Nutrition Interview with Jessica

Last week I was lucky enough to have a wonderful dinner cooked by a dietician.  It’s the best feeling to sit down for a meal knowing that everything in front of you has been approved by someone who has studied all the chemistry and science behind food and knows the way it interacts with our system, it's benefits and downfalls.  I have a huge interest in food, and find that it goes hand in hand with fitness. It was so cool to interview someone who knows so much about the subject. My interview with Jessica continued even after the camera was off. All through dinner questions just kept popping up. Read below for more Q&A!


Jessica is a Clinical Dietitian at Emerson Hospital in concord. She screens and assess the hospitalized patients, provides medical nutrition therapy to patients, counsels on therapeutic diets, and provides alternate nutrition as needed (tube feeding/feeding to the vein).

MORE Questions by me. Answers by Jessica.

1. Do eggs cause high cholesterol?

Eggs do not cause high cholesterol. A diet high in saturated fat can lead to high cholesterol more than a diet high in cholesterol. Eggs contain a large amount of cholesterol, but not a large amount of saturated fat. However, if a person already has high cholesterol, then following a low cholesterol diet as well as a low saturated fat diet is beneficial. For healthy people without high cholesterol, an egg a day can be part of a heart healthy diet.

2. Margarine or butter?

Margarine in general has less saturated fat than butter, and no cholesterol. Be careful though, and make sure that the margarine you choose is trans-fat free. Trans-fat can be found in some margarines, but not in butter. Trans-fat is the worst type of fat a person can eat, as it lowers the healthy cholesterol and increases the unhealthy cholesterol in our bodies. Make sure the nutrition label says 0 g trans fat, and also be careful to avoid any "partially hydrogenated oils" in the ingredient label, as this means there is trans fat in the product. A product can list 0 g trans-fat on the nutrition label as long as there is less than half a gram per serving, but the ingredient label must list all items in the product.

3. Should we count our calories?

I believe that eating a well balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats is the best way to consume a healthy diet. Counting calories can be time consuming and difficult, especially when a nutrition label and/or measuring cups are not available.

4. No carb diet?

If a diet restricts a whole food group, I would definitely avoid it. Carbohydrates are found in many healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables. We need food, including carbohydrates, to fuel our bodies, and it is never a good idea to avoid entire food groups.

5. Is taking vitamin supplements important. IF so which vitamins?

It is best to get our nutrients from food alone. However, it can be difficult for some people to consume enough of certain vitamins and minerals from food. Women of child-bearing age should consume an additional 400 mcg of folic acid daily. People living in New England may benefit from 600 IU of vitamin D daily, as our bodies make vitamin D from the sun, and New Englanders cannot get enough sun during the year to fulfill the recommended intake of vitamin D. Elderly individuals generally benefit from a MVI with minerals, as our bodies are less able to absorb vitamins/minerals as we age. Lastly, omega-3 fatty acids, which are a nutrition supplement, but not a vitamin or a mineral, may be beneficial in people with history of heart disease or high triglycerides (a type of fat found in our blood). Omega-3 fatty acids are found in few foods, only fatty fish, flax, and walnuts, and can be difficult to consume enough daily from these foods to meet the suggested intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Try up to 1000 mg daily of an omega-3 supplement from fish oil.

6. Are detox diets ok? Should we be "cleansing" our body with these special drinks? Thoughts?

I don't believe in detox diets either. Be sure to consume a diet high in fiber, and your body should be functioning properly in terms of GI health.

7. Thoughts on sports drinks?

Plain water is the best beverage for most individuals. If you are exercising more than 2 hours with high sweat production, then an electrolyte sports drink may be beneficial to replace the electrolytes lost in sweat. Be careful, as some sports drinks may contribute extra calories, which can counteract weight maintenance or weight loss goals. On the other hand, it you are a serious athlete, a small amount of carbohydrate can improve athletic performance. Consider speaking with a dietitian knowledgeable regarding sports nutrition for more information on nutrition for optimal athletic performance.

8. If you had to pick your three top super foods what would they be?

1. Pomegranates - High in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and a beautiful addition to many dishes. Try them on salads, yogurt, cereal, even as a special treat for dessert atop a (small) scoop of vanilla ice cream.

2. Peanut Butter - High in protein, healthy fats, and very satisfying as snack or with a meal. Keep your portion to the size of a golf ball, and you can maintain a healthy weight.

3. Salmon - high in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is an excellent heart healthy protein. Try to consume at least twice per week.

9. The food that is always in your pantry?

Quinoa - this grain is high in protein, and can be incorporated into dishes as a substitute for rice. It is very easy to cook, and takes on the flavor of sauces in any dish excellently. It is shelf stable for a long periods of time, so if I need a last minute dinner option, toasted quinoa with stir-fried vegetables and cashews is delicious, fast, and easy.

10. Your go to healthy snack?

I love to dip vegetables in hummus if I am at home. If I need an on-the-go snack, a handful of nuts satisfies me until dinner. I love almonds and pistachios.

Posted on July 7, 2011 and filed under interview, food.