Healthy food and false beliefs FAQs
2020-12-03 11:36:23 ASSIST Team ASSIST Team

Healthy food and false beliefs FAQs

Find out the answers to the most commonly asked questions about healthy food and false beliefs

What is malnutrition?

Malnutrition is an abnormal condition caused by deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in energy and/or nutrients necessary for an active, healthy life. Therefore, it refers both to undernutrition and overnutrition, as well as to conditions arising from dietary imbalance leading to diet-related non-communicable diseases.

Waht is a healthy diet?

A healthy diet is a long-lasting behavior. There is not a single healthy diet that fits for all. Nutrition guidelines generally suggest that healthy diets are diverse, containing an appropriate amount of energy, fat and protein, as well as micronutrients from a combination of cereals, vegetables, fruits and animal-source foods. Dietary diversity—defined as the number of different food groups consumed over a given time period—is an indicator of a high-quality diet.

Who recommends that adults eat a mix of foods, with at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, less than 10% of total energy from free sugars added to foods, and less than 30% of total energy from fats, and that salt should be limited to less than 5 g (approximately 1 teaspoon) per day and it should be iodized. Advice on a healthy diet for infants and young children is similar, but these elements are also important. 

  • Infants should be breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life;
  • Infants should continue to be breastfed until two years of age and beyond;
  • From six months of age onwards, breast milk should be complemented with a variety of adequate, safe and nutrient-dense complementary foods. Salt and sugars should not be added to complementary foods.

What is the difference between food allergy and intolerance?

Food allergies and food intolerances (or sensitivities) can have similar symptoms, but are very different conditions:

  • Intolerances, such as lactose intolerance and celiac disease, can cause someone to feel ill.
  • Food allergies not only can make someone feel ill, but also can cause a life-threatening reaction (called anaphylaxis).

A food intolerance means either the body cannot properly digest the food that is eaten, or that a particular food might irritate the digestive system. Symptoms of food intolerance can include nausea, gas, cramps, abdominal pain, diarrhea, irritability, nervousness, or headaches.

A food allergy happens when the body's immune system, which normally fights infections, sees the food as an invader. This leads to an allergic reaction — a response from the immune system in which chemicals like histamine are released in the body. The reaction can cause symptoms like breathing problems, throat tightness, hoarseness, coughing, vomiting, abdominal pain, hives, swelling, or a drop in blood pressure.

Even if previous reactions have been mild, someone with a food allergy is always at risk of the next reaction being life-threatening. Eating a microscopic amount of the food, or sometimes even touching or inhaling it, could lead to anaphylaxis. So anyone with a food allergy must avoid the problem food.

It is true that cow’s milk is bad for your health?

Cow's milk is a daily staple for many people and has been for millennia. While it's still a popular food, recent studies suggest milk may have harmful effects on the body. Other research, however, points out the health benefits of dairy. So, what’s the truth? Let’s consider different foods as members a big variegated family, where each member has its own benefits and limits to be taken onto consideration.

Milk is considered a whole food. It provides 18 out of 22 essential nutrients.

Milk also provides: iron; selenium. Vitamin b-6, vitamin e, vitamin k, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin

Benefits of milk

  • Appetite control:  drinking milk hasn’t been linked to weight gain or obesity, and it may help curb appetite.
  • Bone development: milk may help improve weight and bone density in children, according to a 2016 study. It can also reduce the risk of fractures in developmental ages.
  • Milk provides proteins that are necessary to build and maintain healthy bones, teeth, and muscle. A cup of milk (250gr) provides around 7 to 8 grams of casein and whey proteins.
  • Bone and dental health: a cup of milk contains almost 30 percent (one/third) of the daily requirement of calcium for adults. Milk also contains potassium and magnesium. These minerals are important for healthy
  • Diabetes prevention: type 2 diabetes is a disease characterized by high blood sugar levels. Several studies have found that drinking milk may help prevent type 2 diabetes in adults. This may be because milk proteins improve your blood sugar balance. Additionally, milk is a good source of potassium. This mineral helps regulate blood pressure and it contains omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid. These fats help protect heart and blood vessel health.

Limits and possible side effects of milk

Allergies: up to 5 percent of children have a milk allergy, estimate some experts. It can cause skin reactions, such as eczema, and gut symptoms, such as: bowel effects: colic; constipation; diarrhea.

Other less common but specific reactions can include: anaphylaxis; wheezing; difficulty breathing.

Children may grow out of a milk allergy. Adults can also develop a milk allergy.

Lactose intolerance: cow's milk has a greater amount of lactose than milk from other animals.  Scientific studies estimate that 65-70 percent of the world's population has some form of lactose intolerance.

Are vegetable milks a viable alternative to cow's milk?

Milk alternatives can also be part of a healthy, balanced diet: vegetable milks and nut-based milks are suitable for individuals who are lactose intolerant or vegan and include: 




Soy milk

Similar amount of proteins; half of the carbs and fats of whole milk

Contains plant estrogens and hormones

Almond milk

Low fat: high calcium (if enriched); high vitamin e

Low protein; contains phytic acid (can hinder mineral absorption)

Coconut milk

Low calories and carbs; half fat

No proteins; high saturated fats

Oat milk

Lower in fat; high in fiber

High carbs; low protein

Cashew milk

Low calories; low fat

Low protein; fewer nutrients

Hemp milk

Low calories and carbs; high essential fatty acids

Low protein (more than other plant-based milk)

Rice milk

Low fat

Low protein and low nutrient; high carbs

Quinoa milk

Low fat, low calories, low carbs

Low proteins


What is a healthy/good snack?

As with a healthy meal in general, a good snack consists of vegetables, high-fibre products and a source of protein (e.g. Pulses, dairy products, fish). A muesli bar may often not be filling or optimal in terms of nutrient composition. For example, a different combination of a whole grain bread with vegetables; low-fat yoghurt, muesli and berries; or fruit and unseasoned nuts and seeds can be a healthy and filling snack.

Is it better to be vegetarian? / Is it necessary to eat meat? / What is a vegetarian diet? / Is a vegetarian diet healthy?

A vegetarian diet often refers to a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, meaning a person does not eat any meat, but eats dairy products and eggs. Some vegetarians also eat fish. A healthy diet can be achieved by both a diet including meat and a vegetarian diet. A vegetarian diet may provide health benefits, as it is associated with reduced red and processed meat intake and increased intake of plant-based foods.

Is it better to be vegan? / Do vegans need dietary supplements? / What is a vegan diet? / Is a vegan diet healthy?

A vegan diet consists of only plant-based foods and does not contain any animal products at all. A vegan diet limits intake from several food groups and thus extra care must be taken to ensure it provides a balanced diet with sufficient nutrients. Vegans should eat food products fortified with nutrients they may not otherwise get (e.g. Vitamin d, calcium, iodine) and also consider dietary supplements to make up for nutrients they can’t get from their diet (e.g. Vitamin b12, iron).

Is it better to eat gluten-free? / Are grain products unhealthy? / Is a gluten-free diet healthy?

Gluten is a protein found in most grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Celiac disease is a condition where gluten triggers the immune system causing damage to the lining of the small intestine. In the case of celiac disease or other gluten sensitivities, it is necessary to eat a gluten-free diet. However, if you do not suffer from a gluten-related sensitivity, there is no additional health benefits of following a gluten-free diet. Whole grain products made of wheat, barley and rye are important sources of dietary fibre.

What does high blood cholesterol mean? / What should I eat if I have high cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fat-based substance your body synthesizes and it is needed for making hormones and vitamin d. Having too much cholesterol or lipid particles in your blood can form plaque that builds up in the arteries. Consuming saturated fatty acids in food raise blood cholesterol levels and are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Unsaturated fatty acids from vegetable oils, fish, nuts and seeds, as well as dietary fibre protect from build-up of cholesterol in arteries.

Is cholesterol in foods bad for you?

Cholesterol can be found in animal foods such as egg yolks, meat and cheese. Cholesterol in food does not elevate cholesterol levels in the bloods as much as saturated fatty acids. 

There is a healthy fast food?

Healthy fast food includes grilled chicken, chicken fajita pitas, turkey sandwiches, baked chips, or frozen yogurt. You must avoid jumbo burgers, fried fish sandwiches, fried chicken, tacos, french fries, potato chips, milk shakes, cheese, mayonnaise, bacon.

What's the healthiest way of eating pizza?

If you want to eat pizza in a healthy way, you can follow these healthy eating tips: a) order a thin crust: b) pile on vegetable toppings, and skip the meat; c) ask for extra sauce and half the cheese; d) start with a salad; e) stop after one or two slices, and take the rest home.

What's the healthiest way of eating italian food pasta?

You can choose between light sauces, like primavera (vegetables); marsala (wine, mushrooms, beef stock); marinara (tomatoes, onions, garlic); or clam sauce and have minestrone for starter; and avoid creamy, cheesy sauces (like alfredo), fried calamari, pastas stuffed with cheese…

What's the healthy eating plate?

It is a guide for creating healthy meals whether served on a plate. Tips: make most of your meal vegetables and fruits – ½ of your plate; go for whole grains – ¼ of your plate; protein power – ¼ of your plate; healthy plant oils in moderation; skip sugary drinks and stay active.

Why is junk food bad for you? Is it possible to get addicted to junk food? How junk food affects my health?

They are defined as processed foods with negligible nutrient value and are often high in salt, sugar and fat. Frequent consumption increases the intake of excess fat, simple carbohydrates, and processed sugar which may lead to a higher risk of chronic health problems.

What's the difference between junk food and fast food? Are fast food and junk food the same thing?

Fast food is placed on "speed of service" thought junk foods are commercial products with little or no nutritional value but high in calories, salt, and fats. Not all fast foods are junk foods. For instance, a salad may be fast food, but is not junk food.

What are food supplements?

Food supplements are foods. They are intended to supplement the general diet. Food supplements may contain a broad spectrum of nutrients or other substances with a specific nutritional or physiological effect.

Do food supplements have pharmacological effects?  

In contrast to other foods, food supplements may come with a recommended intake along with other specific information for consumers. The ingredients of food supplements may not, by definition, have any pharmacological effects.

Are food supplements safe?

Food supplements are foods. They must be safe. The food manufacturers are primarily responsible for ensuring that food supplements do not harm health and do not mislead the consumer through their appearance or advertising.

Does eating a fresh whole apple every day really keep the doctor away? Why eating a fresh whole apple is so good for you?

Apples are rich in quercetin (flavonoid with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects) and pectin (soluble fibre) that help prevent constipation and have a modest effect on lowering ldl, the “bad” cholesterol.

Are bananas a good fruit to eat?

They are an excellent source of potassium, a vital mineral and electrolyte in the body that carries a small electrical charge. These charges cause nerve cells to send out signals for the heart to beat regularly and muscles to contract. It maintains a healthy balance of water in cells and offsets the effects of excess dietary sodium.

What's the benefit of eating oats?

Oats contain beta-glucan (which has been researched to help slow digestion, increase satiety, and suppress appetite, phenolic compounds and phytoestrogens that act as antioxidants to reduce the damaging effects of chronic inflammation associated with various diseases.

Can fruit juice replace fresh fruit in children's daily diet?

It is better not. Juice is higher in sugar, and one study out of harvard showed that increased juice consumption is linked with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, eating more whole fruit lowers your risk of diabetes.

Fruit also contains fiber, which will keep you feeling fuller longer and has other heart benefits, and antioxidants and other vitamins that could be destroyed in the making of juice. Furthermore synthetic fructose is different from the natural one and less ealthy.

So, get your kids used to eating fresh fruit instead of fruit juice and, when they're thirsty, supplement with water

What to do if I/another person has an eating disorder? / What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders are psychological conditions characterised by unhealthy, obsessive or disordered eating habits. These include anorexia nervosa (voluntary starvation), bulimia nervosa (binge-eating followed by purging), binge-eating disorder, orthorexia (obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy) and other unspecified disorders. It can be hard to address the subject, if you notice that you or a friend’s eating habits have changed in a way that they are negatively affecting other areas of their life. Try to address the topic in a private time and place, tell them what you have noticed, but do not blame them and provide them a non-judgemental space to share. Encourage your friend or yourself to seek professional help.

2020-12-03 11:36:23 ASSIST Team ASSIST Team