White Foods: Worthy or Worrisome?

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White Foods: Worthy or Worrisome?

By PAMALA SUTER, MS, RD, CDE

Many of us are trying to live healthier lifestyles, whether by quitting smoking, exercising more or eating a healthier diet. But with so many different diets and health tips to choose from, it’s natural to be confused about which one is best for you.

One diet that has gained popularity recently is avoiding white-colored foods. Calls to avoid white foods may have started as a way to encourage people to limit refined carbohydrates. We know that many low-nutrient, high-calorie foods are made with white sugar and flour, including baked goods, sugary sodas and sports drinks. But the color of the food alone does not automatically qualify the food as “junk.”   For example, if you follow the no-white-foods eating plan, you would eliminate parsnips, white fish, onions, cabbage, white beans, cauliflower, milk, cottage cheese and many other foods that are usually not processed, low in calories and are packed with important vitamins and minerals

For several years, the nutritional spotlight has been focused on “rainbow” foods. The more color the food has the better, and there are multiple studies that show the health benefits of blueberries, tomatoes and other brightly colored fruits and vegetables. For this reason, people should try to eat the colors of the rainbow every day. The flip side, that foods lacking in color are bad for you, does not always hold true.

While some white foods should be avoided or eaten sparingly, many others can be nutritious additions to a healthy diet. Remember that no matter what color the food is, if appropriate cooking, preparation techniques and serving sizes are not adhered to, that food will not be a good choice.

Avoid or limit these

White sugar

White flour

White rice

White pasta

Cream (especially with added sugar)

Whipped cream

Cream- or fat-based white salad dressings or spreads

Salt

But don’t rule these out

Cottage, goat, mozzarella, Swiss, feta and ricotta cheeses (look for low-fat versions)

Greek-style yogurt (look for low-fat, low-sugar versions)

Low-fat dairy products

Plain yogurt

Unsweetened, low-fat nondairy milks, such as soy milk

Beans (garbanzo, chickpeas, cannellini, great northern)

Cabbage

Cauliflower

Celery root

Coleslaw (prepared with a low-fat dressing)

Daikon

Garlic

Jicama

Mushrooms

Onions

Parsnips

Rutabaga

Sprouts

Turnips

Water chestnuts

White-fleshed fruits (apples, bananas, pears)

White-fleshed vegetables (cucumber, radishes, summer squash)

Pamala Suter, MS, RD, CDE, is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center’s Lifestyle Center.  For more information, call 757-312-6132 or visit www.chesapeakeregional.com.

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