DEAR DR. BLONZ: What are your thoughts about milk as a food? You periodically make reference to it in its various forms, but there is so much on the web denouncing milk as a food to avoid -- especially for the elderly. It is something that I grew up with, but has the thinking now changed? -- B.J., Scottsdale, Ariz.
DEAR B.J.: The primary science-based reasons to avoid milk and milk products would include having an allergy to milk protein or a dislike of the possible side effects from the lactose carbohydrate found in milk. Those symptoms include gas or other digestive upset, usually when the milk or dairy product is consumed on an empty stomach. This latter reason would mainly apply to liquid milk, not so much to yogurt and cheeses, but even here, there are products with which problems from lactose can be limited or eliminated.
Some individuals might be consuming whole milk with already high-fat diets that lack sufficient fruits, greens, grains and fiber. In such cases, the fat contributed by the full-fat milk or dairy products could be a concern. This, however, is a balance issue, not a condemnation of milk.
Assuming you are not a vegan, in which case you would be avoiding all animal products, if you enjoy milk or dairy there is little in the way of objective reasons to stop eating them. I wouldn't call milk an "essential" food, but it does have much to offer nutritionally. There are many people spreading all sorts of twists on the "milk is bad" message, such as "cow's milk is meant for calves, not people," but these negative allegations have, thus far, failed to stand up to the light of science.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: How long can carrots be kept in the refrigerator without losing much of their nutrients? -- F.M., Oakland, Calif.
DEAR F.M.: Carrots are available in many forms throughout the year in most parts of the country. As a general rule, I would say that depending on the way they are kept, you should have a good week or two.
Carrots can lose sweetness as they sit, so inspect those sitting on the rack and avoid ones that are dried and cracked. Purchasing carrots with their greens intact provides a good indicator of just-picked freshness. Once purchased, you should remove the tops since they tend to drain water and nutrients from the carrot. This makes sense given the fact that the carrot we eat is actually the root -- the supplier of nutrients for the growing carrot plant.
Carrots store well in a refrigerator set no warmer than 40 degrees F. They should be kept in a sealed plastic bag or container. They will be at their nutritional and flavorful peak for the first few days, and then begin to lose crispness and nutritional quality -- slowly for the first couple of weeks, but then more quickly until they become limp.
Most of the carrots we get in the store are slightly immature, being picked that way to maximize tenderness and flavor. More mature carrots might have a more "woody" texture and although they might not taste as sweet, they can be kept for longer periods of time. In pre-refrigerator days, root crops such as carrots were kept in root cellars for up to six months. Sustenance was the main consideration in those times, and stored "woody" vegetables could always be incorporated into slow-cooked stews.
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