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The Dish

The Dish

With SFU's Registered Dietitian

I was wondering if there was something in my diet that I could change that would help with increasing my energy levels? I also suffer from depression, and pretty impressive mood swings. Is there something that I could eat or that I could avoid?

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

This is another question that is difficult for me to answer through this blog, I really need to know what you are eating. General healthy eating tips such as following Canada’s Food Guide with balanced meals and snacks every 3-4 hours can help with your energy. There is also some evidence that supports supplementation with Essential Fatty Acids (Omega-3). Please consult with a doctor or pharmacist before starting any supplement regime. You may also wish to call 8-1-1 and speak to a Registered Dietitian through HealthLinkBC’s Dietitian Services.

I was wondering about the health benefits of supplementing your diet with ground flax, and how much would be recommended daily?

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Ground flax is a great plant source of omega-3 fatty acids which have numerous health benefits including anti-oxidant effects. I’m glad you are thinking about ground flax seeds because as a whole seed, very little of the omega-3 fat is absorbed; the seed is very hard to digest by the body. You can aim to add 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed per day which provides 1.6 grams of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). ALA is a kind of omega-3 fat. Adult males need 1.6 grams of ALA per day while adult females need 1.1 grams per day. You can top your hot or cold cereal with ground flax seed, mix it into homemade baked goods, and add it to salads or even yogurt. Keep in mind you should keep your ground flax seed in the fridge as it can go rancid easily at room temperature. If you grind it yourself, do small amounts at a time so that you use it up quickly.

I’ve been hearing a lot about the benefits of organic virgin coconut oil, and was wondering what all the hype is about, and if it is as good as it sounds? Some of the claims are weight-loss, stress relief, better skin, lower cholesterol, increased immunity etc. I’ve been thinking about trying it, but I’d like to know if it is actually healthy.

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Coconut oil contains primarily saturated fat. Saturated fat is usually found in animal products (meat, poultry, dairy products) and is one we generally want to limit because of its negative impact on blood lipids. Organic coconut oil is usually minimally processed which is good, and can be a good oil to choose for high temperature cooking. It’s best to use it sparingly though.

As for the claims, well after checking my references I can offer some clarification. The main difference with coconut oil compared to other vegetable oils is that it is made up of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) rather than long chain triglycerides.

Coconut oil consumption does not raise total and LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) levels to the same extent as butter (also a saturated fat), but does increase lipid levels to a greater extent than vegetable oils (eg. safflower oil). Even though it does not contain cholesterol, it still impacts our blood cholesterol because it contains saturated fat. Butter contains both saturated fat and cholesterol.

As for weight loss, consuming MCT’s in short-term experimental diets has been associated with moderate increases in calories burned. Longer term studies have shown inconsistent results so at this point there is not enough evidence to recommend MCT-rich diets (i.e., using coconut oil) to support weight loss.

Keep in mind, the health benefits of coconut oil have been attributed to a minimally processed product. Be weary when you hear of only the health benefits of a new product, usually there is a catch. If you choose to use coconut oil, do so sparingly.

My question is regarding nuts, and the fats (i.e. type of cholesterol) that they contain. I workout for roughly 2 hours a day, on top of any leg work trekking around campus. I eat roughly a handful of nuts around lunch, and I also use almond butter on my bread. I was just wondering if the fats in nuts are something to worry about in high intake, and if I am consuming too much? As I am not aware of the types of fats, I just worry that the may be high in LDL. Also I don’t know if nuts are a high residue food, and could cause some intestinal issues?

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Nuts and nut butters contain unsaturated fat, this is the kind of fat we want to be getting. I don’t think you are getting too much fat from nuts or almond butter. Both these choices are a great source of protein and they provide key minerals such as magnesium and iron. Nuts do not contain cholesterol but they can help lower our blood cholesterol. You will notice that nuts and nut butters are included on Canada’s Food Guide. Because they are a dense source of energy it is important to pay attention to portion sizes, it sounds like you are doing that already.

HDL & LDL-cholesterol are particles that carry fats in our body and can be measured to assess our risk for heart disease. You cannot eat HDL or LDL. Saturated fats (shortening, fatty cuts of meat, high fat dairy products) can raise our LDL and lower our HDL. LDL is considered the “bad” cholesterol so we want it to be low, while HDL is considered “good” so we want it to be high.

Nuts also provide some fiber, but we know that most Canadians aren’t getting enough fiber. It is very unlikely for nuts to cause intestinal issues.

See more about dietary fat and cholesterol in another question. http://blogs.sfu.ca/services/thedish/?p=374 
You can also search key words on The Dish to see other similar questions.

I understand that it is widely known that saturated fat is associated with heart disease. However, I stumbled upon a series on youtube that attacks this assumption, and argues that saturated fat does not in fact lead to heart disease and do not raise up cholesterol.These are the links, if you have time. Watch them and let me know what you think of the message. Thanks!

Monday, February 28th, 2011

I didn’t have time to view the clips in detail but after double checking some of my references I can offer some clarification. See the quote below from a reference website offered through Dietitians of Canada:

“Data from observational studies and clinical trials does not consistently demonstrate a benefit on reduced cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk of decreasing total fat or saturated fat intake; however clinical trials have demonstrated that replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat, not refined carbohydrate, is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease.

Current guidelines that recommend a diet providing 20-35% of energy from fat that is high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats and low in saturated fat (<7% of total calories), trans fats (<1% of total calories) and refined carbohydrate support cardiovascular benefits. The 2006 American Heart Association diet and lifestyle recommendations for CVD prevention advise that the general population limit cholesterol intake to <300 mg/day.” 

The thing is developing CVD is a complicated process and doesn’t just have to do with your saturated fat intake. It is impacted by your weight and how you carry your weight (your waist circumference). Diets that are rich in whole grains, fiber, vegetables and fruit and omega-3 fats are also protective when it comes to CVD. Hope that helps!

I am a twenty-five year old female in good physical shape but am trying to eat more healthy. I currently drink 1% milk. Is there enough fat in there to really make a difference in switching to skim milk?

Monday, February 7th, 2011

2%, 1% and skim milk are all considered low fat so no need to switch. The difference between 1% and skim per cup of milk is only 1 gram of fat or 9kcal. Remember some fat is necessary in our diets, we need it to help absorb fat soluble vitamins and it is a dense source of energy.

Hi, I just wanted to know if Fuze shape drinks are healthy. They say that they help metabolize carbohydrates and fats, do you think that these beverages are beneficial?

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

No I don’t think these beverages are beneficial. The drink is “flavoured with real fruit juice” which means it is not 100% juice and does not fit into Canada’s Food Guide. It is sweetened with artificial sweeteners which I do not recommend for the general population. It contains Vitamin C and Chromium. If you drank a cup (250ml) of orange juice or better yet, just ate an orange you get near the amount of vitamin C in this drink. Chromium is a mineral that is found in whole grains, broccoli and green beans. From my experience it is unlikely for the average adult to experience chromium deficiency. Chromium has a role in moving glucose into cells. Basically it enhances the action of insulin and is important in the metabolism of carbohydrate and fat. Vitamin C can help your body absorb chromium. But, that is not to say you need to drink Fuze Shape to get chromium and Vitamin C. You will get enough if you are eating well according to Canada’s Food Guide.

The way these products get away with these claims and not having a nutrition facts table or traditional ingredient list is because they fit into the category of “Natural Health Products”. See more about what Fuze has to say here or Health Canada’s information here.

Lastly, this product and many like it are just marketing schemes aimed at the health conscious consumer. Why pay for water with artificial sweetener and a sprinkling of nutrients you don’t need? Go for plain water, have a piece of fresh fruit or vegetables as a snack instead and save your money.

Topic of the Month – January 2011: Percent Daily Value (%DV)

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Percent Daily Value (%DV)

I get asked about percent daily value a lot. If you don’t know what I am referring to it is the percentages that are on the right hand side of a nutrition facts table. I am sure a few of you out there are avid label readers. The first thing I have to say is many great food choices come without a nutrition facts label, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, lean cuts of meat or fresh fish and freshly baked whole grain breads.  Secondly, it is a good idea to read the ingredient list of processed foods. If you can’t pronounce the ingredient names then it’s probably a good idea to put the item back. Then you can proceed to the nutrition facts table and comparing it to other similar products. Remember to look at the amount of food and make sure you are making a fair comparison, some brands of bread will have 1 slice listed as the serving size while others have 2. The percent daily value can help you identify if the product has “a little” or “a lot” of certain nutrients. You want to get more fiber, Vitamin A, Calcium and Iron but less fat, saturated and trans fats and sodium. Health Canada just launched a new website to help consumers further understand labels and the percent daily value. It includes some interactive tools as well, check it out www.healthcanada.gc.ca/dailyvalue .

I’m interested in cooking with curry and indian spices. I’ve recently tried Paneer (yum!) and am curious how it differs nutritionally from cottage cheese? From what I’ve read its just milk fat, vinegar and lemon.

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

I contacted a local producer of Paneer, Nanak Foods to get their product’s nutritional information.

Every 30g of Nanak Paneer has 90 calories, 6 grams of protein, 1 gram of carbohydrate and 7 grams of fat. However, 5 grams of that 7 are saturated fat (the one we want to try to limit). See the label below. You can see that 30grams gives us a quarter of our recommended intake for saturated fat, that is high.

Paneer has more fat than cottage cheese and the above mentioned serving size is very small, 30grams is about ¼ cup. A 30g serving of a 2% cottage cheese only has 26 calories and less than 1 gram of fat. “2%” refers to milk fat, just like 2% milk. Nanak Paneer is made whole milk (3.5% fat).

Sorry for the delay in responding to your question, I received it just before my holiday break. But interestingly enough, I brought paneer for lunch today:) It’s a sometimes food for sure, enjoy in moderation.

Thanks to Nanak Foods for the information.

Topic of the Month – August 2010

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Hosting a Healthy Dinner Party 101
By: Stephanie Chung and Amandeep Sandhu, UBC Dietetics Students

Hosting a dinner party is a big project that requires a lot of preparation; especially if you’re thinking of planning a healthy menu.  To make your task a little less daunting, here are seven simple principles for creating a nutritious, delicious and fulfilling dinner menu with a healthy spin!

  1. A 6 oz glass of red wine has about the same amount of calories as a 1.5 oz shot of liquor.  Compared to liquor, wine has less alcohol content, making it less calorie dense. Be sure to provide fresh water for guests to keep them well hydrated.
  2. Instead of serving fancy hor d’oeuvres, why not put together a simple fruit and cheese platter surrounded by whole grain crackers. This healthy appetizer provides a nutty flavor, a chewier texture, plus fiber.
  3. Since soups can be easily prepared a day in advance, this means less hassle for you on the day of the party.  Soups are a great way to start dinner because they can be quite filling for your guests. The secret to creating a light, yet creamy soup is to puree beans or root vegetables into a smooth and luscious texture. 
  4. Buy pre-washed mixed greens and toss them with a homemade dressing (mix 2 parts olive oil to 1 part lemon juice, a pinch of Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper to taste).  Skip out on the commercial salad dressings because they are often high in sugar and fat, not to mention the numerous additives that you cannot pronounce.
  5. Cuts that have “loin” or “round” in their names tend to have lower amounts of artery-clogging saturated fats. Selecting white meat such as poultry or fish can be another way to cut saturated fats from your menu.  Try choosing fatty fish, since it provides a good dose of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
  6. Instead of preparing mashed potatoes saturated with butter and sour cream, try mashing potatoes with low-fat milk or use low-fat Greek yogurt as a topping.  Better yet, include a serving of roasted root vegetables with the entree, or even bring back the salad bowl to the table. 
  7. Desserts are a must-have. A quick, light and satisfying dessert can be a scoop (or two) of low-fat frozen yogurt in a small bowl, topped off with chopped nuts and fresh fruits.  You can even add a dollop of whipped cream for decadence.

Hosting a healthy dinner party doesn’t have to be stressful! Follow these simple, delicious guidelines and you’ll quickly become an expert on healthy eating without compromising flavour or presentation.  Cheers!

Stephanie Chung is a third-year student at the University of British Columbia, working toward her bachelor’s degree in Dietetics so she can become a Registered Dietitian in the near future.  She has a strong passion for food, nutrition and health and is eager to share her interests with everyone around her. At times when she is alone, she enjoys spending her time blogging about healthy eating at her blog, Juicy Fresh Bites, with the goal to provide healthy recipes and practical nutrition tips to help people achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle!

Aman Sandhu is a third year Dietetics Major at UBC.  Her attraction and excitement for nutrition and health has stemmed from her interest in food and it’s implications on the physiology of the human body.  She is quite intrigued by the relationship people have with food and how that translates into physical and mental health.