DEAR DR. BLONZ: I have read that calamari (squid) has more cholesterol than lean beef, but is lower in fat. Is this true? -- S.B., San Diego
DEAR S.B.: Most seafood is low in cholesterol, but squid is an exception, providing an excellent illustration that dietary cholesterol and fat don't always go hand in hand.
Cholesterol, which is not used as a source of energy, is present in every living animal cell. The fats and oils we eat and absorb represent nature's most concentrated form of dietary energy (calories); it is the form used for storage and will be found wherever any particular animal keeps its energy reserves. Cows and pigs, for example, store some of their fat energy around their muscle tissue. A "marbling" of fat in the muscle provides flavor and gives meat its tender texture, which is why meats tend to be high in cholesterol and fat. (As a side note, the level of marbling serves as the basis on which meats are graded. Read more on grading at b.link/225hz2.)
Such is not the case with squid, where the edible portion has no fat storage. As a result, the edible part of the squid comes with cholesterol, but without fat.
Now for the numbers: 3 ounces of raw squid contains about 200 milligrams of cholesterol and 1 gram of fat. (If breaded and fried, the fat content rises to 6 grams.) The same weight of a lean cut of beef, such as an eye of round, contains 60 milligrams of cholesterol and about 5 grams of fat. Both provide high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals, but squid also contains some of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.
It also helps to appreciate that the body makes its own cholesterol, and it tends to make less when cholesterol is present in foods; that means that dietary cholesterol does not have a direct additive effect. That said, a regular, hefty intake of dietary cholesterol can raise one's blood cholesterol level if it's part of an overall unhealthful diet and lifestyle.
The bottom line is that healthy individuals taking care of themselves while eating a balanced diet need not fear enjoying a higher-cholesterol food, such as squid.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: My mother always said that the white part of the orange skin was good for me. Dutifully, I have followed this advice for a lifetime. But lately, realizing my mother knows little about nutrition, I question its truth. What is the nutritional value of this part of the orange? -- N.N., Phoenix
DEAR N.N.: Your mother may know more about nutrition than you think. The entire orange (peel and flesh) contains numerous natural ingredients to protect the fruit. The fruit's fiber and phytochemicals are also associated with health-promoting properties. In addition to the juice, a number are found in the peel and the bitter-tasting white part, or pith, inside the citrus peel.
The potential health benefits of such substances also found in other fruits and vegetables continue to be studied. These protective compounds are found in plants to help assure their viability, but they tend to only be present in small quantities, plant genetics making enough to do the job. Having recommended servings of plant foods helps them work together for us.
Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.