What foods are good for you?

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It’s time to see how much you know about your health, diet and food. Many people go through life with profound misconceptions about what foods are good for you and what foods are not. Which of these statements true or otherwise?

  • All fats are bad, and following a low-fat diet is the best way to lose weight.
  • More television viewing is associated with greater obesity.
  • Americans have lowered their rate of heart disease because they eat less fat now than they did 30 years ago.
  • Dietary fiber helps reduce your risk for heart disease.
  • The best fat is polyunsaturated fat.
  • Vegetarians are never overweight.
  • Fresh vegetables are better than frozen.
  • If the label says “fat free” you can be assured it’s lower in calories.
  • Dairy products cause congestion.
  • Periodic fasting is a good way to lose weight.
  • Eggs are low in saturated fat.
  • To lose a pound of weight, you need to create a deficit of about 3,500 calories with diet and exercise.
  • Fish has too much mercury — avoid it.
  • Drinking and eating cold foods will help me lose weight.

Knowing what foods are good for you:

1. All fats are bad and following a low-fat diet is the best way to lose weight.
Myth. Fat is necessary for energy, especially for active and growing kids — for hormone function, vitamin absorption and transport. Fats add flavor to your food. Since fat contains more than twice the calories per gram compared to protein and carbohydrates, it’s more concentrated in calories, so to lose weight on a calorie-controlled diet, you need to eat less fat. Choose your fats wisely — nuts, avocado, seeds and fatty fish contain immune-promoting monounsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids.

2. More television viewing is associated with greater obesity.
Truth. We know about inactivity and adults — kids today are in trouble. It’s a different world than just 15 years ago. Kids who watch the most television are less active and eat more junk foods. Watching advertising is dangerous, as the messages are very seductive to children. Kids need to be more fit by exercising more.

3. Americans have lowered their rate of heart disease because they eat less fat now than they did 30 years ago.
Myth. Eating less fat doesn’t translate into healthier Americans. In fact, Americans are fatter than ever before, and it’s not just because of the amount of fat they eat. Portion size of sugar and refined carbohydrates continues to dominate the weight gain issue, as well as the decrease in the amount of activity.

4. Dietary fiber helps reduce your risk for heart disease
Truth. Not only does fiber help lower the risk for heart disease and cancer, but a diet high in fiber translates into increases in the intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods. Fiber helps fill you up, without adding calories. Foods high in fiber are generally lower in calories, are fresh and can help you maintain your weight loss.

5. The best fat is polyunsaturated fat.
Myth. There are healthy polyunsaturated fats, including the omega-3 fatty acids — however, health experts report that monounsaturated fats and oils from olive and canola oil are the healthiest oils. The less processed and refined the oil, the better. The best diet includes mostly mono- and poly-unsaturated fats — and it keeps saturated fats to a minimum. Trans-fats, from hydrogenated fat, (found in solid vegetable shortening, used often in fast food cooking, and in commercially baked cakes, cookies, crackers and breads) are unhealthy fats, and should be avoided.

6. Vegetarians are never overweight.
Myth. Vegetarians can be just as overweight as any other person! If you’re taking in more calories than you’re burning, you will store the excess as fat. If you’re a strict vegetarian and avoid all animal products, you need to plan carefully to make sure you don’t become deficient in certain nutrients. Vitamin B12, iron, calcium, vitamin D and zinc are easy to miss in vegan diets. Vegetarians have an advantage in that their diets are high in fiber and low in saturated fat, and usually include good amounts of leafy green vegetables and fruit. They need to take a daily multi-vitamin that contains 100 percent of the RDA for essential nutrients. Include fortified soy milk for vitamin D and protein, nuts and legumes for iron and zinc, and fortified cereals for iron and vitamin D. Fortified orange juice is also a good source of calcium.

7. Fresh vegetables are better than frozen.
Myth. Frozen vegetables can even be healthier than fresh, depending on how long the fresh have been sitting in the market. Frozen vegetables are processed at their peak nutritional value, whereas it could take days, even weeks, for fresh vegetables to be transported — and even longer before you get to cook them. Health experts recommend you eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables daily — fresh or frozen.

8. If the label says “fat-free” you can be assured it’s lower in calories.
Myth. Fat-free doesn’t make a product calorie-free. The smartest consumers read the labels and compare products. Most manufacturers add sugar to fat-free cookies to make up for the texture and taste changes. Fat-free cheeses and spreads will be lower in calories… Read the label to compare and choose wisely.

9. Dairy products cause congestion.
Myth. Milk allergy is an uncommon reaction to casein, the protein found in milk, and is a serious matter, but only affects 1 to 7 percent of the population. Symptoms can include sneezing, a runny nose and watery eyes. Lactose intolerance affects more people — in fact, the majority of Asians and Africans are deficient in producing lactase, the intestinal enzyme necessary to digest the sugar in milk. Lactose intolerance severity varies — some may be able to eat yogurt and cheese and even enjoy milk, in small amounts. There are lactose-free dairy products available at most grocers, and over-the-counter lactase pills can help. If you’re worried about excess fat in whole milk dairy, choose low-fat or nonfat dairy or lactose-free milk. Dairy products are great sources of protein and vitamins, as well as calcium and magnesium. Research shows that intake of calcium is positively associated with maintaining a healthy weight. Children who don’t drink milk have a greater risk for bone fracture, as they’re not getting important calcium that builds bones. Soy dairy substitutes including soy milk, soy yogurt and tofu fortified with calcium and vitamin D are great alternatives to dairy.

10. Periodic fasting is a good way to lose weight.
Myth. Fasting does not help you lose weight. People who eat smaller meals more frequently have a better chance of keeping the weight off. Skipping meals or fasting sets you up for failure. You perceive that you can eat more at the next meal, because you skipped the last one, but your metabolism may be slowed because it’s conserving calories, sensing a deprivation. You lose touch with your hunger and satiety clues when you fast, and overeat to compensate. “Naturally thin” people eat when they’re hungry, and stop when they’re full. Make that your goal.

11. Eggs are low in saturated fat.
Truth. Although eggs have a bad reputation, it’s undeserved. For years doctors advised people with high blood cholesterol to eliminate foods high in dietary cholesterol. The American Council on Science and Health reports that “substantial body of scientific research shows that dietary cholesterol has only a small effect on blood cholesterol and the consumption of eggs — up to an intake of one egg per day — has no detectable effect on heart disease risk in healthy people.” Recent research shows that dietary cholesterol in eggs and shellfish does not cause high blood cholesterol in the majority of people. Other factors influence high levels of blood cholesterol, including the amount of saturated fat in the diet. The patient’s overall diet, including the amount of refined carbohydrates and trans fat, is also important. Eggs are very low in saturated fat and high in important nutrients including protein, B vitamins and vitamins A, D and E.

12. To lose a pound of weight, you need to create a deficit of about 3,500 calories with diet and exercise.
Truth. To lose a pound of fat, you need to balance your personal body scale by taking in fewer calories and doing more activity. The best weight-loss program will show you how to do both. At eDiets, we help you lose the weight by adopting a healthy lifestyle, so you can maintain your weight loss permanently. Aim for one to two pounds of weight loss weekly. You may lose more in the initial weeks as your body adjusts to your new meal plan and activity. Your scale is not always the best indicator of your progress — if you add weights to your workout, you can actually transform your body to a more muscular and fit you.

13. Fish has too much mercury: Avoid it.
Myth. Health experts recommend that you limit cold-water fish including swordfish and tuna to once or twice weekly, because of possible high mercury levels. But that doesn’t mean you can’t eat fish seven days a week if you like, because there are dozens of varieties available — fresh, frozen or canned. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the American Dietetic Association, and the American Heart Association recommend eating two to three fish meals per week. Fish is a low-fat source of protein that may help to lower blood cholesterol. Fatty, cold-water fish like tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel and lake trout are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

14. Drinking and eating cold foods will help me lose weight.
Myth: This myth is akin to taking a pill or rubbing a cream on your thighs in hopes that you will lose weight. Sorry, it won’t work. Your body is a machine, a wonderful, mechanical miracle. You put energy into it, and it goes. You put too much energy in, and it goes slower.

DO YOU KNOW…

If you’re worried about the contaminants in fish, the Food & Drug Administration says that catfish, farmed and wild Alaskan salmon, sole, sardines and tilapia have the lowest levels of mercury. Shellfish including clams, king crab, oysters, scallops and shrimp have similarly low levels of mercury. The highest contamination comes from king mackerel, shark, swordfish and tilefish: the FDA advises avoiding these fish, or limiting them to no more than once a month.