Ask the Dietitian: 3 Hot Health Questions

avocado on toast

Avocado nutrition, exercise benefits, and weight loss tips are hot topics during warm weather. Our registered dietitian, Karen Collins, RDN, looks at the research to give you practical answers.  

avo icon png I see there are California avocados and Florida avocados. Is there a difference in nutritional value?  

Florida avocados are the larger, smooth-skinned choices. California avocados are usually the Hass variety, and are smaller and have a pebbly skin. The biggest nutritional difference between California and Florida avocados is their fat content. For each portion (just under 2 ounces), a California avocado contains 8 grams of fat while a Florida avocado has about 5 grams of fat. More than half the fat in avocados is the healthy monounsaturated fat. This difference in fat content also means that Florida avocados are a little lower in calories. For each portion, the Florida variety has 60 calories versus about 80 for the California one. 

Otherwise, nutritional value of the two types is similar. Avocados contain the B vitamin folate, vitamin K and fiber. Many people prefer the rich flavor of California avocados, and for guacamole and other dips, it’s hard to beat their creamy texture. For slices in a salad, however, some prefer the way the Florida type holds its shape.  Either is a great way to add flavor, fiber and a healthy fat to your meal while adding essentially zero sodium. 

exercise icon Does exercise help reduce cancer risk regardless of my weight?  

Studies now show that physical activity is a major step we can take to reduce cancer risk. Although part of that protection may come from its effect on weight, research suggests activity has its own benefits. Evidence is strongest regarding physical activity and reduced risk of cancers of the colon, breast and endometrium. 

Regular physical activity helps keep insulin and sex hormones such as estrogen at healthy levels, and seems to decrease inflammation and improve immune function.

Twelve different cancers are now linked to excess body fat. Physical activity plays a crucial role in reducing weight regain after loss, and in avoiding the gradual weight gain that is common with aging.

So whether or not you are overweight, including physical activity in your daily life is an important part of a strategy to reduce cancer risk. Enjoy a variety of physical activities throughout the week, including workouts, playing sports, or choosing walking or biking for transportation to work or errands. The options are diverse and the benefits are many.

salad icon Are salads a good way to lose weight? 

Salad is a terrific way to make vegetables a large part of meals. That’s great for overall health and can support an overall weight management program. To limit calories in your salad, fill most of your plate with dark leafy greens (like spinach and romaine) and plain chopped vegetables (like carrots, peppers, cucumbers and mushrooms). 

If salad is your main dish, include a lean protein like half a cup of kidney or garbanzo beans, turkey, seafood chunks, chopped hardboiled egg, or plain tuna; or one-third cup of nuts or sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Finally, watch salad dressing portions. Aim for one to two tablespoons of regular dressing. For even lower calories, dress your salad with lemon juice or vinegar and a couple of teaspoons of plain olive oil.

Also consider what you’re eating the rest of the day. Are you “rewarding” yourself for healthy salads with high-calorie treats at other times of the day? If you’re making a real cut in calories without raising calories from other sources or cutting back on your physical activity, you should see a change in your weight or waist before long. Small cuts take a while to show results, but can be among the best sustained.

Got a question for AICR? Share it on our Facebook page for a chance to be featured in one of our future issues.

Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, is AICR’s Nutrition Advisor. Karen is a speaker, writer and consultant who specializes in helping people make sense of nutrition news. You can follow her blog, Smart Bytes®, through her website and follow her on Twitter @KarenCollinsRD and Facebook @KarenCollinsNutrition

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