Are these healthy foods more myth than fact?

Are you crazy for avocado? Can you go a meal without adding sea salt to your dish? You may have tried some of these latest trends in healthy eating, but are you really getting the nutritional value you think you are? We invited Diane Werner, RD, LD, to highlight some myths and facts about popular health foods.

Myth: Sea salt is healthier than table salt.

Facts: Sea salt has just as much sodium as table salt by weight. One teaspoon of table salt contains approximately 2,300 mg of sodium. Dietary guidelines are to limit our intake of sodium to 2,300 mg or less per day. Most of our sodium intake comes from convenience foods vs. the salt shaker. The main difference between sea salt and table salt is in their taste, texture, and method of processing. Sea salt has little processing done to it, is coarser than table salt, and has flavor from some trace minerals left in it through the evaporation process of producing sea salt. Table salt, on the other hand, has been through more rigorous processing, has no residual minerals remaining, and is much more refined due to an additive that prevents clumping. An essential mineral, iodine, also has been added to table salt which helps to maintain a healthy thyroid.

Source: Mayo Clinic, SodiumBreakup

Myth: Avocados are a healthy green vegetable and you don’t need to worry how much you consume.

Facts: Avocados are green, but they are not a vegetable. In terms of nutrient content, they are classified as a fat. However, they are a good type of fat, a monounsaturated fat, and this type of fat is better for you than a saturated or trans fat. They also add color and flavor to a meal. The bad news is that only two tablespoons (1 ounce) contains 45 calories. So, how much avocado can you have? Approximately one-third of a medium avocado contains 80 calories, or the equivalent of two servings of fat.

Source: AvocadoCentral, “Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Weight Management”,  Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2008.

Myth: Coconut oil is good for you.

Facts: Coconut oil is predominantly a saturated fat (vs. unsaturated), which tends to increase a person’s risk of heart disease, related to increasing blood cholesterol levels. Just like any other oil, it contains approximately 45 calories per teaspoon, and contains no vitamins or minerals. There is inconclusive evidence to make any statements regarding the health benefits of coconut oil, or that it is healthier than any other oils.

Source: Consultant360“Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Weight Management”,  Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2008.

Diane Werner is a licensed and registered dietitian, board certified sports dietitian and serves as a consultant to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas.

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