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Life How well do you know nutrition? Take our quiz


How well do you know nutrition?

Do you know your flax seeds from your chia seeds? Which is better for you: coconut sugar or white sugar? Take our quiz to test your nutrition smarts

If you're like most Canadians, you make an effort to adopt good eating habits. According to Tracking Nutrition Trends 2013, a national survey conducted by the Canadian Foundation for Dietetic Research, 92 per cent of Canadians had done something to improve their eating habits in the past year.

Yet, with the constant barrage of diet advice (much of it conflicting), it can be hard to cut through the clutter to find out which dietary tweaks deliver nutrition benefits – and which ones don't. Coconut sugar or white sugar? Flax or chia seeds? Rye bread or white bread?

March is National Nutrition Month, a fitting time to reflect on your personal eating habits and nutrition know-how. To pinpoint your strengths – and weaknesses – take a few moments to answer my nutrition IQ quiz.

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1 You’ve heard that consuming more omega-3 fats, in particular one called alpha linolenic acid (ALA), can help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Which food has the most?
a. 1 omega-3 egg
b. 3 ounces of salmon
c. ½ teaspoon of flax oil
d. 1 teaspoon of chia seeds

Answer: c. One-half teaspoon of flax oil contains 1,200 mg of ALA, a little more than a day’s worth for women (three-quarters of a day’s worth for men). Chia seeds rank second with 567 mg of ALA per teaspoon and an omega-3 egg, produced by hens fed a diet containing flaxseed, has about 340 mg. Salmon doesn’t have any ALA; it is, however, an excellent source of an omega-3 fatty acid called DHA.

2 True or false? Coconut sugar is more nutritious than white sugar.
a. True
b. False

Answer: False. If you’ve swapped granulated sugar for coconut sugar, you haven’t added any nutritional value to your baked goods – or your breakfast cereal. When it comes to calories, carbohydrates and minerals, there’s no difference between a teaspoon of white sugar and a teaspoon of coconut sugar (which, by the way, doesn’t come from coconuts). Both are added sugars that should be limited.

3 You know your diet could use more fibre and you’re actively trying to include more of it at meals. Which starchy side dish (cooked) supplies the most?
a. 1 cup of freekeh
b. 1 large baked potato, with skin
c. 1 cup of quinoa
d. 1 cup of brown rice

Answer: a. One cup of freekeh, a whole-grain wheat, has an impressive 10.5 grams of fibre. The baked potato has 6.6 grams, followed by quinoa (5 g per cup) and brown rice (3 g per cup).

4 True or False? At the deli, you’re better off (nutritionally) ordering your sandwich on dark rye bread instead of white bread.
a. True
b. False

Answer: False. Don’t assume that dark-coloured rye bread is more nutritious than white bread. Most brands list unbleached flour (a.k.a. white flour) as the first ingredient and many don’t contain any whole-grain rye flour at all. When buying rye bread, read ingredient lists. Words that indicate whole grain include whole rye flour, rye meal, rye kernels and rye flakes.

5 You know that too much sodium wreaks havoc on your blood pressure so when dining out you try to be careful. Which meal below provides the least sodium?
a. The Keg’s Black Cod (with chilled quinoa, steamed asparagus)
b. Milestone’s California Spring Salad with shrimp skewers (includes dressing)
c. Earl’s Lois Lake Steelhead Salmon (with arugula salad, brown rice, seasonal vegetables)
d. Kelsey’s Seafood Lover’s Pasta

Answer: c. Thanks to hefty portion sizes and salty ingredients (marinades, seasonings, salad dressing, salt), many menu items at chain restaurants are swimming in sodium. The Keg’s black cod (1,558 mg), Milestone’s salad with seasoned shrimp (1,190) and Kelsey’s pasta (1,240) are good examples. Earl’s salmon main course is the winner at 710 mg of sodium. My advice: Read nutrition information in advance. Even then, plan to eat less than you’re served. Adults need 1,200 to 1,500 mg of sodium per day, depending on age.

6 You know it’s important to hydrate during runs lasting longer than one hour. Which beverage is your best choice?
a. Plain water
b. Sports drink (e.g. Gatorade, PowerAde)
c. Coconut water
d. Diluted orange juice

Answer: b. Sports drinks help delay fatigue and enhance performance and speed recovery in athletes thanks to their fluids and electrolytes (e.g., sodium and potassium), which are lost in sweat. Coconut water is high in potassium, but has less sodium than sports drinks and can’t replace sodium lost during prolonged exercise. For exercise lasting less than an hour, coconut water or plain water will do just fine. Orange juice has potassium, but negligible sodium.

7 True or False? You’ll get more cancer-fighting phytochemicals if you eat your broccoli raw instead of cooked.
a. True
b. False

Answer: True. The health benefits of broccoli – and other cruciferous veggies such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower – are largely attributed to phytochemicals called glucosinolates. Once chopped and chewed, an enzyme in these vegetables transforms glucosinolates into isothiocyanates, compounds with anti-cancer properties. The problem: This enzyme is destroyed by heat. So you’ll get more isothiocyanates from your broccoli if you eat it raw. Next best: Eat it lightly cooked until tender-crisp.

8 You’ve taken the World Health Organization’s (WHO) strict sugar intake guidelines to heart and, as a result, you’ve cut way back on the sweet stuff. When it comes to limiting “free” sugars, which beverage is the better choice?
a. Lemonade
b. Green tea latte
c. 100% orange juice
d. Cola

Answer: b. Last year, the WHO advised adults and kids to cut their intake of free sugars to less than 10 per cent of daily calories – even better, less than 5 per cent – to help control body weight and prevent dental caries. Free sugars are defined as those added to foods and drinks (e.g., lemonade, soft drinks, iced tea) by manufacturers and at home, as well as sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit-juice concentrates. They don’t include naturally occurring sugars such as lactose in milk (e.g. lattes, plain yogurt) and fresh fruits and vegetables.

9 You’re trying to add iron-rich foods to your diet, without eating too much red meat. Which food is the best source?
a. 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
b. ¾ cup lentils
c. ¼ cup raisins
d. ½ cup cooked spinach

Answer: b. Lentils win the iron contest, packing in 5 mg per three-quarters cup. A tablespoon of blackstrap molasses adds 3.6 mg, a half cup of spinach has 3.2 mg and the raisins offer less than 1 mg. Keep in mind, though, that plant-based foods contain a form of iron (non-heme iron) that’s difficult for your body to absorb. If you rely on vegetarian foods, eat them with a source of vitamin C to enhance iron absorption (e.g, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, red pepper, tomato sauce).

10 In an effort to increase your vitamin E intake, you’re considering switching cooking oils. Which oil provides the most?
a. Sunflower oil
b. Olive oil
c. Grapeseed oil
d. Safflower oil

Answer: a. You’ll find the most vitamin E, a nutrient needed for immune function and brain health, in sunflower oil – one tablespoon delivers 6 mg (adults need 15 mg daily). Safflower oil comes in second place (4.6 mg per tablespoon), followed by grapeseed oil (4 mg) and olive oil (2 mg).

How do your nutrition smarts rate?

Answer all of the questions to see your result
Excellent. You’ve earned an A+.
Not bad. Review your answers to see what need to brush up on.
Use National Nutrition Month to get informed about nutrition. Check out
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