TIME Nutrition

Why Your Bottled Water Contains Four Different Ingredients

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Water you buy in the store is not just hydrogen and oxygen. Here's why food producers add all those extra ingredients.

Next time you reach for a bottle of water on store shelves, take a look at the ingredient list. You’re likely to find that it includes more than just water.

Popular bottled water brand Dasani, for example, lists magnesium sulfate, potassium chloride, and salt alongside purified water on its Nutrition Facts label. SmartWater contains calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, and potassium bicarbonate. Nestle Pure Life’s list includes calcium chloride, sodium bicarbonate, and magnesium sulfate. And these are just a few brands. Bottled water companies are purifying water, but then they’re adding extra ingredients back.

None of this should be cause for health concerns, says Marion Nestle, professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health and professor of Sociology at New York University. The additives being put into water are those naturally found in water and the quantities of these additives are likely too small to be of much significance. “If you had pure water by itself, it doesn’t taste have any taste,” says Bob Mahler, Soil Science and Water Quality professor at the University of Idaho. “So companies that sell bottled water will put in calcium, magnesium or maybe a little bit of salt.”

Taste tests have revealed that many people find distilled water to taste flat as opposed to spring waters, which can taste a bit sweet. Minerals offer a “slightly salty or bitter flavors,” which is likely why low mineral soft waters have a more appealing taste, Nestle wrote in her book What To Eat.

Many of the ingredients that are added to bottled water occur naturally in tap water and in our daily diets. Potassium chloride, for example, is a chemical compound that is often used as a supplement for potassium, which benefits heart health and aids normal muscular and digestive functions. Magnesium chloride, magnesium sulfate, and calcium chloride are all inorganic salts.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that Americans reduce current levels of sodium intake by 2,300 mg per day, so you would have to drink a lot of water to make much of a difference, Nestle says. The typical amount of sodium in water averages at around 17 mg per liter.

But just because additives are generally naturally occurring ingredients doesn’t mean that consumers shouldn’t look at labels. If labels show calories, that means sugars have been added. Some bottled waters can be high in sodium, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends only drinking water that contains 20 mg of sodium per liter or less.

The best choice that many water consumers can make may be to just stick to drinking tap water. “To the extent that tap water is clean and free of harmful contaminants,” says Nestle, “it beats everything in taste and cost.”

TIME You Asked

You Asked: Will Eating Before Bed Make Me Fat?

What to eat at night
Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

You’ve been told eating before bed is a no-no. But a little pre-slumber snack can help you sleep more soundly without packing on pounds—if you reach for the right foods.

Especially if you tend to eat dinner a few hours before bedtime or you’re very active (or both), snacking before bed will help stabilize your blood sugar levels during the long, meal-less night, explains Stephanie Maxson, senior clinical dietician at the University of Texas’s MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Why should you care about blood sugar? As most diabetics know, blood sugar and its attendant hormones can supercharge or deflate your appetite and energy levels, as well as mess with your body’s efforts to store or burn fat. “Having low blood sugar in the morning will cause a person to feel sluggish and make it more difficult to get out of bed,” Maxson explains, adding that low blood sugar could also wake you up or otherwise disrupt your sleep in the middle of the night.

Ideally, you want to encourage stable blood sugar levels for optimal health, which will be tough to do if you’re going 10 or 12 or 14 hours without eating, Maxson says. (This is one reason she and many other nutrition experts underscore the importance of eating breakfast.)

“It’s such a big myth that you don’t need any energy for sleep,” adds Cassie Bjork, a registered dietician and founder of HealthySimpleLife.com. Not only can the right bedtime snack provide the fuel your body needs to burn calories while you sleep, but a little grub also calms the release of hunger hormones that tell your body to store fat, Bjork explains.

That said, a pint of ice cream isn’t going to do you any favors. Instead, you should be reaching for complex carbohydrates like whole wheat bread, non-starchy vegetables, popcorn, and fruit, Maxson says. These foods break down slowly, and so help stave off the blood sugar spikes or crashes that could mess with your sleep or appetite, she explains. For athletes, adding a protein like turkey or chicken to a bedtime snack can help with muscle repair during the night while also providing a hit of an essential amino acid called tryptophan, which is beneficial for sleep, Maxson says.

And don’t shy away from a little fat, which can further slow the absorption of carbohydrates into your system, Bjork says. Some avocado or peanut butter—or a splash of melted butter on your popcorn—can help if you frequently wake up hungry or tired.

Just be sure to avoid things like chips, cookies, cereal, or pretty much any traditional dessert food, advises Dr. Joan Sabaté, a professor of public health and nutrition at Loma Linda University. Because fiber and other digestion-slowing nutrients are typically stripped away from these foods during their preparation, your body absorbs them quickly and they tend to cause quick spikes in your blood sugar, which can make it tough for your to sleep, Sabaté explains.

Anything featuring caffeine—yes, that includes chocolate—is also a bad idea at bedtime, Maxson says.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Eating More Fruits and Vegetables Doesn’t Help You Lose Weight, Study Says

Fruits and vegetables
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Fruits and vegetables are good for your health, but there's not enough evidence to prove that on their own they can help with weight loss.

The research, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, reviewed studies that looked at fruit and vegetable consumption and weight gain, and concluded that simply eating more doesn’t doesn’t slim waistlines.

Loading up on more fruits and vegetables, without taking out more high-calorie foods like junk food, or making other lifestyle changes such as exercising, won’t have a significant affect on weight. And that’s especially true if the veggies are fried or coated in butter or cheese. In the study, the researchers only correlated fruit and vegetable consumption with weight, and did not ask the participants about their other lifestyle habits, or about how they were cooking their food.

In addition, the analysis included just nine studies, some of which involved a small group of participants and which lasted only 16 weeks at the most. It’s possible that weight changes resulting from a true change in diet including more fruits and vegetables might take longer.

For those reasons, the researchers still say that consuming more fruits and vegetables may be beneficial for weight loss. “We cannot say with high confidence that there is not some form of a [fruit/vegetable] intervention that may have significant effects on weight loss or the prevention of weight gain,” they write.

And there are other benefits of adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to your plates. Beyond weight, produce is a reliable and efficient source of nutrients and fiber, and plenty of studies have linked eating them with lower risks of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

There’s A lot of Junk Food at the School Nutrition Conference

This year's annual conference run by the School Nutrition Association is not without politics

The 68th Annual National Conference of the School Nutrition Association is finishing up today in Boston, and it’s not go on without controversy.

Here’s some backstory: When the Obama administration revamped the school lunch requirements, they received a lot of praise and counted among their champions the School Nutrition Association. But now, the group, which is a national organization of school nutrition professionals, is heading up a lobbying campaign to let schools opt out of the requirements saying they are too restrictive and costly. (You can read in detail what the group is pushing for here.)

Many experts in the school-nutrition world are surprised by the stance the SNA has taken and some of its members have resigned, voicing criticism of SNA for accepting sponsorship money from food companies.

At the same time, Congress is considering legislation to delay by one year some of the school-lunch regulations, as the New York Times reported earlier this month.

Given the ongoing debate about school nutrition, it shouldn’t be surprising that this year’s convention—which brings together 6,000 school nutrition professionals and industry members—has been mired in politics. As Politico reported: Sam Kass, the Executive Director of Let’s Move! was even turned down when he asked to speak at the conference this year.

Though the conference has long allowed food companies to be involved, their new position on the school lunch standards have some nutrition groups and experts skeptical. And that makes the presence of fast food and junk food at the event all the more surprising.

Here are some tweets from public health lawyer Michele Simon:

To be sure, there were certainly booths with healthy food–even a great vending machine idea like this one:

So while the conference highlighted ways to get kids to eat more healthy food, it’s hard to take seriously when Cheetos and pizza are so heavily marketed.

TIME Food & Drink

5 Delicious Breakfasts That Won’t Leave You Hungry

Breakfast smoothie
madlyinlovewithlife—Getty Images/Moment Open

You may have seen reports in the news lately questioning the benefits of breakfast for weight loss, but I’m not ready to sanction skipping. In my experience, eating breakfast strongly supports weight control, and several studies back what I’ve seen in my 15+ years of counseling clients—breakfast fuels your body when you’re most active, and therefore most likely to burn off what you’ve eaten. It also tends to prevent late night overeating, when you’re less active, and more prone to racking up a fuel surplus that feeds fat cells.

Also, weight loss aside, “breaking the fast” is a savvy nutrition strategy, because it’s a chance to fit in servings of produce, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins. Missing that opportunity, particularly day after day, can lead to shortfalls that deprive your body of important health protective nutrients.

Health.com: Best Superfoods for Weight Loss

Eating breakfast, especially one with protein, is also a smart way to build and maintain metabolism-boosting muscle. One recent study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, found that muscle building was 25% greater among people who ate a diet with an evenly distributed protein intake, compared to those who consumed less protein at breakfast, slightly more at lunch, and the majority of their protein at dinner.

Finally, a study published last year from the American Heart Association found that over a 16 year period, regular breakfast skippers had a 27% higher risk of a heart attack or fatal heart disease.

If you’re on board for a daily breakfast, but your biggest barrier is time, here are five tips and tricks to help you create shortcuts, so you can reap the benefits without running late.

Chill your oatmeal
Oatmeal doesn’t have to be served warm. Cook, then chill individual portions, and stash them in the fridge in small containers you can grab, along with a spoon, on your way out the door. Just mix a protein powder (like pea, hemp, or organic whey) into rolled oats, add hot water, stir, fold in fresh fruit, cinnamon, and nuts, and chill. Or skip the protein powder, and mix the oats, fruit, cinnamon, and nuts into nonfat organic Greek yogurt, and chill to make a grab-n-go mueslix.

Health.com: 20 Snacks That Burn Fat

Hard boil it
Many of my clients enjoy omelets on the weekends, but feel like an egg-based breakfast takes too much time during the week. For a make-ahead option, prep hard boiled organic eggs on a Sunday for the upcoming week. While you’re making dinner, take a few extra minutes to whip up a simple egg salad for breakfast the next morning. Mix chopped egg with either guacamole or pesto, diced or shredded veggies, and a small scoop of cooked, chilled quinoa or brown rice. Grab a portion with a fork in the a.m., and you’re good to go.

Have dinner for breakfast
It may seem odd to chow down on a garden salad topped with lentils or salmon at 8 am, but who says breakfast meals have to look different than lunch or dinner? Many of my clients make double portions in the evening, and eat seconds for breakfast the next day. Give it a try – you may just find that warmed up stir fry, veggie “pasta,” or a crisp entrée salad is your new favorite way to start the day.

Health.com: 25 Surprising Ways to Lose Weight

Pre-whip your smoothie
Smoothies are pretty fast, but I know that when you’re running late, just tossing ingredients into a blender and pressing a button can require more time than you can spare. If that tends to be the case, blend up a smoothie just before bed, stash it in a sealed to-go jug in the fridge, grab it on your way out the door, and shake it up before sipping.

Make a meal out of snack foods
It’s perfectly OK to cobble together a breakfast from an assortment of snack foods, including veggies with hummus and whole grain crackers, or trail mix made from nuts or seeds, unsweetened preservative-free dried fruit, and a whole grain cereal you can eat with your hands. Bon (breakfast) appetit!

Health.com: 10 High-Protein Breakfast Recipes

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Boring TV Shows Make You Eat 52% More

Man watching TV bored and eating
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Need another reason to kick back with a jaw-dropping episode of Orange Is the New Black? Didn’t think so—but here’s one anyway. A new study suggests there may be benefits for women who choose riveting TV programs over snoozers: We seem to eat less during the nail-biters.

That’s the conclusion of a group of researchers at Sweden’s Uppsala University, who studied 18 women while they snacked and watched different types of TV programming: an “engaging” episode of a popular Swedish comedy show and a “boring” televised art lecture. As a control, the researchers also monitored grazing during another “non-engaging” activity: reading a text on insects living in Sweden (seriously, we couldn’t make that last part up).

The results showed that boring content increased snacking by a surprisingly weighty margin. While watching boring TV, women consumed 52% more food than during the engaging comedy. This trend held up across different media, too: Subjects ate 35% less while watching engaging TV than while reading about insects. (Work On Your trouble spots during commercial breaks with this couch potato workout plan.)

The study authors conclude that it’s the level of excitement in our TV shows that may determine the amount we chow—not the act of watching (or reading) itself.

“At very low levels of engagement, you kind of eat to engage yourself because you’re bored,” says Aner Tal, a research associate at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, an organization devoted to the study of how and why we eat the way we do. “It might also have to do with the pacing,” he suggests. A rapid-fire story, for example, could speed your rate of eating.

Of course, whether it’s a sleepy Sunday Antiques Roadshow marathon or an edge-of-your-seat Game of Thrones binge, watching TV is still a setup for overdoing it on the munchies. Your healthiest bet is to snack smarter while couch-bound. “Use pre-portioned snacks as opposed to endless bowls,” advises Tal. That means keeping the source of food out of sight, too. “If you know you have a tendency to overeat while watching TV,” he adds, “just snack on something that’s better for you. Have veggies as a snack instead of chips.” And maybe a side of excitement or action, too—anything but art lectures and insects.

MORE: 15 Terrible Snacks For Weight Loss

This article was written by Caroline Praderio and originally appeared on Prevention.com.

TIME Obesity

Siblings More Likely Than Parents to Influence Child Obesity

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And the association is even stronger for siblings of the same gender

A new study released Tuesday reported children are more than twice as likely to be obese when they have an obese sibling compared to when they have an obese parent.

The study, which will be published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, showed the likelihood that a child is obese is even greater when they have a sibling of the same gender.

In one-child families, an obese parent meant more than double the risk that the child would be obese. In households with two children, this held true for the older child but not the younger sibling.

“Younger children look up to their big brother or sister for behavioral cues, often seeking their approval; and siblings may spend more time each other than with their parents, often eating and playing sports together,” study author Mark Pachucki said in a statement.

Pachuki, who is an instructor at the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital, said he initially expected parental obesity would have a stronger association than sibling obesity due to parents’ important role in children’s eating habits, but he was wrong.

Researchers looked at almost 2,000 respondents to the Family Health Habits Survey.

TIME Exercise

5 Reasons to Drink Coffee Before Your Workout

Coffee cup and pot
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Half of Americans start their day with coffee, and according to recent study, working out after downing a cup of java may offer a weight loss advantage. The Spanish study, published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, found that trained athletes who took in caffeine pre-exercise burned about 15% more calories for three hours post-exercise, compared to those who ingested a placebo. The dose that triggered the effect was 4.5 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. For 150-pound woman (68 kg), that’s roughly 300 mg of caffeine, the amount in about 12 ounces of brewed coffee, a quantity you may already be sipping each morning.

If you’ve always thought of coffee as a vice—one you’re simply not willing to give up—you’ll be happy to know that it’s actually a secret superfood. And if you exercise, caffeine can offer even more functional benefits for your workouts. Here are five more reasons to enjoy it as part of an active lifestyle, along with five “rules” for getting your fix healthfully.

Health.com: 12 Surprising Sources of Caffeine

Improved circulation

Recent Japanese research studied the effects of coffee on circulation in people who were not regular coffee drinkers. Each participant drank a 5-ounce cup of either regular or decaffeinated coffee. Afterward, scientists gauged finger blood flow, a measure of how well the body’s smaller blood vessels work. Those who downed “regular” (caffeinated) coffee experienced a 30% increase in blood flow over a 75-minute period, compared to those who drank the “unleaded” (decaf) version. Better circulation, better workout—your muscles need oxygen!

Less pain

Scientists at the University of Illinois found that consuming the caffeine equivalent of two to three cups of coffee one hour before a 30-minute bout of high-intensity exercise reduced perceived muscle pain. The conclusion: caffeine may help you push just a little bit harder during strength-training workouts, resulting in better improvements in muscle strength and/or endurance.

Health.com: 15 Natural Back Pain Remedies

Better memory

A study published this year from Johns Hopkins University found that caffeine enhances memory up to 24 hours after it’s consumed. Researchers gave people who did not regularly consume caffeine either a placebo, or 200 mg of caffeine five minutes after studying a series of images. The next day, both groups were asked to remember the images, and the caffeinated group scored significantly better. This brain boost may be a real boon during workouts, especially when they entail needing to recall specific exercises or routines.

Muscle preservation

In an animal study, sports scientists at Coventry University found that caffeine helped offset the loss of muscle strength that occurs with aging. The protective effects were seen in both the diaphragm, the primary muscle used for breathing, as well as skeletal muscle. The results indicate that in moderation, caffeine may help preserve overall fitness and reduce the risk of age-related injuries.

Health.com: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired

More muscle fuel

A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that a little caffeine post-exercise may also be beneficial, particularly for endurance athletes who perform day after day. The research found that compared to consuming carbohydrates alone, a caffeine/carb combo resulted in a 66% increase in muscle glycogen four hours after intense, glycogen-depleting exercise. Glycogen, the form of carbohydrate that gets stockpiled in muscle, serves as a vital energy “piggy bank” during exercise, to power strength moves, and fuel endurance. Packing a greater reserve means that the very next time you work out, you’ve upped your ability to exercise harder and/or longer.

But this news doesn’t mean you should down as much coffee as possible—your good intentions may backfire. In my work with athletes, I recommend five basic rules to best reap caffeine’s rewards:

  • Don’t overdo it. The maximum amount of caffeine recommended for enhancing performance with minimal side effects is up to 6 mg per kg body weight, which is about 400 mg per day (or about 16 ounces of coffee) for a 150-pound woman.
  • Incorporate it in healthy ways: doctor up coffee with almond milk and cinnamon instead of cream and sugar, or whip coffee or tea into a fruit smoothie, along with other nutrient-rich ingredients like almond butter and oats or quinoa.

Health.com: 11 Ways to Boost Your Energy With Food

  • Be consistent with your intake. Research shows that when your caffeine intake is steady, your body adjusts, which counters dehydration, even though caffeine is a natural diuretic. In other words, don’t reach for two cups one day and four the next.
  • Keep drinking good old H2O your main beverage of choice.
  • Nix caffeine at least six hours before bed to prevent sleep interference, and listen to your body. If you’re relying on caffeine as an energy booster because you’re tired, get to the root of what’s causing fatigue. Perhaps it’s too little sleep, overexercising, or an inadequate diet. If something’s off kilter, you won’t see progress, and you’ll likely get weaker rather than stronger. Striving for balance is always key!

Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME

Study: You Eat Twice As Much Sugar As You Should

Sugar cubes in drink
Peter Dazeley—Getty Images

One can of soda could account for your recommended daily sugar limit

Bad news for your sweet tooth: People’s average consumption of sugar should be cut in half, a British government advisory group has recommended.

A draft report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition said that in order to curb obesity, people should reduce their sugar intake so that it only accounts for five percent of their daily energy intake, down from the current recommended level of 10 percent. The group also said people should minimize consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages because of their association with type 2 diabetes, as well as increase their fiber intake.

“There is strong evidence in the report to show that if people were to have less free sugars and more fiber in their diet they would lower their risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer,” said Committee chair Dr. Ann Prentice.

England, like the United States, is facing a severe weight problem. One third of the country’s 10 and 11-year-olds are overweight or obese, with the majority of those children living in the most deprived communities, according to Alison Tedstone, the chief nutritionist at the government agency Public Health England.

Public Health England issued a report detailing how it would respond to the new recommendations. Initiatives mentioned in the report included local public health funding and working with businesses to reduce calories in food and drink products.

The five percent target energy intake from free sugars amounts to five to six teaspoons for women and seven to eight teaspoons for men, based on the average diet. One can of soda would account for the recommended five percent daily limit in adults, according to the BBC.

But health officials say these recommendations do not have to inconvenience consumers.

“It doesn’t mean having a completely different diet from today, it’s thinking about swapping high sugar foods for a lower-sugar alternative,” Tedstone told the BBC. “Instead of fizzy drink, have water or low-fat milk, instead of a chocolate bar, have a piece of fruit.”

The Committee’s recommendations follow similar guidelines issued by the World Health Organization in March. Health officials are still trying to determine how to realistically get people down to five percent when many are still currently eating far more sugar on a regular basis. Some countries, such as Mexico, have tried implementing a sugar tax, but England has yet to do so.

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