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THE DIET DETECTIVE A COLUMN BY CHARLES STUART PLATKIN

Let's take a closer look at two health-product claims

Monday, December 28, 2009 - 12:01 am

Food companies often make health claims for their products.

As part of Diet Detective’s continuing effort to expose the truth about the foods we eat and lead you to healthier choices, here are two manufacturers’ health pitches.

Coconut Water: ZICO Pure Premium Coconut Water

( www.zico.com)

Claim: Zico, a sports drink alternative, is made from 100 percent pure coconut water with no added fat, sugar, carbs or acidity. It provides more potassium than a banana and four additional naturally occurring electrolytes in a single 60-calorie serving.

Facts: An 11-ounce container of coconut water is a low-calorie (60 calories), electrolyte-rich beverage (especially calcium, magnesium, potassium). A large banana has 487 milligrams of potassium, and 11 ounces of the coconut water has 670 milligrams. Not bad.

Fiction: One claim I do question is that the coconut water is a weight-loss aid. While there might be weight-loss properties in the nutrients from coconut water, it still has 60 calories per 11 ounces, so if you have four of these per day, that’s an extra 240 calories.

Concern: Is this something you should be drinking? “Endurance athletes or those who train and engage in hours of exercise can potentially benefit from so-called sports drinks that contain calories to stay adequately hydrated, but people who exercise casually, or less than an hour, or who do moderate as opposed to high-intensity exercise, may not need more than water to get and stay hydrated,” says dietitian Elisa Zied, author of “Nutrition at Your Fingertips” (Alpha Books, 2009).

In fact, it could potentially be dangerous.

“Drinking too many of these beverages can overload you on specific nutrients, such as potassium,” Zied says.

Bottom line: Not an athlete? Once in a while, it’s an OK treat, but it’s a pass most of the time.

Fruit Undressed by Del Monte

(www.fruitundressed.com)

Claim: “Fruit that is stripped down to its bare goodness” is good for you.

Fact: Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is a good thing, that’s for sure. And the simpler it is to eat fruit, the more likely you’ll be to eat more.

Fiction: Many fruits are not better for you bare.

Concern: There is the added sugar in many of them. The other problem is that removing the peel is not always a good thing when it comes to fruit.

“It saves us time when we’re talking about grapefruit, oranges, pineapple, mango and pomegranate,” dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner says. “But removing the peel on fruits like apples, peaches and pears is a bad thing because it is removing healthy fiber.”

Bottom line: Buy fresh fruit that has all its fiber and no added sugar.

Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com.