Foodie Fallacies and Confectionary Comparisons

February 1st 2016
Nanette Coleman, MSN, FNP-BC, CDE
Nanette Coleman, MSN, FNP-BC, CDE

Whether you’re eating your favorite bread, indulging in chocolate, or adding some salt to the flavor of life, remember not to fall for foodie fallacies.

Q: IS WHOLE WHEAT BREAD HEALTHIER THAN WHITE BREAD?

Many believe that whole wheat bread is a healthy alternative to white bread, but is wheat bread really superior? Because whole grains include the entire grain seed—including the bran, germ, and endosperm—they are a source of many nutrients and dietary fiber that refined grains do not have. Refined grains, which are found in both white and wheat breads, have been milled to remove the bran and germ from the grain. This process removes dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins. In an attempt to make up for these losses, most refined grains are enriched with B vitamins and iron, but still lack fiber.1-4

So, in reality, wheat bread is no healthier than white bread. The increased nutritional value of eating wheat bread instead of white bread is insignificant, so you can go back to those delicious childhood PB&Js on white bread. Still, there is something that can be done to make your tummy and your dietician happy: eat whole grains!

Examples of whole grains include quinoa, brown rice, and oats. Try adding these foods to your food intake to up your dietary fiber. Those interested in making the switch to a healthy alternative to white bread should choose oat bran or other whole grain bread for the greatest health benefits—and the best taste!

Q: IS DARK CHOCOLATE HEALTHIER THAN MILK CHOCOLATE?

If you are inclined to indulge in chocolate, this debate may haunt you. Chocolates contain a large amount of naturally occurring antioxidants. Sometimes called flavonoids, these antioxidants are heart-healthy and protect cells from damage.5The higher the concentration of cocoa in chocolate, the more power the antioxidants have. When deciding which chocolates to enjoy, consider that a higher percentage of cocoa is found in dark chocolate compared with milk chocolate. Dark chocolate also contains more than 60% cocoa solids and not much added sugar. Milk, however, reduces the ability for antioxidants in chocolate to work in the body, so the healthier alternative is dark chocolate.

The benefits of consuming chocolates that are higher in polyphenols with antioxidant properties include increased blood flow (especially to the brain), reduced cholesterol (especially low-density lipoprotein, or the “bad” cholesterol), lower blood pressure, and reduced incidence of myocardial infarction, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Cocoa may also improve cognitive function in the elderly and increase the production of serotonin and other brain hormones that give us pleasure and satisfaction.5-7

Unfortunately for the chocolate enthusiast, most commercial chocolates contain added ingredients such as saturated fat, sugar, and calories. Although cocoa beans and dark chocolate have many benefits, it is wise to consume small amounts in order to reduce the negative impact of these additives because added sugars can increase the risk for diabetes, heart disease, and tooth decay, proving that too much of a good thing really is a bad thing.

Q: IS SEEING SEA SALT REALLY SEEING SALT?

Sea salt began to rise in popularity at the turn of the century when many started to claim its nutritional value was superior to that of the old standby known as table salt. The stronger flavor and larger crystals of sea salt are believed to contain less sodium, and this fallacy has duped many consumers into believing that sea salt is better. However, salt is salt, no matter which shoulder it’s tossed over, and the sodium content of sea salt and table salt is the same.8

Choosing one salt over another does nothing to improve your diet. Furthermore, iodized salt contains a needed mineral—iodine. Although some foods contain iodine, the benefit of table salt with iodine is a healthy thyroid. The body cannot make its own iodine, so we need iodine for production of thyroid hormone. Without thyroid hormone, a goiter can develop as the thyroid works to overcome this deficiency.9

If your taste buds prefer a larger and crunchier sea salt option, keep in mind to not overuse the shaker. The American Heart Association encourages most Americans to limit their sodium intake to between 1500 to 2300 mg daily, depending on age and health status.8

Whether you’re eating your favorite bread, indulging in chocolate, or adding some salt to the flavor of life, remember not to fall for foodie fallacies.

Nanette Coleman is a family nurse practitioner and certified diabetes educator who works as a cover provider for Walgreens Healthcare Clinic in the St. Louis market. She is committed to providing easy-to-understand health education for her clients to improve overall self-care and health management.

References

  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2010).Dietary Guidelines for Americans,7th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, December 2010. Accessed December 2015 via the Web at: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/DietaryGuidelines2010.pdf.
  2. Pereira T, Vilas Boas M and Conde J. (2014). Dark chocolate intake improves endothelial function in young healthy people: a randomized and controlled trial.Cardiovascular System, 2:3. http://dx.doi.org/10.7243/2052-4358-2-3. Accessed December 2015 via the Web at: http://www.hoajonline.com/journals/pdf/2052-4358-2-3.pdf.
  3. Nurk E, et al. (2009). Intake of flavonoid-rich wine, tea and chocolate by elderly men and women is associated with better cognitive test performance.The Journal of Nutrition,139: 120-127. Accessed December 2015 via the Web at: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/139/1/120.full.
  4. Djurdjica Ackar, Kristina Valek Lendić, Marina Valek, et al. (2013). Cocoa Polyphenols: Can We Consider Cocoa and Chocolate as Potential Functional Food?Journal of Chemistry, vol. 2013, Article ID 289392, 7 pages. Accessed December 2015 via the Web at: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jchem/2013/289392/.
  5. Oldways Whole Grains Council. Whole Grains 101. What are the health benefits? Accessed December 2015 via the Web at: http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/what-are-the-health-benefits.
  6. American Heart Association (2015). Whole grains and fiber. Accessed December 2015 via the Web at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Whole-Grains-and-Fiber_UCM_303249_Article.jsp#.Vm5vxEorJD8
  7. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2014).What is a whole grain? Eat right.org. Accessed December 2015 via the Web at: http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/what-is-a-whole-grain
  8. American Heart Association (2015). Sea salt vs. table salt. Accessed December 2015 via the Web at: http://sodiumbreakup.heart.org/sodium-411/sea-salt-vs-table-salt/
  9. American Thyroid Association (2015). Iodine deficiency. Accessed December 2015 via the Web at: http://www.thyroid.org/iodine-deficiency/.

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