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Holiday Health

Holiday HealthWithheaping portions of turkey, potatoes and pie on the horizon, Tuftsresearchers offer some guidance on how to enjoy holiday mealshealthily.Boston, Mass.

Boston [11.24.04] For many people, Thanksgivingand the seasonal holidays mean gatherings with family and friends– gatherings that are most often accompanied by unlimitedhelpings of savory foods doused in gravy and pies topped withdollops of whipped cream. But Tufts nutrition researchers mightsway some holiday eating habits.

Recently at the American Heart Association meeting, physiciansand researchers from the across the country shared study resultsof the health effects of various foods and diets. “There'sa lot of controversy over whether calories from one type of foodare better than others, and everyone is looking for a magic bullet,''Dr. Ernst Schaefer, a researcher from the FriedmanSchool of Nutrition Science and Policy, told Bloombergnews service.

"Despite all the controversy about diet ... a calorie isa calorie is a calorie," Schaefer told Reuters.

One popular style of diet – the low-carbohydrate phenomenonpopularized by Dr. Atkins – may be on the wane.

Sales of low-carb specialty food items are dropping, and dietersare looking for more balanced approaches to weight loss, the BostonHerald reported.

“It's nice to be told you can eat all the bacon you want,but deep down people know it's not right,'' Ann Yelmokas McDermott,a nutrition researcher at Tufts, told the Herald.

Bynext holiday season, another fad could be sweeping the diet market.

“In the '70s, sugar was bad, in the '80s, cholesterol wasbad, in the '90s, fat was bad. In the 2000s, fat is OK, carbsare bad,”
McDermott told the Herald. “As a nutritionist,I'm hoping dietary quality is the next message we focus on.”

One Tufts graduate says that the focus needs to be trained onthe American approach to eating and nutrition needs.

“When it comes to food, Americans have the tendency to loseall reason,” Dan Barber, a chef and creative director ofthe Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, wrote in an op-edcolumn in The New York Times.

Barber says that the emphasis on food comes with Thanksgivingis a good opportunity to refocus our dietary outlook from whatwe eat to the environment where that food comes from.

“With a little scrutiny, we can see that our reductionistdiet logic dissolves like a lump of sugar,” he wrote.

As opposed to the farm-bred turkeys cultivated under stressfulcircumstances, pastured birds – birds raised outdoors –are less fatty and more nutritious, Barber wrote in the Times.

The same principle applies to vegetables, milk, eggs and otherTurkey Day basics, Barber argues – the more organic theirgrowing environment, the more of their intrinsic nutrients getpassed on to the consumer

“We can't be healthy unless our farms are healthy…the end of the food chain is connected to the beginning of thefood chain,” Barber said, urging consumers to shop at farmer’smarkets and to not “lose touch with the culture in agriculture.”

But despite the cautionary tales abounding about various dietsand health hazards, holiday eaters can take heart in one recentfinding.

Cranberries,a traditional seasonal sweet treat, contain antioxidants and phytonutrientsthat help fight the effects of aging, according to researchersat the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts.

As for therelative health values of jellied versus canned cranberries, theyhave yet to be scientifically compared.






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