Week of April 19, 2010
Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research
Q: Is it true that it’s best to avoid all white food?
A: No. That common phrase is an unsupported over-simplification of recommendations to limit refined grains (e.g., white bread) and eat lots of colorful vegetables. Deeply colored vegetables, such as deep green broccoli and spinach, orange carrots and red tomatoes, do supply valuable nutrients and protective phytochemicals. However, white vegetables are valuable, too. Onions, cauliflower and white mushrooms all provide compounds that seem to intervene to inhibit several steps in the process of cancer development. White potatoes provide vitamin C and fiber, as well as other nutrients. The problem is the average American relies on them for far too great a proportion of their vegetable choices, ignoring more colorful ones, and sometimes over-doing potato portions so much that they get a lot of carbohydrate that may quickly raise blood sugar levels. White milk, yogurt, soymilk and tofu all provide valuable nutrients. White bread and white rice are not as nutritious as whole-grain bread and brown rice, because they are lower in fiber, several nutrients and natural antioxidant compounds. So general health recommendations advise choosing whole grains for at least half your grain products (or at least three servings daily). Cancer prevention recommendations from the American Institute for Cancer Research emphasize whole grains and advise limiting refined grains, but that doesn’t mean that you need to totally avoid all refined grains in order to eat a healthful diet.
Q: Is stretching really that important?
A: Exercise research says yes. It may not be as effective as once thought for decreasing muscle soreness from exercise, but stretching at least two to three times per week has been demonstrated to help maintain the range of motion in joints that we otherwise tend to lose as we get older. Maintaining this flexibility is important for the basic activities of daily living and has also been shown to decrease falls in older adults. And regular stretching done after, not before, strength training or sports seems to enhance athletic performance. The American College of Sports Medicine recommendations for preventive and rehabilitation exercise and for older adults’ general health call for activities to promote flexibility. Stretching should always be done after muscles are warmed up, either by movement for 10 minutes or so, or by heat from a shower, bath or heat treatment when necessary. So do your stretching after your walk or other exercise, not before. The bouncing that some of us learned as part of stretching in high school gym class is not recommended for most people, as experts say it increases the chance of injury. Several different stretching techniques have been developed, but for most of us the simplest and safest is called static stretching: exhale slowly as you relax the muscle and stretch to the limit of movement (not to the point of pain), hold it for 15 to 30 seconds, and repeat one to three more times before you move on to stretch another muscle.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.All active news articles