Week of November 12, 2012
Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

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

Q: Are raisins as healthy a fruit choice as grapes?

A: Grapes have high water content, which gives them few calories in a large portion and makes them an excellent choice to include in meals and snacks that fill you up with few calories. Since raisins are dried fruit, they are more concentrated in calories than the grapes from which they are produced, so portion control is important. One serving (1/4 cup) of raisins has 129 calories compared to 87 calories in one (3/4 cup) serving of grapes. But overall, nutrient levels are similar. Raisins are a concentrated source of natural sugar, however, studies suggest they raise blood sugar only moderately and do not stimulate secretion of large amounts of insulin. This could be because of their soluble fiber, which slows the speed at which raisins' carbohydrate can be absorbed. Even in their small one-quarter cup serving size, raisins are high in antioxidant phytochemicals such as flavonoids and phenolic acids. Most California raisins turn their dark color as they are dried naturally in the sun. During this time, resveratrol (a phenol) found on grape skins is destroyed. Golden seedless raisins are dried on racks sent through tunnels where hot air circulates around. They are exposed to sulfur dioxide gas to prevent oxidation and preserve their light color. Because of this difference in production, these golden raisins are even higher in antioxidants than dark raisins, and they do contain a small amount of resveratrol. Both are excellent choices and add a nutritious, naturally sweet boost to oatmeal, salads and rice, and even dishes like casseroles and chili.

Q: Is it really safe for children to do strength-training exercise with weights?

A: Yes, as long as the children are old enough to follow directions – about seven or eight – and the strength-training is supervised by people trained in proper youth exercise techniques. Strength training is not only safe, current federal exercise guidelines recommend it for children three days a week. You may have heard older ideas that strength training is unsafe for kids, including concerns that it could damage the growth plates of their bones and stunt growth. Damage to bones and other health risks certainly are possible if children are allowed to attempt motions or weight loads that are beyond their ability. To find someone qualified, look for a certified trainer (for example, ACSM, ACE or NSCA) and find if they have taken specialized education for youth fitness and if they have experience working with kids. Strength training to build and maintain muscles can be accomplished without weight-lifting, using age-appropriate activities such as pull-ups, abdominal crunches, rope-climbing and games like tug-of-war.

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