In the chaos surrounding the novel coronavirus, there is a lot of information swirling around about foods and nutrients that can “boost your immune system.” Some of it is not terribly accurate. In this Live Q&A, I answer your questions about specific supplements and highlight the most effective things you can do to keep yourself and your family safe.
In this week’s Nutrition Diva podcast, I talked about the pros and cons of oat milk, the latest craze in nondairy milk alternatives. Here’s a breakdown of the nutrition for several leading brands. (Nutrition information is for 8 fluid ounces.) Below, I’ve included the ingredients for each brand as well.
|Brand||Gluten Free?||Calories||Protein||Fiber||Sugar||Cost/fl oz|
|Dream Oat Beverage Original||No||120||2||2||11||$0.09|
|Elmhurst Milked Oats||Yes||100||4||2||5||$0.22|
|Pacific Foods Organic Oat Original||No||130||4||2||17||$0.10|
|Planet Oat Oatmilk||Yes||90||2||2||4||$0.08|
|The Original Oatly Oat-milk||Yes||120||3||2||7||$0.08|
|Califia Unsweetened||Oatmilk (Water, Oats), Sunflower Oil, Minerals (Dipotassium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Sea Salt).|
|Dream Oat Beverage Original||Oat Base (Water, Oats), Safflower Oil, Calcium Carbonate, Sea Salt, Vitamin D2, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin B12, Tricalcium Phosphate.|
|Elmhurst Milked Oats||Filtered Water, Whole Grain Oats, Cane Sugar, Salt, Natural Flavors.|
|Pacific Foods Organic Oat Original||Water, Oats*, Oat Bran*, Contains 1% Or Less Of: Gellan Gum, Sea Salt, Tricalcium Phosphate, Vitamin D2. *Organic|
|Planet Oat Oatmilk||Oatmilk (Filtered Water, Oats), Calcium Carbonate, Dipotassium Phosphate (Stabilizer), Sea Salt, Gellan Gum, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) And Vitamin B12.|
|The Original Oatly Oat-milk||Oatmilk (water, oats). Contains 2% or less of: rapeseed oil, dipotassium phosphate, calcium carbonate, tricalcium phosphate, sea salt, dicalcium phosphate, riboflavin, vitamin A, vitamin D2, vitamin B12.|
An advocacy group called Friends of the Earth has been publicizing the results of a new study demonstrating that when people switch from a regular diet to one containing only organic foods, their exposure to pesticides is reduced.
The study recruited four families from different corners of the country. Each family ate a non-organic diet for six days and an all-organic diet for six days. The researchers found that the organic diet “rapidly and dramatically reduced exposure to pesticides.”
That’s not terribly surprising. In fact, it’s so unsurprising, it’s a little hard to imagine why the researchers felt the need to do this study.
The far more important question (not answered in this study) is: Is this something we need to worry about?
Relatively major but absolutely minor
In reporting their findings, the Friends of the Earth present the difference in exposure in relative terms. “Levels of all detected chemicals dropped an average of 60.5 percent with a range of 37 percent to 95 percent depending on the compound.”
But they don’t give us any information about the absolute levels of exposure. This is at least as important as the relative exposure. Celery has 40 times as much sodium as cucumber. It’s still a low sodium food.
Did those higher levels of exposure pose any sort of threat? Or were they (as I suspect) well below the threshold of concern?
Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish
Secondly, the coverage repeatedly talks about the “pesticide levels in the bodies” of the subjects. But the study didn’t test the subjects’ blood or tissues. They tested their urine, which is where the body discards things it doesn’t want or need. Furthermore, what they found in the urine were compounds formed when the pesticides were broken down by the liver.
In other words, what they found was evidence that the body’s detoxification systems were working exactly as they are supposed to, breaking down and excreting potentially harmful compounds. The pesticides these families were being exposed to by eating a non-organic diet were apparently being eliminated from their bodies.
So I have to ask once again: Is this really something that we need to worry about?
One of these things is not like the other
The organization points out that one of the pesticides monitored in this study is frequently linked to farmworker poisonings. That’s a great argument for farmers using more care when working with agricultural chemicals (and that goes for synthetic as well as organic chemicals). But it doesn’t really have anything to do with risks that families might be exposed to by eating conventional produce. And yet, by juxtaposing these two facts in the press release, it implies that eating non-organic foods increases your risk of chemical poisoning. There is absolutely no data to support this implication.
Good news is no news?
Meanwhile, the press reports don’t mention that a third of the compounds they were testing for were undetectable in the urine samples after the non-organic diet. You have to wonder whether they were, perversely, somewhat disappointed by this. They certainly didn’t seem very eager to publicize the fact that some of the most common pesticides used in conventional agriculture apparently pose little risk to eaters.
So, what’s the upshot of all this?
The Friends of the Earth concludes that “these results show that eating organic works.” Works how, exactly? Yes, eating organic reduces your exposure to certain (but not all) pesticides. But does it reduce your risk of disease or harm? I don’t see any evidence of that here.
This is Important. Let’s Get it Right
Lest you think I am pro-pesticide, or anti-organic, let me assure you I’m not. I’m just against this sort of sloppy communication and manipulative “science.”
Conventional farmers don’t use pesticides because they’re lazy, ignorant, or uncaring. They use them, as sparingly as they can get away with, in order to maximize yields and lower the cost of food. If they can figure out a way to use less, they are eager to do so.
Organic farmers use pesticides and herbicides, too, by the way. Some of these organic pesticides are highly toxic to beneficial insects and, if mishandled, can be harmful to humans, as well. But organic farmers are also working to increase yield and reduce the cost of their products. And pest control is part of that.
Instead of pitting organic growers (and eaters) against conventional, why not work together to make progress on all of these important fronts? Let’s use the best technology, the best practices and, yes, the best chemistry, to create a safer, more abundant, and more sustainable food supply.
To that end, let’s assess the risks and impacts of chemical use (both synthetic and organic). Let’s weigh the costs and benefits of various options. But let’s debate the issues on their scientific merits instead of resorting to sensational, misleading, and manipulative “research” and rhetoric.
This is not an us vs. them situation. We’re all us.
Getting five servings of vegetables a day is easier if you start at breakfast. And this super simple vegetable frittata is a delicious way to start the day. (It’s also a great way to use up leftover vegetables.)
Though applications are supposed to make your life easier, sometimes finding the right app can be a challenge. A “meal planning” search in the App Store yields pages of tools that claim to help you conquer the grocery store, step up your lunchbox game and make peace with your plate, but how can you know which apps are actually effective? After lots of downloading and deleting, I’ve put together a list of six free apps that have allowed me to spend more time enjoying my food rather than preparing it. These apps are available for both iPhone and Android users.
#1. Instacart: Best for buying groceries when you don’t have time to shop
As a nutrition coach in University of Maryland’s Health Center, I’ve found that my clients who grocery shop regularly are more likely to meet their nutritional goals compared to those who do not. This makes sense, as it’s pretty hard to eat healthfully if you lack nutritious foods in your home. With the Instacart app, you can have fresh produce delivered to your home with the literal flick of your finger. Not having time to make it to the grocery store will no longer be an excuse for not eating healthfully.
After typing your zip code into Instacart, a list of stores in your area will come up on your screen. After selecting a store, you can use the search bar to quickly find and order specific items, or, for a more authentic grocery store experience, you can add items to your cart as you peruse the different categories. You can also access Instacart online. Though the Instacart app is free, the order must be at least $10 to be eligible for delivery, and there is a $3.99 delivery fee (some of this money goes toward tipping the driver). You can subscribe to Instacart Express ($9.99/month or $99/year) to avoid this fee on orders above $35. Have fun portable grocery shopping!
In this week’s Nutrition Diva podcast, I talk with protein researcher Douglas Paddon Jones about whether or not there’s any benefit to combining complementary plant-based protein sources at the same meal. Contrary to a lot of the conventional wisdom, which claims that it’s sufficient to get all of the essential amino acids over the course of a single day, Dr. Paddon Jones argues that a meal-based approach to protein nutrition will enhance the ability to build and maintain lean muscle tissue.
This doesn’t mean you have to tally up and micro-manage each individual amino acid. The following chart shows how to choose meal components that will ensure complete proteins at a meal.
If you consume only plant-based proteins, you may also want to increase your total protein intake by 10-20% to compensate for the lower digestibility of these plant-based protein.
The Recommended Daily Allowance for protein is 0.8 g per kg of body weight (or 0.36 g per pound). Strict vegetarians may want to aim for a minimum of 1 g per kg (or 0.45 g per pound).
These are these are minimum recommended intakes. Research suggests that there may be benefits to higher protein diets, especially for athletes, the elderly, those recovering from surgery or illness, or during weight loss. If you’re in any of these groups, you might want to aim for something closer to twice the recommended minimum.