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Published May 14, 2010, 12:00 AM

Be a good judge of sources of health info

I heard a radio playing in my 11-year-old daughter’s room early one morning. I was on jury duty that day, so I was rushing to help get my kids moving and ready for school before I was due back at the courthouse.

By: Julie Garden-Robinson, INFORUM

I heard a radio playing in my 11-year-old daughter’s room early one morning. I was on jury duty that day, so I was rushing to help get my kids moving and ready for school before I was due back at the courthouse.

I paused at my daughter’s door trying to detect movement. I heard nothing, but her radio was tuned to a program about a product that naturally cleanses your body of toxins. I listened for a while, a little surprised by the promises presented in the commercial.

I thought I’d let her snooze a couple of minutes more, so I tiptoed into her room to turn off the radio. She was completely buried under blankets.

As I was about to tap the “off” button, an arm quickly and unexpectedly reached out from under the covers and brushed my hand away from the radio. I almost had a heart attack.

“Why are you listening to this program?” I asked.

“Don’t you want me to learn about toxins and the colon?” she responded. I think she was teasing me.

“Well, the jury’s still out on the effectiveness of colon cleansing. I think I’d like you to get up and go to school and learn there, instead of from commercials. You need to wake up now,” I prodded.

Later, from my vantage point on the jury, I observed the judicial system process in action. I listened intently as the prosecuting and defense attorneys presented facts and questioned witnesses, often objecting to each other’s questioning. A judge, of course, was on hand to preside over the case.

In everyday life, we usually do not have a judge on hand to overrule or sustain objections. In many ways, we all act as “jurors” by weighing the evidence before we make a decision about what to believe.

We are not short on nutrition and health information, and not all of it is “evidence-based.” We have more avenues of receiving information of all sorts than ever before in history.

Besides radio and TV, we have e-mail, websites, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and many other venues to send and receive information. Unfortunately, nutrition and health information is not always accurately depicted.

Since many people retrieve health information from websites, consider some of these questions as you judge the reliability of the information on the site.

- Does the website address end in “.gov” or “.edu”? Government (.gov) and educational institution (.edu) websites are more trustworthy than commercial (.com) sites. Organization sites (.org) usually have credible information.

- What is the purpose of the information? Is it promoting or selling a product?

Consider the intent and weigh the evidence before you buy.

- Is the information based on scientific research or opinion?

- Is a date listed? Is it recent?

- Is there an editorial board that oversees the website?

- Is a credible organization sponsoring the website?

- Is the material reviewed by experts?

Here’s a menu suggestion based on research. Many health experts now recommend that we eat more heart-healthy fatty fish, such as salmon, which provides protein, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Many people lack adequate vitamin D in their diets. This recipe is easy and tasty, but you be the judge.


Citrus Twist Salmon

4 salmon planks (fresh or thawed)

1 orange

4 tbsp. lemon juice

Lemon pepper to taste

Cut four pieces of aluminum foil big enough to wrap around each plank twice.

Place on cookie sheet. Put one plank on each piece of aluminum foil. Cut rings of lemon and orange (leave skin on) and arrange three to four pieces on each plank. Sprinkle with lemon juice and lemon pepper. Bring the sides of the foil together and fold the seam to seal in the fish. Bake at 400 F for 20 to 25 minutes or until the fish flakes with a fork and/or reaches an internal temperature of 145 F. (These also could be prepared on an outdoor grill with the same method.)

Makes four servings. Each serving has 180 calories, 7 grams (g) of fat, 4 g of carbohydrate, 50 milligrams of sodium, and 289 International Units of vitamin D.


Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

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