As part of my work for Alegent Creighton Health, I frequently provide nutrition presentations for community and church groups and work sites. Here are some of the more frequently asked questions and my answers.
Should I purchase reduced fat peanut butter?
With the food industry, if fat is removed, more sugar or salt is added. With reduced fat peanut butter, it’s sugar. Peanut butter and nuts in general contain healthy fat. So why reduce the fat by 3 or 4 grams and add more sugar?
Instead, buy natural unsalted peanut butter or almond butter. It is simply peanuts or almonds that have been spun into a spread. In these products, you will notice that the oil has separated from some of the spread. Just stir the peanut butter until it is combined. Then refrigerate it and continue to refrigerate it after each use. If it becomes too difficult to spread, remove the lid and microwave for 15 to 20 seconds. Spread on crackers or bread. Return jar to refrigerator.
Eating one or two ounces of nuts daily is associated with a reduction in risk for heart disease and cancer, and lower body weights. It is important to note that nuts are calorie rich so moderation is the key … as usual. More is not better or healthier!
Do you recommend energy bars?
I know that these bars are advertised as meal replacements, healthy snacks, or as a help to build muscle. But as I look at the nutrition facts and ingredients, I see them as candy bars with added vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein. For most, sugar is the first or second ingredient (and sugar does provide energy!). Many bars contain palm oil, a saturated fat.
A better choice would be a snack of fruit and vegetables for weight loss and yogurt or milk for protein. If you are hiking a long distance and want a high calorie snack, try nuts and dried fruit. In a pinch, a granola bar and milk or yogurt would provide energy and protein, too.
How about vitamin water?
Vitamin water can be a sugary drink with vitamins or it can be a drink with artificial sweetener and vitamins. My first question to anyone who asks this is: do you take a multivitamin? Some people may be getting too many vitamins and minerals if they add vitamin water along with fortified foods such as cereals and grains and other supplements.
Water from the tap is the best drink for hydrating our body. It is calorie free. No supplement matches the nutrients in whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes, and meat group foods. Food first is the better choice.
Is drinking alcohol a health benefit?
This is a controversy. The benefits to wine and heart health have been widely advertised. It is a phytonutrient, called resveratrol, in the grape and in grape juice that provides the benefit.
The American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) reports that limiting alcohol intake is the step that most clearly reduces the risk of both pre and postmenopausal breast cancer. They report the combined analysis of many studies consistently showing a 5 to 10 percent increase in breast cancer risk with each daily standard alcoholic drink (12 oz beer, 5 oz wine, 1.5 oz hard liquor).
With these facts, the decision rests with you.
Eating healthy should be easy. Choose fresh foods and monitor portion sizes. Thanks to a very busy food industry that develops new food products and wants us to eat more than we need, choosing healthy foods is a daily challenge. It can be done, one day at a time.