Dairy and Vitamin D, Diverticulosis and Fiber, and Steel Cut Oats

Q: I’ve noticed that milk is cited as a primary source of vitamin D. Is this true of other dairy products too?
Q: Why are patients with diverticulosis advised to eat more fiber but avoid nuts and seeds?
Q: Is steel-cut oatmeal more nutritious than other varieties?


Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: I’ve noticed that milk is cited as a primary source of vitamin D. Is this true of other dairy products too?

A: Food sources that naturally supply vitamin D – a vitamin that is critical in helping our bodies properly use calcium – are limited. Among them: egg yolks, certain types of wild fatty fish and whole milk. In the U.S., some foods, including reduced-fat and nonfat milk, are fortified to supply vitamin D as well. Whole, reduced-fat and nonfat milk are all categorized as good sources of vitamin D, supplying 100 International Units (IU) per 8-ounce cup, or 25 percent of the recommended Daily Value (DV). Although yogurt and cheese are good sources of calcium, they are usually not good sources of vitamin D. Cheese, for example, typically contains from 0 to 12 IU of vitamin D. So unless it is labeled as fortified with D, don’t count on it to help you meet your daily needs. Traditionally, yogurt is not fortified with this vitamin either, but several companies have recently started adding it to at least some of their product lines. To see whether your choice is fortified with vitamin D, check the Nutrition Facts panel of the package. If D is added, it will typically provide 20 to 25 percent of the DV per standard serving.

Q: Why are patients with diverticulosis advised to eat more fiber but avoid nuts and seeds?
A: Diverticulosis is a condition in which the colon develops small pouches (diverticula) that bulge outward, apparently from pressure inside the colon resulting from constipation. Most people with diverticulosis never have any discomfort or symptoms. The goal of dietary “dos” and “don’ts” is to avoid complications, such as diverticulitis, in which the pouches become painfully inflamed. A high-fiber diet (generally at least 20 to 35 grams a day) is a definite “do” as fiber keeps stool soft and lowers pressure inside the colon so that bowel contents can move through easily. Doctors frequently advise patients with diverticulosis to avoid those foods which could potentially enter and irritate the diverticula, including: nuts; popcorn; sunflower, pumpkin, caraway and sesame seeds; and even fruits and vegetables with seeds. However, no scientific studies support the need for this latter measure. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, eating a high-fiber diet is the only step needed and eliminating specific foods is not necessary. Of course, we all react differently to foods, so if nuts or seeds create symptoms for you, avoid them.

Q: Is steel-cut oatmeal more nutritious than other varieties?
A: No. All forms of oatmeal are whole-grain choices that supply the same vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber, including the soluble fiber known for lowering blood cholesterol. Traditional oatmeal is referred to as rolled oats, because the whole-grain oats are softened by steam and flattened on rollers to form flakes. Steel-cut oats, also known as Irish or Scotch oatmeal, are whole-grain oats that have been cut by steel blades into small pieces without being flattened. Quick-cooking (one-minute) and instant oatmeal are steamed, cut and flattened into progressively smaller pieces to cook more quickly. The real differences between oatmeal varieties are their cooking times and textures. Steel-cut oats take longest to cook and have a more hearty, chewy texture. Instant oatmeal, which cooks fastest, may appear to have a lower fiber content than other types, but this is deceiving because a single packet usually makes a smaller serving. The nutritional disadvantage of instant oatmeal products is not their fiber or whole grain content, but the higher sodium, sugar and calorie values that these products typically contain per serving.

Reprinted with permission from the American Institute for Cancer Research www.aicr.org

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