Myths and Truths about Nutrition

On a daily basis we receive a wealth of information in regards to nutrition and weight loss. Often the source of this type of information originates from non-specialists thus false impressions are made. What are the myths and truths related to diet?

“Olive oil has fewer calories than other oils.”

Olive oil in comparison with other oils has the same caloric value as all oils are in fact fats that contain 9 calories per gram.  The reason olive oil is recommended instead of other oils is due to its high nutritional value. It contains mainly monounsaturated fats, which are positive qualities for the health of the heart, and also contains vitamin C which acts as an anti-ageing and anti-cancer agent.  Although olive oil is a healthy choice it should be consumed in moderation as 1 teaspoon contains 45 calories.

“Whole grain products contain fewer calories in comparison to the non-whole grain ones.”

This is a false perception as whole grains products have exactly the same calories with the difference that they provide more nutritional value. For example, a slice of brown bread has the same calories as a slice of white bread. Whole grain products provide a large amount of dietary fiber which is responsible for the health of gut.

Also, they contribute towards maintaining blood sugars in balance and they are undoubtedly richer in complex B vitamins that maintain the smooth functioning of the metabolism and nervous system.

“It’s better to consume honey and brown sugar rather than white sugar when trying to lose weight.”

Brown sugar has the same calories as white sugar.  The difference is that it has a higher nutritional value and provides nutrients such as magnesium, potassium and sodium. Honey also offers more vitamins and minerals than white sugar, which is nutritionally valueless, but many are not aware that it contains more calories.

“Aspartame sweeteners are carcinogenic”

Large organizations, such as the World Health Organization, suggest that aspartame is completely safe and it is not associated in any way with carcinogenesis.

There are no good or bad foods but instead good and bad eating habits.  All foods can be part of a diet as long as they are chosen correctly and consumed in moderation.  Food of same groups may contain the same value in calories but certainly some contain more nutrients than others and provide vitamins and fiber important to the human body.

In general, for matters related to correct nutrition one should seek the advice of a specialist and trust only scientific studies with validity that have their sources in the researches of experts.

Yiannis Kerimis MSc RD

Clinical Dietitian

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Healthy Nails, Hair & Skin

Many believe that cosmetics is one of the most important factor for keeping up appearances but in reality diet is the major factor which is crucial for healthy skin, hair and nails.

Fragile nails with pigmentation, dull hair that break easily and oily skin with pale color is often evidence of a diet with deficiencies in nutrients that are vital to our body.

Hair

To reduce hair loss and maintain shiny hair with natural growth we need to consume foods that are rich in the following:

Vitamin D:  It promotes proper development of tissue and cells.

Sources:  Vegetables, such as spinach and red peppers, liver and eggs.

Biotin:  It improves metabolizing fat in the scalp area.

Sources:  Eggs, liver and cereals.

Iron:  Iron deficiency causes increased hair loss.

Sources:  Red meat, poultry, fish, eggs and some vegetarian sources such as legumes and spinach.

Copper: A must for proper oxygenation of the scalp.

Sources: Liver, seafood and seeds.

Zinc:  Responsible for the production of keratin which is the main structural protein of hair.

Sources: Meat, liver, seafood, eggs and soy.

Skin

Our body excretes on a daily basis around 2.4 liters of fluid which should be replenished with adequate water intake (8-10 glasses) to reduce skin greasiness, remove toxins and to properly hydrate the skin.  Increased water consumption, massage and exercise that increases blood circulation along with reduced intake of saturated fat (animal fat), salt and caffeine, can reduce the appearance of cellulite which is a problem many women face. Some other nutrients needed to revitalize skin are some antioxidants such as Vitamin A and Vitamin C that can be found in citrus fruits, watermelon, apricots and some non-green vegetable.  Antioxidants protect our genetic material (DNA) and neutralize harmful substances in the body called free radicals. Vitamin C also promotes creation of collagen and helps revitalizing the skin. Smokers should consume more Vitamin C than non-smokers. Another antioxidant is Vitamin E which is found in dark green vegetables, grains and some vegetable oils such as olive oil.  Vitamin E also reduces any burns resulting from exposure to the sun.

Nails

The three major nutrients needed for healthy nails are protein, calcium and zinc. With protein (keratin) being the main structural material of nails it is important to include meat, poultry, seafood and legumes in our diet.  Calcium helps strengthen nails and its lack causes thin and fragile nails. Sources of calcium are dairy products, dark green vegetables, sardines, etc.  Zinc helps reduce nail pigmentation and can be found in meat, low-fat milk, brown rice, beans etc. Finally, inadequate iron intake causes nails to grow thin and fragile that easily break.

In conclusion, a proper diet for healthy skin, nails and hair should include dark green vegetables such as spinach, fruits and non-green vegetables that are usually rich in antioxidants such as Vitamin A and C. To strengthen nails foods rich in calcium, for example low fat milk, should be added to our diet.  In general, the consumption of lean meat, poultry, seafood and legumes is vital as these foods are rich in protein which is the basic structural material of hair, skin and nails.  Foods high in protein often contain iron and zinc, essential ingredients for the healthy development of the nails and hair. Finally, water is an important factor for proper hydration and detoxification of the skin and should be consumed in adequate amounts.

Yiannis Kerimis MSc RD

Clinical Dietitian

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