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    Archive for the ‘You Ask/I Answer’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Soy Protein Isolate

    Is soy protein isolate a bad form of protein?  Why?

    — Kelsey Lepp
    (Location Unknown)

    Few foods are as polarizing — and misunderstood — as soy.

    On the one hand, foods that contain at least 6.25 grams of soy, less than 3 grams of fat, less than 1 gram of saturated fat, and less than 20 milligrams of cholesterol can legally display an FDA-approved statement about soy’s role in helping to lower heart disease risk.

    Okay, let’s pause for a second.  That statement perpetuates the inaccurate “low fat = healthy” dogma that to this day has people afraid of consuming heart-healthy foods like nuts, avocados, and coconut.  There are also no limits on how much sugar a product with this statement can have, despite mountains of research showing sugar’s harmful effect on heart health.  Most interestingly, the company that petitioned the FDA for that statement was none other than Protein Technologies International, a company that manufactures — what else — soy protein!

    Moving on.  Just as soy has enjoyed plenty of good press, there is also a strong anti-soy movement (some of it led by the National Cattle Association, no less) blaming it for everything from breast cancer to early onsets of puberty to the feminization of men (that last one has more to do with latent mysogyny and silly homophobia than anything else).

    In reality, soy supporters and unabashed critics are simultaneously right and wrong.  I have formed my very own soy spectrum.  On the “healthful” side, you have fermented, minimally processed versions (miso, shoyu, tempeh and natto).  Somewhere in the middle you have semi-processed products like soy milk, and way on the other side (the “consume sparingly, if at all” side) lies soy protein isolate.

    Continue Reading »


    You Ask, I Answer: Is Juicing the Best Avenue for Vegetables?

    celery juice -Green DelightI watched a documentary called Crazy Sexy Cancer, and in it, director/star Kris Carr talks about the benefits of juicing vegetables. In the book version, she writes, “By removing the fiber through the process of squeezing the pulp, we instantly lighten our digestive load. Nutrients pass directly into the bloodstream, and within minutes our bodies receive optimum fuel to feed our cells and restore our immune systems.”

    She says that drinking this juice concoction is better than eating each of the ingredients.

    She goes on to say that we of course need fiber as well, but I was a little confused by the “digestive load” bit. Any truth to that?

    — Jenn DiSanto
    Philadelphia, PA

    I need to start my answer with a disclaimer — I enjoy fresh juices.  Once a week or so, you’ll find me sipping on guzzling down a kale, celery, cucumber, Granny Smith apple, parsley, lemon, and ginger concoction at my favorite local juice bar (which conveniently happens to be two blocks from my gym).  I point this out to make it clear that I do not “scoff” at juicing (as some people in my field sadly do).

    With that out of the way, let me tackle your question.

    Continue Reading »


    You Ask, I Answer: Omega-3s Increase Type 2 Diabetes Risk?

    080708193249-largeWhat are your thoughts on the reported link between omega-3 intake and type 2 diabetes recently published in an article featured in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition?

    — xo2hearts
    (via Twitter)

    The AJCN is a well-respected, top-of-the-line journal, so it is no surprise that many of its studies resonate all over the Internet.

    This one, titled “Dietary omega-3 fatty acids and fish consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes” is particularly controversial, since its main conclusion is that there appears to be “an increased risk of type-2 diabetes with the intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, especially with higher intakes (more than 0.20 g omega-3, or more than 2 servings of fish a day.)”

    Continue Reading »


    You Ask, I Answer: Low Histamine Diets for Skin Issues?

    Atopic_dermatitis_childI have some autoimmune issues, namely atopic dermatitis, which flares up for mostly unknown reasons. Some of it has to do with having an immune system that over reacts to environment (certain materials, chemicals in soaps) and food.

    I’ve read that eating a diet of low histamine foods can really help.  Your posts about food and medical issues really inspired me and I thought you might have some helpful thoughts.

    — Ella (Last name withheld)
    Brooklyn, NY

    While histamines can’t be singled out as the cause of conditions like atopic dermatitis, eczema, and rosacea, a good percentage of people who struggle with those conditions are highly sensitive to histamines in food, and should, in my opinion, try out a histamine-free (or at least very low-histamine) diet for a few weeks to see if this alleviates symptoms.

    Continue Reading »


    You Ask, I Answer: How Many Grams of Fish Oils A Day?

    andrew-lessman-essential-omega-3-no-fishy-taste-mint-360-capsules~660045Saw this tweet from you the other day: “Ideal Omega 3 supplementation: 3 g total/day; DHA:EPA ratio of 2:3. Don’t bother with supplements that offer ALA.”

    My basic approach has been to consume at least 1,000mg (or 1 gram) per day; that seems to be the standard recommendation. I’m wondering if the 3 gram recommendation is meant for the greater population or just those with very high cholesterol or other conditions.

    — Guy Betterbid
    New York, NY

    One gram a day is not bad.  Here is what I base my “3 grams per day” recommendation on:

    Continue Reading »


    You Ask, I Answer: Serotonin in Foods?

    food-coma-150x150I’ve been told that bananas have the second highest levels of serotonin.

    When I pass [that tidbit] on, others ask ‘what’s the first?’.  Do you know?

    — @kiloerg
    Via Twitter

    I’m sorry to say that whoever told you bananas have the highest second levels of serotonin must have been rather confused.

    Foods, after all, don’t contain serotonin (a neurotransmitter linked to relaxation and sleep promotion).  Certain components in food, though, can increase serotonin levels.

    Here is how the “some foods make you tired and sleepy” scenario plays out.

    Continue Reading »


    You Ask, I Answer: B Vitamin Confusion

    51V3ZT72W8L._SS500_I need your help sorting out B vitamins.

    I thought they were all water soluble, but I recently heard that the body stores B12 for decades?  Is this true?

    What are all the B vitamins?  I keep seeing conflicting information on how many there are.  For example, is panthothenic acid a B vitamin?  What about choline?

    — Rebecca Plender
    (Location Withheld)

    There are eight B vitamins.  They are:

    • B1 (AKA Thiamin)
    • B2 (AKA Riboflavin)
    • B3 (AKA Niacin)
    • B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
    • B6 (AKA Pyridoxine, although that term is mainly used in scientific literature)
    • B7 (AKA Biotin)
    • B9 (AKA Folate)
    • B12 (AKA Colabamin; again, that term is mainly only used in scientific literature)

    Continue Reading »


    You Ask, I Answer: Gluten, Soy Sauce, and “Wheat-Free” Labeling

    sanj_gluten_free_tamari__45649_stdLast Thursday, I got the results of my gluten panel.  Verdict: I have celiac disease.

    Today I had lunch with a coworker at a “health food” restaurant.  We specifically chose it because their menu lets you know which entrees contain soy, gluten, and nuts.

    The dish I wanted (which had baked tofu) had a “gluten” sign next to it.  I asked the waitress where the gluten in the dish was coming from.  Her response was: “We marinade our tofu in soy sauce.”

    I’m still very new to this gluten thing, but I don’t understand how soy sauce can contain gluten.  Isn’t it just soybeans?

    I know I have seen some wheat-free soy sauce, but everything I’ve read so far says that “wheat free” and “gluten-free” are not the same thing.  So, is soy sauce a condiment I can never have again?

    I would REALLY appreciate any help you can give me.

    — Estelle Nardelli
    (City Withheld), NJ

    I can’t say I envy you.  As if managing food labels without allergies wasn’t its own Rubik cube, tacking on gluten insensitivity heightens the challenge.

    As many people living with celiacs soon learn, there is a long list of preservatives, additives, and wheat byproducts that sound absolutely harmless, but can cause severe problems when consumed.  Soy sauce is one area where I find many individuals with celiac get confused, and sometimes go overboard with restrictions.  Allow me to provide some clarification.

    Continue Reading »


    You Ask, I Answer: Weeding Out Wheat Ingredients

    ucm161772Can you explain the different types of whole wheat?

    I know you are supposed to look for the word “whole” as the first ingredient in a bread, but what if you have choices like stone ground whole wheat or whole white wheat?

    Which is better?

    — Jill Twist
    (Location Unknown)

    You are absolutely right that the main thing to look for when purchasing breads is “whole wheat” (or a whole non-wheat flour) as the first ingredient.

    As you point out, though, other factors come into play that can confuse you and millions of other consumers.  Let’s run through some common wheat-based ingredients and what they mean from a nutrition standpoint.  Although your question specifically refers to whole wheat varieties, I am going to throw in a little bit of information about “healthy-sounding” non-whole wheat ingredients.


    You Ask, I Answer: Pumpkins Full of Pesticides?

    3 pumpkinsI have heard that supermarket pumpkins are treated with a lot of insecticides and other chemicals that keep them aesthetically intact, and lengthen their shelf life.

    Is this true or BS?

    — Thomas Johnson
    Via Facebook

    As I often like to say, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

    Conventional pumpkins are certainly treated with pesticides and insecticides, but they do not make the “dirty dozen” list of produce that contains the highest amounts of these substances.

    By the way, the wonderful folks at Local Harvest have provided this nifty search tool to help you locate farms in your area that offer organic pumpkins!


    You Ask, I Answer: Protein Powder Terminology

    ion_exchange_protein_wpi_3kg_powder_shop_new_zealand_co_nz_smI was looking at different protein powders the other day, and saw a lot of terms that went over my head.  Can you help me out and at least tell me if I should even bother paying attention to some of these?

    Here are ones I wrote down:  “ion-exchanged”, “microfiltered”, “hydrolized”.

    Thank you.  Not only for answering this question, but for your blog.  I have learned a lot just by visiting your site!

    — Richard (last name withheld)
    San Jose, CA

    As if the cereal and bread aisles weren’t bad enough, protein powder shopping also involves sorting through a variety of fancy-sounding claims.  Let’s break them down:

    Continue Reading »


    You Ask, I Answer: Calcium Absorption, Kidney Stone Risk, and Gelatin-Free Vitamin D Supplements

    0904-calcium-supplements1. Is there research that indicates that calcium carbonate’s absorption is superior to that of calcium citrate?

    2. My doctor recently suggested that I supplement my diet with calcium and vitamin D. Is there a heightened risk of developing kidney stones associated with calcium supplementation?

    3. Most of the vitamin D supplements I’ve found contain gelatin as an ingredient. Do you know of any alternative products?

    — Josh Griffin
    (Location Unknown)

    Continue Reading »


    You Ask, I Answer: Protein Bar Guidelines

    zero impact barWhat things should I look for in a protein bar?  I use them when I’m on the go at times when I know I will need something, but don’t want to do fast food.

    — Tammy Edwards
    (Via Facebook)

    Wonderful questions.  When it comes to protein bars, I am “on the fence”.  Allow me to explain.

    On the one hand, I don’t think they are terrible and should be shunned.  Sure, there are some horrific protein bars out there (and, in a little bit, I will give you specific parameters to help you choose the better ones), but a smart choice can make for a great snack or meal replacement in a pinch.

    Continue Reading »


    You Ask, I Answer: Calcium Carbonate in Vegan Beverages

    Tums UltraI’ve noticed that most soy/almond milk has calcium carbonate, which someone once told me was like drinking concrete?

    Is that true?  What is calcium carbonate, exactly?

    — Kerra Olsen
    (Via Facebook)

    Calcium carbonate– an ionic salt —  is a very abundant compound; it’s found almost everywhere in nature, from snail shells to our planet’s crust.  It’s also the main component in Tums!

    Yes, concrete (and chalk) are made from calcium carbonate, but that is not to say you are “eating concrete”.  After all, you can make paper mache paste from flour and water.  That does not mean, however, that a whole grain baguette is just a baked version of of it.

    Most calcium supplements (and calcium-fortified foods, such as non-dairy “milks”) are made from calcium carbonate because it is the least expensive source.  Research also shows that its absorption is the highest.

    Since calcium carbonate is best absorbed with meals, it only makes sense to use it to fortify foods.

    No reason to panic or fear.  Calcium carbonate is a perfectly safe way to get your calcium, provided you don’t have certain conditions (kidney stones being the biggest worry).


    You Ask, I Answer: Why Isn’t All Fiber Equal?

    048121276201You recently tweeted that fiber should come from foods “that inherently contain it”, rather than foods that have it added on.

    Why is that?  For example, today at the store I saw some Thomas’ 100% whole wheat English muffins that had 3 grams of fiber a piece.  But, the multigrain ones (also made by Thomas) that had white flour as the first ingredient had 8 grams of fiber each!  Aren’t the multigrain ones the better choice?

    — Tiffany Setcher
    Hoboken, NJ

    When you eat a food that intrinsically offers fiber (i.e: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, etc.), you also get a variety of other healthful compounds — phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

    Continue Reading »

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