Fewer Calories. Really?

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It’s not often we hear that holiday foods have actually decreased in calories over the years. But, according to Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab analysis of traditional Thanksgiving recipes, some of our favorites are a bit leaner today than in the 1950s.

Ginger Carrots from AICR New American Plate CookbookGreen beans with almonds, stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie recipes each weighed in at an average of 102 calories less. Dinner rolls increased by 26 calories; corn and candied carrots remained the same. The analysis compared recipes from Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks, the 1956 vs. the 2006 editions.

According to the researchers, a Thanksgiving dinner with those eight sides plus a drumstick is 2,057 calories today compared to 2,539 in 1956.

The catch is that the serving sizes have to be the same. With our larger plates and portion up-sizing, we may not see those calorie savings according to Brian Wansink, Ph.D., Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

AICR’s Bottom Line: Enjoy your favorite turkey day foods, but remember that moderate portions mean more days of delicious leftovers!

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    Corn DNA: Eat it Up

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    There’s a lot of corn news this week, some of it related to Thanksgiving but mainly because researchers have just decoded the DNA of corn. Apparently, corn has a pretty complex genome and it’s giving scientists a lot of new information.

    Credit: Iowa State
    Credit: Iowa State

    The basics: Corn has 32,000 genes packed into 10 chromosomes (humans have 20,000 genes spread among 23 chromosomes). About 85 percent of the corn DNA has these segments that are repeated; that compares to only about 45 percent of human’s DNA. Reports also said there’s a surprisingly huge difference between two corn varieties, (as much as the genetic difference between humans and chimpanzees!).

    Now that researchers know corn’s DNA sequence, they hope it will help develop better types of corn for consumers around the world.

    Corn has received a lot of bad press lately, with stories about high fructose corn syrup and the bulging calorie count of movie popcorn. But plain, simple sweet corn carries a lot of health benefits. It’s a good source of dietary fiber, and vitamins B and C.  Blue corn has more protein and it also contains anthocyanins, phytochemicals well studied for cancer prevention.

    In some shape or form, you’ll likely be eating corn tomorrow (and everyday). For tasty and healthy corn recipes, visit Recipes from the AICR Test Kitchen.
    You can read more about the corn’s genome in the journals Science and PLoS Genetics.

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