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Spotlight on Walden // Mar 11, 2013

Your Diet & Nutrition Questions Answered: Part 2

Dr. Timothy Radak, academic coordinator and faculty member in the PhD in Public Health program in the School of Health Sciences at Walden University, continues answering diet and nutrition questions from the Walden community in Spotlight on Walden throughout the month. Dr. Radak is credentialed as a registered dietitian and is an expert on nutrition.

Check out the first Q&A from earlier this month.

Q. Do essential oils help, hurt, or do nothing for diabetics?

Dr. Radak: Essential oils are aromatic liquids derived from plants and have become increasingly popular with the use of aromatherapy. I am not aware of many human studies evaluating their use for diabetes. Some research has shown that cinnamon has had a positive effect on diabetes; however, this was in capsule form rather than as an essential oil.

Q. Why is folic acid, which is recommended to pregnant women and also put into cereals and supplements, considered “unnatural” and a double-edged sword? Shouldn't folate, as found naturally in foods, be the preferred recommendation to the public?

Dr. Radak: One of the reasons our government decided to enrich or fortify certain commonly consumed foods with folic acid is because of known health risks for babies born to women who were below recommended levels of this important nutrient. Levels of folate found normally in foods could meet nutritional recommendations, but research shows that many women were still falling short of needed requirements.

Q. Is there any inherent health risk by adopting a low carbohydrate, high plant protein diet? I'm trying to lose some weight.

Dr. Radak: When considering any type of major dietary change, it is important to consult with your dietitian or physician as they would be able to take into account your medical history when evaluating a potential dietary change. High protein intake, from either plant or animal products, has been associated with some health risks. That said, I personally don’t recommend any diets that are high in one dietary group and low in another. I think the advice of following a balanced diet is sound.

Q. I have been thinking about baking my own bread using all whole wheat flour; however, I keep hearing about how bad bread is. Is this a healthy option or should bread be avoided all together?

Dr. Radak: I think making your own bread is a great idea and offers many opportunities to create endless varieties. There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding carbohydrates, and many fear bread, potatoes, etc. The key here is to distinguish between the two basic types of carbohydrates: refined foods and beverages (like sugary snacks and sodas, which are processed and called simple carbohydrates) and whole foods and unprocessed foods (known as complex carbohydrates), which would include whole wheat bread.

Q. What do you think about the Sensa diet?

Dr. Radak: The concept behind Sensa (a powder that is sprinkled on foods) is to modify the sense of smell and taste to accelerate satiety, or a sense of fullness, faster, in turn helping to reduce overall food intake. There are two types of powders: one for sweet foods and one for salty foods. I am suspicious of any program that suggests you can eat anything you like without the need to exercise or be conscious of overall calorie intake. I would suggest instead following the standard advice about making sure that your meal or specific food portions are at the recommended levels. Following portion control is a sound and sensible way to help steer clear of excess calorie intake and does not cost any money.