Reader RS from Indiana writes:
Being a retired home economics teacher, I always enjoy reading your column. I have always peeled the skin off of apples due to my concern about the chemicals used to spray the apples. Should I be concerned about this or am I overly cautious?"
You might be overly cautious and miss out on some great health benefits. As I mentioned in a previous column, most of the healthful ingredients in fresh apples including dietary fiber and antioxidant compounds reside in or close to the skin of an apple.
According to experts who recently attended the Facts, Not Fear farm tour in the apple-producing region of the Pacific Northwest, all apples — those grown both organically and conventionally — are safe to eat with the peels. That's because improved farming methods over the past decades have greatly reduced the use of many pesticides.
According to the pesticide calculator at Alliance for Food and Farming (safefruitsandveggies.com), a woman could eat 850 apples in one day with no effect of pesticide residue on her health, even if the apple had the highest pesticide residue ever recorded on apples by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Again, just make sure you wash your hands with soap and water and your apples with plain water before crunching into this good-for-you food.
On another topic: I tend to go bonkers for anything pumpkin this time of year. So I was intrigued to receive a sample of a plant-based, vegan and pumpkin version of marshmallows. This product is also non-GMO, certified kosher, has no artificial flavors or colors, no corn syrup, no gelatin and no gluten, and it's free of the common allergens wheat, dairy, eggs, corn, peanut, and tree nuts.
Which made me wonder — what IS in vegan marshmallows? I took a look at the label: tapioca syrup, cane sugar, filtered water, tapioca starch, carrageenan (a seaweed extract), soy protein, natural flavors and annatto (a food coloring from the seeds of the achiote tree).
Typical marshmallows are made with four basic ingredients, say food scientists — sugar, corn syrup and gelatin plus some air. Some makers add natural and artificial flavors and color plus tetrasodium pyrophosphate (TSPP), a food additive used in other products such as meat substitutes and toothpaste.
It's the gelatin that makes most marshmallows not vegan, i.e. free of animal products.
Gelatin is made with the protein collagen, an animal byproduct.
Interestingly, there's not much difference nutritionally between vegan and regular varieties of marshmallows. They both are primarily sugar (about 6 teaspoons) and contain 100 calories per serving of 18 miniature marshmallows.
What do I think? Marshmallows are not really a health food, but strict vegans who love marshmallows may enjoy this special variety. (They do cost twice as much as regular marshmallows.) I think my grandkids would love either type in their hot chocolate.
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.