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Q: If a brand of margarine contains hydrogenated oil, how can its label say it has no trans fats?A: According to food labeling laws, if a serving of a food provides less than 0.5 gram (g) of fat or sugar, the amount can be rounded down to zero. The p



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Q: If a brand of margarine contains hydrogenated oil, how can its label say it has no trans fats?A: According to food labeling laws, if a serving of a food provides less than 0.5 gram (g) of fat or sugar, the amount can be rounded down to zero. The presence of such small amounts is too little to make any nutritional difference. Sometimes, a small amount of hydrogenated oil is added to a variety of foods as a stabilizer. If the amount is small enough, the label can legally say that a serving of the food contains no trans fat. There is no reason to worry about trace amounts of these fats. However, if you use more than the standard serving, or eat many different “trans fat-free” foods that contain small amounts of these fats, these minor amounts can add up. The total amount of trans fat that you consume might then be of consequence.

Q: Are all calcium-fortified juices the same?A: No. Research shows that our bodies may be able to absorb some chemical forms of calcium better than others. One study shows that more calcium in the form of “calcium citrate malate” ends up in our bloodstream than “tricalcium phosphate/calcium lactate,” when added to juice in equal amounts. Juice brands vary in the form of calcium they use. If you count on fortified juice to provide one calcium serving for the day, you may want to choose a product with the more absorbable form of calcium added to it. The kind of calcium in products is listed among ingredients on the label. In addition, juices vary in their content of added ingredients, like calcium and other vitamins and minerals. Make sure you are getting what you need, but don’t be fooled by marketing phrases on the front of the label. The juice could supply insignificant amounts of added ingredients. You may also obtain enough of these added ingredients from other foods.


Q: Should I do something special to get enough lignans in my diet?A: Lignans are generating a lot of interest because of their possible links to important health benefits. They seem to lower a person’s estrogen levels and help control the availability of both androgen and estrogen hormones, which may explain why lignans could lower the risk of breast cancer and some other cancers. Since lignans in the blood are also antioxidants, they could possibly help prevent heart disease. The lignans in the bloodstream, which may benefit our health, are formed from lignans in plant foods, such as rye, wheat bran, seeds, nuts, vegetables, and dried beans. Tea, coffee, and red wine also supply lignans. However, there are different kinds of lignans. Scientists are trying to identify the most potent lignans and measure their content in foods. It will be some time before any recommendations will be available on how many lignan-containing foods we should eat. In the meantime, adopt the plant-based diet recommended by the American Institute for Cancer Research. This eating style includes five to ten servings of vegetables and fruits, plus several servings of whole grains each day, as well as a frequent use of beans. This eating style supplies not only lignans, but also a wide range of natural cancer-fighting phytochemicals, antioxidant vitamins, and dietary fiber, which all have many health benefits.

Q: What is the latest news about garlic lowering blood cholesterol?A: Garlic is an excellent, healthy way to flavor food, but most studies show its cholesterol-lowering benefits to be modest or insignificant. It’s possible that garlic may help some people because of the way their cholesterol metabolism functions, but you shouldn’t depend upon this effect. On the other hand, scientists now say that it is oxidized blood cholesterol that damages blood vessel walls and create atherosclerosis, which endanger the heart. At least one study suggests that garlic may help LDL (“bad”) cholesterol resist oxidation. In any case, strong research shows that compounds in garlic help protect against cancer development. For the best health effect, make garlic a part of an overall heart- and cancer-protective diet that’s low in saturated and trans fats and abundant in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans.

Q: Which are healthier choices: whole wheat breads or lowfat and fat-free “lite” breads?A: Whole wheat bread is the better choice, because of its fiber, vitamin and phytochemical content. To be sure you’re buying whole wheat bread, look at the list of ingredients. Whole wheat, or another whole-grain flour, should be first. If you want to limit calories for weight control, you don’t need to stick to “lite” bread. Search for smaller loaves of regular whole wheat bread. Some popular brands come in one-ounce (28-gram) slices with about 60 calories in each slice, while others have bigger slices (40 grams or more), with 90 to 100 calories in each slice. Of course, you can also control calories by using just one slice of regular whole wheat bread instead of two. Since most whole-wheat bread has about 1 to 1.5 grams of fat per slice, which usually comes from vegetable oil and not saturated or trans fat, the fat content of whole wheat bread should not be a concern.

Q: Is it true that dressings need some fat to allow a salad’s nutrients to be absorbed?A: No. Although studies show that some kind of fat is needed when you eat a salad to allow the proper absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and phytochemicals, such as beta-carotene and lycopene, the fat doesn’t need to be in the dressing. Any fat consumed at the same time as the salad will make the absorption of nutrients easier. If you use a fat-free dressing, you still get enough fat for nutrient absorption if fat-containing ingredients like cheese, nuts, and egg yolk are in the salad, or if you eat other fat-containing foods at the same meal such as two to three ounces of chicken or lean meat. If you want to use a regular salad dressing, about one tablespoon of regular salad dressing provides enough fat.

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