooked bok choy provides 79 milligrams of calcium.

    To someone unfamiliar with nutrition, the conclusion might seem obvious: “I need two cups of bok choy to get as much calcium as a cup of milk!”

    Alas, nutrition science isn’t always as obvious as it seems.

    You actually only need one and a quarter cups of cooked bok choy to match the calcium you would get from a cup of milk since the calcium in bok choy is more absorbable than the one in dairy products.

    The same thing happens with Chinese cabbage. A half cup of this cooked vegetable offers 239 milligrams of calcium, but that equals the amount of absorbable calcium in a cup of milk.

    Let’s now turn our attention to spinach. I am continually amazed by the amount of self-touted (though, clearly, not really) nutritione experts who list this vegetable as a good source of calcium.

    A half cup of cooked spinach offers 115 milligrams of calcium. However, due to its high amount of oxalates (organic acids naturally found in spinach that inhibit calcium absorption), it takes EIGHT cups of cooked spinach to equal the amount of absorbable calcium in one cup of milk.

    It just so happens that unlike spinach, the Brassica family of plants — including broccoli, kale, bok choy, cabbage, and mustard greens) does not accumulate oxalate, thereby providing highly absorbable calcium.

    I know some people like their nutrition advice in absolute form (“NEVER eat this, ALWAYS eat this), it’s not my style.

    My suggestions provide you with plenty of choices. If you like milk, drink it — it provides a significant amount of calcium.

    If you don’t like it or don’t want to include it in your diet, no need to worry about calcium as long as you include greens from the Brassica family and other non-dairy sources (tofu, tempeh, almonds, calcium-fortified alternative milks, etc.) in your diet.


    You Ask, I Answer: Broccoli

    Is it true that all the nutrition in broccoli is only contained in the florets and that the stalks are nutritionally equivalent to iceberg lettuce?

    — Paul Dwilin
    Boston, MA

    Insert loud buzzer sound HERE.

    That is 100 percent incorrect.

    Although broccoli florets house most of the vegetable’s phytochemicals and antioxidants, the stalks make their fair share of contributions.

    That’s where you’ll find higher concentrations of vitamin C, fiber, and folate.

    Always aim to use as much of a fruit or vegetable as you can. This means eating apple peels, sweet potato skins, and broccoli stalks!


    Numbers Game: Answer

    According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines Scientific Advisory Committee, 93 percent of the United States population does not meet the daily requirement for Vitamin E.

    Since Vitamin E plays an important role as an antioxidant, low intake levels allow free radicals more of an opportunity to advance cellular damage.

    It is worth nothing that this statistic is not relaying that 93 percent of the population has a vitamin E deficiency.

    However, failing to meet daily requirements still has health consequences.

    Adults need 15 milligrams (22 International Units) a day, and can rely on seeds, nuts, oils, and vegetables as good sources.

    Take a look at this table, outlining the percentage of the daily value contributed by some foods:

    Fortified cereals (1 cup): 50 – 70%
    Almonds (1 oz.): 40%

    Sunflower seeds (1 oz.): 30%
    Peanut buter (2 Tbsp.): 20%

    Tomato sauce (1/2 cup): 15%
    Avocado (1 whole): 15%

    Olive oil (1 Tbsp.): 12/5%
    Broccoli (cooked, 1/2 cup): 6%

    Spinach (cooked, 1/2 cup): 6%
    Mango slices (1/2 cup): 6%

    Collard greens (cooked, 1/2 cup): 5%

    Why swallow a pill when you can eat delicious foods in the name of health?


    You Ask, I Answer: Vitamin A

    I know this is going to sound weird, but I kind of have an aversion when it comes to eating anything orange or red.

    Even if it’s supposed to be red (like a tomato), I still get freaked out.

    Does this mean I’m not eating Vitamin A?

    Paula (last name withheld)
    St. Louis, MO

    I’m sorry to hear about your aversion, especially since you’re missing out on delicious foods like watermelon, strawberries, red peppers, and raspberries!

    The good news is, your vitamin A intake is not affected, since green vegetables are also a good source.

    Half a cup of cooked broccoli provides 24 percent of the daily requirement, a half cup of cooked peas will give you 34 percent, half a cup of cooked kale contains an excellent 177 percent, and a half cup of spinach packs a mighty 229 percent!

    Dairy items also contain vitamin A, although in lower amounts.

    A cup of milk fortified with vitamin A contains ten percent of the daily requirement, an ounce of mozarella cheese provides a mere three percent, and an egg contributes approximately seven percent of the daily requirement to your diet.

    The most concentrated source of vitamin A is animal liver. A mere ounce (53 calories’ worth) of beef liver holds 178 percent of a day’s worth!


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