Week of July 11, 2011
Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

AICR HealthTalk
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Are broccoli stalks nutritious, or should I just stick to the florets?

A: Broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse, providing vitamin C, folate, beta-carotene and lutein (a compound being studied for its role in eye health). In addition, it is rich in isothiocyanates, phytochemicals that may play a role in fighting cancer. While researchers cannot pinpoint which areas of the plant supply which phytochemicals, the location of some compounds is known. The florets and leaves, for example, are higher in carotenoids than the pale stalks, although the stalks remain good sources of vitamin C and folate. Broccoli stalks are also great sources of fiber. Regardless, be confident that the whole broccoli stalk is providing solid nutrition. When the stalks are peeled and sliced thinly on the diagonal, they make a great, less expensive alternative to bamboo shoots in a stir-fry. Their crunchy texture also makes them a welcome substitute in many recipes that call for celery.

Q: Are iced-coffee drinks a sensible treat if I'm watching my weight?

A: A simple iced coffee or even an iced latte made with skim milk isn't a problem if you leave out added flavorings and whipped cream and choose the smallest size. A 12-ounce (oz.) iced latte or cappuccino made with skim milk usually contains about 130 calories; if made with 2 percent milk it might be closer to 160 calories. But if you add flavored syrups, whipped cream topping and other ingredients, the calorie content rises sharply. Portion size is key. The largest size at most of today's popular coffee bars is usually 24 oz., sometimes more. Order a large, and you could be getting up to 700 calories, lots of additional fat and almost a half-cup of sugar. Even if you skip the whipped cream these jumbo servings still provide about 450 calories. While you may be looking for a light, refreshing snack, what you may get is a drink that's equivalent to one or two portions of dessert. To enjoy iced coffee drinks without wreaking havoc on your diet, order nonfat versions, skip the whipped cream and slowly savor a small portion. If you're very thirsty, quench your thirst with a cool glass of water first and then you'll be able to fully savor your icy treat.

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