Q: Besides yogurt, are there any other foods I should eat every day that provide significant health benefits?
A: Yogurt is a good source of calcium, but you don't have to eat it every day. In fact, a variety of foods make up a healthy diet. Here's what the United States Department of Agriculture recommends for women, per day:
• Five to six servings of grains
• Two to two and a half cups of vegetables
• One and a half to two cups of fruit
• Three cups of foods from the milk group (one cup of milk or yogurt or one and a half ounces of cheese is each equal to a one-cup serving from the milk group)
• Five to five and a half ounces of meat and beans
• Five to six teaspoons of oil such as canola or olive
Q: Does eating egg whites instead of whole eggs make a big difference in weight loss?
A: It's true that having fewer yolks means fewer calories, but research shows that whole eggs may help with weight loss by increasing the feeling of fullness. They're also full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Yolks have vitamin A (good for night vision, fertility and immunity), choline (a vitamin beneficial for memory) and other chemicals that help protect eyesight, such as lutein and zeaxanthin. Still, eat no more than one yolk a day―yolks are loaded with calories, cholesterol and fat. One yolk has 55 calories, 210 milligrams of cholesterol (you're only supposed to consume 300 milligrams per day) and 4½ grams of fat; an egg white has only 17 calories, no cholesterol and no fat. Try making an omelet with one whole egg and two egg whites.
Q: I've heard that calcium can help me lose weight, but I'm lactose-intolerant. How can I get the benefits?
A: The verdict is still out on dairy's role in weight loss, but one thing is not up for debate: A balanced diet includes plenty of calcium-rich food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that people on a 1,600- to 1,800-calorie-a-day diet have three 8-ounce servings of low-fat dairy a day. If you can't easily digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and milk products, try low-fat yogurt―the healthful bacteria in yogurt makes lactose easier to digest. Calcium-fortified cereal, soy milk and orange juice are other good options.
Q: Is it true that in order for my body to absorb the vitamins and nutrients in vegetables, I have to eat full-fat salad dressing?
A: No, it's not. The typical American diet has more than enough fat to help us digest these important vitamins. Problems with absorption tend to occur as a result of diseases that affect the intestine, not from lack of dietary fat. However, when making a salad, be aware that cheese, croutons and full-fat dressings can add extra calories. The American Dietetic Association suggests that you use low-fat cheeses and low-fat or nonfat dressings.
Q: I worry I might be eating too much salt. How can I keep track of how much I'm consuming?
A: Healthy adults should eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, which is roughly the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of salt. Having too much salt in your diet can cause your body to store extra water, which puts stress on your circulatory system and may lead to hypertension (high blood pressure). There are a number of ways you can ensure you're maintaining a healthy sodium level. Read the nutrition labels of the foods you eat and drink and note how much sodium you get from each serving. Cut back on processed foods, which are chock-full of dietary salt. Switch to low-sodium foods―including soups and canned vegetables―whenever possible.
Q: I recently heard that raw nuts are good for you but that roasted nuts have bad
fats, like trans fat, because they are cooked. Is that true?
A: Cooking alone does not add trans fat to nuts, but the oil they are cooked in can. If you eat roasted nuts, buy those that have been prepared in non-hydrogenated oils, such as canola, peanut, safflower or soybean oil. If hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated or margarine appear in the ingredients list, this usually means trans fats are present, and they can negate the health benefits of eating nuts. Try another brand.
Q: Are daily vitamins necessary if I eat a healthy diet?
A: Unless you are pregnant or planning to be pregnant soon, you do not need to take a daily vitamin if you eat a balanced diet that includes at least five daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Multivitamins generally contain the major vitamins, such as A, B6, B12, D and E and folic acid; dosages vary by brand.