such an overload of nutritional information out there,
Caroline Susie hears plenty of questions.
ask the registered and licensed dietitian with Methodist
Health System: What should they be eating — or not eating?
What do they need to worry about — or not worry about? What
needs to be in their diets, and what needs to be ditched?
her to narrow the questions to six. Here they are. Along with
her answers, of course.
kind of oil should I use? "Hands down, extra-virgin olive
oil," she says. Benefits include prevention of
cardiovascular disease and other chronic health problems such
as stroke, metabolic syndrome, inflammation and some cancers.
Use it for dressings, sauces, marinades, sautéeing and
At 120 per tablespoon, calories can add up quickly.
Buy an oil mister or measure by the teaspoon.
about coconut oil? Coconut oil is 92 percent saturated fat.
For more than 70 years, research has shown a connection
between saturated fat and heart-disease risk.
Walter Willett, chair of the department of nutrition at
Harvard School of Public Health, has said this: "While
coconut oil raises LDL, it boosts HDL cholesterol, the ‘good’
kind, better than other fats."
Because we still don’t know how it affects heart disease,
better to limit its use.
Almond butter or peanut butter? "Have you spent time in
the nut butter aisle recently? Holy moly, there are tons of
options!" While nut butters are high in fat, it tends to
be the fat that’s beneficial to heart health. Go with either
Some have unnecessarily high amounts of added sugar, sodium
and artificial ingredients. "Ideally," Susie says,
"nut butters should contain as few ingredients as
possible, just nuts and perhaps a little nut or seed oil for
blending, and salt for flavor."
also tend to be high in calories, so don’t just ladle them
into your mouth.
Susie recommends finding some with these qualifications per
serving: less than 200 calories, no more than 3 grams of
saturated fat, 100 milligrams of sodium, 3 grams of sugar and
no artificial ingredients. Her choices? Jif Natural Creamy
Peanut Butter Spread, Trader Joe’s Organic Peanut Butter as
well as its almond butter.
the deal with gluten? Gluten is a protein that naturally
occurs in wheat, barley and rye and is what gives dough its
elasticity, she says. Unless you have celiac disease (which
only 1 percent of Americans do) or are gluten intolerant (6
percent of Americans are), there is no reason to go
No, removing gluten from your diet will not help you lose
weight. On the contrary, "Those who consume whole grains
lose weight and-or gain less weight over time than those who
eat little or no grains," the dietitian says. Also,
gluten-free products tend to be higher in fat and calories
than foods containing gluten.
Even if you read on the Internet that grains will trigger
inflammation, to that Susie says: "False, my friends.
Whole grains actually reduce inflammation, which in turn
reduces the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and high
friend is selling X supplement, is it safe? "While I want
your friend to succeed, is he or she a nutrition expert? Would
you go to your car mechanic for open heart surgery?"
Susie says. "Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist,
but only dietitians can call themselves dietitians."
the question. Keep in mind that supplements are regulated
under a different set of rules than conventional foods and
Will the supplement hurt you? Probably not, she says. Whether
it will do what it promises is questionable, too. Be wary of
studies your friend may cite, she says: Most are probably paid
for by the company selling the product.
"Before you take anything, please check with your doctor
or pharmacist. For best results, stick to a healthy diet and
routine exercise," she says. If you have questions, why,
see a dietitian, of course.
the Paleo Diet legit? Paleo Diet is based on the diet of our
Paleolithic ancestors. "Can someone remind me of the
average life span of our ancestors? Insert sarcasm," she
says. "Clearly we are living longer and healthier than
our ancestors, so I am still baffled that this is the ‘thing.’"
It does stress lean proteins, vegetables, fish, eggs,
shellfish, berries and a lot of exercise. It also nixes dairy,
legumes (beans, lentils, soybeans and peanuts), cereals,
grains (quinoa, oats) and potatoes. "A huge red flag goes
up any time you eliminate entire food groups," she says.
If you are interested in this diet, "I would go with a
modified Paleo," she says. "Eliminate all the
processed junk and stick to fresh, whole foods."