TOO LITTLE IODINE?
Question: Because I have a family history of hypertension, I do not cook with salt. Since most table salt is fortified with iodine, I am concerned that my family may not be getting enough iodine. Should we be concerned?
Answer: There is no cause for concern. The recommended daily intake for iodine is small and easily met even on a low-salt diet. Shellfish and saltwater fish, as well as breads (which are made with iodized salt), provide significant amounts of the mineral. You’ll also obtain trace amounts from almost everything you eat, since fruits, vegetables, and plants used for livestock feed are often grown in areas where the soil is rich in iodine.
TOO MUCH VITAMIN D
Question: I’m postmenopausal, and a bone-density scan has revealed moderate osteoporosis. I’ve been advised to take 100,000 I. U. of vitamin D every week and a combination of Premarin and Provera. I also take 1,500 milligrams of calcium a day. What are the risks of this regimen? Is it effective against osteoporosis ?
Answer: Except for the vitamin D, your regimen seems appropriate. Premarin, an estrogen product, is effective in stopping further bone loss. Taken by itself, however; it increases the risk of uterine cancer. Provera, a synthetic progesterone-like medication, helps protect against that complication. Taking extra calcium is also beneficial if you don’t obtain about 1,200 milligrams daily in your ordinary diet.
However, such a megadose of vitamin D may be harmful and can cause calcium to be deposited in your soft tissues; it can also put you at risk for kidney stones and kidney failure. The usual daily dose ranges from 400 IU to 1,000 IU, depending on age and the estimated amount being supplied by diet and sunlight.
VEGETARIANS AND VITAMINS
Question: I’ve recently decided to become a vegetarian. What vitamin supplements should I be taking?
Answer: That depends on how strict a vegetarian you plan to be. If you eat eggs, dairy products, fortified breakfast cereals, or tempeh (a fermented soybean product), there’s no need for vitamin supplements. If those foods are not part of your new diet, you should plan on adding a B-12-fortified food or tak-ing daily a multivitamin containing a low dose of B-12. The recommended daily intake is 6 micrograms.
Question: For several years, I’ve been taking supplements that include high doses of the B vitamins and vitamin C. Since you’ve indicated that vitamin supplements are necessary only in a few special cases, I may stop taking them. But I’ve read elsewhere that doing so can create what amounts to a vitamin deficiency. Is that true?
Answer: No. Taking vitamin supplements doesn’t create increased demand. And any excess of the B vitamins and vitamin C is excreted in the urine. When you stop taking supplements, your body will simply get its ration of vitamins the natural way—from the foods you eat.
WARNINGS ON DIET DRINKS
Question: Some diet sodas and juices contain the notice “HENYLKETONURICS: CONTAINS PHENYLALANINE.” What is phenylalanine—and why the warning?
Answer: Phenylalanine, which is an essential amino acid needed by the body, also happens to be a component of the sweetener aspartame. Most people needn’t worry about the warning, but phenylalanine can be a problem for those few (1 in 15,000) who suffer from a metabolic disorder called phenylketonuria (PKU). Those people lack an enzyme needed to process the amino acid, which can reach toxic levels in their blood and tissues if dietary sources are not restricted. Accordingly, the FDA requires products with aspartame to bear a warning. Screening for PKU at birth is routine. Mental retardation can result if a newborn’s PKU goes undiagnosed.
WHY NOT CANNED FRUIT?
Question: Everything I read about proper diet calls for fresh fruit. What’s wrong with canned fruit?
Answer: Processing the fruit reduces the amount of certain vitamins somewhat, particularly vitamins A and C. And fruit that is canned without the skin has less fiber than fresh fruit. In addition, fruit is often canned in syrup, which adds calories. Still, canned fruit—especially when it’s canned in its own juices—is a lot better than no fruit. Use it as a substitute for out-of-season fresh varieties.
HOW MUCH “CAF” IN DECAF?
Question: I’ve heard that decaffeinated coffee has as much as 30 percent of the caffeine in regular coffee. Is that true?
Answer: No. The decaffeinating process actually leaves behind only about 3 percent of the caffeine. A cup of decaf has 2 to 5 milligrams of caffeine, compared with 40 to 108 mg for regular instant and 110 to 150 mg for drip-filtered (an 8-oz. cup from Starbucks may contain up to 200 mg). You’d have to drink an enormous amount of decaf to feel any effect from the caffeine.
THE COLOR OF CARROTS
Question: I eat a lot of vegetables, particularly carrots. Sometimes my skin gets a yellow tinge. I’ve been told that 1 should stop eating carrots when that starts to happen. Should I?
Answer: Only if you don’t like your skin color. While eating large quantities of foods that are high in beta-carotene— especially carrots—can color your skin yellow, that doesn’t indicate any kind of harmful reaction. And it’s totally reversible. In fact, you don’t have to stop eating those foods altogether to make the yellow discoloration disappear; just cut back a bit on carrots and take up the slack with other vegetables. After a few weeks, your skin should begin to clear.
Question: If there’s a spot of mold on a slice of bread, is it safe tobreak off that spot and eat the bread?
Answer: No. With a soft food like bread, simply removing the visible mold won’t necessarily remove all of the spores. If ingested, those mold spores might cause gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea. However, you can safely excise a small moldy area from firm foods, such as hard cheese, salami, and some fruits and vegetables. Be sure to include at least a halfinch margin of safety all around.
FAT AND CHOLESTEROL IN FOODS
Question: My nonfat yogurt lists 5 milligrams of cholesterol. How can a food have cholesterol but no fat?
Answer: It’s possible, but uncommon. Foods that have no fat— including most fruits, vegetables, and grains—generally don’t contain cholesterol either. Nonfat yogurt and skim milk are among the few exceptions.
Many more foods, especially those that contain vegetable oils, have fat but no cholesterol. That’s because cholesterol is found only in animal products such as meat, eggs, milk, and cheese. And that’s why it’s no trick for a bag of fatty potato chips or even a package of margarine to boast “no cholesterol.’’
Question: Does beer contain any fat or cholesterol?
Answer: No. The calories in beer (about 150 per 12-ounce can of regular beer and 100 for light beer) come from alcohol, carbohydrates, and a minuscule amount of protein.
HIGH-FAT INFANT FORMULA
Question: I was astonished to see that coconut oil is a major ingredient in Enfamil and other top-selling infant formulas. Isn’t that oil extremely harmful to the arteriesi Why would anyone feed it to a baby?
Answer: It’s true that Americans have been advised to cut back on foods containing coconut oil and other highly saturated fats, which have long been linked to coronary heart disease. But at this time, those guidelines apply only to older children
and adults. Babies under age two need fats to meet energy needs and to supply the raw material for cell membranes. Infant formulas contain 30 to 50 percent saturated fatty acids, about the same as breast milk.
IS BUTTERMILK FATTY?
Question: How does buttermilk compare with plain milk in calories and fat content?
Answer: Favorably. Commercial buttermilk is usually made by adding lactic acid to either low-fat or skim milk. (The acid sours and thickens the milk.) An 8-ounce glass of buttermilk made from low-fat milk contains about 2 grams of fat, which accounts for 18 percent of the 100 total calories; buttermilk made from skim milk usually contains less than one gram of fat, accounting for less than 9 percent of the 80 total calories, a negligible amount. By comparison, a glass of whole milk contains 8 grams of fat, or about half of its 150 calories.
MINIMUM FAT INTAKE?
Question: We hear so much about the desirability of limiting fat e to no more than 30 percent of calories consumed. But surely fat must play some vital role in the diet Isn’t there a minimum fat intake below which nutrition would suffer?
Answer: Yes, but no one knows exactly what that minimum level is. Clearly, some fat in the diet is needed to build parts of the I body’s cells, particularly the cell membranes. In animals, diets j with virtually no fat can retard growth and cause skin disor-ders. In certain cultures, however, people consume as little as 10 percent of total calories from fat with no apparent ill effects.
MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES
Question: Many food products claim to be fat free but list ^ mono- and diglycerides as ingredients. Aren’t they fats?
Answer: Yes. But they’re added in tiny quantities, usually to keep baked goods soft. “Fat free” really means virtually fat-free—less than 0.5 gram (4.5 calories) of fat per serving, an inconsequential amount.
EAT MORE “HEALTHY” FATS?
Question: I have a question regarding “healthy” fats. What are the best sources to ensure sufficient intake of essential fatty acids?
Answer: Nutritionists have definitely identified two essential fatty acids—components of fat that cannot be manufactured by the body and thus must be obtained from food. These are linoleic and linolenic acid, found in seed and vegetable oils. Other possible essential fatty acids include arachidonic acid, which is found in meat, and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), found in fish and seafood.
Unless you’ve discovered a way to remove all the fat from your diet, you’re probably getting more than enough of those nutrients already. Any attempt to increase your intake of fats, even “healthy” fats, is likely to do more harm than good.
Health handbook introducing you to read the article: DIET AND NUTRITION: NO MEAT WITH POTATOES?
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