Ask EN

May 2017 Issue




If You Grow It, You Will Eat It

If You Grow It, You Will Eat It

As the warm weather approaches, it’s time to spend more time in your garden—an activity that can reap rewards beyond fresh air and exercise. A new study, which included more than 1,300 college students, found that those who gardened currently and in childhood consumed about one-half cup more fruits and vegetables daily, compared to those who never gardened. This recent study, which was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, backs up previous research that shows that people—in particular children—benefit from better diets when they participate in gardening.

It makes sense, as gardening provides more access to ripe, delicious, nutritious fruits and vegetables, and it makes these foods more desirable. Who doesn’t want to enjoy the fruits of their labor (literally) when it comes in the form of a perfectly ripe heirloom tomato, or crisp radish fresh from the soil? So, go ahead and get dirty. Even if you have a small garden area, replace some decorative trees, shrubs, and plants with edible ones, such as fruit trees, berry vines, and tomato plants. You can also try a small container garden on your balcony or front door step. Check out the USDA Home Gardening site (nal.usda.gov/home-gardening) for information on getting started in your own patch of soil.

Sharon Palmer, RDN, EDN Editor


Red vs. White Wine Benefits; Powerful Sumac

Q: Is there any difference between red and white wine when it comes to health?

A: There is debate about the benefits of drinking red wine versus white. Comparisons show more similarities than differences, but research has uncovered some interesting clues. A basic nutrient comparison shows each contains the same 127 calories (per 5-ounce glass) and 13 percent alcohol by volume. Vitamin and mineral content in both includes vitamin B6, potassium, iron, and magnesium, but amounts are not significant. Alcohol content and antioxidants like flavonoids and resveratrol (higher in red wine) appear to be the active components in both types of wine; alcohol can raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and resveratrol may limit blood clotting, but more research is needed to understand exact mechanisms.

Regardless of color, wine in moderate quantities (one glass for women, two for men) can support better sleep. Though alcohol intake is known to increase risk for cancer (see EN February 2017, page 7, Alcohol and Cancer Risk), emerging research shows that resveratrol may be a cancer-protective agent. Additionally, a recent study shows that white wine supports lung health. The American Heart Association is clear: heart benefits for wine consumption exist, but these are not great enough to recommend that non-drinkers start drinking to lower risk of chronic disease.

Ellie Wilson, MS, RD

Q: What is sumac, and is it healthy?

Sumac Spice

Marilyn Barbone | Dreamstime.com

Sumac adds bold flavor and nutrition.

A: Many natural spices and seasonings confer more than just good flavor to our food. They may also offer health benefits, primarily because of their antioxidant capacity. Ground sumac, a tart lemony flavored spice used in Middle Eastern cookery, has one of the highest ORAC values (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity), which means it is a powerful antioxidant. Sumac can be used as a dry rub mixed with other spices as well as in marinades and is often just sprinkled over food after it’s cooked. Sumac has traditionally been used as an herbal remedy in the Middle East because of its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antifungal and antiviral properties. Sumac, in sufficient quantities, has also been shown to reduce blood sugar and blood lipids. Preliminary research indicates that sumac may be especially helpful in maintaining blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes. The issue for the typical person, however, is that the amounts used in research are “medicinal” quantities, which far exceed what the normal person would add to her food. The best way to capture health benefits in your diet is to season food liberally with a combination of spices.

Sharon Salomon, MS, RD