In Food Battles: Part 1 I provided some insight on commonly asked food questions. Today in Part 2 we look at a few more food battles to help you make healthier food choices. Remember, no single food or single supplement makes you magically healthier; rather you should always focus on your diet as a whole.
Margarine vs Butter
Most people do not really understand the difference between butter and margarine. The answer is simple; butter is natural and margarine is not. Many health organizations, including the Mayo Clinic, support margarine over butter for its “health benefits.” This is usually due to the fact that margarine contains lower amounts of saturated fat and since it is made from vegetable oils, also contains no cholesterol. However, it is now accepted that diets higher in fat, even saturated fats, do not raise cholesterol levels (when combined with lower-carb eating habits). Also, the cholesterol found in our food has minimal effects on our serum cholesterol levels (so continue to eat those nutrient-rich eggs!). If you do choose butter, try to opt for the organic, grass-fed butter so you know this butter was produced from cows raised as Mother Nature intended them to be raised.
Chia Seeds vs Flaxseed
Chia seeds and flaxseeds are nutritional powerhouses. They are loaded with heart-healthy omega-3 fats, dietary fiber and antioxidants. Both are used in similar methods; they are an added ingredient in recipes to boost nutritional content of a food product. They typically don’t add much flavor but may add a little bit of grit to your food. Chia seeds can be consumed in their whole form whereas flaxseed needs to be ground up or soaked in water for 8 hours before consuming it. Due to their healthy fat content, both need to be stored in the fridge to prevent oxidation.
White vs Brown Rice
Winner: White Rice
This is a tough one and I know I stand alone with this answer amongst other health practitioners, but here’s my reasoning. The answer is primarily brewed from the way they are digested in the body. I’m a big proponent of helping my patients with gut problems so my focus stems from that angle of health. Traditionally, brown rice is ranked higher because it contains a little bit more fiber, nutrients and has a lower glycemic index when compared with white rice. However, many studies suggest that brown rice has an anti-nutrient effect. This means that certain plant properties in the brown rice actually block absorption of vitamins, minerals and protein; thus affecting their bioavailability. White rice is actually less likely to cause digestive issues when consumed, but for some people, this difference goes unnoticed.
Low-Carb vs Low-Fat
I would prefer to use the term “lower carb” since there is actually no set definition of what low-carb actually is. A lower carb diet is one made up of lean proteins, healthy fats, an abundance of non-starchy vegetables, some vegetable starches, fruits consumed in moderation, unsweetened dairy products and limited in added sugars. Recently, a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, 2014 found that those that followed a lower carb diet versus a low-fat diet were able to lose more weight and reduce more risk factors for heart disease. While study participants in the low-fat group also lost weight, the low-carb group lost more fat weight and retained more of their lean muscle mass compared to the low-fat group. Lower carb meal plans can be used as part of a healthy lifestyle to reduce weight, blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels.