Health column: Health benefits of juice vs. cider

Q: Is there a nutritional difference between apple cider and apple juice?

A: In the United States, apple cider refers to apple juice that has not been filtered to remove all apple pulp. Outside the United States, cider usually refers to an alcoholic beverage, designated as “hard cider” in the United States. Cider contains more of the antioxidant phytochemicals than clear commercial apple juice. The extra processing to make juice may lead to loss of 30 to 90 percent of whole apples’ phytochemicals and antioxidant activity. That said, even cider can’t offer as many phytochemicals as you get from eating a whole apple, and it’s missing the dietary fiber an apple provides. That fiber can also help lower blood cholesterol and may be used by healthy bacteria in our gut to produce protective substances that reduce risk of colon cancer. As for the choice between the two apple beverages, cider is a great choice for most of us, but it poses one safety concern: although juice is normally pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria, cider, especially straight from a cider mill or farm stand, often is not. Most people’s immune systems can handle this, but weaker immune systems might not. Some people’s immune function has been reduced by illnesses like AIDS, cancer or diabetes or by medications. Others with more vulnerable immune systems include the elderly, pregnant women, infants and young children. These people are at risk of serious illness from food-borne bacteria, so the Food and Drug Administration recommends that if these groups drink unpasteurized cider, they should bring it to a boil first to kill harmful bacteria.

Q: Does exercising to music helps you get a better workout?

A: Music can be a big help and seems to work in several ways. Some studies show that music — any music — becomes a sort of distraction during exercise that results in people not perceiving themselves to be working as hard as when they’re exercising in quiet. This can lead people to feel comfortable continuing to exercise a little longer or work at a higher intensity than they otherwise would, and thus burn more calories and progress more in their physical training if this becomes their norm. Some also achieve this distraction by listening to audio books or rhythmic nonmusical noise like the sounds of ocean waves. Other studies show a unique advantage to music — the faster the beat of the music, the faster or more intensely people exercise. For most, this is helpful. But people in cardiac rehab or others advised to hold back their pace for medical reasons may respond to fast music by pushing past their recommended limits, so you need to use this tendency wisely. One other caution: if you’re out walking or biking in an area where you need to be aware of traffic and people surrounding you for safety reasons, be careful about letting music or other sounds distract you or make it too difficult to hear sounds you need to hear.

Karen Collins is a registered dietician and certified nutritionist with the American Institute for Cancer Research, the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk.