Nutrition Education | Frequently Asked Questions

August 3, 2018

We at the Food Bank know that providing nutritious food to our neighbors in need is just the beginning — it’s also critical that we empower participants with information and resources for healthy eating. That is why our Nutrition Education team is out in the community daily, helping our pantry participants aim for a lifetime of good health by providing nutrition classes, recipes, and cooking demonstrations. And, we encourage our community to ask questions, which is one of the best ways for everyone to learn – including us!

Here are some of the questions most commonly asked by class participants:

1. Which types of oil are the best to use when cooking?

Answer: When cooking at higher temperatures, we recommend oils that are unsaturated, such as canola oil, avocado oil, and sunflower seed oil. For light sautés and dressings, we recommend olive oils. Keep in mind that each type of oil has a unique smoke point, or point at which the oil overheats. Despite popular belief, olive oil is not always the best option to cook with, since it has a low smoke point and burns more easily.

Unsaturated Fats – i.e. canola oil, corn oil, olive oil, etc. — are healthier than Saturated or Trans Fats because they help increase our levels of good cholesterol and help lower our levels of bad cholesterol. Unsaturated fats are usually plant–based and liquid at room temperature. and are recommended over saturated fats and trans fats which are solid at room temperature (i.e. shortening, butter, lard).

2. What is the difference between sugar and artificial sweeteners?

Answer: Artificial sweeteners are chemical compounds that taste like sugar, but they are not sugar. These may be recommended by health-care providers to individuals with chronic illnesses affected by sugar consumption (i.e. pre-diabetes/diabetes). Unless directed by your doctor, we do not recommend that folks consume artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are significantly sweeter than sugar and your body can build a tolerance. Research has also shown that consuming artificial sugars can lead to over eating sugar-sweetened foods, because your body thinks it is getting sugar, but it is not, causing continued cravings for sweet foods.

3. Doesn’t fruit have sugar? Does that mean fruit is bad for me?

Answer: Fruit does have sugar, but it’s natural sugar, not added sugar, – so you don’t need to count it within your daily added sugar limits. For the average healthy adult, the daily sugar limit is 6-9 teaspoons of added sugar per day, depending on body mass. Besides being tasty, fruit also provides a variety of important nutrients – such as fiber and vitamins. Compared to processed foods with added sugar, fruits contain fiber which can help slow down the process of sugar getting absorbed into your bloodstream. As a result, you feel satisfied longer and are not left with a “sugar crash” that is often associated with other treats.

Do you have your own burning question to ask our Nutrition Education team? If so, add it to the comments section and we’ll try our best to answer it in a future blog post.