3 Things You Should Know About the FDA’s New Trans Fat Ban

You may have read that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) resolved this week to officially ban artificial trans fat from the U.S. food supply by 2018. I think it’s a great decision, but this move doesn’t mean that double-stuffed sandwich cookies will now be good for you (sorry). Here’s why, and three other things you should know about the FDA’s major action.

Trans fats are seriously bad for your health

Since this news broke, a few people have asked me if this ban is really necessary, or if a little trans fat here and there is really that big of a deal. My responses are yes, and yes. Numerous studies have linked man-made trans fat to health problems including heart disease, infertility, cancer, type 2 diabetes, liver problems, obesity, and even memory deficits. One study (albeit in animals) found that even when eating the same number of calories and identical amounts of fat, monkeys fed trans fat gained four times more weight and 30% more belly fat than those who ate monounsaturated fats instead.

RELATED: Fats You Can—and Should—Eat

You should still read ingredient lists

Food companies have three years to remove trans fat from their products, so until it’s eradicated, you’ll have to do a little sleuthing to avoid it. A report out this year from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that up to 37% of foods in grocery stores may contain trans fat—and that’s possible even if the label says “trans fat free.” Technically, a product can claim to provide zero grams of trans fat if it contains less than 0.5 grams per serving. That means you could still be getting several grams per package. The only way to really tell if a product contains trans fat is to check the ingredient list. If the words “partially hydrogenated” appear, then there’s trans fat in the product. And while the amount may be small per serving, the fat grams can add up quick: If you eat a dozen foods over the course of a week that each contain 0.4 grams, you’ll take in almost 5 grams of trans fat total. And that’s very easy to do: The EWG report found partially hydrogenated oil in a slew of common supermarket items, including breakfast bars, granola, peanut butter, pretzels, crackers, bread, graham crackers, non-dairy creamer, cupcakes, and ice-cream cones.

RELATED: 6 ‘Bad’ Carbs That Are Actually Good For You

One replacement may be worse for you than trans fat

Some companies have begun replacing partially hydrogenated oil with fully hydrogenated oil, also referred to as interesterified oil. While this replacement is technically trans fat-free, there is some indication that it may be worse for your health. A study from Brandeis University found that volunteers who consumed products made with interesterified oil experienced a drop in their “good” HDL cholesterol and a significant rise in blood sugar—about 20%—in just one month. To scope out interesterified oil, again, check the ingredient lists on packaged food; if you see the word “hydrogenated,” whether partially or fully, you’ve identified artificial fat, and it should be avoided, period.

In fact, the best advice for steering clear of unhealthy fats is to eat fewer packaged and processed foods overall. Instead of buying microwave popcorn, pop your own on the stove top using organic popcorn kernels and sunflower oil. In place of pie, bake or grill fresh fruit, and top with a “crumble” made from rolled oats, cinnamon, and almond butter. There are many simple and healthy ways to make DIY versions of foods you might normally buy, and going homemade as much as possible means you get to control exactly what’s going into your meals, and into your body.

RELATED: 9 Quick and Easy Make-Ahead Casseroles

What are your thoughts on this topic? Chat with us on Twitter by mentioning @goodhealth and @CynthiaSass.

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the New York Yankees MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Cynthia is a three time New York Times best selling author, and her brand new book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

The Surprising Health Risks of Being the First

Struggling with your weight while your baby sister is thin as a rail? Turns out, you’re probably not alone. First-born women may be more likely to be overweight or obese than their younger sisters, according to a new study in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

For the study, researchers looked at more than 13,000 pairs of Swedish sisters and found that the older siblings were 29% more likely to be overweight and 40% more likely to be obese by their mid-twenties than their younger counterparts. (Keep in mind that this isn’t a huge jump in risk; that means older siblings have 1.29 times the risk of being overweight and 1.4 times the risk of being obese than young sibs, rather than say 10 or 20 times the risk.)

If it’s proven, it is unclear why older sisters may end up heavier, but one hypothesis is that during a first pregnancy, the blood vessels in a mother’s uterus are more narrow. “And this information has led to the hypothesis that first-borns were exposed to in utero compromise, which reprograms metabolism and the regulation of fat,” study co-author Wayne Cutfield explained to Today.com. In other words, a lower energy supply in the womb may lead to a bigger appetite and the way the body regulates weight later on. Or it’s possible that the care and feeding of a first-born differs from siblings in a way that impacts weight later on.

RELATED: 17 Ways to Lose Weight When You Have No Time

Interestingly, this is not the first study to link health issues to being the oldest. For one thing, this study echoes previous findings that first-born men are also more likely to be heavier than their kid brothers.

But also, eldest children may be more likely to have reduced insulin sensitivity (a problem linked to the development of type 2 diabetes) and higher blood pressure compared to later-born children, a 2013 study in the Journal of Clincial Endocrinology & Metabolism found. This may set the stage for a higher likelihood of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases in adulthood, the authors concluded.

Another possible health struggle: allergies. In 2011, Japanese researchers surveyed the parents of more than 13,000 children from age 7 to 15 and found that hay fever and food allergies were more common among eldest children.

RELATED: 25 Ways to Allergy-Proof Your Home

 

What about personality?

While smaller studies have linked being the oldest to having more smarts, better language skills, and even more sexual partners, forthcoming research from the Journal of Research in Personality suggests all that is mostly bunk. The researchers looked at the connection between birth order and 19 different personality traits and intelligence attributes (like verbal or math ability) in 377,000 U.S. high school students only to conclude that when you account for factors like age, sex, socio-economic status, and family structure, it is very unlikely that birth order means very much at all.

It’s sort of a bummer, but the next time your sibling spouts on about the oldest being the smartest or the youngest being more rebellious, here’s your ammunition.

 

Is Ibuprofen Bad for Your Heart?

I’ve been taking ibuprofen for all my aches and pains for years, but I heard it can cause heart problems. Should I stop using it?

Ibuprofen is a common drug to have on hand for everything from headaches and toothaches to joint pain, muscle soreness and menstrual cramps. That said, doctors have actually known for years that taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)—including ibuprofen and naproxen—may increase risk of heart attack and stroke. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) added a boxed warning about this issue to prescription nonaspirin NSAID labels back in 2005.

However, the FDA recently conducted a review of new research on NSAIDs. Based on this review, we now know that taking NSAIDs may pose a risk for heart attack and stroke earlier than previously thought—even within the first few weeks of use. What’s more, the longer you rely on these drugs, the worse the risk may become. And if you take NSAIDs at higher dosages, you may also be more vulnerable. That’s why in July the FDA ordered drug manufacturers to beef up warning labels on Rx nonaspirin products, and will request that makers of over-the-counter nonaspirin products update the info on their labels, too.

People with heart disease or risk factors for heart disease are more likely to face problems when they take NSAIDs. But even those who don’t have heart disease or issues such as high blood pressure may be at a greater risk as well.

You can still take ibuprofen, but be sure to stick to the smallest dose you need, and only take it for as long as you really have to. Acetaminophen does not have the same side effects, so consider it as an alternative—while being mindful of its own potential dangers; excessive doses can lead to liver problems.

And keep in mind that you can always start with nondrug options, like hot or cold packs or massage, to help ease your pain.

Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and co-founder of Tula Skincare.

10

By Emily WillinghamHealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Oct. 8, 2015 (HealthDay News) — If you have to sit almost all day while you work, take a short walk whenever you can.

Why? Researchers report that even a 10-minute stroll can restore blood flow to legs affected by prolonged sitting.

“Although the size of our sample was small, the effects and results we found were still profound,” said study first author Robert Restaino, a doctoral student at the University of Missouri, in Columbia, Mo.

The findings were published recently in the journal Experimental Physiology.

“The obvious take-home is that uninterrupted sitting and inactivity leads to microvascular dysfunction, and therefore is unhealthy,” said Dr. William Gray, director of endovascular services at New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia University Medical Center, in New York City. Gray noted that sitting for a long time has previously been linked to heart disease.

Restaino said the goal of his study was to “tease apart the impairments elicited by prolonged sitting.”

To isolate the effects of lengthy stretches of sitting, Restaino and his colleagues had 11 young men engage in some “acute sitting” for six hours. The researchers measured the men’s blood flow and a couple of other heart factors both before the sitting session and afterward.

To keep food from affecting the results, all of the men ate the same breakfast — a quesadilla with pineapple juice — two hours before their sitting episode. They had another meal four hours into the sitting.

The study participants were not supposed to move their legs while they sat, and they were seated so their legs hung above the floor. They were allowed to read or use a computer.

Once their six-hour sitting ended and blood flow and other measurements were completed, the men each took a 10-minute walk. Then, the investigators again performed all of the same measurements.

The researchers found that sitting was bad. It reduced blood flow in two major leg arteries and the men’s calves swelled by almost an inch, on average.

After the stroll — which, based on step counters, was about 1,100 steps in 10 minutes — blood flow and other measures returned to pre-sitting levels, the findings showed.

Noting that this group of 11 men represented “healthy individuals,” Restaino said that in other groups of people, such as the elderly or those with previous heart problems, “I would imagine the impairments would be more exaggerated.”

For people who are less healthy, he added, the ability of blood flow and other measures to rebound to normal might require longer, more intense exercise. But “this is purely speculative” for now, Restaino said.

Gray said: “We know that [blood flow] dysfunction is associated with worse cardiovascular [heart] outcomes in the elderly. But we don’t know if age or duration of the activity required would affect the magnitude of the effects seen here.”

Gray said the small size of the study was “OK” because the authors measured objective endpoints and found big differences with walking.

How long the effects of a short walk will last is unclear.

The direct effect of exercise, according to Gray, appears to be increased levels of nitric oxide, a molecule that triggers blood vessels to open up. That reduces friction on the blood and allows it to flow more easily.

Restaino said another factor is likely the contraction of the muscles that happens while walking, which helps boost circulation.

The bottom line, said Restaino, is that “cumulatively, these effects of a short walk are all playing important roles in improving impairments seen during a prolonged bout of sitting.”

More information

Visit the American Heart Association for more on wellness in the workplace.


4 Weird Causes of Chest Pain

I sometimes feel a sharp pain when I take a deep breath. What could be wrong?

It depends on how frequent and bothersome the pain is. If you notice it only after strenuous exercise or exposure to cold air, your lungs might just be sensitive to the cold or the fast flow of air from heavy, deep breathing during your workout. Sipping a warm liquid may help ease the discomfort.

If the pain occurs more often, it usually means that something within the chest cavity is irritated, and you should talk to your doctor. You might have inflammation of the lining of the lungs (a condition known as pleurisy) or heart (pericarditis), a bruised rib, asthma or a lung infection, like pneumonia. If it’s an infection, your doctor may prescribe you an antibiotic and perhaps an anti-inflammatory drug to help reduce the pain.

Health‘s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and co-founder of Tula Skincare.

RELATED:

7 Weird Things That Can Mess With Your Heartbeat

12 Mental Tricks That Fight Pain

Scary Symptoms You Can Relax About

Working Out in Your 20s Pays Off Big Time Later On

MONDAY, Nov. 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Hitting the gym or playing field in your 20s may bring health benefits that last a lifetime, new research suggests.

The study of nearly 5,000 young adults found that those with good heart/lung fitness had a lower risk of heart disease and death later in life.

One cardiologist who reviewed the study wasn’t surprised by the finding.

“Despite all the remarkable medical and technological advances in the treatment of heart disease, it remains clear that the best prescription for adults is to be active and routinely exercise,” said Dr. Kevin Marzo, chief of cardiology at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y.

The new study was led by Dr. Joao Lima of Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore and focused on people who were between 18 and 30 at the start of the study. All of them underwent treadmill exercise tests to assess their cardiorespiratory fitness.

Over a median follow-up of nearly 27 years, 273 (5.6 percent) of the participants died and 193 (4 percent) had heart disease-related problems. Overall, 73 of the deaths were heart-related.

Fitness levels in youth seemed to matter, Lima’s team reported. The treadmill tests the young adults took included as many as nine two-minute stages of gradually increasing difficulty.

According to the researchers, for each additional minute the participants were able to stay on the treadmill, they had a 15 percent lower risk of death over the course of the study, and a 12 percent lower risk of heart-related death, specifically.

Some of the participants had another treadmill test seven years into the study. In that group, a one-minute reduction in being able to remain on the treadmill was associated with a 21 percent increased risk of death and a 20 percent increased risk of heart-related death, the team said.

The bottom line, according to the researchers, is that “efforts to evaluate and improve fitness in early adulthood may affect long-term health at the earliest stages” of heart disease.

Dr. Sonia Henry directs echocardiography at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, N.Y. She said the findings highlight “the importance of promoting and mandating exercise and fitness early on.”

The study was published online Nov. 30 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about physical activity and your heart.


These Popular Antibiotics May Be Bad for Your Heart

MONDAY, Nov. 9, 2015 (HealthDay News) — A widely used class of antibiotics is associated with a small but measurable increased risk of sudden cardiac death, researchers report.

These antibiotics — called macrolides — are used to treat infections such as pneumonia, bronchitis and some sexually transmitted diseases.

In the new report, the investigators analyzed 33 studies that were conducted between 1966 and 2015, and included a total of more than 20 million patients. The studies compared patients who took macrolides, other types of antibiotics, or no antibiotics.

Macrolides include the antibiotics erythromycin, azithromycin (Zithromax), clarithromycin (Biaxin) and quinolone.

The results revealed a small, but statistically significant, association between taking macrolides and increased risk of sudden cardiac death. But the review did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between these medications and sudden cardiac death.

The study was published Nov. 9 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“The absolute risks of sudden cardiac death and cardiac death are small, so it should likely have limited effect on prescribing practice,” study author Dr. Su-Hua Wu, from the department of cardiology at First Affiliated Hospital at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China, said in a journal news release.

“However, given that macrolides are one of the most commonly used antibiotic groups, and millions of patients are prescribed these drugs annually, the total number of sudden cardiac deaths or ventricular tachyarrhythmias and cardiac deaths may not be negligible,” Wu added.

An average of 80 cases of rapid heartbeat that can result in sudden cardiac death (or “ventricular tachyarrhythmias”) occurred per 1 million treatment courses among patients who were not taking macrolides, the investigators found.

But, current use of macrolides was associated with an additional 118 ventricular tachyarrhythmias or related sudden cardiac deaths per 1 million treatment courses. And there were 36 additional sudden cardiac deaths from causes other than ventricular tachyarrhythmia, and 38 additional heart-related deaths per one million treatment courses, the findings showed.

Past use of macrolides and use of other antibiotics were not associated with increased heart risk, the researchers found.

To put the findings into perspective, one in 8,500 patients treated with macrolides could develop a serious heart rhythm problem and one in 30,000 might die, Dr. Sami Viskin, from the Tel Aviv Medical Center and Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University in Israel, explained in an accompanying journal editorial.

Viskin said macrolides are a first-line treatment for a number of infections.

“Today, when antimicrobial resistance represents a major threat to global health and new treatment options are frighteningly few, losing an entire class of antibiotics would represent a major setback in the fight against infections. Furthermore, it takes years to fully understand the consequences of a drug’s disappearance,” Viskin wrote.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about antibiotics.


Go Fish: Choosing the Best Catch for Your Heart

I must admit that I love tilapia: It’s more like chicken or turkey, rather than fishy fish, like salmon and tuna. Now I understand why.

If you, like me, are trying to eat two or more servings of fish each week—as health authorities recommend in order to get the right amount of those omega-3 fatty acids—you may have heard recently that not all fish are created equal. And unfortunately, just like us, fish are what they eat.

Choose your fish wiselyA new study by Wake Forest University researchers shows the stark differences between farm-raised tilapia (the second most common farm-raised fish after salmon) versus wild fish varieties in terms of omega-3 fatty acid content.

Fish need to eat algae in order to deposit lots of the beneficial long-chain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) fatty acids in their tissues. Farmed fish raised on grain-based diets and vegetable oils, as opposed to algae, have less of the good fats and more of the bad saturated fat—much like grain-fed livestock. They also have higher amounts of monounsaturated fat and less omega-3 fatty acids compared to their wild counterparts.

Specifically, the Wake Forest study found that farm-raised tilapia and catfish had more than twice as much omega-6 fatty acids compared to omega-3. While omega-6s are considered heart-healthy when eaten in the correct ratio with omega-3s, they can promote dangerous inflammation when consumed in excess of their healthier counterparts.

While I’m not going to give up my tilapia, I am going to look for more wild sources of the fish I eat. I’m also going to make sure that at least one of my fish meals a week is a real fishy fish, like salmon, trout, or mackerel—recommended for their high omega-3 content.

Add DHA and EPAIn addition, I’m adding some of the new DHA- and EPA-fortified foods and beverages to my diet to boost these beneficial omegas. But if you go this route, make sure to read food labels closely. Don’t just look for products that say “omega-3s” on the box; look more closely to see if it contains DHA and EPA specifically, as opposed to the less effective alpha-linolenic acid (ALA is an omega-3 found in plant-based products such as walnuts, flaxseed, and canola oil). ALA must be converted to DHA and EPA first to provide specific health benefits, and only about 1% of ALA consumed is converted to the long-chain omegas.

There is no official recommendation for DHA and EPA specifically, but most health organizations recommend two servings of fish per week, preferably fatty fish. About eight ounces of cooked fatty fish per week will equal about 500 milligrams per day of omega-3s, a good baseline amount.

The American Heart Association also recommends that individuals with heart disease should add 1 gram per day of EPA and DHA combined, and individuals with high triglycerides need 2 to 4 grams of EPA plus DHA daily.

(PHOTO: CORBIS)

Survival in Seattle: Cardiac

TUESDAY, Sept. 23 (Health.com) — It always seems so straightforward on TV. You have a cardiac arrest, a handsome doctor rushes to your side, shouts “Clear!” and gives you a couple of zaps to the chest with electricity-generating paddles, and—ta-da!—you’re back in business. Cue the tears and music.

But in reality, a cardiac arrest is a much more complicated business, and one with considerably more peril than you might realize. One study shows that the chances of surviving a cardiac arrest outside a hospital are slim indeed—around 1 in 22 (about 1 in 12 if someone tries resuscitation).

However, your chances are also better in some cities than others, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In fact, if you have to pick a city to have a cardiac arrest in, I’d say Seattle is probably your best bet. For example, 16% of people who were treated in Seattle for a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survived, compared to 3% in Alabama.

And nearly 40% of those with ventricular fibrillation—a condition in which the heart quivers with uncoordinated contractions but hasn’t completely stopped—survived in Seattle, compared to about 8% of those in Alabama.

The researchers are still trying to track down the reasons why some cities have better survival rates than others. However, a variety of factors play a role, including:

• Whether bystanders attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)• What emergency workers do when they get to the scene• What happens at the hospital later on

Next: A cardiac arrest is not a heart attack

A cardiac arrest is not a heart attackTo be clear, we’re talking about conditions in which the heart stops beating and requires a shock to get restarted.

We’re not talking about heart attacks, in which the heart is still beating and people are (usually) in a world of pain due to a blocked blood vessel. A heart attack, however, could become a cardiac arrest if you don’t get help soon enough. It’s not that common, though.

Cardiac arrest is the loss of mechanical activity of the heart that often begins as ventricular fibrillation. It can be caused by previous heart damage, drowning, electric shock, or other reasons.

“Some cardiac arrests are associated with heart attacks, but many are not,” says study author Graham Nichol, MD, of the University of Washington-Harborview Center for Pre-Hospital Emergency Care in Seattle. “Despite what you see on television, many patients who have cardiac arrest do not survive to return home.”

The researchers did find that certain regions tended to have more cardiac arrests in general—for example, Dallas had more than double the incidence of Vancouver. (The study did not include every single city in North America, but rather, eight U.S. and two Canadian regions, reflecting about 10% of the population, or 21 million people.)

But still, cardiac arrest survival rates were higher in some regions than others.

“We observed a 200% variation in how often cardiac arrest occurs,” says Dr. Nichol. “But we also observed a 500% variation in how often someone survives cardiac arrest. These regional differences are much larger than have been reported by others for conditions like stroke or heart attack.”

Next: So why the city-to-city difference in survival?

So why the city-to-city difference in survival?The researchers found a five-fold difference in an area’s survival rates after emergency workers treated the patients—suggesting that cardiac arrest treatment could be improved in some areas.

“Our study suggests that cardiac arrest is a treatable condition,” says Dr. Nichol.

People are also more likely to survive if a bystander starts CPR or uses an automated external defibrillator, the heart-shocking devices available in malls, airports, and other locations.

In the study, bystanders attempted to perform CPR prior to the arrival of ambulance workers only 31% of the time.

Dr. Nichol recommends that bystanders “recognize and respond quickly by providing CPR, applying a defibrillator to the chest if one is available, and calling 911 so that paramedics will arrive quickly and continue care.”

If an individual is sitting up, is awake, and is complaining of chest pain, it’s not a cardiac arrest.

However, if someone collapses suddenly, and is unconscious and not breathing, it’s more likely to be a cardiac arrest. (Learn how to perform CPR on an adult or child, or how to use an automated external defibrillator, and where exactly you should place your hands on an adult’s or child’s chest. You can even do CPR without mouth-to-mouth.)

Cardiac arrest is the third leading cause of death in this country, says Dr. Nichol. “Since it is so common, and success in treating cardiac arrest varies so much from city to city, cardiac arrest should be designated a reportable condition.”

Reportable conditions are those monitored by the government, which can help researchers find ways to reduce the risk of such conditions. “Every community can monitor and improve its response to cardiac arrest,” says Dr. Nichol.

By Theresa Tamkins

(PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES)


Related Links:

9 Secrets to a Healthier Heart

CNN.com: Is it a heart attack, cardiac arrest or stroke?

Surprising Heart Attack Triggers

What It’s Like to Have an Implantable Defibrillator

10 Best Foods for Your Heart


Heart

By Julie Upton, RDThis week I’m at the American Dietetic Association’s annual meeting in Chicago, attending seminars and hearing from nutrition experts and scientists. One of my favorite parts of these conferences, however, is the expo: It’s always packed with delicious samples, healthy cooking ideas, and useful food facts. Here’s a quick review of some of the conference news so far—plus some great recipes I picked up from the exhibitors.

Plant-based diet lowers blood pressureOn Sunday morning, I listened to Cyril Kendall, MD, of the University of Toronto, explain how eating a diet rich in soluble fiber, nuts, soy, and plant sterols (aka the Portfolio Diet) lowers total and LDL cholesterol levels; in one study, the results were virtually the same for those on the diet and those taking statins, a cholesterol-lowering drug. The diet, however, also lowered blood pressure and promoted healthy weight—something that statins don’t do.

The Portfolio Diet included almonds, and Dr. Kendall says that when almonds are consumed, not all of their calories are absorbed. This may help explain why individuals who eat nuts are not as likely to be overweight compared to non-nut eaters. What’s more, new research is showing that almonds have a prebiotic effect in the gastrointestinal tract, which means that almonds help healthy bacteria grow. This prebiotic effect not only helps the GI tract keep healthy, but it may help reduce cholesterol and manage inflammation. Plus, we already know that almonds are included in the Food and Drug Administration’s health claim for nuts and heart health. Check out almondsarein.com for more information.

The benefits of whole grains continue to grow. The problem remains, however, that most of us don’t get much more than a serving of whole grains a day—and people still have a hard time recognizing which grains are whole grains, according to a new survey by the USA Rice Federation. Research presented at the meeting showed that people who eat rice have healthier diets overall, with more fruits and vegetables and less saturated fat and added sugars. Brown rice is a 100% whole grain, and at only 10 cents per serving, it’s affordable too. The Tutti Fruitti Brown Rice Salad is one of my favorite recipes from the expo, because it shows how you can combine rice with veggies and dried fruit for a delicious, filling meal.

Tutti Fruitti Brown Rice SaladUsarice.com3 cups cooked brown rice3/4 cup dried cranberries1 mango, chopped3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper1/2 cup raspberry vinaigrette dressing1/4 cup plus two tablespoons fresh chopped parsley, divided

In large bowl, combine rice, cranberries, mango, pecans, pepper, vinaigrette, and 1/4 cup parsley. Toss well. Garnish with remaining parsley. Makes four servings.

Per serving: Calories 302; Fat 10 g; Sodium 281 mg; Carbohydrate 50 g; Protein 4 g; Fiber 5 g

Produce really can be cost-efficient As usual, there are multiple studies being presented on the health benefits of eating colorful fruits and vegetables. What’s new and interesting this year, however, is that researchers found that fresh, frozen, canned, or dried produce all provide health and nutrition benefits. This is great news during a time when everyone is looking for ways to squeeze the most nutrition out of their food budget.

One way to do this is to keep your pantry well stocked with tomato-based sauces and pastes, as well as canned and dried fruits. They are really affordable, they’re nutrient powerhouses rich in vitamins A and C and potassium and fiber, and they go well with many healthy foods, like beans and lean proteins. I picked up this turkey chili recipe that’s less than a dollar a serving and provides half of your daily fiber intake.

Cost-Conscious Chili con Carne Tomatowellness.com1 1/2 pounds 93% lean ground turkey40 1/2–ounce can of kidney beans (1 large can)18–ounce can of tomato paste1 chopped onion2 teaspoons chili powder3/4 cup water

Instructions: Brown turkey in pot over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, then serve. Makes 16 servings.

Per 1 cup: Calories 308; Fat 6 g; Sodium 603 mg; Carbohydrate 36 g; Fiber 12 g; Protein 29 g protein

Another interesting study presented at the meeting suggests that eating dried plums helps to slow the development of atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries. This reinforces the idea that eating fruits and dried plums in particular may contribute to reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. And what’s not to like about dried plums? They’re sweet and tasty—great additions to baked goods—and are loaded with B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants, and they contain only 100 calories per serving. Try these homemade energy bars with dried plums to help you power up for exercise.

Dried Plum–Filled Oatmeal BarsCaliforniadriedplums.org1 1/2 cups (about 9 ounces) coarsely chopped dried plums1/3 cup apricot jamNo-stick cooking spray2 cups rolled oats (old fashioned or quick, uncooked)3/4 cup packed brown sugar1/2 cup all-purpose flour1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon1/2 teaspoon salt1/2 teaspoon baking soda1 egg1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter or margarinePowdered sugar (optional)

Instructions: In medium bowl, combine dried plums and apricot jam; set aside. Lightly spray 8-inch square baking pan with no-stick cooking spray. In large bowl, combine oats, sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and soda; mix well. Lightly beat together egg and butter; add to oats mixture, mixing until crumbly. Press 2 cups of mixture into bottom of prepared pan. Spread dried plum mixture over oats; sprinkle remaining oat mixture over top.

Bake at 350°F for 20 to 22 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired; cut into 16 bars.

Per bar: Calories 200; Fat 3 g; Sodium 135 mg; Carbohydrate 39 g; Protein 4 g; Fiber 3 g

Omega-3s are brain-, heart-, and eye-healthySeveral presentations so far have reinforced the fact that all omega-3s are not created equal. Omega-3 fatty acids come in three forms: ALA, EPA, and DHA. EPA and DHA are the longest chain omega-3s that have the most health benefits associated with them. ALA, on the other hand, must be converted to DHA to provide its health benefits, and our bodies convert less than 10% of the ALA we eat to DHA.

All fatty fish, such as wild Alaska salmon, is the richest source of DHA omega-3s. What’s also great about wild Alaska seafood is that it’s environmentally friendly and considered sustainable. Try this salmon recipe, which also incorporates rice and almonds. For more information, visit Alaskaseafood.org.

Wild Alaska Salmon With Almond Orange PilafUsarice.com1 tablespoon margarine or olive oil1/2 cup chopped onion1 cup uncooked rice1 tablespoon grated orange peel1/2 teaspoon crushed tarragon leaves1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper2 cups chicken broth1/2 cup sliced almonds8 salmon steaks, grilled or poached

Instructions: Melt margarine in large skillet; add onion. Cook over medium heat until onion is soft but not brown. Add rice, orange peel, tarragon, pepper, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil; stir once or twice. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. Add almonds and fluff with fork. Serve with salmon. Makes eight servings.

Per serving: Calories 428; Fat 20 g; Sodium 353 mg; Protein 39 g; Fiber 1 g