At least once a week, a client tells me how confused they are about nutrition—and I get it. With so much information and conflicting advice floating around, it’s easy to feel mixed up. But busting myths, and explaining the science behind healthy eating is one of my favorite parts of my job. Here are six of the most common misconceptions I hear, and why you can let them go for good.
MYTH: When you eat junk food, you can just burn it off.
It's not that simple. The quality of what you eat matters—a lot. And the damage from unhealthy food simply can't be undone with a tough workout. A 2015 study, for example, found that artificial additives from processed foods may raise a person's risk of developing autoimmune diseases.
Trying to compensate for poor diet choices with exercise is actually a double whammy: Physical activity puts stress on the body, and without adequate nutrition to recover from the wear and tear, you can become weaker rather than stronger. A balanced, whole foods diet is important for everyone. And if you’re regularly active, it’s even more important, not less.
MYTH: It's OK to eat as much protein as you want.
Most of my clients are concerned about overdoing it on carbs. But the truth is you can eat too much of any macronutrient, including protein. The protein you eat maintains, heals, and repairs tissues in the body made up from this building block. But you only need so much protein to accomplish these tasks. When you exceed the amount, the surplus protein can either prevent weight loss, or cause weight gain.
To strike a good balance, include some protein in each meal, but don’t go crazy. A good rule of thumb: If you’re active, to aim for half a gram of protein per pound of your ideal weight. So if your goal is 130 pounds you need no more than 65 grams per day.
You can achieve this amount with two eggs at breakfast (12 grams), one cup of lentils at lunch (16 grams), a quarter cup of almonds as a snack (6 grams), and 6 ounces of salmon at dinner (33 grams). Timing also matters. To help your body make the most of the protein you eat, it should be spread out throughout the day.
MYTH: Eating after your exercise cancels out your workout.
Nope, the calories you consume post-exercise aren’t immediately shuttled back into your fat cells. In fact, it's important to refuel after a sweat session.
Working out takes a toll on your body, and afterward your body is primed for recovery: Eating a clean, nutrient-rich meal or snack provides your cells with the raw materials needed to heal and repair. This recovery process is key, because it’s not just the training itself, but the healing from the training that builds and maintains muscle mass, boosts metabolism, and improves your fitness level.
For the best results, choose post-exercise foods that deliver vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, lean protein, and healthy fat, like a salad topped with salmon or beans and avocado; or a protein smoothie with veggies, fruit, and almond butter.
MYTH: Fruit is as bad as candy.
Some of my clients avoid fruit, fearing that all that natural sugar leads to added pounds. But a recent Harvard study found that shunning fruit altogether isn’t necessary for weight management. The researchers looked at more than 130,000 adults, and found that those who ate an extra daily serving of fruit shed an additional half a pound over a four-year period. While that may not sound significant, it could help offset typical age-related weight gain.
Fruit is also packed with important nutrients, water, and fiber. And its naturally occurring sugar is less concentrated than other sweet foods. For example, one cup of whole strawberries naturally contains about 7 grams of sugar, compared to about 13 grams in one tablespoon of maple syrup, 17 in a tablespoon of honey, 21 grams in 17 gummy bears, or 30 in a 12 ounce can of cola.
Some research even shows that compared to veggies, fruit may have a more powerful effect on lowering weight. This may be because fruits tend to replace higher-calorie goodies and treats, whereas veggies tend to be add-ons. Bottom line: with so many benefits, fruit is definitely worth including in your daily diet, as long as you don’t overdo it. Aim for at least two servings a day, maybe one with breakfast, and another as a snack or dessert. Reach for more if you’re especially active.
MYTH: Eating fat makes you fat.
Despite the best attempts of nutrition experts (including me) to dispel the notion that eating fat makes you fat, fat phobia still exists. Clients continue to tell me they avoid avocado, or choose low-fat salad dressing because they’re watching their waistlines.
Eating the right fats, however, is actually a smart strategy for weight loss. Healthy fats are incredibly satiating. They keep you fuller longer, and research shows that plant-based fats like olive oil, avocado, and nuts increase appetite-suppressing hormones.
Plant fats have also been shown to reduce inflammation and boost metabolism, and they can be rich sources of antioxidants. Aim to include a portion of healthy fat in every meal and snack.
Need some ideas? You could add avocado to an omelet, or whip it into a smoothie. Add nuts or nut butter to oatmeal. Drizzle garden salads and vegetables with extra virgin olive oil. Snack on veggies with guacamole or tahini as a dip. And enjoy a bit of dark chocolate as a daily treat.
Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees.
There are lots of ways to get a caffeine-induced energy boost: There’s coffee and chocolate, of course, along with soda and energy drinks. Then there are the non-conventional sources of caffeine—energy supplements, gum, mints, edible powders, and even stick-on patches that promise to deliver a jolt when you need it the most.
But even with all that, the newest caffeine craze still has us scratching our heads in disbelief: Coco Loko, a product marketed as “infused raw cacoa snuff,” hit store shelves last month, as reported this week by The Washington Post. That’s right, you can now buy tins of snortable chocolate.
Coco Loko’s creator, Nick Anderson, told The Washington Post that the product is mostly cacao powder—an unprocessed form of chocolate and a naturally occurring source of caffeine—but that it also contains gingko biloba, taurine, and guarana. These three ingredients are also stimulants, and are commonly found in energy drinks.
There’s a lot to take in here (although we don’t mean that literally, because, well, just keep reading), but you may be wondering: Is this even legal? Is it safe? And will it actually give you energy?
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Yes, it’s legal—but here’s the thing: Since it’s not marketed as a food or drug, Coco Loko isn’t subject to approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration—much like dietary supplements aren’t. That means there is little oversight, and little guarantee, as to what’s in each package and how it might affect its users.
Paul Arciero, PhD, professor of health and exercise science at Skidmore University, tells Health that the product probably does provide a quick and powerful boost of energy, assuming its advertised ingredients are accurate.
“When you talk about snorting something through the nasal cavity, that’s a very rapid mode of entry—quicker than eating or drinking, which requires some digestion,” says Arciero, who has studied caffeine extensively. “It’s going to give people an acute and immediate buzz and a heightened alertness, but it will also cause a heightened sympathetic nervous response.”
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That’s where the third question—whether it’s safe—comes in. Caffeine can temporarily raise blood pressure and affect heart rate, and can make people feel anxious and jittery. And it is possible to overdose: In May, a South Carolina teenager died from caffeine-induced cardiac problems after drinking a Mountain Dew, a latte, and an energy drink. In 2015, two college students became seriously ill after accidentally consuming too much caffeine during a scientific experiment.
How the body might react to inhaled cacoa powder (which is different than pure caffeine powder) is largely a mystery, Candice Dye, MD, a pediatrician at the University of Alabama at Birmingham tells Health. “My initial reaction is that it just sounds scary and unsafe,” she says. “We don’t know what it is and we don’t really know how the body absorbs it.”
Then there are the physical ramifications of snorting powder up your nose—something else Dr. Dye worries about. While some legitimate medications are given intranasally, those drugs are in the form of a mist, not a solid.
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Andrew Lane, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Sinus Center, told The Washington Post that “as far as I can tell, no one’s studied what happens if you inhale chocolate into your nose.” But he also expressed concern about putting powder into the nasal passages. “You could imagine it getting stuck in there,” he said, “or the chocolate mixing with your mucus to create a paste that could block your sinuses.”
Arciero says there’s also potential for cacao to cause irritation the same way that other stimulants are known to when inhaled. “It could cause a heightened reaction from the nasal membrane, so there might be potential for blood vessels to be aggravated, and for nose bleeds to occur,” he says. “We don’t know because this is fairly new, but I would imagine it’s going to cause some side effects.”
Anderson told The Washington Post that he uses Coco Loko as an alternative to drinking alcohol, and during long car rides and music festivals. But Arciero worries that consumers might begin inhaling cacao powder on top of other forms of caffeine they’re already consuming in their daily life.
“This is a new behavior that people are going to be engaging in, but there’s not really any evidence that they will minimize their other lifestyle behaviors,” he says. “Are they going to be snorting the cocoa in addition to drinking their normal amount of caffeine or taking other stimulants? There’s real potential there for overdoing it.”
Then there’s the that no-government-regulations thing: A spokesperson for the FDA told The Washington Post it had not decided whether, or how, the agency would regulate the product. Last year, both the FDA and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency told U.S. News & World Report that snortable chocolate is outside the scope of what the agencies normally have control over.
For now, that means there is no way to know for sure that what’s on the label is actually what’s in the product—or to know how much of each ingredient is included. “The quantities of each ingredient could even vary from batch to batch,” says Dr. Dye.
Most experts agree that up to 400 mg of caffeine per day, or about four 8-ounce cups of coffee, is safe for adults. Coco Loko’s online store does not include information on the amount of caffeine, or other ingredients, per serving. (Health has not personally examined a container, and an email to the company was not immediately returned.)
Anderson told ABC News that he did not consult any medical professionals while creating the product, and that he was inspired by similar snortable chocolate products for sale in Europe. He also said he believed that a warning on the label—"to not do more than half the container”—should be enough to keep consumers safe. (According to Coco Loko’s parent company, Legal Lean, each tin of powder contains 10 servings.)
Dr. Dye says she’s especially concerned about reports that the product is popular among college campuses, and worries about teenagers using or abusing it. “It’s such a vulnerable time, more of an experimental time, and if something is legal and marketed as 'natural,' it can influence people to take risks that they probably shouldn’t,” she says.
She adds that if anyone—of any age—needs an energy boost badly enough to snort chocolate, they should take a nap or look at their sleep and lifestyle patterns, rather than turning to quick fixes with so many unknown factors. “People should be aware of what they’re putting into their bodies and what the effects might be," she says, "and with this product we simply have no idea.”
Is a grilled burger bad for you? Are veggies best steamed? Our health pros explain which food-prep techniques are safest to use day-to-day.
You've heard all about the health benefits of Greek yogurt. And maybe you’ve tried (even thicker) Icelandic yogurt, also known as skyr. But did you know there's such a thing as French yogurt?
Yoplait has announced it will launch a line of French-style yogurts, called Oui, in July. So how is French yogurt different from Greek and Icelandic—and which is the healthiest yogurt of them all?
According to General Mills, the Oui yogurt recipe is based on the way yogurt was made in French farmhouses more than a century ago. While most commercial yogurt is cultured in large batches and then poured into individual cups, Oui yogurt is cultured in individual (and recyclable or reusable) glass pots. If you’ve been to France you’ve likely seen this type of yogurt in stores. And if you’re a big fan of yogurt, you may have come across instructions on how to make your own on sites like Chowhound.
The ingredients are nice and simple: just whole milk, yogurt cultures, cane sugar, and fruit. And the plain variety contains only the first two ingredients. So in other words, Oui yogurt lacks the additives found in traditional Yoplait yogurts, such as gelatin, modified corn starch, preservatives, and artificial sweetener.
Each jar of the plain variety of Oui plain contains 130 calories, 8 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbohydrate, 5 grams of protein, 4% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin A, and 15% of the DV for calcium. The flavored varieties are a bit higher in calories and carbs. Blueberry, for example has 160 calories and 19 grams of carbohydrates.
So should you switch from Greek or skyr to French?
Oui is lower in protein than both Greek and Icelandic yogurts made with similar simple ingredients. For example, a single-serve container of Stonyfield's plain whole milk Greek yogurt packs 14 grams of protein—that's 9 more grams than Oui! And a single-serve container of Siggi's whole milk blueberry skyr delivers 12 grams of protein.
What's more, Oui yogurt isn't organic or grass-fed. Organic milk provides a greater amount of iodine and certain vitamins and antioxidants, according to researchers from Newcastle University in the UK. And milk from grass-fed cows contains more anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, as well as another beneficial fat called CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which is thought to boost immunity, lower inflammation, protect the heart, and even help with weight loss.
The bottom line is that I will advise my clients to stick with organic, grass-fed Greek yogurt or skyr. While the adorable Oui jars may be tempting, here's an expert tip: You can buy French yogurt glasses on Etsy, and fill them with anything you like.
Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees.
These high-water-content foods are refreshing, filled with nutrients, and naturally low in calories.
Pineapple is one of my absolute favorite fruits, and I know I'm not the only one who loves the tropical treat. There's no question it's refreshing and delicious. But pineapple also packs some pretty powerful health benefits. Here are three healthy excuses to add more of the nutritious fruit to your diet, along with a few of my favorite ways to enjoy it.
It's loaded with vitamin C
One cup of pineapple provides more than 100% of your recommended daily amount of vitamin C. And while you're probably well aware that this nutrient helps support immunity, it does so much more. Vitamin C is involved in the growth and repair of tissues throughout the body. Plus it acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells against premature aging and illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. The vitamin may also have an effect on your waistline: One study found that exercisers who weren't getting enough vitamin C burned about 25% fewer calories during their workouts. And too little vitamin C in the bloodstream has been linked to higher body fat and waist size.
It supports healthy skin
Pineapple is rich in manganese. (Just one cup contains more than 75% of the amount recommended for one day). This mineral, along with vitamin C, is required for building collagen—a structural component of skin that prevents sagging and wrinkles.
Manganese also functions as an antioxidant that protects skin cells from damage against UV light, making pineapple especially crucial in the summertime.
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It promotes healthy digestion
If you’ve ever tried to add fresh pineapple to a gelatin dessert you know that it just won’t work. That’s because pineapples contain an enzyme called bromelain, which breaks down the gelatin into its amino acid building blocks, preventing it from becoming or staying solid. For the same reason, pineapple is often used in marinades, to help tenderize meat. And the enzyme doesn't just affect cooking—if you eat pineapple along with a meal, bromelain may help you digest proteins, potentially reducing bloating, indigestion, and sluggishness. The dietary fiber in pineapple also helps maintain bowel regularity, and prevent constipation.
Easy ways to eat more pineapple
While fresh pineapple is amazing as is, you can also try incorporating it into recipes. Here are a few of my favorite ways to add the fruit to smoothies, cookouts, cocktails, and more.
- Whip pineapple into a smoothie with coconut milk, coconut butter, pea protein powder, half of a yellow bell pepper, and a bit of fresh ginger root.
- Add fresh pineapple to slaw. Whisk together a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar, a tablespoon of juice from fresh pineapple, a teaspoon of honey, half a teaspoon each of fresh grated ginger and minced garlic, and a dash of black pepper and sea salt. Toss with a half cup each of shredded cabbage and pineapple chunks. Chill and serve as a side dish or topping for fish or black beans.
- Grill up slices of fresh pineapple at your next cookout.
- For a healthier version of a frozen umbrella drink, whip together a cup of fresh pineapple, a handful of ice, and a quarter cup each of unsweetened coconut milk and frozen banana slices, and then stir in an ounce of rum.
Not sure how to cut up a fresh pineapple? Check out my Instagram slideshow below.
Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees.
Throughout my career I've seen dozens of supplements come and go in terms of trendiness, from herbs and amino acids to antioxidants and extracts. Recently, activated charcoal has been having a moment as a must-try natural remedy.
Early on in my career I worked in a hospital, as well as a substance abuse rehabilitation center, so I am familiar with the medicinal use of activated charcoal. Similar to common charcoal for your grill, activated charcoal is typically made from peat, coal, wood, or coconut shells, treated in a way that makes it very porous, or "activated." It's used commonly in emergency rooms to treat poisoning and drug overdoses due to its ability to trap chemicals and prevent them from being absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the blood.
Apparently some health enthusiasts theorized that if activated charcoal can soak up dangerous substances, it should be used routinely, as a way to cleanse the body of other toxins we're exposed to (such as pesticides and chemicals in food packaging). And a trend was born.
Activated charcoal has been making an appearance in a number of bottled beverages, like charcoal water, lemonade and other pressed juices. There are also a myriad of activated charcoal supplements you can buy online, promising to help with gas, and some people are even using it to whiten their teeth. Unfortunately, though, it's not that simple (nor totally harmless). Here are three things you should know about the fad.
Activated charcoal can bind to beneficial substances too
Activated charcoal doesn't distinguish between wanted and unwanted substances. That means it can also bind to nutrients, including vitamin C and B vitamins, as well as other dietary supplements, and prescription medications, preventing them from getting into your bloodstream.
In other words drinking it in juice, for example, may actually make the produce you're gulping less healthy in some ways, not more. The most important thing to remember about anything claiming a "detoxifying" benefit is that your body is equipped with a liver, kidneys, lungs, and digestive system, which work around the clock to perform "detoxing" functions. If you want to help them out, the best things you can do are to drink plenty of water, eat foods that naturally enhance your body's ability to "detox," such as beets, ginger, turmeric, and cruciferous veggies (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale), and avoid artificial additives and processed foods.
Activated charcoal can actually cause digestive distress
The use of activated charcoal to help with gas isn't well studied and the research is conflicting, but it has also been known to cause nausea and vomiting. It can also trigger constipation, slow the movement of food or waste through the digestive system, or even lead to a serious intestinal blockage. And one 2014 report from George Washington University suspects that activated charcoal may have caused colitis (inflammation in the colon) in one patient who repeatedly used it to detoxify his body on his own. In other words, it's unclear how it will affect you individually.
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There is no known safe dosage
Because activated charcoal is not routinely used preventatively, studies haven't been conducted about its long-term effectiveness, or safety, much less an optimal amount to take. So while it may seem beneficial and benign, you could be harming your health in ways we don't yet understand. Bottom line: activated charcoal has been used as medicine for years in emergencies. And some physicians may recommend it to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy or long-term dialysis. However, more research is needed in both of these areas, and in my opinion it's too early to embrace as a home remedy or everyday wellness strategy.
Certain so-called superfoods seem to be everywhere. They're said to ward off cancer, help with weight loss, extend your life, even whiten your teeth. But do these "miracle" foods really live up to all the hype? To find out, we interviewed experts and pored over research. Here's what we learned about apple cider vinegar, avocados, red wine, and more.
The hype: Almost three-quarters of people in a recent survey said they thought coconut oil was healthy. No doubt that’s because of claims that it protects against heart disease (because it boosts HDL or “good” cholesterol), arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes; while also helping you lose weight, thanks to a particular kind of fat that your body may metabolize differently than others.
The reality: The American Heart Association (AHA) issued a recent statement that flat out recommended against using coconut oil. Why? A high level (82%) of really-bad-for-you saturated fat. Multiple studies confirm that coconut oil actually raises “bad” LDL cholesterol.
The bottom line: The AHA statement pretty much said it all. If you do go for coconut oil (we know it tastes good), practice extreme moderation. “One tablespoon a day provides nearly the recommended limit of saturated fat for the entire day for most adults,” cautions Malina Malkani, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The reality: Chocolate may protect against heart disease, stroke, and diabetes—but only dark, purer forms of chocolate. Once it’s been processed into prettily packaged treats beckoning from store shelves, it’s basically just sugar and fat.
The bottom line: A little of the right kind of chocolate may help reduce blood pressure, but a lot of any kind of chocolate will backfire. “The darker the chocolate the better,” says Malkani. Look for a cocoa content of 70% or more. And stick to one or two squares a day at most.
The hype: Butter is back! Unjustly vilified for so many years, the stuff is actually good for you.
The reality: A lot of the hype stemmed from one 2014 study which found that eating less saturated fat may not cut your risk for heart disease. But that’s a whole lot different than saying eating saturated fat is good for your health.
The bottom line: Don’t become a daily disciple of Julia Child’s high-fat recipes just yet. The current science still tells us to replace saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats (think olive oil). If butter has a role, it may be to up your intake of indisputably healthy foods: “If used mindfully and sparingly, it can enhance the flavor of vegetables you might otherwise not enjoy,” says Malkani.
The hype: Avocado, the poster child for “good” fats for decades, is rumored to reduce the risk of a host of health ills—obesity, diabetes, heart disease and others—and help you live longer too.
The reality: The fruit’s long-standing reputation may be well-deserved. “There is a large body of evidence that an avocado-rich diet high in monounsaturated fats helps lower LDL or bad cholesterol and raise HDL,” says Malkani. It may also ease pain from osteoarthritis.
The bottom line: Avocado every day may help keep the doctor away. But f you’re trying to lose weight, remember that one serving is actually only one-third of one fruit, says Malkani. Now-trending avocado oil is another matter, warns dietician Sandra Arevalo, director of nutrition services and community outreach at Montefiore Health System's Community Pediatrics in New York City. "The put a lot of additives in [avocado oil] so we have to be careful."
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The hype: Red wine may be the one thing standing between you and heart disease and diabetes.
The reality: This may not be just wishful thinking. Studies going back decades have found a lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes among people who drank moderate amounts of red wine compared to those who didn’t drink at all. But overdo it on the vino and you could end up with heart disease, liver disease, and cancer. A 2017 report found that even very small amounts of alcohol may increase the risk for breast cancer.
The bottom line: There’s a fine balance. “[Red wine] is good in moderation,” says Arevalo. The AHA recommends women consume just one alcoholic drink a day (that's 4 ounces of red wine), and that men stick to two.
Apple cider vinegar
The hype: The grapevine claims apple cider vinegar can whiten your teeth, lower blood sugar, fight infection, keep heart disease and cancer at bay, and oh so much more
The reality: Apple cider vinegar may lower blood sugar and help you feel full, but so do other kinds of vinegar. The same with losing weight. It’s not clear if apple cider vinegar has any use against cancer and heart disease. And it looks like it doesn’t help heal wounds. As for your teeth, not only will vinegar not lead to pearly whites, it can also erode enamel.
The bottom line: Apple cider vinegar is a good addition to salads, but don't consider it a potential panacea for health woes.
The hype: Where do we even start? The supposed health benefits of coffee include lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease while generally helping you live longer. It may treat Parkinson’s and keep your memory sharp.
The reality: Many of these benefits may be real. Caffeine has been shown to improve movement in Parkinson’s patients, while both caffeinated and decaf coffee may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Java is also linked with a reduced risk of several types of cancer including colon and prostate (but an increased risk of lung cancer).
The bottom line: The evidence applies to black coffee, not coffee laden with cream, sugar and syrup. Most studies show the benefits of caffeine come from about 400 milligrams—the amount on three to five 8-ounce cups of home-brewed coffee, say Malkani. If you are hypertensive, talk to your doctor, as caffeine can cause short-term blood pressure spikes. But if you don’t drink coffee now, experts says it's not worth starting the habit. (Same goes for wine.)
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The hype: Water garnished with a little lemon is reputed to help digestion, speed weight loss, keep you hydrated, and prevent kidney stones.
The reality: The benefit of lemon water probably stems from the water part, not the lemon part, even though lemon has vitamin C. Water is good for you, and most of us don’t get enough.
The bottom line: Drink lots of water every day, with or without lemon. “I don’t think it’s a superfood. It’s just a wonderful way to vary the flavor of water,” says dietician Sharon Zarabi, director of the bariatric program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “For those who have trouble taking in 6 to 8 cups a day, lemon might make it a little bit more refreshing.”
This article originally appeared on Food + Wine.
We're taught that steaming vegetables, fish, and everything in between is healthier than, say, dumping broccoli florets into a boiling water bath and letting all those good vitamins—fiber, B6, and potassium, to name a few—seep out into the H2O. And new research suggests that when it comes to fish, this couldn't be more true: streaming tilapia and other filets keeps dangerous toxins from entering your body.
Researchers from the University of Seville took a look at whether steaming fish or boiling fish filets could better reduce cylindrospermopsin, a cyanotoxin found in some of the most eaten freshwater fish, such as tilapia. They found that while boiling fish does reduce the toxin—by about 18 percent, in fact—steaming the filets reduced it even more, to a rate of about 26 percent. What's more, biotoxins also pass into the steaming water and avoid our bodies almost entirely—which is a very good thing.
Cylindrospermopsin impacts animals' organs, including the liver, kidneys, heart, intestines, lungs, and brain. In humans, cylindrospermopsin can be drank, ingested, or aspirated—and symptoms include headaches, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, dehydration, fatigue, dry eyes, and even kidney damage. According to the researchers, the cyanotoxin is transferred to food from water that contains it, so it can be found in everything from plant-based foods to cereals, fish, and shellfish.
"It is fundamental to continue investing research resources in this area, as the real exposure [of cylindrospermopsin] to consumers is not known, and therefore the risk is also unknown," the researchers wrote in their study, published in Food Control.
Until then, if you don't want to take the risk of ingesting any more of this cyanotoxin than necessary, the report suggests you steam your fish for at least two minutes. And be sure to throw out any steam water you use in your cooking—think: don't use it for stocks, or to make a sauce—as it will have absorbed the toxin itself. The researchers say their next steps will be to test the results of other common cooking methods like grilling and microwaving in the future.
This article originally appeared on Time.com.
Mushrooms are healthy because of the significant amount of dietary fiber, protein, amino acids, vitamins (including B1, B2, B12, C, D and E) and trace minerals that they contain, as well as the fact that they’re low in fat and calories.
But, according to researchers from the Mushroom Technological Research Center of La Rioja in Spain, mushrooms’ composition, antioxidant capacity and nutritional content can be negatively affected by the cooking process.
For the study, which was published in the International Journal of Food Sciences, the team evaluated the influence of boiling, microwaving, grilling and frying white button, shiitake, oyster and king oyster mushrooms. After cooking the four types of mushrooms, which were chosen because they are the most widely consumed species of mushroom worldwide, the samples were freeze-dried and analyzed, with the results compared to raw versions.
The researchers concluded that the best way to cook mushrooms while still preserving their nutritional properties is to grill or microwave them, as the fried and boiled mushrooms showed significantly less antioxidant activity. The fried mushrooms in particular revealed a severe loss in protein and carbohydrate content, but an increase in fat.
“Frying and boiling treatments produced more severe losses in proteins and antioxidants compounds, probably due to the leaching of soluble substances in the water or in the oil, which may significantly influence the nutritional value of the final product,” said Irene Roncero, one of the study’s authors, in a statement.