On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

Make Dietary Changes Slowly

DEAR DR. BLONZ: What is the latest thinking about the maxim that we should not eat fruits and vegetables at the same meal? For a longstanding myth, it certainly has taken its time to be soundly debunked. -- B.T., Tulsa, Oklahoma

DEAR B.T.: There is no one way of eating that works for everyone. We all have our quirks and twists on the physiological “rules” of the day, so what works for one might upset another. If there were to be a generalization in this matter, though, it would be that there is no evidence that fruits and vegetables need to be consumed separately.

The human digestive system is well-designed for mixed meals. Our body, however, does adjust to our eating habits, and radical shifts can lead to upset. This does not necessarily mean such a shift is a bad thing -- as long as it’s a change in a healthful direction -- but the issue may be the speed at which it’s instituted. If you are going to make changes, do so gradually.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I understand there are beneficial ingredients in chocolate, including antioxidants. Are these substances found in the cocoa powder or in the cocoa fat? If it is in the fat, would that mean that the only way to get the benefits is to eat the full-fat kind of chocolate? -- C.H., Los Angeles

DEAR C.H.: Research on chocolate has indeed identified the presence of beneficial compounds. These compounds, known as flavonoids, have been found in the cocoa powder as well as the whole chocolate confection. Dark chocolate tends to contain more than milk chocolate; white chocolate, which contains cocoa butter (fat), contains little, if any, of the flavonoids. As for whether having cocoa powder is a “better” way of getting the benefits of the chocolate, that is a matter of personal preference. There are plenty of foods with wonderful attributes. Eat chocolate not because it is prescriptive, but because you enjoy it.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I need your advice concerning a choice between psyllium husk (I take 4 teaspoons daily) and a new fiber supplement made from partially hydrolyzed guar gum. This new product is pleasant to take, nonthickening, has no grit and is flavor-free. But is it equally effective? -- I.K., Anderson, South Carolina

DEAR I.K.: There are many excellent whole-grain foods, fruits, and vegetables that are rich in nutrients and can provide the dietary fiber the body needs. If you have been instructed by your health professional to take a fiber supplement, either of these products will accomplish that goal. Pick whichever one you feel most comfortable with, and be sure to follow the label directions. And be sure to take it slow (see the first question, above), if this is a new component to your diet.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.