By Kelly Dinardo
These foods are healthy one day, unhealthy the next. Here's the bottom line.
- Old news: Eating fish a few times a week can help lower heart disease risk — by more than 30 percent, according to one large study.
- Latest news: It was widely reported that it's not the fish itself but rather the overall healthier eating habits of fish eaters that boost heart health, based on a new study published in the American Journal of Cardiology.
The real deal: This one new study doesn't disprove the countless other studies showing that it is the omega-3 fatty acids in fish that can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease, says Nieca Goldberg, M.D., author of The Women's Healthy Heart Program. Omega-3s may also boost your mood and improve infant brain development. Goldberg recommends eating two to three servings of fish a week (but no more than two weekly servings if you're pregnant) to reap the benefits.
- Old news: Consuming dairy products can help you slim down. The difference dairy makes is small, but significant — you lose about 5 percent more body fat on a high-dairy diet, according to a University of Tennessee study.
- Latest news: Dairy has no effect on weight loss at all, according to more recent research. These findings led the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) — a nonprofit group that promotes ethical and effective research — to convince the Federal Trade Commission to halt two dairy ad campaigns touting milk's weight-loss benefits.
The real deal: This debate is mired in politics and spin: The University of Tennessee study was funded by the dairy industry, and the PCRM has fairly extreme views on nutrition and advocates a vegan diet (which excludes milk, of course). But scientists do know that calcium raises levels of calcitrol, a hormone that causes your body to store less fat, and the effect appears greater when calcium comes from food rather than supplements. "You still have to watch calories," says Jill Fullerton-Smith, author of The Truth About Food. "But I need calcium, and if dairy might also help get rid of a little extra fat, I'll keep eating low-fat yogurt while we sort through the science."
- Old news: Keep the red wine flowing — it helps fight heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. The magic ingredient: anthocyanins — antioxidants found in the grape skins used to make red wine — which prevent disease-causing cell damage.
- Latest news: White wine may be as heart-healthy as red. Grape flesh — used to make both red and white wine — contains antioxidants that are just as powerful as those in grape skins, according to a new study.
The real deal: More research is needed, but the study does seem sound, says Goldberg. Interestingly, other studies have shown that beer and hard liquor have similar health benefits, indicating that it may be the alcohol itself that's doing our bodies good. But don't use that as an excuse to booze it up: One or two drinks a day is fine; any more than that can actually negate the health benefits.
- Old news: Soy is a superfood: It can help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, and more. Soy first seized the spotlight when researchers linked the low incidence of heart disease among Asians with their high-soy diets. The word spread in 1999 when the FDA allowed food labels to claim that 25 grams of soy protein a day may cut heart disease risk.
- Latest news: Soy has little effect on heart health, cancer, or reproductive health, according to a review of 200 human studies.
The real deal: Soy foods are high in calcium and protein and contain heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats. But experts say eating more soy won't significantly reduce your risk of disease — unless you're eating soy instead of other foods high in unhealthy saturated fats.
Originally published on September 26, 2007
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