Below we answer questions submitted by members of the campus community through our ‘Ask the Dietitian’ survey.
If we answer your question, you win a prize!
Question of the Month
- I have a milk allergy but I see people stating that oat milk or almond milk is bad for us. What is the best milk alternative?
We hear you that determining which milk alternative is best can be a difficult task amidst all the conflicting information you may see online. In truth, the best milk alternative is the one that works best for you! Each alternative offers different benefits, ranging from nutritional profile to taste and texture. We recommend exploring the available alternatives to figure out which ones best fit your personal needs and preferences.
Here are some things to keep in mind when looking for a milk alternative:
• Protein power: Milk made from nuts and seeds tend to be lower in protein than cow’s milk or alternatives like soy milk or pea milk. Protein is an essential macronutrient, so consider whether you are consuming adequate protein from other areas of your diet, or if a high-protein milk alternative would benefit you.
• Sugar content: Milk alternatives typically contain added sugars unless you purchase the unsweetened variety. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar consumption to 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men. Having two cups of sugar-sweetened milk alternative per day could contribute to over half of the recommended added sugar amount for women and over 1/3 the recommended amount for men. Consider choosing an unsweetened variety to reduce added sugar intake. You may consider choosing a vanilla unsweetened milk if you’re looking for some sweetness without the sugar.
• Nutritional profile: Milk alternatives are made from different plants that have different nutritional benefits, and many milk alternatives are also fortified with additional nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin, D, and calcium. The nutritional profile of any given milk alternative can very between brands, so you can’t assume all options are the same. Explore nutrition labels to determine which milk alternative has a nutritional profile that is right for you.
Some people express concern over additives in milk alternatives, such as carrageenan (seaweed extract), oils like sunflower or canola oil, and gums such as guar gum or xanthan gum. These ingredients are added to milk alternatives to enhance mouthfeel and make them feel creamier and thicker. These ingredients are recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration and are often used in small amounts in the milk alternative. Some people may experience digestive discomfort when consuming carrageenan or gums. If so, opt for a milk alternative brand that does not include these ingredients, or try making your own homemade milk alternative. Keep in mind that a homemade milk alternative will lack the nutritional fortification of a store-bought brand. However, it is still a great option and can be a wonderful opportunity to customize your milk and experiment with flavors that you enjoy.
Homemade milk alternative recipes:
• Almond milk
• Oat milk
• Cashew milk
• Coconut milk
• Hemp milk
- If I am trying to eat more plant-based foods, what vitamins and minerals should I focus on?
- While people who eat plant-based typically get enough protein and iron, they should pay close attention to calcium, zinc, iodine, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Here is a breakdown of some sources for these micronutrients.
Calcium: leafy vegetables, tofu, tahini, fortified cereal and plant milks
Vitamin B-12: nutritional yeast, fortified soy beverages, fortified cereals, vitamin B-12 dietary supplements (has increased absorption capacity)
Vitamin D: adequate sun exposure, fortified cereals, soy and almond milks
Iodine: iodized salt, sea vegetables
Zinc: peas, corn, nuts, carrots, whole grains, soybeans, cabbage, legumes
Omega-3 fatty acids: chia seeds, flaxseed, hempseed, walnuts
- How can I lose weight by eating healthy?
- There are several ways to lose weight and still enjoy what you eat without depriving yourself and feeling hungry. To lose weight, it’s recommended to reduce the number of calories that you consume (food and beverages) and to increase physical activity. However, instead of focusing on calories, focusing on the quality of your diet may be more beneficial to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Whole grains, a variety of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins are some of the components of a healthy diet in addition to lowering added sugars and refined carbs. You can also use MyPlate, which is a very useful tool to learn about portion control and wellness!
- How many calories do I need to maintain my weight after weight loss?
- Every person requires a baseline of calories each day in order to maintain their weight. When you are initially trying to lose weight, you want to be eating a caloric deficit, meaning less calories a day than your body requires. There are many websites you can use (cronometer.com) to calculate your caloric needs based on your height, weight, and physical activity level. For example, to lose 1 pound a week, you would want to decrease your caloric intake by 500 calories a day. Once your ideal weight is achieved, you will re-calculate your daily caloric needs based on your NEW body weight and physical activity level. As long as you stay within this range, and don't eat above or below it too often, you will have no problem maintaining your new weight! If you would like individual help setting up a plan, give a holler – firstname.lastname@example.org
- I'm a 49 year old female struggling with weight loss. I am doing hormone replacement therapy through my gynecologist. I am 5'5" and 144 lbs, the heaviest I have ever been. I typically stay 138 and 140 lbs but no matter what I do, I can't seem to lose the belly fat. I workout out six days a week. Three days on, one day off doing the push, pull, legs workout. I eat a very low carb diet tat consists of 10-15 grams carbs. I had my resting metabolic rate done and found out that my maintenance calories are 1611. After finding this out, I spoke to two trainers and they told me I need to eat more to lose weight. I increased my calories to 2000 a day from 1600 and now have gained 4 pounds over the last 2 weeks. What am I doing wrong? What should my calories and macronutrients be?
- Navigating and balancing the proper diet for fueling workouts while maintaining a desired weight can be a struggle and is often challenging. It is frustrating when you feel you are doing everything right and still not reaching your desired outcome or goals. Sometimes the information we are given can be contradictory and misleading leaving us confused and feeling defeated.
When it comes to calories, several factors can be at play. Caloric intake may be determined by considering ideal body weight, the level or intensity of your physical activity, and the frequency of that activity. Once calorie needs are determined, you can begin focusing on the quality of calories consumed. For example, limiting the amount of processed foods, sweets, and sweetened beverages, and increasing the amount of nutrient dense foods like fruits, vegetables, protein, healthy fats, and whole grains. The goal is to provide your body with healthy foods consistently throughout the day. This will also provide your body with the nutrients (including carbohydrates) that it needs to fuel your workouts and help your body rest and recover.
Keep in mind that if you are working out 6 days/week, you are likely gaining muscle, which could be contributing to your weight gain. This is totally normal as your body composition may be changing and muscle weighs more than fat. Our bodies work incredibly hard, and it can take time for them to respond to exercise and dietary changes. It can sometimes take weeks or months to see changes in weight loss. Paying attention to changes in strength and energy or body composition may be a more meaningful way to measure your progress and keep you motivated.
- I’m a vegetarian and have always heard that I need to combine foods in correct combinations to get enough protein. Is this true?
- Yes and no. Proteins are made up of amino acids. Some of these your body can make from other amino acids, some are essential, meaning you must consume sufficient quantities in the food you eat. Many plant proteins don’t contain all nine essential amino acids but animal proteins do. Including a dairy product or egg with each plant protein meal will ensure you’re complete.
Different plant proteins lack different essential amino acids so combining them will give you all of them. Examples include pinto beans with rice. The two plants (beans and rice) complement each other and give you all of the amino acids you need. We used to think that each meal had to be balanced correctly. We now know that we simply need sufficient amounts of each essential amino acid throughout each day or even week.
Bottom line, make sure you’re getting a variety of foods. Most of us get much more protein than we need. It is then either used for energy or stored later as adipose (fat) tissue.
- If you were told to cut down on carbs to help prevent developing diabetes later in life, is choosing a plant-based diet at odds with this advice? I tend to get a majority of my protein from beans, nuts, and plain yogurt which are all technically carb-containing. Am I doing myself a disservice by forgoing meat?
- Type II diabetes is caused by both lifestyle factors and genetics. A healthy plant-based diet emphasizes the consumption of healthy plant foods (including carbs), such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and healthy oils. On the other hand, an unhealthy plant-based diet is high in refined grains (pasta, white/processed bread), juices, and sugary beverages (soda). While both reduce the intake of animal foods, the health results will be totally different! Healthy plant-based diets are rich in fiber, protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, all of which contribute to lower blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and decreased risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Beans, nuts, seeds, and plain yogurt are great sources of plant protein. Giving up meat is up to you, but as long as you’re eating healthy (reduced amount of refined carbs, sugar, and soda, and increased whole grains, veggies, fruits, and healthy oils), exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight, you are less likely to develop diabetes in the future.
You can find out more about diabetes here: http://www.diabetes.org
- Is meat the only real source of protein?
- There are many other potential sources of protein than just meat!
First, some background. Protein is extremely important to have, because it helps make up nearly every part of your body, including muscle, bone, skin, hair, and even the enzymes that drive many of the chemical reactions in your body. This macronutrient is comprised of many building blocks called amino acids, and out of the twenty amino acids that we require, nine of them must be acquired through food, because we cannot synthesize them ourselves.
Animal protein is not the only type of food that can offer you the amino acids you need. In fact, you can fulfill this nutritional requirement with eggs, beans, peas, soy products, nuts, and seeds. Comparing one ounce of meat, one egg, ¼ cup of cooked beans, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds, they all can offer you roughly the same amount of protein!
So, feel free to experiment and diversify your protein intake!
- Are there any foods that can help lower blood pressure?
- Absolutely! The right combination of foods can have a powerful effect on helping to lower blood pressure. It’s best to focus on an overall healthy diet that includes foods like: fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, beans, nuts, whole-grain carbohydrates, and unsaturated fats. Most people know that controlling salt intake is important when trying to lower blood pressure, but did you know that it is also key to consume foods that are rich in potassium, fiber, and magnesium? To keep blood pressure in check, you’ll want to aim for keeping salt intake to <2,300 mg per day (approximately 1 teaspoon/day) and plan a balanced eating strategy to meet other nutrient requirements.
- What are some nutritional benefits to drinking non-dairy milk that dairy milk do not have? Could they be enough to win someone over who might not need to drink them?
- It depends! The nutrients found in plant-based milk differ widely. While one brand of almond milk may contain high amounts of calcium and vitamin D, the other may not provide those key nutrients. For individuals seeking to follow a plant-based diet, plant-based milk is a great alternative. Although most plant milk is lower in saturated fat and calories, they aren’t necessarily more beneficial compared to cow’s milk. Most non-dairy milk contains low amounts of protein and nutrients, while regular cow’s milk offers the most variety of nutrients and protein. As mentioned, plant-based milk differs widely in terms of nutrition. Aside from being a good option for those with a dairy allergy or who are lactose intolerant, plant milk is not necessarily nutritionally superior. Soy milk is probably the most comparable nutritionally to cow’s milk.
- What is nutritional yeast and why is it so popular?
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated strain of Saccharomyces yeast. You often see it sold as bright yellow flakes or powder, and it tastes a little savory and cheesy. You might hear about this product a lot because vegetarian and vegan diets have risen in popularity and these diets often lack B12. Nutritional yeast just happens to be jam-packed with Vitamin B12, is vegetarian- and vegan-friendly, and is easy to incorporate into many dishes.
Nutritional yeast also contains all nine essential amino acids that we need to get from food. One tablespoon contains 2 grams of protein.
But if you're not vegetarian and vegan, don't be afraid to give it a try. It can make a delicious topping for your popcorn and add some kick to your mac and cheese!
- What is your take on daily multi-vitamin pills?
- Most healthy people consuming a varied diet do not need to take supplements. The body utilizes nutrients from foods better than those isolated in a pill and there are likely nutrient interactions, as they naturally occur in foods that we don’t even know about and cannot replicate! That said, worst case scenario is that they are a waste of money; if your body is not in need of the nutrient, or it is in an unusable form, it will be excreted. Best case, there are a few nutrients you may want to check with your doctor about supplementing:
> Vitamin B-12 – if you are vegan, you will need to either include a B-12 supplement or utilize nutritional yeast (use it like parmesan cheese) to get adequate B-12. Some research suggests that older adults may not get the proper amount of B-12 and may benefit from supplementation.
> Vitamin D supplements can be beneficial for older adults and people who don’t get much sunlight.
> Folic acid is important for women of childbearing age. If you’re expecting to become pregnant, eat plenty of folic acid-rich foods (dry-soak beans, peas, spinach, Brussels sprouts, oranges, and enriched cereals) and/or take a supplement to lower the risk of certain birth defects.
- Can I simply lay out in the sun for Vitamin D, or should I still be mindful of getting Vitamin D in my diet?
- Vitamin D plays a vital role in bone health and is needed for your body to absorb and use calcium. Although your body can make Vitamin D when you lay out in the sun, you shouldn’t rely on the sun’s rays to get enough of this vitamin for the whole day. It’s important to wear sunscreen when you go outside to protect your skin and keep it healthy, but this can in turn limit the amount of Vitamin D that your body can produce. Additionally, wearing clothing that covers your skin can also reduce the amount of Vitamin D your body makes. Increase the amount of Vitamin D in your diet by eating foods like salmon, egg yolks, fortified juices and dairy, and mushrooms to meet your daily Vitamin D needs! Also consider checking with your doctor if supplementation might be necessary.
- My Vitamin D levels are low on my last bloodwork. What can I eat to help restore them?
- Fatty fish, egg yolks, fortified milk, fortified cereals, and beef liver are all excellent food sources of vitamin D. 10 -15 minutes of sunlight exposure three times per week without sunscreen can also increase your vitamin D level. Keep in mind that every individual's responsiveness to UV radiation is different, and UV radiation is a carcinogen, which UV exposure is the most preventable cause of skin cancer. The easiest strategy to increase vitamin D intake is supplements. Oral supplement is a good treatment for vitamin D deficiency, and you can easily purchase a vitamin D supplement over the counter. Excess amounts of vitamin D are toxic (hypercalcemia), so be sure to ask a doctor for your vitamin D dosage recommendations.
- Is a Keto lifestyle maintainable? I need to lose weight and keep it off but I have a sweet tooth. How can keto help me stay on track?
- The keto (short for ketogenic) diet is a low-carbohydrate, high fat eating plan that has gained a lot of attention as a potential weight-loss strategy. When the body is deprived of glucose, an alternative fuel called ketones is utilized instead, putting the body in “ketosis”.
Research so far suggests that the ketogenic diet produces beneficial metabolic changes, such as weight loss, changes in insulin resistance, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. The keto diet may help to increase satiation and decrease food cravings due to its high-fat content. Thus, a keto diet can help you lose weight, and potentially help to decrease your sweet tooth.
However, following a ketogenic diet is challenging to maintain long term. Extreme carbohydrate restriction can cause increased hunger, fatigue, low mood, irritability, constipation, headaches, and brain fog. These feelings may subside over time, but following the restrictive diet necessary to stay in ketosis is generally not sustainable long-term. There are also potential negative side effects of long-term ketogenic diets such as the increased risk of kidney stones, osteoporosis, and nutrient deficiencies. A keto diet may help you stay on track and lose weight, but is not realistic to maintain long-term.
- What are the different kinds of fats and should I cut them completely to lose weight?
- Fat is a macronutrient essential for our bodies that provides energy, helps to build cell membranes, aids in vitamin absorption, among other functions. However, some fats are better than others. Trans fats, which are created when unsaturated fats are hydrogenated, increase the bad LDL cholesterol and decrease the good HDL cholesterol. Trans fat are also known for increasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases; therefore, we should avoid them completely. On the other hand, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which come from nuts, seeds, fish, and vegetables are beneficial fats that decrease inflammation, triglycerides, the risk of chronic diseases, and improve the cholesterol profile. Lastly, saturated fats, which are solid at room temperature, contribute to an increase in LDL cholesterol if consumed in excess, so it’s recommended to limit saturated fat to less than 10% of our daily calories. Fats shouldn’t be avoided completely in order to lose weight because they are very important for vital functions of the body. However, it’s recommended to avoid trans fat, reduce saturated fat and replace them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. If you would like to see a dietitian on campus, contact the Staff and Faculty Health and Well-being Program at email@example.com.
- If I’m trying to reduce saturated fat in my diet due to high cholesterol, what is an ideal daily average that I can assume? What is too high?
- While the Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises keeping saturated fat to less than 10 percent of your daily calories, the American Heart Association recommends that for people who need to lower their cholesterol, saturated fat should contribute no more than 5 to 6 percent of your total daily calories. For a 2,000 calorie diet, that is about 11 to 13 grams of saturated fat per day. Aim to reduce your intake of foods high in saturated fat, primarily meat and dairy products, while increasing your intake of unsaturated fats found in fish, avocados, vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds.
- What’s the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats?
The main difference between saturated and unsaturated fats is their structure. Unlike saturated fat molecules, unsaturated fat molecules have a bend in them, giving them an awkward shape that is more difficult to line up and “pack” together tightly. This means it’s harder for unsaturated fats to “clog” up your arteries when they enter your bloodstream, and in turn, can help decrease “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and risks of cardiovascular disease.
Generally, unsaturated fats are much better for you than saturated fats for this reason!
- Are proteins in protein-rich drinks as nutritious for you as the ones you might get in real foods? Are there any differences?
- Protein drinks can be a very convenient and palatable way to help with weight management, nutrient supplementation, and muscle building, but they don’t always offer all nine of the “essential” amino acids and often are accompanied by much more added sugar and preservatives.
On the other hand, obtaining protein from real foods in a diverse and balanced diet can not only offer all nine of the “essential” amino acids, but they can also offer a bunch of other nutrients that your body needs (without additional preservatives). This also encourages a healthier eating pattern with more variety in fresh foods.
With that, obtaining protein from real food may be more beneficial because you can get the protein you need while avoiding extra added sugar or preservatives!
- How much protein should I eat a day and what foods should I eat to consume the recommended amounts?
- Protein is a macronutrient that allows the body to perform functions such as transportation of nutrients, repairing damaged cells, and functions as a building block. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, protein intake should be 10- 30% of our total calories in a day and the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. Other factors to consider, include age, activity level, and current health state. The majority of us can meet our body’s protein needs by simply selecting high-quality proteins, such as fish, poultry, and dairy products. There are also plenty of plant-based foods that are great sources of proteins, such as legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy. Adding protein to your diet will help you to feel full longer and may help you to maintain a healthy weight.
Cooking and Snacking
- I want to start eating healthier, but my kids are picky eaters and don’t like many vegetables or trying new recipes. It’s exhausting making two separate meals to please everyone, so I often find myself giving up and going back to our old routine. Any advice on how to get my family on board?
Getting your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables can be difficult, especially when they are new and unfamiliar to them. Children may need to try new fruits and veggies 10 or more times before they accept them.
Start very small: At home, try a single pea, part of a noodle, or a crumble of cheese. Then, at subsequent meals, increase the portion of the new food.
Stick to the rotation rule: To help kids get into the habit of eating something different every day, don’t offer the same food two days in a row.
Be creative with food: You can spiralize zucchini and carrots and mix them into spaghetti, add riced cauliflower to a stir fry, and have sliced fruits and vegetables ready to go for snacks.
Involving your kids in grocery shopping and meal preparation can also increase their willingness to try new recipes.
Keep introducing new foods in different and creative ways and their taste buds will adjust!
- I love cheese! Is there a way for me to enjoy it frequently but still meet my goal of eating a healthy diet?
- The good news is yes! Although cheese is a high fat food, and much of the fat is saturated, you can balance out the fat by combining it with other foods. For instance, a veggie salad with wild rice topped with bleu cheese – you are combining a small amount of rich and flavorful cheese with a bunch of vegetables and a whole grain. The cheese in this meal supplies protein and flavor!
A good serving size for cheese is about 1 ounce, which is a piece about the size of your thumb or about ¼ cup shredded. Make it count! Use a strong flavored cheese so that you consume less of it. Surround your serving of cheese with grains and/or fruits/vegetables. Grab a chunk of cheddar to eat with your apple on the go.
- I’d like to eat based on an anti-inflammatory diet, but I like beans and legumes and don’t eat red meat or pork. Is it critical not to eat beans if you’re working towards reducing inflammation?
- Whole nutrient-dense plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, and beans/legumes, are actually great for reducing inflammation because they contain antioxidants. Beans, such as black, kidney, and red beans are all excellent sources of antioxidants. Foods that promote inflammation include refined carbohydrates, fried foods, sugary drinks, certain oils, and red meat/processed meat. To help reduce inflammation, focus on eating whole plant foods, including beans and legumes, and avoid eating processed foods and red meat. Here and another, web resource for reference.
- I’ve heard there is a specific kind of fiber that is particularly good for helping to lower my cholesterol level. What is it and which foods contain it?
- There are two kinds of dietary fiber, insoluble and soluble fibers. Soluble fiber is that special fiber that is particularly good at helping to decrease serum total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. Good sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, beans (dry soak – kidney, garbanzo, etc. – canned o.k.), nuts and seeds, barley and some fruits and vegetables. Soluble fiber absorbs water and becomes like a gel. This slows down digestion and can be helpful in binding to cholesterol, carrying it out of the body. The other type of fiber is insoluble fiber. This is what you may think of as ‘roughage’ and doesn’t absorb water. Rather it adds bulk to the material moving through your digestive tract helping keep stool large, soft and easy to pass. Some foods contain both types of dietary fibers. To increase your intake:
Shoot for 2 ½ cups of veggies and 1 ½ cups of fruits each day. Items with edible skins and seeds provide the most fiber as do those that are fibrous – like Brussels sprouts.
Eat beans! Try and have at least one vegetarian meal with beans each week for dinner. Find some great recipes here.
Include nuts and seeds, regularly. These are great for snacks. Here are some great ideas for a perfect portion of almonds! Most nuts have a very similar portion size.
As mentioned in our discussion of whole grains, be sure to check your bread and cereal. Select cereal with 5 grams or more fiber per ounce and bread with at least 2 – 3 grams fiber per 15 grams carbohydrate.
- Sometimes I get hungry between meals or when hiking and need a snack, but many prepackaged snacks, even protein bars, are high in sugar. What are some healthier, filling snacks that I can leave on my desk or backpack?
- You’re right to be wary, as many pre-packaged snacks, such as granola or protein bars, can be loaded with sugar as well as additives such as partially hydrogenated oils (trans fat), high-fructose corn syrup, and colorings! If you’re going to purchase a pre-packaged bar, go for a brand with simple ingredients you can recognize, such as CLIF, KIND, Perfect Bar, or RXBar. Even some of these bars are still fairly high in sugar, so check the nutrition label and pick one with less sugar and more fiber and protein! If you’re looking for lower sugar, whole food snacks, here are some ideas for when you’re at home or on the go: Non-perishables to leave in your backpack or desk: • Trail mix (avoid high sodium or high sugar varieties) • A piece of fruit (apples, bananas…) • Chia squeeze packets (Mamma Chia) • Popcorn • Mary’s Gone Crackers Perishables to be taken out of the fridge day-of: • Baby carrots and hummus • Greek yogurt • Hard-boiled egg • Edamame (steamed soybeans) • Chia seed pudding • Apple slices with peanut butter Investing in some small containers can make packing these snacks extra convenient and portable!
- What is "probiotic" and what is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that have health benefits when consumed or applied to the body. They are found in fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, tempeh, buttermilk, sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, and dietary supplements.
WHO definition: probiotics are live microorganisms (bacteria or yeasts) which when administered in adequate amounts, are considered to confer a health benefit on the host organism.
Prebiotics are some elements in foods that are non-digestible by the body, but they are fermentable by bacteria. These substances promote the growth and activity of beneficial microbiota of the large intestine. In fact, prebiotics provide food for the good bacteria in our body. Specialized plant fibers act as a prebiotic that stimulates growth among the preexisting good bacteria. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of fermentable plant fibers and adding them to the diet can help protect the gut microbiota. Some prebiotic foods include banana, onion, garlic, berries, legumes, beans, oat, and asparagus.
- Why choose seasonal and locally sourced food?
Eating locally grown food means considering the food that is seasonally appropriate. The farmers from the local market offer food that is harvested the day before or morning of purchase which may be the freshest, most nutrient-dense product available in your area. These foods are also picked at peak ripeness, so they are higher in vitamins and minerals than their out-of-season counterparts found in the grocery store. Fresh produce also contains remnants of soil that harbor good bacteria. The bacteria that live on the skin of fruits and vegetables are essential for proper immune health and gut function. Shopping locally sourced food from the farmer’s market supports local farmers who care about the quality of the soil, the health of the harvest and about their customers. Additionally, it’s a means of supporting farmers and their families who are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.
Eating and enjoying food that is local to a region and environment is more favorable to the planet as it minimizes the emissions caused during the process of transportation. Adopting a seasonal diet, abundant with local produce, can also help you to explore your creativity in the kitchen!
- Is it important to only buy organic produce?
The organic label can be very confusing to consumers. Organic simply means that these foods are grown or raised using only natural products: they are not treated with synthetic pesticides, they are not grown using synthetic soil or fertilizer, or they are raised in a natural environment. “Organic” only refers to how the food is grown or prepared and not necessarily the nutritional value of the product. Eating organic produce has not been shown to improve the nutritional quality of one's diet if they are already eating a balanced diet. Organic foods can still be treated with pesticides and herbicides, as long as they are not synthetic.
Some may think that it is necessary to buy only organic products, but these groceries can be much more expensive than their conventionally grown counterparts, making it important to determine when you should or should not buy organic.
A major factor in choosing between organic versus non-organic foods is the possibility of pesticide residue on the food. Consider how you will be eating the food and how the food is grown: strawberries, apples, and nectarines are meant to be eaten whole, while melons, avocados, and pineapple are meant to be peeled first. Peeling your produce might reduce the pesticide residue of the food you're eating. Whether your produce is organic or not, it is important to wash it thoroughly to remove any lingering pesticides, dirt, or bacteria. For most produce, rinsing and scrubbing it under running water is a safe bet. You may also soak your it in a water and distilled white vinegar bath in a 2:1 ratio or use a scrub brush on produce with thick rinds.
- What are electrolytes and why are they important?
Electrolytes are a set of electrically charged minerals that are important for many bodily processes, including muscle contraction, nervous impulses, pH maintenance, and body hydration. Some of the common electrolytes found in the body are calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium. Each of these minerals carries an electric charge when dissolved in the body, giving them their name, electrolyte.
When doing physical activity, and sweating, electrolytes are lost
You can replenish your electrolyte stores with a variety of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, dairy products, and even table salt!
If you choose an electrolyte drink be mindful of any added sugar and dyes, which might not be beneficial for health. In order to maintain optimal health consuming a balanced diet plays an important role in sustaining healthy electrolyte levels.
- I always forget to drink water. Any tips on staying hydrated?
- Get yourself a clear water bottle that you like, is easy to wash and carry around, and allows you to see how much water you have had throughout the day. Set reminders on your phone for every couple hours or choose to always have a glass of water, milk, fruit smoothie, or tea with your meals and snacks.You can also opt for foods (water-rich fruits and vegetables) or meals (ie. non-cream soups) that are higher in water content.
- Besides caffeine, are there foods I should or shouldn’t have to get a better rest at night? Does diet play an important role in sleep quality?
- You are right that caffeine can impact your sleep! Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate. It is suggested to stop having caffeine at least six hours before bed, as it can stay in your system and impact your sleep. While it’s more common to talk about the effect of caffeine on sleep, there are other ways in which your diet can affect sleep quality.
Alcohol and large meals may make you drowsy at first, but they both have a negative impact on your quality of sleep. Alcohol disrupts the deep and REM stages of sleep, resulting in a less restful night, drowsiness, and difficulty concentrating throughout the day. Large meals, or meals with high protein and high fat, take long to digest. This may be problematic since digestion slows by up to 50% during sleep. Consider having your last drink or last large meal at least four hours before going to bed to allow your body to process these foods.
Certain foods have been shown to improve your sleep quality. Complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat toast or oatmeal induce the production of serotonin, a sleepy hormone. Fatty fish contains omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, which may also help regulate serotonin in your body. Melatonin is another beneficial sleep hormone that can be found in tart cherry juice and milk. Kiwis have also shown to help people fall asleep faster, sleep for longer, and have higher sleep quality. Finally, nuts such as walnuts, almonds, cashews, and pistachios support sleep as they are rich in minerals such as magnesium and zinc. Timing your alcohol and caffeine intake while consuming a balanced diet rich in whole foods may support a restful night’s sleep.
Alcohol and Sleep
The Best Foods to Help You Sleep
- I'm allergic to eggs, but I love baking. Any suggestions on egg alternatives to baked goods?
- Try 3-4 tablespoons of apple sauce or 1 tablespoon of flax seeds with 3 tablespoons of water for every egg you need. Depending on the recipe and how many eggs you must replace, these ingredient alternatives may impact the flavor and texture of the final product, so experiment!
- Any tips on how to eat less salt?
- When you are grocery shopping, choose more fresh fruits and vegetables and foods that are labeled as "no salt added," "sodium free," "very low sodium" (contains less than 35mg per serving), or "low sodium" (contains less than 140mg per serving). Learn more about reading food labels for sodium here.
And, when in doubt, try cooking more at home, so you can control how much salt is added to your food!
Myths vs. Facts
- How do I know if the nutrition information I find on the internet is reliable?
There are multiple resources on the internet packed with a pool of nutrition information. It can be tough to know what to believe and what not to believe.
It is important to review the information about the author and the organization that published the information to assess the reliability of the content. While reading the article try to understand if the information has a reliable scientific reference or if it’s just an author’s opinion. Some of the articles are funded by commercial advertisements, donations, or public funds, the information published in the article could favor the funding agencies leading to misleading information. Try to understand if the content is biased Some of the sites request personal information in order to access the information on the webpage. Do not fall into such a trap; protect your personal information.
It is always safe to consult licensed nutrition professionals/ registered dietitians for any sort of nutrition-related concerns that need better clarification rather than relying only on online resources. If you would like to see a dietitian on campus, contact the Staff and Faculty Health and Well-being Program at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Do we need more calories when it gets colder?
- The cold weather itself does not increase caloric needs, however, the body compensating to a drop in body temperature can. Since the body requires more energy to stay warm, particularly when shivering, you may require slightly more energy to increase body temperature. However, these increases are most likely negligible within the context of the length of exposure to cold temperatures and overall caloric intake. Your level of physical activity has a much more substantial effect on caloric needs!
- There are rumors that turkey is responsible for making you feel sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner. Is this true?
- Turkey certainly plays a role in the onset of fatigue following Thanksgiving dinner but is not the main contributing factor. Many side dishes, desserts, and even favorite vegetables served during Thanksgiving dinner are high carbohydrate-containing foods and contribute to higher blood glucose levels following the meal.
Turkey makes a minor contribution in inducing sleep after the meal as it contains an amino acid called tryptophan; a precursor to serotonin a hormone that plays a role in relaxation. Additionally, to initiate the digestion process after a high carbohydrate-containing meal, more blood flows from the brain towards the abdomen creating a low oxygen environment in the brain, which causes drowsiness. Therefore, turkey may help produce the hormone needed for the brain to initiate sleep; but the higher blood glucose level initiates the onset of fatigue following holiday feasts!
- I’ve heard that the limonene in lemon peel is good for overall health. Is this true?
Limonene- present in the peel of lemons and other citrus fruits- is used in perfumes, soaps, food, and beverages due to its high-quality fragrance properties. Recent clinical studies have reported that limonene plays a valuable role in the prevention of several chronic and degenerative diseases. The antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and various other health-beneficial properties of limonene are helpful for overall health. The abundance of limonene in nature and its safety profile make it favorable for developing therapeutic drugs for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, anxiety, and stroke.
Additionally, limonene is used in cleaning products, pesticides, and air fresheners due to its pleasant aroma.
- I heard that soy milk contains estrogen and can affect estrogen levels in the body. Is this true and does this have any health repercussions?
Soy contains a lot of “phytoestrogen,” a plant estrogen that is similar to human estrogen but has much weaker effects on the body! Its effects can also vary depending on your genetics, hormone levels, and the type of soy you obtain the phytoestrogen from.
There are misconceptions that because soy contains phytoestrogen, consuming soy products may increase risks for hormonal cancers, like breast or prostate cancers, but there is no conducive human research supporting this thus far. Soy is rich in B vitamins, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and protein, so enjoy your soy because it is really good for you! Source: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/soy/
- If I eat too much pumpkin, will my skin turn orange?
- Carotenemia is a condition when the skin turns yellow-orange due to increased beta-carotene levels in the blood. Eating carotene-rich foods such as pumpkins and carrots elevate beta-blood carotene levels. Beta-carotene is a precursor to Vitamin A, but only so much converts to vitamin A in our body. Excessive consumption (more than 30mg of beta-carotene) for an extended period can cause carotenemia on the thick areas of skins such as palms and soles. It is a benign condition that is most common in infants and young children whose diets are mainly pureed green and orange vegetables. Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6758952/
- Is it true that eating an apple gives you more energy than drinking a cup of coffee?
Perhaps, but not in the way you may think. A cup of black coffee contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine, which speeds up breathing and heart rates when you consume it. This occurs because the caffeine in coffee stimulates your central nervous system, which in turn gives you sensations of alertness. Many people enjoy a cup of coffee (or several) to feel this sensation, but some experience anxiety, mood swings, jolts in energy, jitters, or even a crash in energy after the consumption of caffeine. Regardless, coffee is enjoyed around the world not only for an energy boost but also as a part of routine, ritual, and experience.
It's not that an apple has the same amount of caffeine as a cup of a coffee, in fact an apple contains no caffeine whatsoever. It does, however, contain 13 grams of naturally occurring sugar. When you consume an apple, you feel energized due to the digestion of the glucose in the fruit, which is used to feed your body’s cells. The consumption of an apple also has the added benefits of being high in fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and vitamins. The energy you get from eating an apple lasts for the duration it takes your body to metabolize it, resulting in an energy cycle like a bell curve instead of a pyramid like with caffeine. In other words, you won’t experience the negative effects associated with consuming caffeine when you enjoy an apple.
If you’re a coffee lover it’s unlikely that an apple will replace your morning cup of joe, however, maybe with this information in mind you’ll find yourself reaching for an apple instead of your second or third cup of coffee.
- I've heard that one of the types of fiber is very helpful in controlling blood cholesterol levels (the bad kind of blood cholesterol). Which foods have this fiber?
- Soluble fiber’ gel-like substance has been shown to lower the absorption of LDL cholesterol into the bloodstream. Some foods that contain soluble fiber are oats, legumes, apples, avocados, flaxseeds, and cruciferous greens.
· Oats are high in a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan. It has been shown that eating just a cup of oats a day may lower LDL cholesterol in the blood by 11%.
· Having a diet rich in legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas had been shown to lower LDL cholesterol by 8%.
· Apples contain a soluble fiber called pectin, which has been shown to lower blood cholesterol. Eating two apples a day provides about 3.7 grams of pectin.
· A whole avocado does not only contain healthy fats and antioxidants, but it also contains a total of 5 grams of fiber. Of those 5 grams, 1.4 grams are soluble fiber, which helps with regulating blood cholesterol levels.
· Whole flaxseeds are a good source of healthy fats and soluble fiber. They have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol in people with high blood cholesterol.
· Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, and kale not only offer vitamins and antioxidants, but they also contain great amounts of soluble fiber that promotes healthy blood cholesterol levels.