Nutrition: Weighing the alternatives

With daily news barraging us about what is good or not good for us, it is becoming increasingly challenging for nurturers in homes to determine what to feed their family. Conflicting reports on foods that have been around for donkey years and the ways they are being grown means caregivers have to weigh their options ever so carefully to determine the best food sources for their families.

Here is a few:-

Fish vs meat

The two are in the same food group alongside poultry, beans, peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts and seeds. When you look at the benefits of eating fish versus eating meat, though, you wonder why fish and meat are in the same food group. According to experts, you can maximize your chances of living a long, healthy life by eating the right meat, but fish in general is significantly healthier than meat.

Pro fish

It has significantly less saturated fat than meat. It has significantly more of what health experts call “good fats.”

One of its  unsaturated fats  is omega-3 fatty acid. People who eat foods high in omega-3 have reduced how much triglycerides. Herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout, and tuna all have a lot of omega-3 fatty acid. Its omega-3 also reduces your risk of depression, arthritis, and asthma, and might reduce your risk of dementia

It contains selenium, which reduces cancer risk. One study has linked omega-3s with less risk of sudden cardiac death

Pro meat

Chicken5Meat, in fact, does contain a lot of the vitamins B12 and B6 as well as iron, niacin, and zinc. Meat has more iron than fish.

Meat tips:

?        Eat more lean meat and less red meat.

?        Trim fat from meat that you cook. Then, you should broil, grill or roast meat rather than fry or bread it.

?        Avoid eating organ meat such as brain, kidneys, and liver and cold cuts such as bologna and salami.

Butter vs Margarine

If you enjoy butter you probably felt a pang of guilt. Many families accepted the demise of butter and dutifully switched to margarine, as researchers and nutritionists suggested. Then the hazards of margarine came to light and they felt betrayed or duped.

The truth is, there never was any good evidence that using margarine instead of butter cut the chances of having a heart attack or developing heart disease. From the standpoint of heart disease, butter is on the list of foods to use sparingly. Margarines, though, aren’t so easy to classify.

Pro Butter

Butter has been a dietary staple for centuries. Butter has been demonized because it contains large amounts of both saturated fat and cholesterol, but new studies show that this actually doesn’t matter. New studies have found absolutely no association between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease.

Eating saturated fat actually improves the blood lipid profile. It raises HDL (the “good”) cholesterol and changes the LDL from small, dense LDL (very bad) to Large LDL, which is benign . Eating cholesterol rich foods like eggs leads to the same improvements in blood lipid profiles.

To make margarine vegetable oils are subjected to a hydrogenation process. This involves exposing the oils to high heat, high pressure, hydrogen gas and a metal catalyst. This process prolongs the shelf life of the products and makes them harder at room temperature.

Hydrogenated fats are also known as trans fats, which are highly toxic and strongly associated with heart disease. Despite margarines being able to lower total and LDL cholesterol in the short term, they actually lead to the opposite effect when measuring hard outcomes.

Observational studies don’t support the idea that butter causes heart disease but is either benign or healthy, while margarine increases the risk.

 Pro Margarine

Today there are some trans-fat free varieties of margarine available. Some of the newer margarines that are low in saturated fat, high in unsaturated fat, and free of trans fats are fine as long as you don’t use too much (they are still rich in calories).

Some studies say margarine does lower some risk factors for heart disease, especially if it is enriched with plant sterols or stenols. These margarines lower total and LDL cholesterol in the short term, but they may also decrease HDL (the good) cholesterol

Margarine tips:

If it says “hydrogenated” anywhere on the ingredients list, then avoid it. Limit intake of saturated fats and to avoid trans fats altogether, sticking to healthier alternatives like olive oil and other vegetable oil–based spreads, which contain beneficial mono- and polyunsaturated fats.

Honey Vs Sugar.

One of the newest trends is to avoid sugar in family meals and go for honey, but is it based on reality?

Pro Honey

It’s a sweetener that’s been around since the time of cavemen. Both sweeteners contain glucose and fructose. However, for sugar, in the process of manufacturing, the organic acids, protein, nitrogen elements, enzymes and vitamins in the sugar cane are destroyed. When we eat table sugar, our stomach has to use its own enzymes digest it

Also, honey has certain beneficial antioxidant and antimicrobial properties which are not present in table sugar. Though honey may have more calories, we actually need to use less of it.

Hence, honey has a better glycemic index which measures the negative impact of a given food on the blood-glucose level. The lower the GI rating, the slower the absorption and infusion of sugars into the bloodstream and healthier digestion process.

The rapidity with which sucrose (table sugar) raises blood glucose levels can cause problems for people suffering from defects in glucose metabolism, thus contributing to risks for  chronic diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some forms of cancers, osteoporosis and even neuro-degenerative diseases.

Unlike honey, sugar draws upon the body’s nutrients to be metabolized. When these nutrients are all used up, metabolizing of undesirable cholesterol and fatty acid is impeded, contributing to higher cholesterol and promoting obesity. If you are watching your weight, honey will be a smarter choice than sugar.

Pro Sugar

One tablespoon of table sugar or sucrose contains 46 calories, while one tablespoon of natural sweetener honey has 64. Many people who swapped honey for sugar found they liberally poured it into foods imagining honey to be superior to other sugars. When people think something is low fat, they eat more.

While raw, unrefined varieties of honey do contain trace vitamins and minerals; niacin, riboflavin, thiamine and vitamin B6, they only make up about two per cent of honey’s total content. Honey is about 55 per cent fructose, a fruit sugar that’s processed by the liver. Despite the chemical difference, our bodies still react to honey in much same way as it reacts to refined sugar – with a blood-sugar spike.

This encourages the pancreas to produce insulin, which leads the body to store fat and gain weight. When eaten to excess, products containing fructose contribute to obesity, heart problems and liver disease, just like products with granulated sugar. Other research has shown fructose drains minerals from your body.

Fructose and carbs in honey will cause collagen damage – just like sugar. Benefits from the few extra vitamins some honey contains won’t help to repair damage done to your collagen.

Sugar tips:

Sugar can safely make up 10 per cent of a daily calorie intake (50g or 12½ tsp a day for women, and 70g or 17½ tsp a day for men).

Oats vs Wheat (bread)

For breakfast, Nigerian tables are more likely to have bread on it than virtually any other food. The trends however puts oats forward as a strong candidate. How do they compare?

Pro Wheat

bread5Wheat is included on the list of the world’s most famous staple foods, as it has a high nutrition value and a low price, and gives a lot of options for cooking.

Raw wheat can be turned into ordinary white flour, semolina, malt and bulgur;  used for preparing fermented drinks, can be used as natural fuel or even as construction or design material. Whole-grain wheat is also a very good source of dietary fiber, unlike regular white wheat flour.

Pro Oats

Oat flour can be used for baking and frying, and oat flakes are commonly used for muesli mixtures or granola. Oat bran and oatmeal are great sources of dietary fiber. They contain approximately 50/50 soluble and insoluble fibers and both have been proved to be necessary for maintaining important body functions. Soluble fiber is a great weapon against a high level of bad cholesterol (LDL) in blood; many doctors recommend consuming about 50-100 g of oats daily to get better results in lowering the LDL level. In addition oats help to control blood sugar level due to their moderate glycemic index.

It has been proved by many studies that oats help to prevent cancer, control blood pressure, support normal bowel function and help to control weight. Oats are almost irreplaceable for athletes. Whole wheat-based products help in weight control, and significantly reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes (type 2) and gallstones formation.

They are gluten-free: according to research up to 3% of the world population are allergic to gluten in the form of bowel inflammation. Secondly, oats and oat flour have a lower glycemic index in comparison to wheat and wheat flour.


Nutrition: Weighing the alternatives on Vanguard News.


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