This page is dedicated to random nutrition related myths vs. facts, culinary questions, or anything interesting I come across on a daily basis. Its a work in progress. If you have any questions, comments please leave them on the comment section below!
Artificial Sweeteners & sugar substitutes- Artificial sweeteners are just one type of sugar substitutes used instead of table sugar (sucrose). They are synthetic sugar substitutes but may be derived from natural sources. Other sugar substitutes are: sugar alcohols, novel sweeteners, and natural sweeteners. All artificial sweeteners (Equal, Sweet N'Low, Splenda etc) are generally recognized as safe by FDA. It virtually adds no calories because we only need a tiny fraction compared with the amount of table sugar we normally use for sweetness. Its widely used in baked goods, beverages, candies etc. Each sweeteners have an acceptable daily intake (ADI) which is the maximum amount considered safe to consume each day over the course of your lifetime.
Sugar Alcohols (like xylitol, mannitol ending with -ol) are carbohydrates that occur naturally in certain fruits and vegetables,aren't considered noncaloric or non-nutritive sweeteners because they contain calories. It is generally not used at home but used in many processed foods because it adds sweetness, bulk, and texture. They tend to have laxative effect, causing bloating, intestinal gas and diarrhea.
Novel Sweeteners (Stevia extracts, Naturlose etc) are combination of sugar substitutes are hard to fit in separate category because of how they are made, their chemical structure, and what they are made up. FDA has only approved highly refined stevia preparations as a novel sweetener but not whole-leaf stevia or crude stevia extracts for this use.
Natural Sweeteners (honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave nectar etc) are often promoted as healthier options but even they go through processing and refining. They are nutritionally similar to table sugar though.
When it comes to sugar of any kind - aim to reduce its consumption.
Butter vs. Margarine- Butter contains a lot of artery-clogging saturated fats & cholesterol while margarine has unhealthy combination of saturated and trans fats. It is best to skip the both and use liquid oils, such as olive, canola and safflower oil, instead. They both are highly concentrated sources of calories, providing around 100 calories per tablespoon and if you want to use one or the other on occasion, margarine is the healthier choice overall – as long as you choose the right type of margarine. Check ingredient list for words such as ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ which indicates the presence of ‘trans fat’. Steer clear of stick margarine and look for alternatives such as tub or liquid margarine.
Dietary Fiber(soluble vs. insoluble)- Fiber includes all parts of plants that our body can't digest or absorb.
Soluble, dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.
Insoluble, does not dissolve in water. It promotes the movement of material through digestive system and increases stool bulk, help prevent or relieve constipation. Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans and potatoes, are good sources of insoluble fiber. Aim on getting around 25-35 grams total dietary fiber per day.
Dietitian vs. Nutritionist- In simple terms, dietitian is an expert in food and nutrition who has a college degree from an accredited university and has met all the requirements (depending upon state or country) to earn the title as a dietitian however, nutritionist is someone who is interested in food, nutrition and health but may not have required training or education to give research-based, sound dietary advice to the public. Before receiving any dietary advice, make sure you check the credential and education of the health professional. For more info, click here.
Eggs(white vs. brown)- almost identical in nutritional content (per medium egg, about 70 calories, 7 grams of fat, 12 grams protein, 200 mg cholesterol). The differences come from the color and breed of the chickens producing the eggs. Also, it may vary due to farming practices and grade therefore, choosing the healthiest eggs should not be based on color.
Flour (bleached vs. unbleached)- Flour that is bleached naturally as it ages is labeled "unbleached," while chemically treated flour is labeled "bleached." Bleached flour is whiter, has less protein than unbleached, yellowish and is best for pie crusts, cookies, quick breads, pancakes and waffles. While unbleached flour works best for yeast breads, danish/puff pastry, strudel, cream puffs and popovers etc.
Fruits (fresh vs. frozen vs. dried vs. canned)- Fresh fruits are nutritionally better when it is used within a few days of picking. However, both canned (in water or light juice) and frozen fruits, if picked at its may be equally nutritious, although the heating process destroys some vitamins but the majority of the nutrients remain. Dried fruits are convenient to eat but since most of the water has been removed from dried fruit, each portion packs more calories than a piece of fresh fruit. A 1/4 cup of dried fruit equals a 1/2 cup of fresh fruit.
Green tea & weight loss- Although several small clinical trials have investigated green tea’s and green tea supplements’ effect on weight loss, at this time the data is still inconsistent and not strong evidence to prove its effect on weight loss. However, compared to other sugar laden beverages such as soda & fruit-juices, green tea (or any other tea) is zero-calorie, contributes to your hydration needs, and boost your intake of health-promoting phytochemicals. For more details on tea, click here.
Lean Cuts of Meat
Beef: Good choices include: eye of the round, top round, top loin, sirloin tip steak. Choose beef that is labeled "Choice" or "Select" instead of "Prime," which usually has more fat.
Pork: Opt for tenderloin, top loin chop, top loin roast, center Cut/loin Rib chop, sirloin roast, shoulders, spare ribs, ham
Poultry: White meat from the breast with no skin is the leanest
Ground Meat: Lean or extra lean, or ground white meat
Lamb and Veal: Chop or roast
Sandwich Meats: Low/reduced sodium; lean turkey/ham/chicken
Lean vs. Extra Lean Meat- Per 3-ounce portion of cooked meat - extra lean contains less than 5 grams of total fat and less than 2 grams of saturated fat while lean meat contains less than 10 grams of total fat and less than 4.5 grams of saturated fat.
Milk (whole vs. 2% vs. skim)- Whole milk has 3.5 percent fat in milk, by weight, compared to 2 percent fat by weight in 2% milk and 0% fat in skim but all types of milk offer the same essential vitamins and minerals as whole milk, but with fewer calories and less saturated fat and cholesterol. In general, for anyone over 2 years of age, skim or 2% is an excellent choice.
Nutritional Yeast- It is a an inactivated yeast commercially sold food product. It looks like a yellow flake, is fortified with Vitamin B 12 and makes a great substitute for cheese esp for vegans or if you want to reduce the amount of calories/fats in your diet.
Nuts- They are powerhouse of nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and especially high in omega- 3 fatty acids, the same heart-healthy fat found in oily fish. However, they are very high in calories as well. Recommended serving size is small handful or 1.5 ounces of whole nuts or 2 tablespoons of nut butter.
Organic vs. Local- Organic food is grown on farms committed to environmentally friendly agricultural methods where they meet government standards to get certified as organic but they may travel long distances before getting to the market. Locally means it is grown or produced, processed and then sold within a certain area (distance may vary depending upon the area-usually 150 miles in most places). Local is more seasonal & fresh but not necessarily always grown with organic methods.
Salt (table salt vs. kosher vs. sea)- By weight, all three — kosher, sea, and table salt contain the same amount of sodium but the main difference is in their texture & processing. Kosher salt, which derives its name from its use in the koshering process, has a coarser, larger, irregular grain than fine table salt, which is why is 1 teaspoon of kosher salt yields less sodium compared to table salt. Sea salt, often marketed as natural is produced through very little processing and it leaves behind certain trace minerals and elements. This adds flavor and color to it but they do contain same amount of sodium like table salt. Don’t be fooled by marketing and always check the Nutrition Facts panel to determine the sodium content per serving. Regardless of which type of salt you prefer, limit total sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams a day for healthy individuals less than 50 years old.
Sugar (brown vs. white)- Nutritionally, they are not much different (one tsp. of white sugar contains 16 calories vs. 17 calories for the brown) Brown sugar gets that color from the addition of molasses and serves different purpose when it comes to baking. Limit your added sugar intake to no more than 6 tsp (women) & 9 tsp (men).
Super Food- There is no legal or medical definition for it, its a marketing term used to define foods rich in vitamins, minerals such as acai berry, spinach, flax seeds, aloe vera, honey etc. Anything can be called super food therefore, don't get tricked!
Vegetarian vs. Vegan- Vegans eliminate all animal products from their diet, including dairy and eggs. Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish or poultry but they tend to consume dairy products and eggs. Lacto-vegetarians consume dairy products but not eggs, ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but not dairy products and lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat eggs as well as dairy products. But in general, vegetarians also do not eat products that contain gelatine or other meat-based products.
Weight gain & late night eating- Calories are calories - no matter when they are eaten. There is no magic hour in which your body decides that incoming calories must be stored as fat. What you eat and how much is far more important than when you eat it. Also, make a point to spread your food intake out over the day to sustain your energy rather than indulging at the end of the day.
Whole Grain vs. Multi Grain- Whole grain means that all parts of the grain kernel -the bran, germ and endosperm are present but multigrain means that product contains more than one type of grain but may not contain any whole grain. Make sure the first ingredient is "whole wheat" or "whole grain" and look for products with whole grain stamp. Aim on getting at least three 1-ounce (28-gram) equivalents of whole grains a day.
Whole Grain Stamp (100% vs. Basic)- 100% Stamp means all its grain ingredients are whole grains (minimum requirement of 16g of whole grain per labeled serving) while the Basic Stamp, contains at least 8g of whole grain, but may also contain some refined grain.
Healthy Substitutions in Daily Life (source)
|bacon||Canadian bacon, turkey bacon, smoked turkey or lean prosciutto (Italian ham)|
|Bread, white||Whole-grain bread|
|Bread crumbs, dry||Rolled oats or crushed bran cereal|
|Butter, margarine, shortening or oil in baked goods||Applesauce or prune puree for half of the called-for butter, shortening
or oil; butter spreads or shortenings specially formulated for baking
that don't have trans fats
Note: To avoid dense, soggy or flat baked goods, don't substitute oil for butter or shortening. Also don't substitute diet, whipped or tub-style margarine for regular margarine.
|Butter, margarine, shortening or oil to prevent sticking||Cooking spray or nonstick pans|
|Cream||Fat-free half-and-half, evaporated skim milk|
|Cream cheese, full fat||Fat-free or low-fat cream cheese, Neufchatel, or low-fat cottage cheese pureed until smooth|
|Eggs||Two egg whites or 1/4 cup egg substitute for each whole egg|
|Flour, all-purpose (plain)||Whole-wheat flour for half of the called-for all-purpose flour in baked goods
Note: Whole-wheat pastry flour is less dense and works well in softer products like cakes and muffins.
|Fruit canned in heavy syrup||Fruit canned in its own juices or in water, or fresh fruit|
|Ground beef||Extra-lean or lean ground beef, chicken or turkey breast (make sure no poultry skin has been added to the product)|
|Lettuce, iceberg||Arugula, chicory, collard greens, dandelion greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach or watercress|
|Mayonnaise||Reduced-calorie mayonnaise-type salad dressing or reduced-calorie, reduced-fat mayonnaise|
|Meat as the main ingredient||Three times as many vegetables as the meat on pizzas or in casseroles, soups and stews|
|Milk, evaporated||Evaporated skim milk|
|Milk, whole||Reduced-fat or fat-free milk|
|Oil-based marinades||Wine, balsamic vinegar, fruit juice or fat-free broth|
|Pasta, enriched (white)||Whole-wheat pasta|
|Rice, white||Brown rice, wild rice, bulgur or pearl barley|
|Salad dressing||Fat-free or reduced-calorie dressing or flavored vinegars|
|Seasoning salt, such as garlic salt, celery salt or onion salt||Herb-only seasonings, such as garlic powder, celery seed or onion flakes, or use finely chopped herbs or garlic, celery or onions|
|Soups, creamed||Fat-free milk-based soups, mashed potato flakes, or pureed carrots, potatoes or tofu for thickening agents|
|Soups, sauces, dressings, crackers, or canned meat, fish or vegetables||Low-sodium or reduced-sodium versions|
|Sour cream, full fat||Fat-free or low-fat sour cream, plain fat-free or low-fat yogurt|
|Soy sauce||Sweet-and-sour sauce, hot mustard sauce or low-sodium soy sauce|
|Sugar||In most baked goods you can reduce the amount of sugar by one-half; intensify sweetness by adding vanilla, nutmeg or cinnamon|
|Syrup||Pureed fruit, such as applesauce, or low-calorie, sugar-free syrup|
|Table salt||Herbs, spices, citrus juices (lemon, lime, orange), rice vinegar, salt-free seasoning mixes or herb blends|
|Yogurt, fruit-flavored||Plain yogurt with fresh fruit slices|