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Frequently Asked Questions About Diet and Nutrition

  • How much weight do I need to lose to gain health benefits?
  • Answer:

    Small amounts of weight loss achieved in a healthful manner is most beneficial. Losing as little as 5% of body weight can help improve blood pressure, cholesterol levels, fasting blood sugar, and blood triglycerides. Being overweight increases the risk for many chronic diseases, and losing small amounts of weight can improve your health and slowly help you reach a healthier weight. We encourage you to make small changes in eating and physical activity patterns that can be sustained over time, which will slowly help you lose weight permanently.

  • My doctor says I need to eat more fiber. What are some good sources?
  • Answer:

    You are not alone; the average adult only eats 12-17 grams of fiber but should be eating about 14 grams for every 1000 calories they eat. 

    There are two basic types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber, found in whole grains, bran, nuts, fruits, and vegetables, adds bulk to your diet and aids in normal bowel movements. Soluble fiber, found in oats, beans, peas, apples, blueberries, dates, and pears, has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.

    To increase your intake of dietary fiber, start by reading labels and choosing foods that have a few grams of fiber per serving. Kick-start your day with a bowl of whole-grain cereal or bran cereal with at least 5 grams of fiber per serving and top it with fresh fruit. At lunch, choose whole-grain bread and add veggies to your sandwich or select a salad and top it with veggies, beans, and nuts. Enjoy whole grains at dinner along with more fruit and vegetables. Be sure to drink plenty of liquids while increasing your fiber intake to minimize any gastrointestinal discomfort.

  • Are over-the-counter weight loss supplements helpful in losing weight?
  • Answer:

    Diet pills rarely lead to permanent weight loss. The best method for weight loss is the tried-and-true formula of good eating habits and plenty of exercise. Using over-the-counter weight loss drugs is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Save the money and spend it on nutritious foods. Get in touch with your hunger and appetite instead of relying on supplements that are uncontrolled by the FDA and often have no scientific proof of effectiveness.

    Experts agree, the best way to lose weight is to get regular physical activity and eat meals made up of foods that satisfy hunger and control appetite. Include a source of lean or low fat protein at all meals and snacks along with high-fiber fruit, vegetables, or whole grains for the most satiating meals.

     

  • How much water should a normal, healthy adult drink on a daily basis to avoid dehydration?
  • Answer:

    The latest recommendations suggest using thirst as the guideline for how much fluid to drink each day. Individual fluid needs vary from person to person.  Most healthy adult men should drink about 3 liters of fluids a day and women about 2 liters (unless he or she is fluid restricted). Discuss the amount of fluids you should be drinking with your health care provider.

    Pay attention to thirst as well as the color and odor of your urine. Dry mouth and concentrated (dark) urine are good indicators that you need more fluids. Dry environments, heat, and physical activity, especially during warm weather, all increase hydration needs. Both young children and older adults are more vulnerable to dehydration. Keep in mind your body constantly loses water as it evaporates from your skin. Individuals with larger body surfaces and those who perspire more will lose greater amounts of water through evaporation.

  • Can I eat dairy foods even if I am sensitive to milk?
  • Answer:

    Some people do not have enough of the enzyme, lactase, which is needed to digest dairy products. This can cause digestion problems and stomach discomfort.

    If you have low levels of lactase, you may only be able to tolerate small amounts of dairy products. Buttermilk and cheeses have less lactose than milk and might be better tolerated. Lactase enzymes can also be added to milk or taken in a capsule to make it more digestible. Cutting all dairy from your diet may limit the amount of protein, vitamin D and calcium that you get. Talk to your health care provider about your symptoms and get advice about what is the best diet for you.

  • Is sleep important to weight loss?
  • Answer:

    Getting a few more hours sleep each night will not automatically result in weight loss; however, if you are not getting enough sleep, it may be slowing down your weight loss journey. Recent research suggests that hunger hormones get out of sync when you are sleep deprived and a good night’s rest can get them back on track. Sleeping at least seven hours/night can get your hunger hormones functioning properly and help you feel more energetic during the day.

  • Is it better to get vitamins and minerals from food or from supplements?
  • Answer:

    A pill cannot be a substitute for a healthy diet. Food is always the best source of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. There is a synergistic relationship between all of the food components that work in tandem to promote good health. Supplements are designed to "supplement" or provide nutritional insurance for the inevitable nutrient gaps in eating plans.

  • Beyond a daily multivitamin/mineral, are there any additional supplements recommended for healthy adults?
  • Answer:

    Once daily multivitamins/minerals geared for age and sex should take into account the changing needs of adult men and women. But they may not be needed if you have a well-rounded, healthy diet. If you cannot tolerate dairy and do not eat calcium-fortified foods, you may need additional calcium beyond a multivitamin. But check with your health care provider, first. Recent studies have questioned the safety of high levels of calcium supplements in some women.

    During child-bearing years it is essential for women to get adequate folate and iron in their diet or through supplements. Pregnant and lactating women have increased needs that require a special supplement during these times.

    Vegetarians may need to add supplements depending on the foods excluded in their diets. Smokers require an additional 35 milligrams of vitamin C that can easily be obtained from fruits or vegetables.

  • I want to quit smoking but I am afraid of weight gain. What can I do?
  • Answer:

    Congratulations, you are taking the first step toward improved health. Quitting smoking can result in enhanced taste, smell, appetite, and a desire to eat more often. Weight gain can occur if you substitute food for tobacco. To avoid weight gain, keep your mouth busy with sugarless gum or suck on hard candies. Stock your kitchen with nutritious snacks so you can satisfy urges with fruits, vegetables, or lean protein. Drink plenty of water and avoid empty-calorie foods like soda and chips that can cause weight gain.

  • How can I control my problem snacking?
  • Answer:

    First, try to figure out why you snack. You may snack because you are bored, tired, or in response to an emotion, such as loneliness; or you may snack because your diet is inadequate. Eat well-balanced meals and allow for nutritious snacks that include lean protein and high fiber fruits, vegetables, or whole grains. Avoid "eating amnesia" when you snack in front of the television or directly from a bag and end up eating much more than you should. Plan your snacks in advance and take along nutritious foods and drinks so you are prepared when the snack attack occurs.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 20, 2013

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