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  • In a diet-conscious culture, information, and misinformation abounds
  • Beans are a great source of fiber
  • Most adults should try to keep sodium consumption to about 1 teaspoon daily
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Cooking Light

Long gone is the era of four food groups and three square meals. It seems that every day brings a new revelation about which foods belong in a healthy diet. Eat this. Avoid that. If you feel a little overwhelmed, you're not alone.

Food fads come and go, but nutrition common sense can last a long, long lifetime.

How savvy are you about healthy eating? Take Cooking Light's quiz to test your food smarts, and learn the basics of good nutrition along the way.

Fat facts

1. Match the following food groups to the type of fat they contain the most of:

• Butter, cheese, ground beef

• Avocados, nuts, olive oil

• Fish, flaxseed, soybean oil

• Margarine, shortening, commercial baked goods

• Monounsaturated fat

• Polyunsaturated fat

• Saturated fat

• Trans fat


Butter, cheese, ground beef = saturated. Saturated fat mostly comes from animal products, although some plant foods like coconut, cacao (cocoa), and palm oil contain it, too. It elevates levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which increases heart disease risk.

• Avocados, nuts, olive oil = monounsaturated. Monounsaturated fat helps lower LDL and raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the "good" cholesterol.

• Fish, flaxseed, soybean oil = polyunsaturated. Polyunsaturated fat also lowers LDL.

• Margarine, shortening, commercial baked goods = trans. There are two types of trans fat. One type of natural trans fat, found in animal products, has been shown to have beneficial effects on diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and immune response. Artificially manufactured trans fat used to keep margarine solid and extend the shelf life of many commercial baked goods -- elevates heart-disease risk by raising LDL and lowering HDL. The skinny on fats

2. According to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, daily fat intake should be between:

A. 0 to 10 percent of calories

B. 10 to 20 percent of calories

C. 20 to 35 percent of calories

D. 35 or more percent of calories

Answer: C. Most of your 20 to 35 percent of daily calories (44 to 78 grams in a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet) should come from mono- or polyunsaturated fat sources. Saturated fat should be limited to 10 percent (22 grams in a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet) or less. Because of its role in promoting heart disease, you should keep trans-fat intake as low as possible.

3. Match the term to its correct definition:

• Fat-free

• Low-fat

• Reduced-fat

• Lean

• Light

• 0.5 grams fat or fewer

• Half the fat or less of the full-fat version

• 25 percent less fat than the full-fat version

• Fewer that 10 grams total fat and 4.5 grams saturated fat

• 3 grams fat or fewer


Fat-free = 0.5 grams fat or fewer; Low-fat = 3 grams fat or fewer; Reduced-fat = 25 percent less fat than the full-fat version; Lean = Fewer that 10 grams total fat and 4.5 grams saturated fat; Light = Half the fat or less of the full-fat version.

4. Your body needs dietary fat in order to effectively process certain vitamins. Which of the following vitamins are soluble in fat? Which in water?

• Vitamin A

• B vitamins

• Vitamin C

• Vitamin D

• Vitamin E

• Vitamin K

Answer: A = fat, B = water, C = water, D = fat, E = fat, K = fat. Because fat-soluble vitamins are warehoused in the body, you're less likely to be deficient in them if you eat a well-balanced diet. Water-soluble vitamins require regular replacement through diet or a multivitamin. Choosing a multivitamin

5. True or False: If a food label proclaims the product is trans-fat-free, it is.

Answer: False. Food and Drug Administration regulations state that a trans-fat-free food must contain 0.5 or less grams of trans fat per serving. That means a trans-fat-free food could contain 0.49 grams; two servings of it would total nearly 1 gram. Although there's no definitive way to discover just how much trans fat a "trans-fat-free" food may contain, the ingredients list can provide help. Foods' ingredient lists are arranged in order of concentration. If partially hydrogenated oil appears near the beginning of the list, the food contains more trans fat than if the ingredient is low on the list.

Nutrient knowledge

1. True or False: White vegetables offer little nutritional value; only brightly colored vegetables are nutrient powerhouses.

Answer: False. Vegetables in every hue offer nutrition benefits, even white ones. White cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, contain many of the same compounds that have been linked to cancer prevention found in other, more colorful cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or Brussels sprouts. The compounds that give onions and garlic their pungency have been linked to prevention of certain cancers in laboratory tests. Typical white-fleshed potatoes are a good source of potassium, vitamin C, and, fiber, when eaten with the skin. All about the onion family

2. Which of the following foods contains the most fiber?

A. cup of baked beans

B. A turkey sandwich made with whole-grain bread

C. 1 prepared packet of instant oatmeal

D. 1 cup of fresh, whole strawberries

Answer: A. Beans are an excellent source of fiber. A half-cup serving of typical canned or homemade baked beans contains 7 grams of fiber, more than double the amount found in a sandwich, instant oatmeal, or strawberries. Bean recipes

3. Which nutrient do Americans obtain the most of?

Answer: Riboflavin, niacin, and selenium tie as the three nutrients that most Americans successfully obtain from their diets, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines Scientific Advisory Committee. Less than three percent of Americans consume insufficient amounts of these nutrients, which are readily obtainable from a variety of foods. Eight surprisingly nutritious foods

4. The least?

Answer: Ninety-three percent of Americans miss the mark on vitamin E, according to the USDA's report. It helps protect against cell damage and may protect against heart disease. The recommended amount of vitamin E is 15 milligrams for women and men. Good sources include vegetable oils, nuts, and green leafy vegetables. One ounce of almonds contains nearly half the recommended daily amount.

5. True or False: Low-fat or fat-free dairy foods contain less calcium than their full-fat counterparts.

Answer: False. Low- or fat-free dairy foods often contain slightly higher amounts of calcium than full-fat dairy foods. A cup of fat-free milk contains 306 milligrams of calcium, while a cup of whole milk contains 276 milligrams. Fat contains no calcium; when it is removed, calcium increases simply because of volume. In products where the milk is further processed, calcium content may increase with the reduction of fat. For example, a cup of whole-milk yogurt contains 296 milligrams of calcium; a cup of low-fat yogurt, 448 milligrams. Can dairy help you lose weight?

Sodium Smarts

1. Which of the following measurements represents the correct amount of sodium an adult should aim to consume in a day?

A. 1/8 teaspoon

B. teaspoon

C. 1 teaspoon

D. 1 tablespoon

Answer: C. According to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, most Americans should keep sodium intake at 2,300 milligrams per day or less. That's about the amount found in a scant one-teaspoon measurement. Seniors and those with high blood pressure should aim for even less -- 1,500 milligrams. However, the average American consumes more than 4,000 milligrams daily -- almost two times the suggested limit. Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure. All about sodium

2. Which of the following foods are often hidden sources of sodium?

A. Breakfast cereal

B. Salad dressing

C. Canned beans

D. Barbecue sauce

E. All of the above

Answer: E. Because salt acts as a preservative, it is a common ingredient in foods with long shelf lives, like those listed above. Researchers estimate that 77 percent of the sodium the average American consumes arrives in his or her diet via processed foods. Other hidden sources include cured meats, frozen or boxed foods, and fast foods. Read ingredient labels, choose whole foods, and cook at home to control the sodium content of the foods you eat. Homemade barbecue sauce recipes

3. Because it's made using salt, cheese can be a surprisingly high source of sodium. Match the following 1-ounce servings of cheese to their correct sodium counts.






454 milligrams

376 milligrams

248 milligrams

176 milligrams

54 milligrams

Answer: Parmesan = 454, Feta = 376, Provolone = 248, Cheddar = 176, Swiss = 54. At 454 milligrams, one ounce of Parmesan contains three times more sodium than one ounce of potato chips. Hard cheeses, like Parmesan, are often saltier than softer cheeses because they are bathed in brine, a saltwater solution, to enhance flavor and prolong shelf life. Four easy ways to lower your sodium intake

4. Which of the following minerals can help mitigate the effects of sodium?

A. Magnesium

B. Calcium

C. Potassium

D. Iron

Answer: C. Potassium, a mineral found in fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, legumes, and dairy products, helps reduce the rise in blood pressure caused by high-sodium foods. Current recommendations are for 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day, an amount readily obtainable by eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Consider the following foods:

• 1 cup stewed lentils (731 milligrams)

• 1 baked sweet potato (694 milligrams)

• 1 cup edamame (886 milligrams)

• 1 cup cooked spinach (574 milligrams)

• 8 ounces orange juice (473 milligrams)

• 1 cup broccoli (457 milligrams)

• 1 cup cubed cantaloupe (427 milligrams)

• 1 banana (422 milligrams)

Serving-Size Specifics

1. Match the proper serving size to the correct visual reference:

• Closed fist

• Two fingers

• Cupped hand

• Open palm

• Tip of thumb

• A serving of meat

• One teaspoon of fat

• A serving of fruits or vegetables

• A serving of whole grains

• One ounce of cheese


• Closed fist = a serving of fruits or vegetables

• Two fingers = one ounce of cheese

• Cupped hand = a serving of whole grain

• Open palm = a serving of protein

• Tip of thumb = teaspoon of fat.

Dietitians often use other visual cues as well, such as a deck of cards for a serving of meat. Portion size-wise

2. True or False: Fruit juice can count as one of your recommended daily servings of fruit.

Answer: True, but with two important caveats. First, the juice must be 100-percent fruit juice. Juice "cocktails" and "juice drinks" may contain as little as two percent fruit juice; the rest might simply be sugary water. Check the ingredients to be sure fruit juice is the first item listed. Second, unlike whole fruit, fruit juice contains no fiber, which aids heart and digestive health. Be sure to eat two to three servings of whole fruit, too. Fluid fundamentals

3. True or False: To stay properly hydrated, you must drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water per day.

Answer: False. Optimal hydration depends on your body size, activity level, sweat rate, and climate. An Adequate Intake (AI) for most women is 2.7 liters or 91 ounces of fluid daily. A man's AI is 3.7 liters or 125 ounces daily. If you're an avid exerciser or live in a hot climate, you may need more. Any nonalcoholic beverages and even foods help you meet your hydration needs. For example, a banana contains 3.1 ounces of water, while six ounces of yogurt contain 4.5 ounces of water.

4. What is the proper serving size for one alcoholic beverage?

A. 6 oz. beer, 6 oz. wine, 1 oz. liquor

B. 10 oz. beer, 5 oz. wine, 0.5 oz. liquor

C. 12 oz. beer, 5 oz. wine, 1.5 oz. liquor

D. 16 oz. beer, 12 oz. wine, 3 oz. liquor

Answer: C. Few health authorities recommend that you add alcohol to your diet if it's not something you currently enjoy. But most now recognize that moderate consumption of alcohol can improve heart health. Women should limit alcoholic beverages to no more than one serving daily. For men, the limit is two. Any benefit alcohol provides can be undone by drinking to excess.

Health Intelligence

1. Calcium helps build strong bones, but it doesn't do the job alone. Which of the following nutrients enhances calcium's efforts?

A. Selenium

B. Vitamin D

C. Vitamin K

D. Potassium

Answer: B. Produced in the skin when exposed to sunlight, or taken from foods or supplements, vitamin D is converted into its active form by the liver and kidneys. Unlike any other vitamin, it acts as a hormone in the body. Hormones are the body's chemical messengers, governing how cells behave. Among other tasks, vitamin D tells your intestines to maximize their absorption of calcium from foods, boosting the amount of calcium the body absorbs by as much as 70 percent. Calcium 101

2. True or False: Women and men need equal amounts of iron.

Answer: False. Because iron accumulates in the blood, men need less than premenopausal women. Men should consume 8 milligrams daily; premenopausal women need 18. (One in five women and half of all pregnant women are iron deficient.) After menopause, women need only 8 milligrams. Red meat, poultry, fish, and beans are rich food sources of iron, and most Americans receive plenty from their diets. Nutrients women need most

3. True or False: Food allergies and food intolerances are the same thing.

Answer: False. Food allergies trigger an immune-system response; intolerances are an inability of the digestive system to process an element of a given food or a reaction to it. For example, in individuals with lactose intolerance, the body is unable to break down lactose, a sugar found in milk. In those with gluten allergies, the immune system mistakenly identifies gluten, a protein found in wheat, as a hostile invader.

4. What amount of time is needed for your stomach to communicate to your brain that it's full?

A. 10 minutes

B. 20 minutes

C. 45 minutes

D. 60 minutes

Answer: B. During digestion, food is converted into glucose (also known as blood sugar), the body's basic unit of energy. The body needs 20 minutes to begin digesting food and converting it to glucose. As that happens, hormones like ghrelin, leptin, and insulin communicate between the stomach and the brain, helping signal satiety. If you finish a large meal in less than 20 minutes, you'll have impaired your body's ability to regulate food intake.

5. True or False: Within 30 to 60 minutes is the ideal time to eat after exercise.

Answer: True. As you exercise, tiny tears form in your muscle tissue. It's a natural process that results in more toned muscles as they repair and strengthen. Exercise also causes your body to use glycogen, a form of glucose the body stores in muscle tissue to meet short-term energy needs. Eating a small snack 30 to 60 minutes after a workout is the most beneficial time to help your muscles recover and to replenish the body's nutrient stores. Good post-exercise snack options include a serving of low-fat dairy, which provides lean protein to repair muscles, and a piece of fruit for carbohydrates to restore glycogen. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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Copyright 2009 Cooking Light magazine. All rights reserved.

Reporting by: Senior Food Editor Alison Ashton; Associate Food Editor Kathy Kitchens Downie, RD; former intern Megan Patterson, MS, RD; and Senior Editor Phillip Rhodes.

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