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Learning Center Experience
By Brooke Benton
New ideas about how to eat healthy and stay fit seem to bombard today's marketplace. These nutrition trends often present a "quick fix" to feeling good, losing, weight or avoiding illness. While some healthy eating trends offer good solid advice, others are ineffective or even potentially harmful. For the average person to distinguish between useful information and an unsubstantiated fad, it's important to check the facts.
"Usually, fad diets work by eliminating certain foods or sometimes entire food groups. This means certain nutrients are also decreased, which could lead to nutrient deficiencies," says Brooke Benton, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, professor for nutrition sciences at Kaplan University. Below is a short list of today's common trends, and how the trend stands up to the facts:
What's the truth about gluten? Gluten is a protein found in certain grains. For the roughly one percent of the population with the autoimmune condition known as Celiac Disease, ingesting gluten can lead to severe health issues. More common than Celiac Disease is "non-Celiac gluten sensitivity." There is no diagnostic test for this condition, and its reach and complications are less understood. Those with Celiac Disease typically work closely with a medical doctor and a nutrition professional to eliminate gluten from their diet without causing nutritional deficiencies. For others wishing to eliminate gluten, it's wise to consult a specialist to avoid deficiencies of B vitamins, iron, zinc, vitamin D, magnesium, and fiber.
Is soy milk a better choice than cow's milk? Allergies, gastrointestinal issues, and/or a vegan lifestyle can lead individuals to choose a dairy free diet. There are many non-dairy options on the market today, but nutrient composition varies widely. Cow's milk is a complete protein, providing essential amino acids, calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus. Soy milk is closest to cow's milk in terms of nutritional content, while almond milk and coconut milk are much lower in protein. "It's important to understand the nutritional components of the alternatives, so a balanced diet can be maintained while eliminating dairy," says Benton.
Are organic vegetables worth the extra money? When it comes to nutritional quality, there are some studies that show organic foods have a slightly higher nutritional value, while other studies do not show any clear difference. Still, nutritional value is not the only reason people choose to buy organic. Other reasons include taste, decreased pesticide use, or environmental friendliness. "Organic or not," says Benton, "fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet, containing many important nutrients and phytochemicals
Cage free, free range, and organic eggs: What's the difference? According to Benton, organic eggs come from hens that are uncaged, inside barns, and are required to have outdoor access. These hens are fed an organic, all vegetarian diet that does not include pesticides or antibiotics. Cage-free eggs come from hens that are uncaged inside barns, and typically do not have access to outdoors. Free range eggs come from hens that are not caged and typically have the opportunity to go outside. When it comes to nutritional quality, there are some studies that show free-range eggs have a slightly higher nutritional value, while other studies do not show any clear difference. "The bottom line is, eggs are a nutritionally excellent food, so it's up to consumers to decide which type is best for them," says Benton.
Benton emphasizes the importance of understanding the foods we put into our bodies, and suggests consulting the USDA's "Choose My Plate" guidelines for deciding on an individual diet. "One rule seems to always stand the test of time," says Benton. "The best way to stay healthy is to eat a variety of healthy foods, watch serving sizes and maintain a healthy level of physical activity."
Brooke Benton has worked as full-time faculty in the Nutrition Science department since 2009. Mrs. Benton completed her Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics, Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics, and Dietetic Internship from East Carolina University.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and are not attributable to Kaplan University.
The contents of this article are presented for informational purposes only, and are not to be relied upon for medical purposes. Always check with a health care professional regarding any questions you may have regarding medical issues.
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And if you are considering pursuing a health sciences degree, we invite you to find out more about Kaplan University's School of Health Sciences and explore our undergraduate and graduate degree offerings.
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