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Global Network

For Immediate Release: November 13, 2009

NW: Questions about bacon, gluten-free diet, cream soups

Week of December 21, 2009
Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328–7744

Nutrition Wise
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Is it true that bacon is a healthy choice because it contains some of the same healthy kind of fat that’s in olive oil?

A: Although bacon fat may contain about half the amount of the healthful monounsaturated fatty acid (oleic acid) found in olive oil, that does not make it half as healthful. Besides the difference in monounsaturated fat, bacon fat contains twice as much of the cholesterol–raising saturated fat as found in olive oil. Each slice of regular bacon adds one gram of saturated fat. The recommended maximum of saturated fat for most adults is 15 to 20 grams per day. Furthermore, olive oil contains no sodium, whereas each slice of bacon contains about 185 milligrams (mg). That’s a small part of daily consumption, but because most Americans take in sodium well above recommendations, we need to look for ways to cut back. Also, bacon is one of the processed meats clearly linked to increased risk of colon cancer.

Q: Does a gluten–free diet make me more likely to get inadequate amounts of any nutrients?

A: A gluten­free diet doesn¹t necessarily have to run short on any nutrients if it's built around plenty of vegetables and fruit, plus beans and nuts; unprocessed poultry, seafood and lean meat; and gluten­free whole grains like brown rice, corn and quinoa. Many of the special gluten­free grain products are made of refined grains that are low in fiber and lacking the nutrients and phytochemicals found in whole grains. These products are often unfortified, too, which means that if you're not eating well, they can't make up for a lack of the nutrients and vitamins in your diet, such as folate and iron. Studies show that a gluten­free diet can be high­fat, low­fiber, and low in several nutrients, but a registered dietitian can show you how gluten­free food choices can work together to meet nutritional needs.

Q: How much difference does it really make if I use a lower fat alternative to cream or half–n–half in cream soup?

A: Cream soups typically use anywhere from two to six tablespoons of cream or milk per serving. So if you use heavy cream, that alone accounts for 100 to 300 calories per serving of soup. Using half–n–half drops that to adding 40 to 120 calories per serving. Heavy cream in this amount also adds two to six grams of saturated fat, so heavy–handed use can account for about a third of the recommended limit for most adults. But there are alternatives for delicious creamy soup with even lower calories and saturated fat. Two tablespoons of whole milk add about 20 calories and just over half a gram of saturated fat per serving. Evaporated skim milk adds 25 calories and zero saturated fat, and fat–free half–n–half adds 20 calories and no saturated fat with each two tablespoons added. People differ in which of these alternatives appeals to them most. One of the secrets for reducing calories with any of these options without losing the thick, rich mouth feel of cream soup is to include pureed beans (such as cannellini or Great Northern beans), winter squash or potato. Cook them first, or if using canned beans drain and rinse them, and then purée with a blender or food processor. Add about one–half to three–quarter cup of the purée for each serving of soup. This adds a thicker texture and extra fiber and nutrients to the soup as well.


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