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Nutrition advice: Try these tips for a healthier summer

Saturday, July 6, 2013 - 12:01 am

Here are some of the Diet Detective's random summer health tips: Some old, some new:

Barbecues are great, but watch the red meat

According to research appearing in the journal Internal Medicine, increasing your red meat consumption over time is associated with an increased risk of type-2 diabetes. The results indicate that, compared to a group with no change in red meat intake, increasing red meat intake by more than a half-serving per day was associated with a 48 percent elevated risk in the subsequent four-year period.

Get summer abs

There are very few ways to get lean abs quickly, but one change you could make is to reduce your sodium intake. Sodium retains water, and thus can result in bloating. Watch sodium in cereals, soups and other packaged foods.

Keep in mind you can't just work your stomach muscles and get a flat stomach. You also need to diet. However, if you lose weight and want a strong-looking stomach, check out the American Council on Exercise's fitness library of abdominal exercises: www.acefitness.org/exerciselibrary/exercises.aspx?bodypart=1.

Try badminton or throw a Frisbee

With a net, a birdie (the thing you hit) and a racquet, you can play badminton right in your own backyard, burning 315 calories per hour. Throwing a Frisbee burns about 210 calories per hour.

Water sports and the calorie burn

Try these beach/water sports and burn calories: Beach volleyball: 560 calories per hour; bodysurfing: 212 calories; Kadima (beach paddle tennis): 240 calories; kayaking: 352 calories; rowing: 492 calories; water-skiing: 422 calories; snorkeling: 352 calories; water polo: 703 calories; water volleyball: 211 calories.

Cool down with a scoop of ice cream? True or False?

True and False. “Anything ingested that is lower than actual body temperature will initially produce a cooling effect systemically,” says Dr. Gerard E. Mullin, director of gastroenterology at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

About 15 to 20 minutes after you eat it, however, ice cream has the opposite effect.

“This is because the parts of the body that are in contact with the ice cream are physically cooled by the contact as heat is transferred to the ice cream,” says Josephine Connolly-Schoonen, a registered dietitian and professor of family medicine at Stony Brook University Medical Center. “But then, as the digestive process kicks in, body temperature increases as the body works to digest and absorb the nutrients in the ice cream, as well as to store the calories.”

“The body will physiologically respond to energy (i.e., heat) loss by increasing blood flow to the 'cool' region and bring the temperature back up to a physiological 'body temperature (98.6 degrees),'” adds Barry G. Swanson, a professor and co-chair of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Washington State University.

So, eating cold foods does not really change your overall body temperature.

The best way to cool your body is to stay hydrated. According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, women should consume 91 ounces of water a day, and men need 125 ounces — a good deal more than the 64 ounces (8 cups) generally recommended. However, we get a significant portion of that from consuming food (nearly 35 percent) and liquids other than plain water.

Should you avoid swimming after you eat?

“After you eat, your body sends extra blood to the stomach and intestines to help with digestion,” says Schoonen. In fact, according to Mullin, there is actually a “pooling of blood in the digestive tract after eating.”

Therefore, there is less blood available to send to other body tissues such as muscles, and, according to Mullin, this can result in cramping.

Also, “The larger the meal, the more work your body needs to do afterwards to digest and process the nutrients,” Schoonen explains. “If you start swimming some serious laps after eating, the body would be stressed to send enough blood to both the digestive body parts and the working muscles, which also need more blood brought to them while exercising.”

This stress may affect the heart and lungs, or may cause muscle pain, since enough oxygen cannot be carried to the working muscles.

However, “Having a light meal and then a relaxing swim is not a problem,” adds Schoonen. So, eat light and chill out.

Eat sweet corn — perfect for summer

Nutrients: One medium ear contains about 2.8 grams of fiber and nearly 3.5 grams of protein. Corn is also a good source of vitamin C (10.6 percent of recommended daily values). Additionally, it has thiamin (14.8 percent of recommended daily values), which helps to produce energy for the heart, muscles and nervous system.

Corn is also rich in folic acid, which is associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and can help women during pregnancy by preventing certain birth defects.

Corn has a moderate glycemic index of 56 (compared with 100 for white bread), which means it does not raise blood sugar excessively.

The nutrition breakdown is 1 medium ear, (6 3/4 to 7 1/2 inches long, 103 g): 111 calories; 1.32 g total fat; 25.86 g total carbs; 2.8 g total fiber; 3.421 g total protein.

Chef and food expert Aliza Green, author of “Field Guide to Produce” (Quirk Books, 2004), advises buying corn very soon after it's picked, because the sugars in corn convert so quickly to starch. Look for a market with high volume and quick turnover that buys local corn in season.

You should “look for a bright, green and snugly fitting husk with pale to deep gold silks that are dry, and not soggy or dark,” Green says. “Pull back enough of the husk to expose the kernels. You should see full rows of pearly rounded teeth. The rows should be evenly spaced, and the kernels should be plump and milky all the way to the tip of the ear.

“Store corn in its husk for up to four days, though it will be at its sweetest closest to when it's been picked,” Green says. “Store husked ears in plastic for one to two days in the refrigerator.”

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