Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Myth: To protect myself from foodborne illness caused by fresh produce, I can switch to local or organic and I won’t get sick.

Answer: BUSTED!

Any fruit or vegetable (local, organic or conventional) can become unsafe if it comes in contact with disease-causing bacteria on its way to your table. Contamination can be caused by many factors including worker hygiene and sanitation practices during production, harvesting, sorting, packing and transport; the source and quality of water; and solid animal waste from wild, domesticated or farm animals.

People often buy organic or local produce to avoid some pesticides, support smaller farms, and support farming practices that are less harmful to the environment. These are all valid reasons, but several studies have shown organic or local produce won’t necessarily protect you from foodborne illness, a common misconception.

woman washing broccoli in kitchen sink
You can take steps to protect yourself from foodborne illness by washing all produce before eating and avoiding cross-contamination by thoroughly washing your hands.

Click here for more information on eating local in Missouri.

Contributor: Mary Wissmann, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 314-615-2911

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Myth: I don’t have to be concerned about foodborne illness when eating fresh produce.

Answer: BUSTED!

Fruits and vegetables are an extremely important part of a healthy diet. Unfortunately, the number of foodborne illness cases involving fruits and vegetables is on the rise. This does not mean that we should be leery of eating fruits and vegetables, but we should take a few simple steps to protect ourselves.

  • Purchase produce that is free of bruises or damage.
  • When at the grocery store, bag fresh fruits and vegetables separately from animal products.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw separate from foods such as raw meat, poultry, or seafood, and from kitchen utensils used with those products.
  • When preparing fresh produce, begin with clean hands – washing for at least 20 seconds.
  • Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting or cooking. Even if you plan to peel the produce before eating, it is still important to wash it first so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife into the fruit or vegetable. Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush.
  • Dry produce with a clean towel.

Note: Neither soap nor fruit and vegetable washes are necessary. In fact, detergents can leave residue on the surface of fruit and vegetables that is unsafe for consumption. Clean cold water is all that is needed. Watch the video below from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension for more information about washing fruits and vegetables.

You can also watch the video here: How To: Washing Fruits and Vegetables

For additional information, see Steps to prevent foodborne illness when eating fresh produce on

Contributor: Mary Wissmann, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 314-615-2911

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Myth: Honey is a natural sweetener, so it is safe for all children and adults to consume.

Answer: BUSTED!

Infant Botulism is a very dangerous condition caused by a type of bacteria that can be found in honey. Infants are particularly susceptible to the dangerous properties of the bacteria, and if they get some into their systems, the result can be deadly. The intestinal tract of babies is immature, so once the botulism spores enter their system they can produce a substance called botulism toxin which is released and absorbed through the intestinal tract. If an adult ingests these spores, once in the intestinal tract, the normally existing healthy bacteria present will take care of the spores and prevent illness.

Babies are at risk for the first year of life, but seem to be particularly susceptible between 2 and 4 months. For these reasons, honey should not be given to children under the age of 1.

For more information about feeding your baby visit

Contributors: Loni Stewart, Student Dietitian; Mary Wissmann, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 314-615-2911

Monday, May 14, 2012

Myth: Using a juicing machine is the best way to take in all that fruits and vegetables have to offer.

whole fruits and vegetables next to glasses of juice
Answer: BUSTED!

Due to fad diets that require cycles of “juice fasting,” juicing appliances can now be seen in many kitchens nationwide. Although using a juicer does allow for the concentrated consumption of the beneficial nutrients in fruits and vegetables, it leaves out one important component of whole fruits and vegetables: fiber. Fiber is a part of fruits and vegetables that cannot be digested by the human digestive system, allowing it to pass completely through the body. As fiber passes through the body it absorbs water, promoting the movement of material through the digestive system.

There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, while soluble fiber does. Both types are found in fruits and vegetables.

Insoluble fiber:
  • Speeds up the elimination of waste through the digestive system
  • Creates an environment that prevents microorganisms from producing toxic substances in the colon

Soluble fiber:
  • May help to reduce cholesterol, specifically LDL (bad cholesterol)
  • Regulates sugar absorption, preventing rapid increases in blood sugar levels

Although juicing fruits and vegetables retains most of the nutrients, the added fiber from consuming them whole helps us achieve optimal well-being.

For more information, visit

Contributors: Klemens Ast, ARAMARK Dietetic Intern; Denise Schmitz, M.A., R.D., Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 816-482-5850

Friday, May 11, 2012

Myth: Probiotics and Prebiotics must be included in a healthy diet.

Answer: Not Necessarily

You don’t necessarily need probiotics – live microorganisms similar to the good bacteria in your intestines – to be healthy. However, they may help with digestion and offer protection from harmful bacteria, just as the existing “good” bacteria in your body already do. Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that enhance the effects of probiotics by stimulating bacteria. Probiotics are found in foods such as yogurt, while prebiotics are found in whole grains, bananas, onions, garlic, honey and artichokes. In addition, both may be added to some foods and are available as supplements.

cup of yogurt
There is some encouraging evidence that probiotics may help...
  1. Treat diarrhea
  2. Prevent and treat yeast infections and urinary tract infections
  3. Reduce bladder cancer recurrence
  4. Treat irritable bowel syndrome
  5. Prevent and treat eczema in children
  6. Prevent or reduce the severity of flus or colds

Side effects are rare, and most healthy adults can safely add foods that contain prebiotics and probiotics to their diet. Remember, If you’re considering taking supplements check with your doctor or registered dietitian to make sure they are right for you. Probiotics are generally safe for children and may be beneficial for digestive complaints, but research hasn’t clearly indicated any benefits beyond that.

More information on the benefits and risks of probiotics and prebiotics can be found at

Contributors: Loni Stewart, MU Dietetic Intern & Mary Wissmann, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, St. Louis County, University of Missouri Extension,

Friday, May 4, 2012

Myth: Soy milk is nutritionally the same as cow’s milk.

Pouring milk from jug into glass
Answer: BUSTED!

Soy milk is made by crushing soybeans while cow’s milk is produced by dairy cows and retrieved by the milking process. Soy milk is a great source of protein which helps the growth and maintenance of body tissues including organs and muscle. However, soy milk differs from cow’s milk in that it is low in saturated fat and contains no cholesterol. It is also a source of fiber (3 grams per cup) which is beneficial to the digestive tract, and iron which helps oxygen travel through the blood in the body. Soy milk is lower in calcium, but it is usually fortified to levels comparable to cow’s milk.

Cow’s milk is also a good source of protein but is generally higher in fat and saturated fat as well as being a source of cholesterol. However, you can lower these fats and cholesterol by choosing low fat (1%) or fat free (skim) milk. Cow’s milk does not contain fiber but is a very good source of calcium. Calcium is beneficial in building healthy bones and teeth and helping to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

The major difference in soy and cow’s milk is that soy milk is lactose free which makes it a better option for individuals who cannot tolerate cow’s milk due to allergy or intolerance. Both types of milks can also be fortified to provide additional nutrients not normally present in the milk. Therefore, it is up to the consumer to look closely at the labels and choose the type of milk that best fits their individual needs.

Additional nutrition information about soy can be found at

Contributors: Kelly Hall, MU Dietetic Intern & Mary Wissmann, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, St. Louis County, University of Missouri Extension,

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Myth: The Paleo Diet is the most nutritious diet on the planet.

Answer: BUSTED!

The Paleo Diet is based on the idea that the standard American diet wreaks havoc with our Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) constitutions. It claims that anyone can lose weight and regain health by eating the way our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate – the diet that “nature intended.” Our Paleolithic ancestors may have been generally leaner, more fit, and with less prevalence of disease, but there are endless other contributors to those facts that must be taken into consideration. For example, our Paleolithic ancestors walked nearly 24,000 steps per day. Today, the average American walks closer to 5,000 steps daily. It is also important to remember that our ancestors had significantly shorter lifespans and lacked the scientific knowledge to diagnose diseases related to aging such as high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes.

fruits and vegetables
Here are the basic ground rules for following the Paleo Diet:
  1. All the lean meats, fish, and seafood you can eat
  2. All the fruits and non-starchy vegetables you can eat
  3. No cereals
  4. No legumes
  5. No dairy products
  6. No processed foods

The foods encouraged on the Paleo diet can be more expensive. Processed grains and dairy are widely used in prepared foods, so eating out and consuming non-perishable items may be out of the question. Also, by eliminating all grains and dairy products you are also cutting out beneficial vitamins, minerals and fiber. Because the Paleo diet eliminates important foods, it is recommended that you take a multivitamin. When diets recommend supplementing with a multivitamin this is a “red flag” that the diet doesn’t supply all the nutrients you need.

Because this diet relies heavily on whole meats, fruits and vegetables which digest slowly, it can help keep blood sugar levels more stable than a diet high in processed carbohydrates and refined sugar. High protein and high fiber foods, when compared to low-fat, grain-based foods, fill you up and may help reduce hunger between meals.

Visit for more information about the health risks of low-carb diets.

Contributors: Loni Stewart, MU Dietetic Intern; Mary Wissmann, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, St. Louis County, University of Missouri Extension,