By Deven Hopp, Byrdie (TNS)
Olive oil or coconut oil? Tofu or tempeh? Ever wondered which of your health food decisions are actually healthiest? With all of the choices (and conflicting information) out there, it can be confusing. So we called in Elissa Goodman, a certified holistic nutritionist, and asked her to make the final call on a variety of health food match-ups.
Almond milk vs. soy milk
Winner: Almond milk
For this match-up, Goodman said it depends what you’re looking for. “In comparison to soy, almond milk provides fewer calories and unlike soy, almond milk does not contain saturated fat,” Goodman said. “Within an 8-ounce glass, almond milk provides more calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin E.” However, Goodman notes that soy milk contains more protein, and almond milk often contains carrageenan, which has been linked to increased inflammation.
“It’s worth mentioning that 90 to 95 percent of soybeans grown in the U.S. have been genetically modified,” Goodman said. “Considering GMOs have been linked to numerous health risks, almond milk is your best bet.”
Kale vs. Spinach
Winner: Kale has a slight edge
“This is a tricky one, only because both leafy greens are great choices,” Goodman said. “Although kale may have a slight upper edge, don’t let that deter you from consuming spinach as well. Kale does in fact provide more vitamin K (a whopping 680 percent per cup), vitamin A, vitamin C and fiber, but it also contains high concentration of two extremely beneficial antioxidants: flavonoids and carotenoids.” Another reason Goodman gives this one to kale? It targets oxidative stress in your body, thanks to its 45 flavonoids, lutein and beta-carotene.
But Goodman assures us spinach has its benefits too. “Since spinach provides your body with more iron and magnesium, why not add both to your salad or smoothie?” And great news for vegetarians and vegans: Goodman said 180 grams of spinach provides your body with more iron than a 6-ounce beef patty.
Coconut Oil vs. Olive Oil
Winner: This is a tie
“Both of these oils are beneficial, so for me this is a tie,” Goodman said. “There’s been a lot of confusion surrounding coconut oil and its high saturated fat content, however not all saturated fats are equal. Many vegetable and seed oils have been artificially manipulated into saturated fats. This is the key, as coconut oil is a naturally occurring source.”
In terms of calories, Goodman said they’re about the same. She also notes that neither contain cholesterol or trans fat. “Since majority of individuals use oils to cook with, it’s crucial that you understand heat-induced damage and oxidation. This is directly linked to increased levels of free radicals, which directly damage your cells.” So if you’re cooking with oil, choose coconut oil — it’s less susceptible to heat damage.
“There is no doubt that olive oil is healthy, it’s just not the healthiest option when heated,” Goodman said. “When used in a non-heated form, such as homemade salad dressings, olive oil is a great choice.” She also added that it’s important to look for certified organic coconut oil because many commercial coconut oils have been refined and in the process have added chemicals.
Stevia vs. Truvia
“Stevia is the obvious choice for me within this round,” Goodman said. “Stevia is a natural sweetener and traditional herb, which has been used for many years throughout South and Central America. As long as you choose a 100 percent pure option, you will not be consuming any fillers. Some of my favorites are Omica ($19), Sweet Leaf ($15) and Body Ecology ($17).”
Many people think Truvia is the same things as Stevia, but Goodman said Truvia contains a variety of fillers. “Unlike Stevia, Truvia is made with erythritol; a sugar alcohol that’s derived from genetically modified corn,” she said.
Eggs White vs. Whole Egg
Winner: Whole egg
“A whole egg trumps egg whites, specifically when the yolk is runny (overcooking an egg decreases its nutritional benefits),” Goodman said. “Sure, the white does not contain as many calories, cholesterol, or fat, but it’s also void of all the vitamins and minerals in which make eggs so healthy. When you opt for egg whites only, you’re missing out on multiple B-vitamins, vitamin D and iron.”
For most people, cholesterol is the concern around egg yolks, but Goodman said it’s actually nothing to worry about. “Our bodies naturally make cholesterol. Each and every day, you produce much more cholesterol than you’d find in a large egg. When you consume more cholesterol within your diet, your body compensates by making less.”
“Although the whole egg is the clear winner, it’s important to note that not all eggs are equal,” Goodman said. “Free-range organic eggs are superior in terms of their nutritional content. Conventionally raised hens are fed genetically modified corn feed, which accumulates pesticides. There’s also three times more vitamin E, seven times more beta carotene, and two times more omega-3 fatty acids in free-range eggs.”
Canned Tuna vs. Canned Salmon vs. Canned Sardines
“Fish are a lean source of protein, which provide you with essential omega-3 fatty acids,” Goodman said. “Although all three are high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, tuna tends to contain the highest concentration of mercury. Both sardines and salmon are so good for you, but of these two options, salmon provides more B-vitamins, vitamin D and choline.” There’s just caveat: Goodman said you need to make sure you’re purchasing WILD salmon. Since salmon farming can expose the fish to large amounts of antibiotics, wild salmon end up being the healthier option. “In comparison to wild caught, farmed salmon has less protein, less flavor, more fat and an omega-3 to omega-6 ratio that’s less desirable,” Goodman added.
Tofu vs. Tempeh
“Although tofu and tempeh are both derived from soybean plants, I award tempeh the gold medal in this round,” Goodman said. “The production of tempeh is fairly simple, while providing the benefits of fermentation.” Fermented foods improve digestive health and so much more. “In comparison to tofu, tempeh offers the whole soybean, increasing your intake of protein (which is about double that of tofu), fiber and vitamins. This is all due to the fermentation process, in which preserves the whole bean.” Her final note? “Once again, choose organic in order to avoid genetically modified soy.”
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Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr