Nutrition Quandries

Whether at the office or out in the world, people always seem to have questions regarding food and nutrition. The food landscape has become hard to navigate similar to our political environment. Here are a few questions that have come up recently.

I want to lose ten pounds, so should I decrease my protein intake by cutting beef and chicken out of my diet? 

Protein is the macronutrient that provides the most satiety when compared to carbohydrates and fat. Protein also helps maintain blood glucose levels and prevents the sharp increase in blood glucose that occurs when the body receives an influx of carbohydrates. As a matter of fact, one study showed that people who were allowed to eat whatever they wanted and chose to eat mostly protein lost the most weight, 80% of which was fat loss. Chicken and beef contain high quality protein that your body needs and as long as those protein sources are mostly organic and grass-fed, they should be included in your diet. When compared to animals fed grains, soy or corn, grass-fed beef and chicken contain higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important in lowering inflammation. So the next time you want to skip the grilled chicken and just have a plain salad, think about how long you need the meal to hold you and your metabolism. If you need help with appetite, carb cravings and your weight, protein is an important macronutrient not to skimp on.

Is frozen yogurt healthier than real ice cream? 

Due to the widespread availability of frozen yogurt shops and their successful marketing strategies, the majority of the population truly believes that frozen yogurt is better for their health than real ice cream. The reality is most commercially sold frozen yogurt is inundated with chemicals and hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Let’s take a standard frozen yogurt you would buy or find at a shop. Most have multiple ingredients beginning with good things like skim milk, but also containing many sources of sugar like sucrose, fructose and dextrose. One type actually had 23 ingredients including unrecognizable things like propylene glycol esters and lactoglycerides. Most of the ingredients contained in these yogurts are made in a laboratory and don’t exist in nature. Couple that with the plethora of toppings and you create a double dose of sugar, additives and chemicals.

Although real ice cream may contain more calories and fat when compared to the fake, chemical-filled frozen yogurts, at least the ingredients are recognizable: eggs, cream, milk and sugar. Clearly frozen yogurt is definitely not healthier than real ice cream and if you want a treat (in moderation), go for the real thing!

Is quinoa a carbohydrate or a protein? 

Quinoa has gained fame over the years as a “protein-rich” food because it contains lysine and eight other amino acids, categorizing the protein in quinoa as a complete protein similar to that of animal products. In reality, however, the amount of protein in quinoa can barely compare to the amount found in meat, poultry or fish. One cup of quinoa contains 8 grams of protein and 39 grams of carbohydrates compared to 5 grams of protein and 45 grams of carbohydrates in one cup of brown rice. However, when compared to a 4-ounce serving of chicken, which contains 32 grams of protein and zero grams of carbohydrates, it’s clear that quinoa is a high-carb food. In brief, although quinoa contains protein, the fact that approximately 70% of its calories come from carbohydrate makes this food a carbohydrate rather than a protein.

Many times marketing ploys or anecdotal urban legends get passed around long enough that we believe they are truth.  The next time you wonder whether a nutrition question is in fact truth or myth look at the research.  And if any of my readers have their own nutrition quandaries feel free to comment on this blog or send an email for the next round.

This blog was co-written by Susan Dopart and RD intern Raquel Papu