Sound Bites: Benefits of Oatmeal and Cauliflower, the Sugar Industry Sweetens the News and More

The latest nutrition and healthy eating news

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By Megan O. Steintrager

Is The New Sugar Sketchy Or Solid? A new study that questions the quality of research behind guidelines that advise eating less sugar is itself being questioned. The report on the findings, published in the prestigious Annals of Internal Medicine, included the conclusion that “Guidelines on dietary sugar do not meet criteria for trustworthy recommendations and are based on low-quality evidence.” However, the fact that the study was funded by the International Life Science Institute, which receives money from soda and candy makers and fast food companies, is raising a lot of eyebrows in the scientific community. Marion Nestle, NYU professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health, told The New York Times, “This comes right out of the tobacco industry’s playbook: cast doubt on the science.” NPR also quoted a source who compared studies like this to the efforts of Big Tobacco to downplay the dangers of secondhand smoke.

To be clear, the authors of the study did not suggest that unlimited sugar intake is a good idea, but rather that “guidelines about sugar consumption are based on weak evidence and we need better research on this topic,” as editors of the Annals of Internal Medicine wrote to Time, defending their decision to publish the research. So, no matter who you believe in this debate, it’s safe to say it’s not a great idea to go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs — or any other sugar-laden foods. Fortunately, new nutrition labels will soon help you spot added sugars so you have a better sense of how much you’re consuming.

Keep Those Holiday Spices Handy: The holiday season might be winding down, but don’t put the seasonal spices away yet. Spices such as cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cardamom may help boost brain health, according to a recent Harvard Health Blog post. Those and other spices “contain nutrients that sharpen memory, reduce stress, or improve sleep, among other benefits,” the article notes. Of course, spices also pump up the flavor in dishes and drinks while adding very little sodium or calories, so they’re a perfect match for those healthy eating resolutions. Read more about Why You Should Add Cinnamon to Everything You Eat.

Holiday spices

Eat Your Oatmeal: Oats are already beloved by healthy eating experts for their role in reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and now there’s evidence that oats have a broader role to play in heart health by also reducing other markers of bad cholesterol (a group called non-HDL cholesterol), the January issue of Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter reports. Eat some oats today with Clean Plates’ Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal recipe, which also happens to contain some of the seasonal spices that help your head!

Leanness and Longevity: Exercising, eating a healthy diet, never smoking and drinking alcohol in moderation — these are all well-known ways to boost your longevity (as well as your quality of life). An increase in these “healthy lifestyle factors” is associated with a reduced risk of early death at any body mass index.

But, according to The Nutrition Source from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, a new study reveals that the “lowest risk was found in lean individuals (BMI of 18.5-22.4), practicing at least three of these habits.” That’s a lower BMI range than what the CDC classifies as normal: 18.5 to 24.9. Does that mean you have to be skinny to be healthy? Not so fast. “Among those who were overweight or obese, increasing the number of low-risk lifestyle factors significantly reduced their risk of early death,” the article reports. What’s more, those people in the study who were lean but did not have healthy lifestyles were at a higher risk for premature death than those who were overweight, suggesting that they might be thin due to undiagnosed illness or unhealthy behaviors like smoking.

Kudos for Cauliflower: While you’re at the store getting your oats, throw a few heads of cauliflower into your basket. While kale still gets a ton of attention for its healthfulness, that’s no reason to overlook its cruciferous cousins like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and increasingly trendy cauliflower, says the February issue of Consumer Reports On Health (available to print subscribers). All crucifers are excellent sources of cancer-fighting glucosinolates, plus fiber and a host of health-boosting vitamins and minerals. But we probably don’t have to tell you that cauliflower is as worthy of your attention as kale: While for most of the past five years, there have been more Google searches for kale recipes than cauliflower, over the past 12 months cauliflower has shot into the lead. And we named it the “It Vegetable” of 2015. Will cauliflower continue to dominate in 2017 or is this the year of bok choy?

Cauliflower