This blog is a place where parents and teachers of children 3-7 years of age can find information about topics specific to children in this age group, share ideas and access free resources for home and the classroom.

Let’s Hear it for Popcorn!

popcornAccording to a study by the American Chemical Society in San Diego, if you want a healthy, whole grain treat make it popcorn.

Their Researchers found that popcorn has more healthy for you antioxidants called polyphenols than some fruits or vegetables. In every serving of popcorn there are 300 milligrams of polyphenols compared to 114 mg per serving of sweet corn and 160 mg per serving for all fruits. A big difference!

The study demonstrated that the levels of polyphenols in popcorn are higher than previously thought. The levels are similar to those levels found in a serving of  nuts and 15 times higher that the levels found in whole-grain tortilla chips.

The highest concentrations of polyphenols and fiber are found in the hulls of the popcorn; you know…those annoying little bits that get caught in teeth.

“Of course adding butter, salt and other calorie-laden flavorings can turn this snack from healthy into unhealthy. Air-popped popcorn has the lowest number of calories,” one of the researchers reported. He added, “Microwave popcorn has twice as many calories as air-popped, and if you pop your own with oil, this has twice as many calories as air-popped popcorn. About 43 percent of microwave popcorn is fat, compared to 28 percent if you pop the corn in oil yourself.”

The study makes a point of stressing that one is not suggesting eating popcorn instead of fruits and vegetables, as popcorn lacks the vitamins and other nutrients found in fruits and vegetables that are essential for good health.

The study continues to promote popcorn as a snack as it is the only snack that is 100 percent unprocessed whole grain. One serving of popcorn will provide more than 70 percent of the daily intake of whole grain. The average person only gets about half a serving of whole grains a day. Eating popcorn could fill that gap in a way that most of us would enjoy.

The study was not funded by the food industry.

SOURCE: American Chemical Society

 

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Should You Take Dietary Supplements?

supplementsThe NIH offers a look at supplements including vitamins, minerals, botanicals and more. 

When you reach for that bottle of vitamin C or fish oil pills, you might wonder how well they’ll work and if they’re safe. The first thing to ask yourself is whether you need them in the first place.

More than half of all Americans take one or more dietary supplements daily or on occasion. Supplements are available without a prescription and usually come in pill, powder or liquid form. Common supplements include vitamins, minerals and herbal products, also known as botanicals.

People take these supplements to make sure they get enough essential nutrients and to maintain or improve their health. But not everyone needs to take supplements.

“It’s possible to get all of the nutrients you need by eating a variety of healthy foods, so you don’t have to take one,” says Carol Haggans, a registered dietitian and consultant to NIH. “But supplements can be useful for filling in gaps in your diet.”

Some supplements may have side effects, especially if taken before surgery or with other medicines. Supplements can also cause problems if you have certain health conditions. And the effects of many supplements haven’t been tested in children, pregnant women and other groups. So talk with your health care provider if you’re thinking about taking dietary supplements.

“You should discuss with your doctor what supplements you’re taking so your care can be integrated and managed,” advises Dr. Craig Hopp, an expert in botanicals research at NIH.

Dietary supplements are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as foods, not as drugs. The label may claim certain health benefits. But unlike medicines, supplements can’t claim to cure, treat or prevent a disease.

“There’s little evidence that any supplement can reverse the course of any chronic disease,” says Hopp. “Don’t take supplements with that expectation.”

Evidence does suggest that some supplements can enhance health in different ways. The most popular nutrient supplements are multivitamins, calcium and vitamins B, C and D. Calcium supports bone health, and vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants—molecules that prevent cell damage and help to maintain health.

Women need iron during pregnancy, and breastfed infants need vitamin D. Folic acid—400 micrograms daily, whether from supplements or fortified food—it is important for all women of childbearing age.

Vitamin B12 keeps nerve and blood cells healthy. “Vitamin B12 mostly comes from meat, fish and dairy foods, so vegans may consider taking a supplement to be sure to get enough of it,” Haggans says.

Research suggests that fish oil can promote heart health. Of the supplements not derived from vitamins and minerals, Hopp says, “Fish oil probably has the most scientific evidence to support its use.”

The health effects of some other common supplements need more study. These include glucosamine (for joint pain) and herbal supplements such as echinacea (immune health) and flaxseed oil (digestion).

Many supplements have mild effects with few risks. But use caution. Vitamin K, for example, will reduce the ability of blood thinners to work. Ginkgo can increase blood thinning. The herb St. John’s wort is sometimes used to ease depression, anxiety or nerve pain, but it can also speed the breakdown of many drugs—such as antidepressants and birth control pills—and make them less effective.

Just because a supplement is promoted as “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe. The herbs comfrey and kava, for example, can seriously damage the liver.

“It’s important to know the chemical makeup, how it’s prepared, and how it works in the body—especially for herbs, but also for nutrients,” says Haggans. “Talk to a health care provider for advice on whether you need  supplements in the first place, the dosages and possible interactions with medicine you’re already taking.”

For vitamins and minerals, check the % Daily Value (DV) for each nutrient to make sure you’re not getting too much. “It’s important to consider the DV and upper limit,” says Haggans. Too much of certain supplements can be harmful.

Scientists still have much to learn even about common vitamins. One recent study found unexpected evidence about vitamin E. Earlier research suggested that men who took vitamin E supplements might have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. “But much to our surprise, a large NIH-funded clinical trial of more than 29,000 men found that taking supplements of vitamin E actually raised—not reduced—their risk of this disease,” says Dr. Paul M. Coates, director of NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements. That’s why it’s important to conduct clinical studies of supplements to confirm their effects.

Because supplements are regulated as foods, not as drugs, the FDA doesn’t evaluate the quality of supplements or assess their effects on the body. If a product is found to be unsafe after it reaches the market, the FDA can restrict or ban its use.

Manufacturers are also responsible for the product’s purity, and they must accurately list ingredients and their amounts. But there’s no regulatory agency that makes sure that labels match what’s in the bottles. You risk getting less, or sometimes more, of the listed ingredients. All of the ingredients may not even be listed.

A few independent organizations conduct quality tests of supplements and offer seals of approval. This doesn’t guarantee the product works or is safe; it just assures the product was properly made and contains the listed ingredients.

“Products sold nationally in the stores and online where you usually shop should be fine,” Coates says. “According to the FDA, supplement products most likely to be contaminated with pharmaceutical ingredients are herbal remedies promoted for weight loss and for sexual or athletic performance enhancement.”

To make it easy to find reliable information, NIH has fact sheets on dietary supplements at http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-all/.  NIH also recently launched an online Dietary Supplement Label Database at www.dsld.nlm.nih.gov. This free database lets you look up the ingredients of thousands of dietary supplements. It includes information from the label on dosage, health claims and cautions.

“Deciding whether to take dietary supplements and which ones to take is a serious matter,” says Coates. “Learn about their potential benefits and any risks they may pose first. Speak to your health care providers about products of interest and decide together what might be best for you to take, if anything, for your overall health.

Safe Use of Supplements

  • Tell all of your health care providers about any dietary supplements you use. Some supplements can interact with medications or affect medical conditions.
  • Read the label instructions for use.
  • “Natural” doesn’t always mean safe. For up-to-date news about the safety of particular supplements, check http://nccam.nih.gov/news/alerts.
  • Too much might be harmful. Don’t take more than the recommended dose.

Source: NIH News in Health

NIH Office of Communications
and Public Liaison
Building 31, Room 5B64
Bethesda, MD 20892-2094
nihnewsinhealth@od.nih.gov
Tel: 301-402-7337

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Another Reason for Kids Eating Less Fast Foods

Fast foods

We know that a diet high in fast foods tend to put weight on children and teens, but did you know that fast food consumption is also tied to an increased risk of certain health conditions?

A study coming out of New Zealand found that:

  • Children and teens eating fast foods a number of times each week are at an increased risk for severe asthma, rhino-conjunctivitis, and eczema.
  • Fruit eaten three or more times a week provide children and teens with a protective effect against severe asthma.

According to Philippa Ellwood, DDN, DPH, of the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and her colleagues, eating fast foods three or more times a week is associated with a 39% increased risk of severe asthma and a 70% increased risk of severe eczema among teens.In addition, children who eat fast foods with the same frequency have an increased risk of rhino-conjunctivitis and severe eczema.

The study article, published in journal Thorax, went on to report that reducing consumption of fast foods to two times a week, or less, reduced the incidence of wheezing and severe asthma in children. Ellwood and colleagues also found that eating fruit three or more times a week, among children and teens, offered a protective effect against severe asthma.

The authors stated,  “If the associations found in this study are causal, the findings have major public health significance owing to the rising consumption of fast foods globally,”

The authors noted that earlier research had found diets with high intake of cereal, rice, and nut and cereal protein showed decreased prevalence of the allergic conditions and a protective effect against the conditions with elevated fruit consumption. Similarly, other research has shown a harmful effect of linolenic acid and trans fatty acid consumption.

The researchers gathered symptom prevalence data on types of food intake and symptom prevalence of asthma, rhino-conjunctivitis, wheezing, and eczema from 319,196 teens, ages 13 and 14, from 51 countries, and 181,631 children, ages 6 and 7, from 31 countries through the third phase of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC). The latter is a multi-center, multi-country, multiphase cross-sectional study.

Teen participants, or parents of young children, were administered questionnaires that looked at symptoms and symptom frequency over the 12 months prior to the study. Questions about food intake looked at types of foods and whether foods were eaten once, twice, or three or more times weekly.

Milk consumption was inversely associated with current wheeze at once or twice weekly, severe asthma three or more times weekly, and severe rhino-conjunctivitis and severe eczema once or twice a week in teens.

Consumptions of eggs, fruit, meat, and milk three or more times a week protected against “all three conditions, current or severe” among children.

“The positive associations with severe disease suggest that fast foods are a predictor of disease severity rather than disease occurrence, although it is difficult to separate out the two in this study,” researchers concluded.

Study researchers also shared that the protective association between fruit and vegetables and the three conditions need to  be further explored at country and regional levels.

The researchers found the study was limited by a number of factors, including self-report biases or classification errors, socioeconomic status’ effect on food consumption, and missing temporal data on disease outcome relative to diet.

 

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Health Tips from Those in the Know

healthSoccer Players

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons offers these health tips for soccer players:

  • Stay in good physical shape, even in the off-season, with regular exercise and strength training.
  • Always warm up and stretch before playing.
  • Always cool down and stretch after playing.
  • Be sure to drink enough water before and during play.
  • Always wear proper safety gear, including shin guards and shoes with ribbed soles or molded cleats.
  • When the field is wet, use soccer balls made of synthetic, nonabsorbent materials, instead of leather.

Obese Youth and Gallstones

According to health information from the U.S Dept of Health and Human Services obese youth are an eight times higher risk of gallstones than youth who are not obese.

Young people should only rarely have gallstones. But doctors are treating more teens for the buildup of the hardened cholesterol-laden lumps in the gallbladder. Research finds that the risk of gallstones was higher in obese young people.

At Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena, research scientist Corinna Koebnick looked at medical records of 766 10- to 19-year-olds with gallstones, “Obese youths have a much higher risk – up to 8 times higher – than their normal-weight counterparts.” Koebnick shared that parents and kids should get together on eating right and being moreactive.

This health study in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

 

 

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10 Chores Preschoolers Can Do

choresThe following guest post on chores for preschoolers is courtesy of Maria Wells, www.housekeeping.org

Between the ages of three and five children are eager to help out with household chores. Being tasked with chores actually helps children to feel that they are a necessary part of the family, boosts self-esteem, and leaves them feeling more competent and capable than they would if they were not expected to perform any household duties. Establishing a chores routine at a young age also helps parents avoid the mutiny that is sure to accompany a chores regimen instituted when kids are older and less enthusiastic about helping.

In the interest of helping your children establish and maintain good habits in relation to work and helping others, here are ten chores that even preschoolers can do:

  1. Making Their Own Bed – Between the ages of three and five, kids aren’t likely to be the best bed-makers in the world, but they can certainly get the job done. Remember, the object of asking them to make their own bed is to establish the habit and ensure that it becomes part of their daily chores routine. When kids get older and their coordination improves, parents can offer instructions for how to do the job perfectly.
  2. Cleaning Up Their Rooms – Your child’s bedroom is her own space, so she should be as responsible as possible for ensuring that it’s maintained. During the preschool years she should be able to put her own toys away, place books back on a low bookshelf, and ensure that any cups or dishes are returned to the kitchen.
  3. Helping to Fold Laundry – Folding socks and t-shirts are simple enough tasks for a preschooler, though they aren’t likely to fold shirts like a retail pro would. As long as items aren’t wadded up and wrinkled, preschoolers should be encouraged to help their parents with the folding of simple laundry items. Towels are an ideal choice for practice, as they have no irregular edges.
  4. Putting Away Their Own Laundry – Clothing items that require hanging should probably still be handled by the taller members of the family, but a preschooler is more than capable of putting her own folded clothing in the appropriate drawer.
  5. Helping to Set the Table – Unbreakable dishes can be entrusted to a preschooler in order for them to set the table, though glasses and china for the adults might be safer in older, steadier hands. Helping to set the table for a family meal helps kids learn the practical skill of setting a table, but also allows them to feel like an integral part of the family meal ritual.
  6. Putting Dishes in the Dishwasher – Preschool-aged kids are able to carry their own dishes from the table, clear them, and put them in the dishwasher. Because dishwasher doors can be a bit heavy and unwieldy for little hands, adults should help by opening the door for them.
  7. Sweeping or Using a Handheld Vacuum Cleaner – Small, kid-sized brooms and dustpans can be found in most department stores and toy stores; with these tools, your preschooler will be able to help you sweep the floor much more easily than she could with a heavy, too-long adult model. Additionally, kids at this age can also usually manage a small, hand-held vacuum cleaner to clean up crumbs.
  8. Checking the Mail – Making a daily trip to the mailbox part of your preschooler’s routine is likely to be his favorite task of the day. However, it’s imperative that parents accompany young children, especially if there’s any danger at all of a child stepping into the street while attempting to access the mailbox. Checking the mail should be a chore that you perform together to ensure your little one’s safety.
  9. Watering Plants – A small watering can that your child is capable of managing creates the opportunity for her to help out with the watering of plants. At the older end of the preschool spectrum, it might be a good idea to introduce a small potted plant that is hers specifically. Remembering to water the plant regularly is essential to its survival, which helps kids understand the responsibility and care of living things that are dependent upon others for their survival.
  10. Caring for Family Pets – By the time your child is a preschooler, she should be able to feed and water the family dog or cat; feeding an exotic pet, like a snake, is almost certainly more than she can handle. Provided that you have a more traditional pet, however, your preschooler is more than capable of ensuring that it has food and water.

Kids at this age will still require supervision and the occasional assistance from an adult when doing chores, though it’s important for adults to wait until a child has asked before lending a hand.

Rather than swooping in and taking over, which leaves kids feeling as if they have failed and are incompetent, you should only help enough to make it possible for your child to continue and complete the task successfully.

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