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Nutrition Myths Facts: Ask the Nutritionist

WebMD Chief Medical Editor, Michael Smith, MD, answers your questions about nutrition myths and facts.

Question:
Everyone needs a daily multivitamin, right?
Answer:

Most people have more to gain than to lose from taking a daily multivitamin. If you have a healthy diet, you may not need a multivitamin. But a lot of people get less nutrients than they actually need from their everyday diet. A basic, store-brand multivitamin-multimineral supplement helps you get extra nutrients that may be missing in your diet.

Question:
What are the best super-foods for beautiful skin and overall health for people over 50?
Answer:

Your skin reflects your overall health, so the same healthy foods are good for both. Try foods high in antioxidants such as deep-colored fruits and vegetables (think kale and blueberries) and bright ones (like carrots and apricots). Nuts, salmon, and canola oil are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may boost heart, joint, and skin health, too.

Question:
I need calcium, but it constipates me. What will help?
Answer:

Several things may help. Boost fiber in your diet by eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Exercise and drink plenty of water. Look at your diet to see if you can eat more calcium-rich foods and then take a lower-dose supplement. If these tips don’t work, talk to your doctor.

Question:
Is eating breakfast really that important?
Answer:

Yes. A healthy breakfast fuels you up to start the day. A breakfast high in fiber can also help prevent heart disease, diabetes, and strokes. And people who eat breakfast tend to be leaner than those who don't. Whole-grain cereal or toast, fruit, and nonfat milk are good breakfast choices.

Question:
What foods can I eat to help boost my testosterone level?
Answer:

There are no foods proven to help boost testosterone. Low testosterone may be treated with testosterone replacement therapy. If you think you have low testosterone, talk to your doctor. 

Question:
I'd like to use frozen edamame in a smoothie. Is it OK to use the beans and pod?
Answer:

Edamame pods are not usually eaten, but shelled edamame beans can add a punch of protein and sweet, nutty flavor to your smoothie. Frozen edamame has already been cooked. Steam or boil it briefly to defrost it, then squeeze the bean out with your fingers.

Question:
How can older women who are trying to lose weight get their metabolism running faster?
Answer:

The answer may lie in more or different activity. Age reduces muscle mass, which slows your metabolism. But you can fight that by lifting weights. Weightlifting not only burns calories. Building muscle speeds up your metabolism, so you burn more calories per hour. 

Question:
Is it true that eating white cheeses -- like cottage cheese, Monterey jack, or mozzarella -- instead of yellow cheeses can help you control your cholesterol levels?
Answer:

No. It's the saturated fat and cholesterol in cheese, not the color, that affects LDL ("bad") cholesterol. Eat fat-free, reduced-fat, or low-fat cheese instead of those made from whole milk to help lower your cholesterol level. Part-skim milk mozzarella and low-fat cottage cheese are both good choices.

Question:
What are the dangers of taking too many different types of antioxidants?
Answer:

High doses of some antioxidant supplements may actually cause health problems, not prevent them. And any antioxidant supplement may interact with other medicines. Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, both good sources of antioxidants. Unlike supplements, they are proven to lower risk of several diseases -- and there are no known health risks. Talk to your doctor before taking antioxidant supplements.

Question:
What foods can I eat to get flat, hard stomach?
Answer:

No specific food or diet can give you tight abs. To get rid of flab, eat fiber -- in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains -- instead of processed or fatty foods and pump up your daily aerobic exercise. The benefits of brisk walking and jogging often show up first on the belly. Core exercises, like Pilates, can strengthen and tone stomach muscles, too.

Question:
Is it OK to eat red meat twice a week?
Answer:

To lower cancer risk, some experts recommend eating no more than 18 ounces – a little more than 1 pound -- of red meat a week. That includes beef, pork, and lamb. A standard serving of meat is 3 ounces -- about the size of a deck of cards.  Avoid processed meats, like ham, bacon, and sausages.

Question:
Are green coffee beans and raspberry ketone capsules safe and effective for losing weight?
Answer:

There is no reliable scientific evidence that raspberry ketone helps people lose weight – or is safe to take as a supplement. A small, short 2012 study suggested that taking a supplement of ground green coffee beans may aid weight loss, but further research is needed.

WebMD Ask the Specialist Transcript

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on January 09, 2013