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For Immediate Release: August 3, 2009

NW: Questions about grilled fruits, cancer survivor diet, muffin mixes

Week of August 3, 2009
Contact: Mya Nelson, (202) 328-7744

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

Q: I’ve read that grilled fruits are a healthy option, but how do you grill them?

A: Grilled fruits provide a delicious way to eat more fiber, nutrients and cancer-protective compounds, and you don’t have to worry about the potentially cancer-causing compounds that form when meat is grilled. You might start by experimenting with firmer fruits like apples, pears and pineapple. Softer fruits like peaches, plums and mangoes need to be watched more carefully so they don’t get mushy. Try to grill fruit about a day before it is completely ripe, which is when it holds its texture best. Cut the fruit up just before you put it on the grill: split bananas lengthwise; cut apples, pears and peaches in half, removing the core or pit; slice pineapple about a half-inch thick. Leave fruit skin on to help hold the fruit together. Brush the fruit or grill with a bit of oil so it won’t stick and grill over medium or medium-low heat. Some recipes call for soaking the fruit in water before grilling to keep the fruit juicy but that means losing water-soluble vitamins and minerals. Instead, try to simply watch the cooking and don’t let the fruit get overdone. You can brush on a glaze of brown sugar and water, but the fruit is also delicious with just a sprinkle of cinnamon or simply enjoy on its own. Most fruit will be ready in 8 to 10 minutes, sometimes 15 is needed.

Q: Why would a cancer survivor be told to follow a heart-healthy diet?

A: There are several reasons why cancer survivors can be at increased risk for heart disease: certain types of chemotherapy, hormonal therapies, medications and radiation therapy sometimes include damage to the heart as side effects. Some of the same metabolic and lifestyle risk factors that may promote cancer development can also promote heart disease, such as excess body fat, insulin resistance, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, and a diet high in alcohol and red meat. Fortunately, recommendations to reduce risk of cancer and cancer recurrence fit well with a strategy to promote heart health. Choose a plant-based diet that focuses on vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans; limit meat; reach and maintain a healthy weight through portion control, limiting calorie-dense foods low in nutrients (like French fries and sweets) and controlling portions of healthy fats (like olive oil and nuts); and be physically active in some way every day (unless your physician has told you not to).

Q: How can I adapt muffin mixes to make them more nutritious?

A: Some muffin mixes only need you to add water. For these, the only adjustment you can make is to add extra fruit (raisins, frozen berries or peaches, fresh chopped pear or apple), grated carrots, chopped nuts or other nutrient-rich food. This is easy, since many of these don’t require any prep work. Other muffin mixes may call for you to add milk and oil. Here, you can minimize saturated fat and avoid further trans fat by using fat-free milk and a healthy oil like canola oil. You could also replace some or all of the oil with unsweetened applesauce. However, by using a mix, you miss the opportunity for other steps that can make a muffin more nutritious, like making some or all of the flour whole wheat, keeping added sugar moderate and limiting salt. In some recipe test comparisons it took five minutes more to make muffins from scratch instead of a mix. Of course, no matter how you start the muffins, you also make them healthier by cooking them in traditional size muffin pans instead of the giant muffin tins that produce muffins the size of small cakes, which makes even nutrient-rich muffins high-calorie.


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