We are pumped to share one of our fave stories from Prevention here on FitSugar!Even the most nutrition-savvy women can get lost in the headlines. Here's what you really need to know.
By Sharon Liao, Prevention
You heard that eggs can be high in cholesterol, so you dutifully switched to whole grains for breakfast. Next, you swapped out red meat for fish — only to later learn that fish can contain dangerous levels of mercury . . . and eggs may not harm your heart after all. "With all of the different reports and headlines, it’s no wonder that many people get confused," says Angela Ginn, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of Real Talk Real Food in Baltimore, MD. To help you make sense of these and other health head-scratchers, we consulted our experts and sifted through the research. Here, the new bottom line on a few "health" foods.
This starchy veggie has a bad rap among dieters, but that’s because people tend to consume it in the form of greasy french fries, chips, and buttery mashed potatoes, says Melissa Joy Dobbins, RD, of NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, IL. "When prepared the right way, potatoes are a nutritious food," she says. One medium potato, for instance, delivers five grams of fiber and nearly 20 percent of your daily quota for heart-healthy potassium.
Bottom line: Skip the fried versions and opt for baked or boiled potatoes. For an even healthier option, choose vitamin A-rich sweet potatoes or purple potatoes, which can help lower blood pressure.
Hold the cheese? There’s no need if you eat it in moderation. A one-ounce serving delivers 20 percent of all the bone-building calcium that you need in a day, as well as plenty of protein and phosphorus. "The problem is that many people eat much more than one serving in one sitting," explains Sharon Richter, RD, a dietitian in New York City. And at 100 to 125 calories per ounce, that can add up.
Learn how to keep cheese, eggs, and beer in your diet after the break.
Bottom line: Watch your portion sizes. One serving of cheese is roughly the size of a pair of dice. "Try a low-fat version," suggests Richter. Or use a bold cheese, like extra-sharp cheddar or pecorino, and grate it on your dish to distribute the flavor.
Ounce for ounce, nuts pack in more calories than most other snacks. But the surprising truth is that nuts are one of the best foods for weight loss, according to Harvard researchers. "Nuts are loaded with protein and fiber, which can help you feel full for longer," explains Richter. One study in the journal Obesity found that people who ate nuts at least twice a week were less likely to put on pounds over the long run than those who didn’t.
Bottom line: The fat in most nuts is the heart-healthy unsaturated kind, but you still need to keep tabs on your portion. Keep it to one ounce — 23 almonds, 14 walnut halves, and 49 pistachios.
The news is, well, egg-cellent: not only does research show that eating an egg a day doesn’t increase the risk for heart problems, but new research from the US Department of Agriculture also shows that they contains less cholesterol — 185 milligrams in a large one — and more vitamin D than previously thought. "Eggs are a good source of protein," says Dobbins. "And the yolks also contain a number of nutrients, such as vitamins D and B12."
Bottom line: To keep your cholesterol in check, stick with one egg a day, says Dobbins.
When it comes to alcohol, wine gets all of the glory. But beer may be just as healthy, says Giovanni de Gaetano, MD, PhD. In a recent analysis of more than a dozen studies, de Gaetano and his team found that one or two beers can lower your risk of a cardiovascular event by up to 33 percent — which is roughly the same effect as red wine. The protective effect could be due to antioxidants called polyphenols in beer, as well as alcohol itself, explains de Gaetano.
Bottom line: Cheers to your health! But as with wine — or any alcoholic beverage — it’s best to limit your intake to about one drink per day.