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Nutrition FAQs

Question: Will high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) make me fat?

Answer:
HFCS is a sweetener made from corn and is found in many foods and beverages. It has the same calories and sweetness as table sugar and honey. A June 2008 press release from the American Medical Association (AMA) quotes “After studying current research, the AMA concluded that high fructose syrup does not appear to contribute more to obesity than other caloric sweeteners.” Nutrition experts across the world agree. The key to weight loss is to reduce your caloric intake and / or increase your caloric expenditure. It makes perfect sense that omitting high calorie, sugar containing foods and beverages or replacing them with calorie-free drinks is a sensible and safe method to reduce caloric intake.

Question: Are sugar substitutes, and foods containing these non-caloric sweeteners such as diet soda, safe to consume?

Answer: The Food and Drug Association (FDA) states that nonnutritive sweeteners are safe and can be part of a healthy diet. Sugar substitutes approved for use in the United States include saccharin (Sweet’N Low, Sugar Twin), aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet, NutraTaste), acesulfame potassium (Sweet One, Sunett), and sucralose (Splenda). Note that the FDA has yet to approved Stevia as a nonnutritive sweetener .

The FDA has established acceptable daily intake levels (ADI) for each sugar substitute which includes a 100-fold safety factor, meaning that the AI is 1/100th of the actual safe amount for daily consumption. Surveys show that people actually consume far less that the ADI for sugar substitutes. ADI equivalents for a 150 pound person would be 15 cans of diet soda (aspartame), 9 packets of Sweet’N Low (saccharin), or 5 cans of sucralose sweetened diet soda.

The use of non-caloric sweetener use is a helpful way to control calories for weight control. The research does not support that using these products will trigger overeating if a balanced diet is also consumed.

Adapted from Today’s Dietitian, Lynn Grieger, RD, CED, cPT, September 2008.

Question: Is organic food worth the price?

Answer:
The legal definition of organic fruits and vegetables is that they were grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and haven’t been genetically engineered. Pesticides are rarely found in beef, poultry, eggs or milk. If these are labeled organic, this means that the animals were raised on organic feed and were never given growth hormones or antibiotics.

Although there is very little data about the risk of eating fruits and vegetables that contain pesticide residues, organic foods are less likely to damage the environment. Research shows that organic foods are not more nutritious than conventionally grown produce. There is no difference in food poisoning risk between organic or nonorganic foods. If you want to avoid pesticides but don’t want to buy everything organic, consider purchasing organic options of the following fruits and vegetables which contained more pesticides in a study conducted by the US Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration between 2002-2004: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, nectarines, cherries, pears, imported grapes, and spinach.

Labeling terms: “100% organic” indicates that all ingredients are organic.

“Organic” means that at least 95% of the ingredients are organic.

“Made with organic ingredients” means that at least 70% of the ingredients are organic.

How can you be sure that foods labeled organic are truly organic? Situations of fraud in labeling have been found in some investigations but this is rare. The bottom line is that you are better off eating more fruits and vegetables… period… rather than avoiding them due to pesticide concern. People who eat more fruits and vegetables have reduced risk for heart disease and specific cancers and are better able to control body weight.

Question: How can I gain more muscle?

Answer: In order to gain muscle mass, a person must overload their muscles by lifting weights or performing cardiovascular exercise and ingesting enough calories and protein in the diet to meet the demands of the muscle fibers which need repair. Muscle proteins are assembled from the proteins eaten in the diet from foods such as meat, beans, nuts, and legumes. Protein needs are higher when attempting to gain muscle than for maintenance needs. The current recommendation is 1.5-1.8 grams of protein per kilogram body weight. Many Americans eat this amount in their normal diet. Increase portions from all food groups when trying to gain rather than focusing solely on protein. If a diet is too low in carbohydrate, protein may be used as an energy source which will hinder muscle gain.

To achieve a 1-2# weight gain per week, consume an additional 500-1,500 calories per day. This may be achieved by consuming high calorie, nutrient dense foods, with an average of five to six meals per day. Some additional tips:

1) Snack often and do not skip meals. Examples of healthy snacks may include dried fruits, granola and yogurt, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit smoothies, and nuts.

2) Drink your calories. If eating more food makes you uncomfortable, try drinking your calories between meals with more fruit juice, milk, instant breakfast drinks or canned liquid meals.

3) Increase portion sizes at your meals and snacks.

4) Get your rest. Given that growth hormone peaks in deep sleep, adequate rest is essential in the production of lean body mass.

5) Avoid alcohol. Excess alcohol consumption can prevent protein synthesis in the body.

Schedule an appointment with the Registered Dietitian at 777-3175 to develop an individualized meal plan in support of weight gain.

Question: My roommate is obsessed with her diet, eats only salads and fruit and constantly frets about her weight yet she looks healthy to me. What are the signs of an eating disorder and who can she talk to if she needs help?

Answer
: Common signs of disordered eating habits include:

– Obsession with food, body weight and/or body image

– Food rituals or a restrictive diet

– Fatigue, irritability, and mood swings

– Lack of interest in school or other activities

– Use of bathroom during or immediately after a meal

– Excuses to not eat in social situations

– Rapid fluctuations in weight or significant weight loss

– Excessive exercise habits

What you can do to help:

Show concern for your friend and be a good listener. Talk to the person alone in a non-judgmental tone. Open communication with a caring attitude promotes trust. Focus on specific behaviors that you have seen rather than on weight. Consider telling them that you have seen a change in their habits or energy level and that you are concerned that they are not getting sufficient nutrition. If your friend does not want to talk about it, don’t push but do check back later. Ask “I wonder if you’ve thought any more about what we were discussing last week? I keep thinking that something is troubling you.”

Lead up to a referral and offer to help them make an appointment with the campus dietitian (777-3175) and with the Human Counseling and Development Center (777-5223.) Eating disorders are not ultimately about food and weight but are triggered by underlying emotional issues. Do not try to help your friend yourself. Eating disorders are serious conditions which need professional treatment. Be sure to notify your Resident Mentor if you suspect that your friend may harm him or herself.

Question: Is farm raised salmon bad for you?

Answer:
In short, “no.” The 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report and the American Heart Association advise at least two servings of fish, particularly fatty fish, weekly for health benefits. The omega 3 fatty acids found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, bluefin tuna, and herring, have been demonstrated to help reduce heart disease risk and may provide other health benefits currently under research.

With present feeding practices, farmed salmon has a higher omega 3 fatty acid content than wild salmon – 4500 mg vs 1780 mg in a 6 oz. serving (JAMA 2006, 1890-91). The actual content will depend however, on the type of feed that the farm raised salmon is fed.

The debate will always rage between environmentalists contending that fish farms pollute local waters and the aquaculture defenders enforcing the fact that fish farming takes pressure off wild fisheries while providing people with good sources of nutrients that are relatively low in contaminants.

Ongoing FDA testing finds that salmon, regardless of where raised, poses no mercury contaminant threat. Concerns have been addressed that farm raised salmon may contain more PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) contamination than wild salmon but the FDA has indicated it is not necessary to reduce consumption of either farmed-raised or wild salmon. Farm raised salmon are often released into the wild after growth, making the concern for contaminants smaller. Removing the skin may further reduce contamination risk before consumption.

On a student budget, farm raised salmon is less expensive than wild salmon and both are good sources of healthy omega 3 fatty acids. Varying your diet to avoid excessive intake of any one food is optimal for nutritional balance and health.

Question: How many calories should an active college student consume daily?

Answer:
Many students underestimate their energy needs. Most college aged men need at least 2400-2600 kcal daily and most college aged women need 1800-2200 calories daily however these needs vary greatly dependent on age, body mass, gender, activity level and many other factors. For an individualized evaluation of your nutrient needs, make an appointment with the campus dietitian at 777-3175.

Question: I can’t tolerate milk products and am concerned about calcium intake. How can I meet my calcium needs without drinking milk?

Answer
: If you don’t like milk or can’t tolerate milk due to “lactose intolerance.” Lactose intolerance results from a deficiency in lactase, which is an enzyme which helps to digest the milk sugar, lactose. Some dairy foods that contain little lactose include hard cheeses and parmesan cheese. Choose low fat versions. Leafy green vegetables, broccoli, legumes such as kidney beans, tofu, and canned salmon with bones, nuts and fortified orange juice are additional sources of calcium for non-milk drinkers.

Question: My “Freshman 15” is now my “Senior 25”. I have job interviews approaching and need some weight loss strategies!

Answer:
The key to weight loss is to eat less and expend more energy than consumed. Follow the tips below:

Pump up the volume! To eat fewer calories without feeling deprived, “dilute” the calories of your meals with lower fat and low calorie foods. Adding steamed vegetables to your pasta or stir fry can half the calories of the meal with the same volume as a plate full of pasta or rice.

Monitor the munchies. Research shows that eating smaller amounts of food more frequently throughout the day may be helpful for weight and appetite control. Beware of high calorie and unnecessary snacking however which can quickly contribute to excess calories.

Ponder the plate. The “plate method” is another common method used to control portion sizes and, ultimately, weight loss. With the plate method, half of your plate consists of non-starchy vegetables, a quarter of your plate meat, and the other quarter is reserved for starches, e.g. rice, potatoes, beans, corn.

Avoid alcohol. It’s not called a beer belly for nothing. Alcohol calories add up quickly. A 12 oz lite beer, 4 oz wine and 1 shot of hard liquor all have approximately 100 calories. Add the mixer to that tequila and you are looking at a 300 kcal margarita!

Move it! Sixty minutes of exercise is recommended most days of the week. The hour can be divided into two sessions if necessary. Try out the Campus Rec intramurals program, group exercise programs or set “appointments” with friends to take long walks on campus.

Reach out to your resources. The campus registered dietitian (777-3175) can help individualize a meal plan and the counseling center (777-5223) can help you curb some unhealthy eating behaviors that may stem from poor stress management or other mental health issues.

Question: Can you differentiate between “good carbs” and “bad carbs”?

Answer:
There is often a stigma associated with carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrates are an important energy source for the muscles and brain. Healthier carbohydrates contain more vitamins, minerals and fiber than refined carbohydrates. Good sources include whole and enriched grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans. Refined carbohydrates provide quick energy without the benefits of the other important nutrients. Sources include candy, juice drinks, white rice, white bread, and refined cereals. It is recommended that “half your grains be whole.” Try to work whole grain pasta, brown rice and whole grain cereals and breads into your diet. Look for the term “100% whole grain” on food labels.