TIME Diet/Nutrition

Should I Drink Tomato Juice?

3/5 experts say yes.

At 30,000 feet, tomato juice is almost as popular as beer, the top-selling beverage. But its health benefits are more up in the air, our experts say.

The very reason people order it on planes is why you should be wary. This stuff is salty—great for flavor while flying, since a new study shows that very loud noise, like the roar of airplane engines, changes our sense of taste by dulling sweet flavors and enhancing umami, the signature flavor of tomato. But most Americans aren’t exactly suffering from a salt deficiency.

“Most tomato juice has added salt at a rather shocking concentration,” says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. An 8-ounce serving can pack 670 mg of sodium: 28% of a person’s government-recommended daily intake, and about as much as four small bags of chips.

A good way to think about sodium, he says, is that the overall diet shouldn’t have more than a milligram of sodium per calorie. Since a cup of tomato juice only has 50 calories, it has about 13 times as much sodium as it should by this standard of measurement.

The real draw of tomato juice is lycopene—an antioxidant found in ruby and orange foods that may help lower risk of stroke, prostate cancer and metabolic diseases. Americans get more than 80% of their lycopene from tomatoes in its various forms. You’re in good shape if you regularly eat the whole fruit, especially if it’s cooked and with a little healthy fat; fat makes certain nutrients easier for the body to digest and absorb, say Steven Schwartz, PhD, and Robin Ralston, RD, of the Center for Advanced Functional Foods Research and Entrepreneurship at Ohio State University. “But the same health-beneficial compounds in tomatoes are also in tomato juice,” they say, while also echoing the importance of paying attention to salt content.

If you don’t regularly eat tomatoes, swapping unhealthy beverages like soda with tomato juice is a good way to get the benefits of lycopene, says Pei-Min Chao, PhD, professor and chair of the department of nutrition at China Medical University in Taiwan. In a small 2015 study, Chao gave 25 healthy young women 9 ounces of tomato juice every day for two months. Compared to their levels before the experiment began, tomato juice was linked to higher levels of lycopene and lower body weight, body fat, BMI and cholesterol blood levels after the experiment ended. And a randomized controlled trial by Gity Sotoudeh of the school of nutritional sciences and dietetics at Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran found that tomato juice reduces oxidative stress in overweight women.

If you’re jonesing for the juice, the healthiest bet is to follow this recipe from Deborah Cohen, MD, senior natural scientist at the RAND Corporation. “Just put tomatoes in a blender,” she says, “and drink up.”

Tomato-juice
Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME
TIME Diet/Nutrition

Are Taco Bell and Pizza Hut Actually Getting Healthier?

'Sort of, but not really,' say experts

Taco Bell and Pizza Hut shook the fast-food world Tuesday when the chains announced they’ll be nixing artificial ingredients in their menu items by the end of 2015. Taco Bell is saying sayonara to artificial flavors, artificial colors, high fructose corn syrup and palm oil in their food. (Artificial preservatives, too, will be removed “where possible” by 2017.) Pizza Hut has an even quicker timeline, saying it’ll phase out artificial colors and preservatives by the end of July.

But will these fast-food tweaks really make a difference for your health? We asked experts what they thought about the particular ingredients being nixed to gauge whether or not these swaps will, indeed, make the food more healthy.

“I think that this general trend is a good thing,” says Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. “But what the public, I think, has failed to recognize is that the single greatest power over the food supply has been food demand. If we change what we’re willing to buy, then the supply side will change what they’re selling.”

Here’s what else experts say about it.

1. Artificial flavors

The experts agree: taking out artificial ingredients is a positive move. “The kinds of things they are taking out are cosmetics—additives that make processed foods taste or stick together better,” says Marion Nestle, professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. “They are not necessary. Whether they are harmful at quantities typically consumed is debatable, but why not get rid of them?”

“It’s very much a political ploy on the part of the fast food industry to make their food look like somehow it’s real food, but it’s still not real food,” says Robert Lustig, MD, professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, and author of Fat Chance. The problems with many processed foods, he says, are a matter of too little—fiber, micronutrients, omega-3 fatty acids—and too much—trans fats, branched-chain amino acids, salt, emulsifiers and sugar.

Selling real food is within the power of fast food establishments, Lustig says. “But they can’t sell it as long as we subsidize corn, wheat, soy and sugar”—the cheap ingredients that make up the bulk of processed food, Lustig says. Until then, he says, real food doesn’t have a fighting chance—and broccoli calories will continue to be more expensive than burger calories.

2. Artificial colors

“It’s good that they’re trying to get rid of food additives, especially artificial colors, because we never needed them,” says Lustig. While some artificial colors have been shown to cause cancer in animals, none have been proven to cause cancer in humans. Still, some experts caution against eating or drinking foods that contain them due to insufficient knowledge about their safety or worries about them triggering allergic reactions. (See this summary by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.)

Some scientists have raised concerns about the safety of some artificial colors, with a recent paper saying: “It is recommended that regulatory authorities require better and independent toxicity testing, exercise greater caution regarding continued approval of these dyes, and in the future approve only well-tested, safe dyes.”

3. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)

“HFCS has earned a very bad reputation within the general community,” says Lustig. “People see it and go, ‘Oh, that’s the devil.'” But Lustig thinks sugar is the real problem, regardless of whether it comes from—and since food companies aren’t likely to drop HFCS without replacing it with something sweet, we may see sugar appear more often on ingredient lists. “What they ought to be doing is getting rid of HFCS in exchange for nothing,” Lustig says. “If it’s not changing what you’re consuming, what’s the difference?”

4. Palm oil

Fast-food companies use huge amounts of palm oil, which can contribute to vast deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions and harsh land-clearing techniques.”I’m really glad to see this in the mix,” says David Katz. The announcement follows this year’s release of new dietary guidelines, which addressed sustainability for the first time. Big food companies—some of the major clients for palm oil—are the most crucial people to prioritize this, Katz says. “Once you know that sustainability matters because you can see things that are running out, you’re obligated to address it, even if you’ve never addressed it before.” (The two restaurants, by the way, aren’t the first; last year, Dunkin Donuts committed to sourcing 100% sustainable palm oil by 2016.)

5. Artificial preservatives

It’s hard to gauge improvement without knowing what’s replacing artificial preservatives, says Katz. “We have to be very careful that this isn’t just minor tweaking at the margins: maybe they’re taking out food additives but still want the shelf life to be the same, so they’ll put in more salt,” he says. “My hope is that we’ve reached the point where you can’t get away with that anymore.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Trans Fats Are Hiding All Over Your Grocery List

A new report finds that 37% of foods in grocery stores may have trans fat

Eating trans fat raises the risk of coronary heart disease, and evidence suggests that no amount of it is safe. But more than a third of packaged foods found in grocery stores likely contain trans fat, found a new analysis by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Trans fats used by the food industry are manmade by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil, which makes it solid at room temperature and good at extending the shelf life of snacks. The World Health Organization supports “virtual elimination” of trans fats from the food supply.

But still it persists, found the EWG. The group used their Food Scores database to analyze more than 87,000 foods for trans fat-containing ingredients: most famously partially hydrogenated oil. Seeing that phrase on an ingredient list is a red flag for trans fat.

It’s not the only ingredient that signifies trans fat, according to EWG’s investigation. Refined oils like soybean, canola, cottonseed and corn oil, fully hydrogenated oils and perhaps even some emulsifiers like monoglycerides and diglycerides contain trans fat in smaller amounts, the report says. Flavors and colors even use partially hydrogenated oils sometimes and are a “likely source” of trans fat, according to EWG.

27% of the analyzed foods contained partially hydrogenated oils, refined oils or fully hydrogenated oils on their ingredient lists. EWG identified more than 400 foods with four or more grams of trans fat per serving.

MORE: How Trans Fat Eats Away At Your Memory

And another 10% of foods likely have trans fat, the report concluded—even those labeled “zero” grams of trans fat. Food companies are allowed to claim a product has no trans fat if it contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. “Serving sizes are notoriously small,” says Dawn Undurraga, report author and registered dietitian at EWG, so even fractions of a gram can add up quickly.

The biggest sources of trans fat were the foods with a non-zero amount of trans fat listed on the label. The 16 foods with the most trans fat were breakfast sandwiches (0.94 g/serving), frozen pies (0.83 g), frosting and icing (0.75 g), eclairs and snack cakes (0.65 g), frozen cakes (0.50 g), frozen mini burgers (0.47 g), croissants (0.43 g), frozen cheesecakes (0.41 g), pastry shells (0.37), canned chili (0.36 g), heady-to-heat potatoes (0.33 g), frozen muffins (0.33 g), beef in a can (0.32 g), snack pies (0.32 g), cheese sauce (0.32 g) and popcorn (0.31 g).

“In some ways these products are bad, but at least they let you know that they’re bad,” says Undurraga.

Of equal concern were the foods claiming to have 0 grams of trans fat but which included partially hydrogenated oil on their ingredient lists—some brands of breakfast bars, granola, peanut butter, pretzels, crackers, bread, fruit snack candies, cereal, graham crackers, whipped topping, non-dairy creamer, pudding mixes, cupcakes and ice cream cones. “There’s a lot of kids foods here,” Undurraga says. “It’s really disconcerting.”

Even though we’re eating less trans fat than ever, Americans still have a long way to go towards adopting a diet free of trans fats. The findings add to recent research that trans fat lurks in all kinds of packaged foods. One study last year found that 9% of the packaged foods it surveyed listed partially hydrogenated oils in their ingredients, yet 84% of those claimed to be trans-fat free.

“It’s a little bit disingenuous to say trans fat intake is decreasing,” says Undurraga. “It is decreasing, but without data to be able to drive your analysis, how are you really getting an accurate picture of what is actually happening?”

In response to a request for comment, an FDA spokesperson said the government body is still reviewing the report. The FDA is currently in the midst of litigation about trans fat; in 2013, 98-year-old heart disease researcher Fred Kummerow sued the FDA for failing to ban the use of partially hydrogenated oil, claiming it “calcifies both the arteries and veins and causes blood clots.” The FDA said it will file a status update with the court today.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

61% of Your Calories Are From Highly Processed Food: Study

Most of the foods we buy are highly processed and loaded with sugar, fat and salt

As much as Americans like to pretend to worship at the altar of kale, many of us are cheating with chips, a new study suggests.

We like junk food so much that 61% of the food Americans buy is highly processed, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. And almost 1,000 calories a day of person’s diet come solely from highly processed foods.

Not all processed food is the same, however. The USDA classifies processed food as any edible that’s not a raw agricultural commodity, so even pasteurized milk and frozen fruits and vegetables count. “It’s important for us to recognize that a processed food is not just Coca-Cola and Twinkies—it’s a wide array of products,” says study author Jennifer Poti, a research assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

So in the first study of its kind, researchers scrutinized our diets by analyzing a massive set of data of the foods we buy while grocery shopping. The stats came from 157,000 shoppers, who tracked their edible purchases with a barcode scanner from 2000-2012, for anywhere from 10 months to 14 years.

Using software that picked out words in the nutrition and ingredient labels, the 1.2 million products were placed into one of four categories : minimally processed—products with very little alteration, like bagged salad, frozen meat and eggs—basic processed—single-ingredient foods but changed in some way, like oil, flour and sugar—moderately processed—still recognizable as its original plant or animal source, but with additives—and highly processed—multi-ingredient industrial mixtures that are no longer recognizable as their original plant or animal source.

No surprise, our favorite categories are those last two. More than three-quarters of our calories came from highly processed (61%) and moderately processed (16%) foods and drinks in 2012. Best-selling products were refined breads, grain-based desserts like cookies, sugary sodas, juice, sports drinks and energy drinks.

Preferences for highly processed foods were remarkably stable over time, Poti says, which likely has implications for our health, since the study also found that highly processed foods were higher in saturated fat, sugar and salt than other purchases. But interestingly, no U.S. study has yet looked at the link between highly processed foods and health outcomes like obesity and diabetes, Poti says.

To be clear, the researchers aren’t pooh-poohing processing, per se. “Food processing is important for food security and nutrition security of Americans,” Poti says. The study wasn’t able to capture the full spectrum of our diets—loose spinach doesn’t come with a barcode, after all—and the authors acknowledge that food purchasing doesn’t always directly translate to dietary intake. But the results suggest that we might want to swap some bags of chips for, say, cans of beans. “Foods that required cooking or preparation”—like boxed pasta and raw eggs—”were generally less than 20% of calories purchased throughout the entire time period,” Poti says.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Should I Eat Tempeh?

4/5 experts say yes.

Tempeh goes back ages in Indonesia, its birthplace, but the nutty, mushroomy plant protein is fairly foreign in the U.S. to all but the most hardcore of vegans. Still, most of our experts say tempeh is well worth trying.

But first: what is it? Tempeh is a cake of partially cooked whole soybeans aged overnight in an incubator at a tropical temperature, explains vegan food manufacturer Tofurky on its website. During incubation, a “thick, white mat of mycelia”—a kind of fungus—branches over the tempeh, which binds the beans together. It’s then steamed and ready to eat. Other types of tempeh can be made with barley, flax, oats, brown rice and other grains.

Tempeh is mainly used as a meat substitute, and it stands up well to the real thing structurally and nutritionally. A standard 3-ounce serving of tempeh has about 16 grams of protein, while an equal serving of grilled steak has about 26 grams. Plus, tempeh comes with about 8% of the recommended daily amount of both calcium and iron. It’s great for the nutrients it adds to your diet, says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, and for the meat it subtracts.

“If you’re looking to cut meat from your diet but are fearful that protein will be cut along with it, tempeh is a no-brainer substitution,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, RD, manager of wellness nutrition services at Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. So agrees the author of a 2015 review on the rise of veganism. “Tempeh is a popular source of plant-based protein for vegans due to its versatility, great earthy flavor, and overall nutritional value,” says review author Cynthia Radnitz, PhD, professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. (Her favorite tempeh dish: steamed, mashed and mixed with chopped celery and scallions, plus eggless mayo and lemon juice for a mock chicken salad.)

“Tempeh offers all the health benefits of soy without the drawbacks of more processed soy,” she says. Some soy processing involves hexane, a chemical solvent sometimes used to extract oil from soy in processed products that aren’t organic. By buying organic, you can avoid both hexane and genetically modified ingredients, if that is a concern for you. GMOs are ubiquitous in soy; 94% of soy in the U.S. is genetically modified.

Many experts believe that whole-food forms of soy are beneficial to the body. In a 2015 study by Robert Sorge, PhD, assistant professor in the department of psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Sorge and his team looked at how certain foods can activate immune cells that spur inflammation in the body and other foods that have anti-inflammatory effects on those cells. Soy proteins, like those found in tempeh, seem to fall into the second group, he found. “Tempeh is a soy product with a decent amount of the isoflavone genistein,” he says. “Genistein is known to have anti-inflammatory and even anti-tumor effects and can be very good for general health, provided too much is not eaten.”

Fermenting whole soy makes it extra special, Radnitz says, by helping nutrients like calcium, zinc and iron become more available for the body to use. According to a thesis on tempeh made from barley, the fermented kind had 2.5 times the iron of unfermented barley. (Unfortunately, though, not everything you do to tempeh gives it a health boost. One Malaysian study found that battered and deep-fried tempeh had about half the isoflavones as raw tempeh.)

Even though it has many fans among these experts, not everyone is aboard the tempeh train. Tempeh is for uninspired vegans, declares Frédéric Leroy of the Research Group of Industrial Microbiology and Food Biotechnology in Belgium. His 2014 review of fermented foods concluded that there’s not enough quality evidence to make functional health claims for most fermented foods on the market. “Outside Asia, this idiosyncratic food is culturally irrelevant to most, and will seem odd to the average palate,” he says. “Granted, it contains isoflavones, but scientific evidence in support of true in vivo“—meaning in people—”health benefits of tempeh is far from being solid.”

Leroy is firmly in the more-research-is-needed camp. But for now, says Kirkpatrick, who cooks it several times a week it, “I’m in love with tempeh.”

tempeh
Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME

Read next: Should I Eat Tofu?

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Why You Might Want to Pay Attention to Your Kid’s Nightmares

Toy dinosaur and toy car in bedroom
Getty Images

Children who had nightmares at age 12 had about twice the odds of having psychotic experiences later on

Most kids have nightmares some of the time and mostly those dreams mean nothing, except that your kids had something different for dinner or watched a particularly vivid movie or they’re feeling anxious about something. But kids who have nightmares often are at increased risk for developing psychotic symptoms later in adolescence, suggests a new study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Researchers from the U.K. wanted to look at the link between sleepwalking, nightmares and night terrors—when a person wakes up screaming but can’t remember why—in childhood and having psychotic experiences later in adolescence. “The term ‘psychotic’ obviously has connotations for people,” says study author Andrew Thompson, MD, associate clinical professor in psychiatry at the University of Warwick in Coventry. (And they’re not good ones.) But psychotic experiences can include more commonplace occurrences like a child hearing their name being called when it’s not, getting paranoid or thinking that people were trying to hurt them. Kids with symptoms like these don’t necessarily have (or develop) a mental illness or disorder, and many times those experiences means nothing, Thompson says. But symptoms like these, especially on the more severe end of the spectrum, may be forerunners of psychotic illness like schizophrenia.

The team analyzed data from a group of more than 4,000 children in the U.K. who were born around the same time, from birth until age 18. Using reports from children and their mothers on children’s sleepwalking, nightmares and night terrors, the researchers found that people who had nightmares and night terrors at age 12 had about twice the odds of reporting psychotic experiences at age 18. (They found no association with sleepwalking.)

It’s important to note that the risk of these psychotic symptoms is only about 5%, Thompson says, so a doubling of risk isn’t an alarming number. But the results could prove helpful for identifying risk factors for mental illnesses early. Sleep problems are one of the most common complaints among people with schizophrenia—but not nightmares specifically. “That’s maybe because we haven’t asked them,” Thompson says. These nightmares might be triggered by stress, anxiety or trauma, but they might also be a sign of future psychosis, the findings suggest. “We’d like to look into that and see whether these things are particularly important.”

In most cases, Thompson wants to be clear, nightmares are perfectly normal. “What we don’t want to do is frighten the whole world of parents with kids who have nightmares and think it’s a really bad sign, because that’s not the case,” Thompson explains. “It’s the people who have the persistent nightmares, the ones that affect their ability to go to school or concentrate at college. That’s the end of the spectrum that I think that, at the moment, doesn’t get very good treatment.”

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TIME Exercise/Fitness

Ballet Isn’t Good Exercise for Kids — but Hip-Hop Is, Study Says

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Only 30% of ballet class is spent in substantial exercise

Signing up your kid for ballet class might seem like a great way to get them some exercise. But when ranked against other forms of dance in terms of how much exercise it provides, ballet class didn’t even come close to first position.

“People are very aware of the obesity epidemic but not as concerned as they should be about the low levels of activity in our country,” says study author James Sallis, distinguished professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego, and author of the new study published in the journal Pediatrics. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that American children and adolescents get an hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day, but many fall short — especially girls, who are consistently found to be less active than boys, he says.

But most kinds of dance aren’t helping close that gender gap, Sallis and his team found. Researchers studied the activity levels of 264 girls in two age ranges: children ages 5 to 10 and adolescents ages 11 to 18. The dancers were outfitted with accelerometers to measure the intensity of their movements. In total, the researchers measured levels in 66 dance classes of a wide range of styles: ballet, jazz, hip-hop, flamenco, salsa, tap and partnered dance like swing and ballroom.

Only 8% of children and 6% of adolescents achieved the 30-minute recommendation for after-school moderate-to-vigorous exercise.

UC San Diego School of MedicineGraphs showing percentage of dance-class time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for children and adolescents. Percentages based on averages.

In children, the type of dance really mattered. Hip-hop was the most active kind of dance, with 57% of class time being devoted to moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Jazz took second place, followed by partnered class, tap, salsa and finally ballet, where 30% of class is spent in moderate-to-vigorous activity. (The rest of the class, as any once-tiny dancer will remember, was spent stretching, standing and listening to the teacher, the study found.) Flamenco class came in last, with 14% of class spent in substantial exercise.

But in adolescents, dance forms were much more similar in terms of the exercise they provided. Ballet actually rose in the ranks to first place, matching hip-hop in intensity. About 30% of both kinds of dance classes are moderate-to-vigorous for adolescents.
“Dance is a golden opportunity to contribute to the health of girls while they’re enjoying moving and being with their friends and building their physical competence and all the other things that dance does,” Sallis says. He and his team found that when kids are just learning a skill or a step, they’re not particularly active — until they put multiple steps together in a routine. “That’s when most of the activity takes place,” he says, and by teaching fewer steps and practicing more combinations, instructors can really make dance class count.

TIME celebrities

Here’s How Melissa McCarthy Responded to a Critic’s Sexist Comment

Melissa McCarthy arrives at the People's Choice Awards at the Nokia Theatre on Jan. 7, 2015, in Los Angeles.
John Shearer—Invision/AP Melissa McCarthy arrives at the People's Choice Awards at the Nokia Theatre on Jan. 7, 2015, in Los Angeles.

It got personal

Melissa McCarthy, star of the new movie Spy, turned a critic’s sexist review into a feminist moment.

When she was at the Toronto Film Festival last September promoting her movie St. Vincent, a critic walked up to McCarthy to praise the film, Entertainment Weekly reports. Earlier, that same critic had panned her 2014 movie, Tammy—directed by McCarthy’s husband Ben Falcone—calling McCarthy a good actor only at times when she looked more attractive.

McCarthy asked the critic if he had a daughter, and when he said that he did, she didn’t hold back. “Watch what you say to her,” she told him. “Do you tell her she’s only worthwhile or valid when she’s pretty?”

Read more from EW here

TIME viral

This Video of a Young Couple Aging 70 Years Will Make You Laugh and Cry

Love goggles don't wear off

Young love is beautiful—but that’s the easy part. What will two people see in each other decades from now when they’re no longer much to look at?

Engaged couple Kristie and Tavis, two such specimens of young love, wanted to look into their future before they tied the knot in a month. Cut Video and Field Day gave them a chance to peek into their marriage’s crystal ball, and in 100 Years of Beauty, the couple is transformed by a team of makeup artists from attractive 20-somethings into 90-year-olds, complete with costumes and prosthetics.

Time traveling through various stages of middle and old age—50, 70 and 90—taught them a few things. Realization No. 1: start wearing sunscreen now. Realization No. 2: love goggles don’t wear off when the wrinkles set in.

“You look fantastic,” Tavis tells Kristie when she reaches age 90 in a pink nightgown. “You don’t look a day over 75.”

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