Nutrition Questions Answered
We are bombarded every day with conflicting nutrition information. What should we believe and what should we simply just throw away? Below is a list of seven nutrition-related questions that I often receive or hear other nutrition professionals receive. Each question has a short, concise, evidence-based answer, so let’s dive in!
1- Why should I eat whole grains?
In short, whole grains pack a bigger “nutritional punch” than refined grains. Eating foods containing whole grains means that you are consuming whole-grain kernels comprising of three parts: the bran, germ, and endosperm. When you consume refined grains, the grains are milled and no longer contain the bran or the germ. While this may help improve the texture, it removes vital nutrients found in these parts of the grain such as fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants, healthy fats, and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are natural compounds found in plants and play a role in disease prevention1,2.
2- Is yogurt good for me?
Yogurt is beneficial for your health for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it is high in protein, calcium, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Secondly, yogurt contains live microorganisms (helpful bacteria), known as probiotics. Probiotics help maintain a healthy microbiota in the gut and also help to improve immune function. However, this being said, not all yogurts are created equal. Be sure to check the label on your yogurt for added sugars (try looking for something with less than 15 g of total sugar)3,4.
3. What vegetables should I eat?
We could go on forever about which vegetables are the “best” to eat. However, the bottom line is to simply eat vegetables. In general, aim to cover half of your plate with colorful fruits & vegetables. The more variety in color, the more diverse vitamins and minerals you will get.
4- Is cow’s milk bad for me?
With all of the milk alternatives on the market these days, cow’s milk gets a bad wrap. However, cow’s milk contains protein, calcium, and vitamin D, all essential vitamins to maintain good bone health. Cow’s milk also contains potassium, a mineral that is vital for heart health. The evidence around antibiotic and hormone residues in cow’s milk is mixed. However, it is worth noting that cow’s milk is tested very frequently; in fact, a 2016 study found that 2 out of every 10,000 tankers of milk tested positive for antibiotics. The cow’s milk that tested positive was discarded and not sold. In regards to fat content, high-fat milk contains saturated fat, and it is therefore recommended that people stick to low-fat dairy products to reduce overall saturated fat intake. If you are lactose-intolerant or dislike the taste of cow’s milk, soy milk is a great option since it is the only milk alternative that contains protein and matches a similar nutritional profile to cow’s milk5,6.
5- Is it necessary to track my macros?
Tracking your macronutrients is a personal choice. Some may find it helpful to ensure consistent, balanced macros, to keep track of their portion sizes, or to support weight loss. However, keeping track of your macros can limit your food variety and create excessively strict habits which could potentially lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. Macro counters also don’t take into account the overall nutritional quality of the food, leaving out micronutrients that encompass key vitamins and minerals. The bottom line is: if you find tracking helpful and are still able to incorporate a variety of foods into your diet, great! On the other hand, if tracking becomes an unhealthy obsession or starts to limit food groups, drop it and rely on your body’s hunger and fullness cues to guide the way.
6- Does soy cause breast cancer?
THIS IS A HUGE MYTH. For the longest time, I was under the impression that soy increased the risk of breast cancer in women, I even heard a professional or two spout this idea. However, when you dive into the literature regarding soy intake and breast cancer risk, multiple studies suggest the exact opposite. Moderate soy intake is actually associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer in women7,8. One study even found that tofu intake is inversely associated with breast cancer risk9. Fear the edamame no longer!
7- Is breakfast actually the “most important meal of the day”?
Breakfast, or break-fast, is named for a good reason: it is the meal that breaks your overnight fast. Breakfast is coined as the “most important meal of the day” for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the provides your body with energy in the form of glucose, waking your body up and increasing alertness. Breakfast also provides you with the chance to start your day off with a nutritious meal, in fact, those that eat breakfast are more likely to hit their recommended daily intakes for vitamins and minerals than those who do not. Breakfast is also a great weight regulator, consuming calories consistently throughout the day helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, which in turn, helps to control appetite. Furthermore, a great number of studies have shown that breakfast intake helps to improve mental performance10.
1). Whole Grains. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/whole-grains/. Accessed September 2021.
2). Grains. MyPlate.gov. https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/grains. Published 2020. Accessed September 2021.
3). Ware M. Everything you need to know about yogurt. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/295714. Published January 2018. Accessed September 2021.
4). Probiotics: What You Need To Know. National Center for Complementary & Integrative Health. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics-what-you-need-to-know. Published August 2019. Accessed September 2021.
5). Ware M. What to know about milk. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/273451#benefits. Published March 2020. Accessed September 2021.
6). The Truth About: MILK AND ANTIBIOTICS. Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, and the Minnesota Department of Health. https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/antibioticresistance/animal/truthmilk.pdf. Published December 2018. September 2021.
7). Trock BJ, Hilakivi-Clarke L, Clarke R. Meta-analysis of soy intake and breast cancer risk. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2006;98(7):459-471. doi:10.1093/jnci/djj102
8). Wei Y, Lv J, Guo Y, et al. Soy intake and breast cancer risk: a prospective study of 300,000 Chinese women and a dose-response meta-analysis. Eur J Epidemiol. 2020;35(6):567-578. doi:10.1007/s10654-019-00585-4.
9). Wang Q, Liu X, Ren S (2020) Tofu intake is inversely associated with risk of breast cancer: A meta-analysis of observational studies. PLOS ONE 15(1): e0226745. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0226745
10). Breakfast. Department of Health, State Government of Victoria, Australia. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/breakfast. Published December 2020. Accessed September 2021.