DEAR DR. BLONZ: The February 2014 Costco magazine had an article about brassica vegetables where it was said that boiled cauliflower is "devoid of nutrients." Isn't that a bit extreme? I love to eat it warm, and think the flavor is enhanced. I am not concerned about the vitamin C content from cooking, as I get that in many other foods, and I am sure the antioxidant chemicals are still present. I would like your opinion on this. -- T.B.
DEAR T.B.: I am pleased that pessimism prompted your note. That boiled cauliflower would be "devoid of nutrients" is nonsense, and it's unclear why such misinformation would appear. Heating does indeed reduce certain "heat labile" nutrients, and vitamin C is one that can be affected, but cauliflower has a great complement of healthful phytochemicals to offer.
Never forget that the nutrients in plant foods have become a part of their structure to assist in their growth, survival and reproduction. There is a broad variety of these beneficial substances in nature, and only by having a variety in our diet can we get the power of these substances on our team. Cooking, in many cases, helps enhance nutrient bioavailability. Check out the article in Scientific American that addresses this issue: tinyurl.com/nlvyyrk. Continue to enjoy your vegetables, fresh or properly cooked, and keep checking when you read something that sounds dubious.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: Please tell me about the benefits of sesame oil. Is it OK to use in salads and also to saute vegetables, chicken, meat and fish? Are there any reasons why I should not use it? I currently use extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar for my salads. -- J.P.
DEAR J.P.: Sesame oil is a healthful oil that is composed of approximately 40 percent monounsaturated fatty acids, 42 percent polyunsaturated and 14 percent saturated. It is source of tocopherols (such as vitamin E) and lignans, both of which act as protectants for the sesame seed. Pure sesame oil has a mild flavor and a high smoke point, making it ideal for high-heat cooking methods including those you mention. Toasted sesame oil, pressed from the toasted seeds, has a distinctive nutty flavor used to complement many dishes in Asian and other cuisines.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: When playing sports, we freeze half a bottle of water, then add water to it to keep it cold. We then refill the bottle as we drink it until the ice melts. I have read that this is a safe practice, and yet people tell me the plastic breaks down and can cause cancer. I use pre-bottled water from the store. -- D.O., Walnut Creek, Calif.
DEAR D.O.: The water bottles you buy at the store have been specifically designed for water. As long as the bottle is completely cleaned and allowed to dry between uses, there is no evidence that any problem exists. There is a bogus cancer-scare email going around with misinformation on this topic; go to tinyurl.com/cgq874 to sort fact from fiction.
Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.