Test your nutrition knowledge

Nancy Teeter, RDN

Listed below are a dozen common “facts.” Can you identify the statements that are fiction?

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

You may have heard that saying since childhood but how accurate is that old adage? While they may not prevent all disease, apples are loaded with the powerful antioxidant quercetin, which may reduce the growth and spread of cancer cells and help promote heart health. Apples are also low in calories and high in fiber. A medium-sized apple has only 80 calories and 4 grams of fiber. It also helps to keep thirst at bay since 84 percent of an apple’s content is water.

Type 2 diabetes is caused by eating sugar.

This is mostly fiction. Eating a lot of sugary foods does not cause diabetes; however, eating too many foods comprised of easy to digest carbohydrates can result in blood sugar spikes which can lead to insulin resistance. To reduce the glycemic load, choose complex carbohydrates and combine them with protein and fat.

“Contains whole grains” is a good buying guide.

The trouble with this label statement is that it’s not apparent how much whole grain is actually in the product. It could be half or just a dusting, so this statement is fiction. Whole, intact grains are nutritious and have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Examples of nutritious intact grains include popcorn, barley, quinoa, wheat berries, brown rice and steel cut oats.

Eating carbohydrates makes you fat.

The truth is carbohydrates should contribute 40–50 percent of daily calories for most people. The primary source of those carbs should be intact grains (see above), fruits and vegetables. The body uses carbs for energy. In addition, fiber is a type of carbohydrate and most people need to consume more fiber.

Fat-free on the product label means healthy.

Many fat-free foods are high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and calories. Thus, this statement is false. Fat is an important part of a healthy diet. Healthy fats from olive oil, avocados and nuts are proven to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Twenty-five to 30 percent of your daily calories can be from healthy fats.

Seniors’ diets should be high in protein to prevent muscle loss.

While it’s true that seniors may be at risk for sarcopenia (muscle loss), it can be prevented by two things: diet and exercise. To stave off muscle loss, I recommend that each meal include about 20 grams of protein. Examples include beans, legumes, whole soy (edamame and tofu), fish, lean meat, eggs and poultry.

It can be difficult for even educated and trained professionals to weed out fact from fiction. Registered dietitians are excellent sources when you have questions about nutrition and health.

Nancy Teeter is a registered dietitian and SaddleBrooke resident. She loves sharing her nutrition knowledge with readers.