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posted: 4/2/2014 6:01 AM

Ask the Nutritionist

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  • This handout image provide by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shows, from left, a current food nutrition label, a proposed label and an alternate label. Revamped food nutrition labels would change serving sizes for popular items like ice cream and sodas, make calories listing more prominent, and, for the first time, list any sugars that were added by the manufacturer. The overhaul of the omnipresent 20 year-old label comes as science has shifted.

      This handout image provide by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shows, from left, a current food nutrition label, a proposed label and an alternate label. Revamped food nutrition labels would change serving sizes for popular items like ice cream and sodas, make calories listing more prominent, and, for the first time, list any sugars that were added by the manufacturer. The overhaul of the omnipresent 20 year-old label comes as science has shifted.
    Associated Press File Photo

 

Q. Sometimes I see food labels list "other carbohydrate." What are they and is it something I'm supposed to get more of or limit?

A. "Other carbohydrate" is listed on some food label's Nutrition Facts panel underneath "total carbohydrate" and refers mainly to complex carbohydrates, commonly called starches. (If a food contains sweeteners called sugar alcohols -- xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol -- they also are included in this group.)

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Starches are the main type of carbohydrate in bread, cereal, pasta, potatoes and starchy vegetables like corn. They include carbohydrate from whole grains, but also carbohydrate from refined grains, from which valuable nutrients and phytochemicals have been removed.

Because these starchy foods can also provide vitamins, minerals, fiber and healthful phytochemicals, you'll probably be eating plenty of these "other carbohydrates" if you are eating the plant-focused eating pattern recommended for heart health and lower cancer risk. There is no uniform goal for how much "other carbohydrate" we should get; it depends on individual calorie needs, which varies with activity level, age and size.

Q. If I follow a plant-based diet, how can I meet my calcium needs?

A. A plant-based diet includes mostly, not only, plant foods, so you can get most of your calcium from dairy products. These provide calcium in concentrated amounts in a well-absorbed form. Current federal recommendations for adults of 1000 to 1200 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day can be met by a balanced variety of healthy foods that includes 2.5 to 3 standard servings of milk, yogurt or cheese. However, you can choose plant-based options for some or all of those servings if you prefer.

One standard dairy serving is 1 cup milk or yogurt or 1½ ounces cheese. You can get this amount of calcium from 1 cup of calcium-fortified orange juice, calcium-fortified soymilk or soy yogurt, or 1 serving of calcium-fortified bread or waffles. Tofu is another option, though the calcium content varies. Check the label, because a four-ounce serving (about a half-cup) can range from 80 to more than 400 milligrams (equal to about ¼ cup to more than a cup of milk). Fortunately, tofu's calcium is easily absorbed, too.

A number of dark green leafy vegetables provide calcium, but these alone will not give you enough, especially because the body's ability to absorb calcium from vegetables is somewhat limited. To get the calcium equivalent to a serving of dairy products requires ½ cup of Chinese cabbage, 1 to 1½ cups kale or bok choy, more than 2 cups of broccoli, and 8 cups of cooked spinach.

• Provided by The American Institute for Cancer Research.

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