Frequently asked questions about nutrition

There are several questions that people frequently ask about nutrition and food, but what matters is finding the right answers to them and from a reliable source. Therefore, we decided to share with you today the top 5 questions we, as dietitians, always hear from our surroundings, and most importantly to give you the best answers to them.

1.      Does this food make me gain weight? Does this food make me lose weight?

Many people believe that there are certain foods they can eat without gaining weight and others that make them put on a few pounds once they consume them. Right? … WRONG!
In fact, the only thing that makes people gain weight is consuming more food than they should, which means consuming more food than their body is burning. There are no magic foods that can help gain or lose weight, it’s simply the amount of food you consume every day that counts. But of course, some foods are very dense in calories (fats, chocolate, candy…) and make it really easy to consume an excess of calories every day, while other foods are less dense in energy (fruits, vegetables and lean meats) and prevent us from consuming more calories than we should.

2.      What is a healthy diet?

A healthy diet is a balanced one, which means a diet that contains approximately 50% of carbohydrates, 20% of proteins (especially lean proteins) and 30% of fats (especially good sources of fats such as avocado, raw nuts and olive oil). It should be a diet moderate in fast food and high-caloric ones, and it should contain a variety of foods including all food groups without any restrictions.
That is why nutritional education and counseling is very important in order to know how to follow a healthy diet, and don’t hesitate to ask your dietitian’s help!

3.      Do I need to take supplements (vitamins, minerals, macronutrients)?

The only condition which makes us prescribe supplements is when the diet of an individual is not providing them with all the macronutrients and micronutrients they need. This happens when a person has been following a very restrictive diet for a long period of time, or during special cases such as pregnancy and lactation, anorexia nervosa, malabsorptions…
The same thing applies to athletes and sportsmen that often consume whey protein supplements, vitamins…they only need them if their diet isn’t providing enough of them. So in case they are following a healthy and balanced diet, they won’t be needing to buy these supplements.

4.      Can I lose weight from specific body areas if I diet and train?

Unfortunately things don’t happen this way. In fact, losing weight is a process that depends mainly on hormonal actions, substances that act on a whole-body level. This is why you will be losing weight proportionally from all your body areas, but especially from your abdominal region where fat can be metabolized more easily by the body.

5.      If I am on a diet to lose weight, do I still need to exercise?

Of course you will need to exercise. In fact, physical activity helps expend more calories, maintain a good health and a healthy cardio-respiratory function. Not to mention that it helps you to prevent losing your muscle mass while losing weight, the part of the body that maintain a high metabolism. Physical activity also prevents several diseases and can improve diabetics’ condition even without losing weight.


Elie Saadé and Stéphanie Nassar – Dietitians at Elie Saadé Dietary Clinic ESDC


The link between cancer and obesity

People who are overweight or obese have excess body fat stored under the name of “adipose tissue” in their bodies. This adipose tissue secretes inflammatory substances that can be very harmful to one’s health. Concerning cancer cells, they can profit from these inflammatory cytokines to transform them into other substances that are even more harmful and active. 

The problem is, these cancer cells can secrete some material that is capable of blinding the immune cells of our bodies, making it really hard to destroy them via our immunity system.
This is why it is very important to prevent obesity, especially abdominal obesity which is the most deleterious type of adiposity, and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the female waist circumference should be less than 80cm, and the male waist circumference less than 90cm, in order to prevent obesity and its related complications and morbidities.


Train your brain to crave healthy food

It may be possible to rewire your brain so that it wants -- craves, even -- healthier foods.

How? By following a healthy diet.

We know, that wasn\'t the quick fix to afternoon ice cream binges you were hoping for. But this research could lead to a more sci-fi solution to the obesity epidemic.

In a pilot study published Monday in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes, scientists say that changing your eating behavior can actually change how your brain reacts to high-calorie and low-calorie foods.

\"We don\'t start out in life loving french fries and hating, for example, whole wheat pasta,\" senior author Susan Roberts, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture\'s Energy Metabolism Laboratory, said in a statement. \"This conditioning happens over time in response to eating -- repeatedly -- what is out there in the toxic food environment.\"

So it makes sense that the opposite would also hold true.

Scientists divided 13 overweight and obese participants into two groups: a control group and an experimental group. At the beginning of the study, both groups underwent an fMRI to record their brain activity in response to photos of various foods.

The experimental group then participated in a behavioral intervention program, which included portion-controlled menus and support group sessions. The participants were asked to reduce their calorie intake by 500 to 1,000 calories a day and to follow a high-fiber, high-protein diet to prevent hunger and cravings.

After six months, people in the experimental group had lost an average of 14 pounds, while the control group had lost about 5 pounds.

Both groups again underwent an fMRI scan, and researchers showed the study participants photos of low-calorie and high-calorie foods, such as a turkey sandwich on wheat bread and a container of french fries. They looked at how the participants\' brains responded to these photos, particularly in the striatum, a region known to be associated with the brain\'s reward system.

Previous studies have shown that high-calorie, fatty, sugary foods trigger the pleasure center of the brain. That\'s why you naturally crave these unhealthy foods: You expect to be rewarded with dopamine for eating them.

But people in the experimental group showed a slightly different response to seeing high-calorie foods after participating in the intervention program. Researchers saw less activity in the striatum when participants were shown these foods and more activity when they were shown lower-calorie foods.

The same did not hold true for the control group.

\"There is much more research to be done here, involving many more participants, long-term follow-up and investigating more areas of the brain,\" Roberts said. \"But we are very encouraged that the weight-loss program appears to change what foods are tempting to people.\"

Make your meals healthier with veggies

Having a variety of food from the all the essential food groups provides you and your family with a balanced and healthy lifestyle. And vegetables, being one of the essential food groups provide you with a wide array of nutrients.To prepare meals rich in vegetables, check out the following recommendations and guidelines:

1.    Salad preparation:

  • Serve a variety of raw vegetables to increase nutritional value.
  • Make sure to serve the salads that your children like, in order to encourage them to eat it.
  • Choose vegetables from all colors in order to get different nutrients like minerals and vitamins.

Examples of salads: Tabbouleh, fattoush, rocca salad, greek salad.

2.    Soup preparation:

  • Serve soups on a regular basis and use different kinds of vegetables when preparing it.
  • Add chunks of vegetables to your soup instead of blenderizing it, in order to preserve vitamins and dietary fiber.

3.    Main course preparation:

  • Add vegetable pieces to main courses, since they add color and variety in taste.
  • Serve cooked vegetables with your main dish:  the best way to cook them is through steaming in order to preserve the nutrients.

Main courses rich in vegetables include: vegetable stew, stuffed squash, green beans with rice, mouloukhiah, cauliflower stew.

4.    Children meals preparation:

  • Wash vegetables, slice them in different shapes and put them in your children’s school lunch box, or add them in their sandwiches.

5.    Starters preparation:

Make vegetables a part of your starters to serve your guests. Healthy starters ideas include: chopped carrots with lemon juice, chopped cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower and cherry tomatoes.

Good to remember:

Do not forget that raw or healthily cooked vegetables help you have glowing skin, as well as helping you stay slim as part of a healthy diet.

Did you know?

All vegetables are rich in dietary fiber, which is important in digestion, regulation of intestinal function and prevention of constipation.

Tomato Tartlets

For a light entree, Hill suggests simple tartlets. Unroll a sheet of puff pastry, brush with olive oil, sprinkle lightly with parmesan cheese, and layer on plenty of grape tomatoes or slices in concentric circles. Bake for 20 minutes at 400° F. Heirloom tomatoes in different colors can be pretty. Add a green salad for a colorful lunch packed with fresh veggies

Spanish Romesco Sauce

Searing tomatoes boosts their sweetness and flavor and is key to this piquant sauce from Spain. Pan sauté or slow roast several tomatoes in an oven with a whole head of garlic. Toss them in a blender with almonds, olive oil, and a splash of balsamic vinegar, and you\'ve got Romesco sauce, a Catalonian classic. \"It\'s delicious with chicken and fish,\" says Jennifer Hill, a dietitian and recipe developer

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