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Vegetarian Journal May/June 1998

Nutrition Hotline

by Reed Mangels, Ph.D., R.D.

Food Safety

QUESTION: In view of lots of publicity about people getting sick from drinking apple cider and eating strawberries, are there any suggestions for food safety for vegetarians? S.A., MA

ANSWER: Eggs represent a major concern for food safety for those vegetarians who eat them. Safety tips for eggs include refrigeration, thorough cooking, avoidance of all products containing raw eggs (including tasting dough or batter), and washing hands, all utensils, and work areas thoroughly with hot soapy water after handling eggs.

Pasteurized milk should be used if you use dairy products.

Produce should be washed before use. Even produce whose rind is not eaten, like melons, should be washed thoroughly before slicing.

Unpasteurized apple cider contaminated with E. coli and cryptosporidium made more than 100 people sick and killed at least one person. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that people in high risk groups (children, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems due to HIV, AIDS, or cancer) should drink only pasteurized cider or juice.

Tofu is often not properly handled in stores. It should be purchased only from stores where it is refrigerated. It should be used before its expiration date. Once you open the package, tofu should be refrigerated in water which is changed daily. Aseptically packaged tofu does not need to be refrigerated until it is opened and does not need to be stored in water. If you marinate tofu prior to cooking, it should be marinated in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter.

Calcium Absorption

QUESTION: People have asked me about chocolate and calcium absorption. Chocolate milk is supposedly not a good calcium source. B.T., NY

ANSWER: In the past, chocolate was thought to interfere with calcium absorption because chocolate contains a substance called oxalate. In reality, calcium in chocolate milk appears to be as well absorbed as that in plain milk.

HDL Cholesterol

QUESTION: How can I increase the level of HDL cholesterol in my blood without also increasing my total cholesterol level? I follow a vegan diet. M.B.,NY

ANSWER: There are several ways to increase your levels of HDL cholesterol, often called "good cholesterol." These include stopping smoking, losing weight (if overweight), and increasing exercise. If you have done all of these and your HDL cholesterol levels are low, your blood triglycerides are high, and you're eating a very lowfat, very high refined carbohydrate diet (lots of sugar and refined starches), some experts recommend replacing some of your dietary carbohydrate with unsaturated fats, especially monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids (olive oil, walnuts, canola oil, soy products, etc.). It may also help to eat more complex carbohydrates like whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes. Others believe that if your total cholesterol levels are also low, and you are lean and physically active, your low HDL-cholesterol level may not be a very important risk factor for heart disease. The August 21, 1997, issue of New England Journal of Medicine has a very interesting discussion on lowfat, high-carbohydrate diets.

Excerpts from the May/June Issue:

The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone wanting to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.

This article was converted to HTML by Jeanie Freeman

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