The culprits aren't dairy products and meat but the fat they contain


March 18, 1992|By Edward R. Blonz | Edward R. Blonz,Contributing Writer

Q: As more and more medical research points to meat and dairy products as key factors in the diseases that are killing us, how can any reasonable scientist continue to advocate eating these foods?

A. At issue is not the meat and dairy but the fat they contain. Medical research points to the over-consumption of fat as the key dietary risk factor for heart disease and certain cancers. Reports often single out meat and dairy foods because they often are high in fat.

DTC There's no question that in this country, we overemphasize meat and dairy. The habit of making them the centerpiece of every meal has led to an epidemic over-consumption of fat. This factor (plus smoking, our penchant for being overweight and inactivity) helps keep heart disease and cancer atop the list of killer diseases. But the presence of dairy and meat is not the issue as much as the quantity we eat.

We need to exercise more mealtime options. This would include serving more vegetarian meals, using low- or no-fat dairy products as well as leaner cuts of meat and serving meat as a condiment rather than the focus of the meal.

It's not as if meat and dairy have nothing to offer. Meat -- beef, pork and poultry -- provides high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals such as zinc and a form of iron the body finds easiest to absorb. Dairy products provide high-quality protein and they serve as the source for 3/4 of the calcium in the American diet.

9- But we certainly don't need to overdo it.

Q. We grow sweet potatoes in our back yard. I had an appointment with my joint specialist after I had been having them for dinner several days in a row. During the visit, he asked if I had been eating a lot of carrots. I didn't make the connection until later. Besides color, what do these two foods have in common?

A. The orange color of carrots and sweet potatoes comes from beta-carotene, the anti-oxidant substance used by the body to form vitamin A.

A medium-sized carrot, or 1/2 cup serving of baked sweet potato, will contain over twice the recommended daily allowance for vitamin A -- but since it's in the form of beta-carotene, there is no danger of a vitamin A overdose. In fact, research now indicates intakes of beta-carotene may have anti-cancer properties.

A serving of carrots or sweet potatoes is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C and potassium. The sweet potato also supplies over half the body's requirement for vitamin E and is a source of riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid and manganese.

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