There’s a danger lurking in rice and you won’t find it by reading labels. It’s the chemical arsenic. And the threat isn’t about immediate poisoning but rather that long-term exposure to small amounts can increase the risk of bladder, lung and skin cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Arsenic naturally finds its way into our soil and water because it’s in the Earth’s crust, but it also accumulates from some pesticides and fertilizers. Rice tends to absorb arsenic more readily than many other plants. Most unfortunate is that brown rice has the highest amounts because the arsenic accumulates in the otherwise healthful outer layers, which are removed to make white rice. You don’t have to eliminate all rice from your diet, but choose it carefully, suggests the watchdog group Consumer Reports. Their testing found that arsenic levels differ depending on the types of rice and where they were cultivated. Here are some tips to limit your rice intake: Choose white basmati and brown basmati rice cultivated in California, India and Pakistan, and sushi rice cultivated in the United States. Vary your whole grains to minimize arsenic exposure — try whole wheat, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, polenta and grits. Carefully read the labels of all food products: Rice, rice flour or brown rice syrup are in everything from gluten-free foods to teething biscuits. High concentrations of arsenic in…  read on >

Ordering an appetizer rather than an entree can be the answer to enjoying restaurant meals without busting your calorie budget. The trick is to ask for yours to be served when everyone else gets their main course so you’re not just left watching your dining companions enjoying their meal. If they’re ordering appetizers, make yours a green salad with dressing on the side — a healthy and filling way to start any meal. Even though you’re ordering a scaled down “entree,” you still need to choose carefully. Think seafood, a low-calorie protein that’s on most appetizer menus. At a steakhouse, shrimp cocktail or a seafood tower is a great choice. At a French or Spanish restaurant, try steamed mussels or clams. Going out for Mexican? Go for nutrient-dense, heart-healthy guacamole, but instead of dipping in with greasy chips, order a small plate of raw vegetables like red pepper strips and carrots. At Middle Eastern and Mediterranean restaurants, try a traditional cucumber-and-tomato-based chopped salad with a small portion of feta cheese or a single lamb kebob. For Italian fare, grilled and marinated antipasto with peppers, mushrooms and olives is tasty and filling. Asian cuisines, from Chinese to Thai to Vietnamese, feature clear soups with vegetables and lean meat or seafood for a hearty meal. Avoid dumplings because they’re mostly dough. When the urge for Japanese food…  read on >

Between juice bars and high-powered home juicing machines, drinking your fruits and veggies has certainly gone mainstream. Depending on the specific mixes you sip — a vegetable blend, for instance — juice can be a filling snack when you’re on the go. But is juicing a way to lose weight and boost health? Some juicing proponents claim that your body can better absorb nutrients in juice form. But there’s no scientific evidence of this — or that drinking only the juice of a fruit or vegetable is any healthier than eating the fruit or vegetable itself. Another claim is that juicing gives your system a break from digesting fiber. But the fact is that most Americans fail to get enough fiber in their daily diet. There’s also a lot of talk about juicing to get rid of toxins. But many health experts say the body removes toxins on its own. Juices may have some long-term health benefits — grapefruit, lemon, celery and red grape juices have all been the subject of research. But while experts agree that juices are a good way to get more fruits and vegetables into your diet, they shouldn’t be the only source of nutrients, as in a juice fast. No juice is a weight-loss miracle, and fruit juice in particular can cause spikes in blood sugar. Some fruit-based smoothies can…  read on >

Twenty-three more illnesses caused by an E. coli outbreak tied to tainted romaine lettuce were reported by U.S. health officials on Wednesday. That brings the total number of cases to 172, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. But there was potential good news: The outbreak, tied to lettuce grown near Yuma, Ariz., might be nearing its end. That’s because “romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region is past its shelf life and is likely no longer being sold in stores or served in restaurants,” the CDC noted. “The last shipments of romaine lettuce from the Yuma growing region were harvested on April 16, 2018, and the harvest season is over.” In fact, the agency said the newest cases all occurred among people who first reported becoming ill two to three weeks ago. That’s “still within the window when contaminated romaine was available for sale,” the CDC said, and “the latest reported illness started on May 2.” The outbreak has been caused by a particularly virulent strain of E. coli O157:H7. Of the 157 cases reported with good information, 75 (48 percent) have resulted in hospitalization, and 20 people have developed a dangerous form of kidney failure. “This is a higher hospitalization rate than usual for E. coli O157:H7 infections, which is usually around 30 percent,” the agency noted. So far there has…  read on >

While allergists have long known that farm life helps prevent allergies in kids, new research shows the benefit might even extend to adults who live near a farm. The findings “are indicative of potentially beneficial health effects of living in close proximity to farms,” said a team led by Dr. Lidwien Smit, of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. One U.S. expert said the study supports what’s known as the “hygiene hypothesis.” This theory holds that early exposure to immune-system allergy triggers — called antigens — actually helps prime the body against developing allergies. This theory was supported “when it was demonstrated that children growing up on farms developed less asthma and atopic diseases later in life,” noted Dr. Alan Mensch, a pulmonologist at Plainview and Syosset Hospitals on Long Island, N.Y. “This included allergies to grass, dust mites, and even cats and dogs,” he said. But is there any benefit to simply living near livestock farms for people who aren’t farmers or ranchers? To find out, Smit’s group surveyed 2,500 adults between 20 and 72 years old who lived in rural areas near farms. The Dutch team found that nearly 30 percent of the adults had allergies. Of these people, nearly 12 percent were allergic to grass, nearly 12 percent were allergic to house dust mites, around 5 percent were allergic to cats and about…  read on >

The so-called “Paleo” diet, which cuts out a number of food groups to bring about weight loss, has been around for several years now and at first blush may sound like just another fad. But some recent scientific studies since the diet became popular have found that the regimen that makes up the diet’s requirements could have merit. A Paleo diet requires people to eat foods similar to those available to humans during the Paleolithic period, which dates from 10,000 to 2.5 million years ago, according to the Mayo Clinic. The diet typically includes foods that could be obtained by hunting and gathering — lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds — and limits foods that became common with the advent of farming, such as dairy products, grains and legumes. This premise, however, is challenged by some experts who say that comparing modern conditions to those of our ancient ancestors is not realistic. Nevertheless, one possible benefit is that the Paleo diet can improve risk factors for metabolic syndrome, a condition that can lead to diabetes, heart disease and other chronic illnesses. One research review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the Paleo diet did a better job of reducing waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol and fasting blood sugar than diets based on general health guidelines. Another study published in the…  read on >