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COL Get the skinny on nutrition by taking IQ test

I'm always amazed by what I know and don't know and how much I continue to learn about nutrition. But there are a few questions that come up over and over again when I talk to people about the pursuit of healthy living. Take the following nutrition and food IQ test and see how you do.

Q: Are seven-grain and multigrain breads better for you than 100 percent whole wheat?

A: Not necessarily. Sure, multigrain breads such as wheat, oat, barley, or seven-, 12- or 15-grain sound nutritionally impressive, but take a closer look at the food label. Most multigrain breads contain enriched wheat flour along with other grain flours -- basically a mixture of whole wheat and enriched flour with caramel coloring. This means they offer less fiber and lower amounts of other key nutrients, such as zinc and vitamin E. Plus, 100 percent whole grains have been associated with other health benefits, such as promoting weight loss (feeling full longer) and a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease.

Bread labeled "100 percent whole-grain" is made with flour that contains the entire grain kernel -- meaning it has the bran, the germ and endosperm -- making it higher in fiber. (White bread only has the endosperm.) So, even if the package is labeled "wheat" bread, you aren't necessarily getting 100 percent whole grains. Look at the first ingredient on the Nutrition Facts panel. If it isn't some sort of 100 percent whole grain, you are being shortchanged.

Q: Are brown eggs better than white eggs?

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A: This one used to get me -- I was surprised to learn that the shell color has nothing to do with nutritional content. The only thing that determines egg color is the type of chicken it came from.

Q: Is butter better than margarine?

A: Even though margarine is often made with heart-healthy oil (e.g. canola), it fell out of favor for a while because it contained unhealthy partially hydrogenated oil. Plus, margarine has about the same amount of calories (about 100 calories per tablespoon) as butter. But now, especially since butter is loaded with unhealthy saturated fat, margarine has made a huge comeback because many manufacturers have eliminated trans fat from their products. Stick margarine still has trans fat, but the other types, including many tubs and sprays, have managed to do without. Check the label for saturated fat content and "trans fat free" claims.

Q: Which is healthier -- white or dark meat chicken?

A: White meat chicken is lower in fat than dark meat. Skinless white meat is the leanest choice for poultry, followed by skinless dark meat and white meat with skin.

Q: Is honey better than brown sugar, and is brown sugar better than white?

A: There is really no nutritional advantage to using honey or brown sugar over other sweeteners. Ounce for ounce, the nutrient content of honey is similar to that of white sugar, raw sugar and brown sugar. Although some less-refined, more "natural" sugars may contain minerals, you would need to eat unreasonable amounts for them to make any meaningful contribution to your diet.

Q: Which one has the most fiber -- steak, skinless chicken breast, chicken breast with skin, or eggs?

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A: That's a trick question, because animal products contain practically no fiber. Only plant-based foods have fiber. Basically, the term fiber refers to carbohydrates that cannot be digested. Fiber is present in all plants, including fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes.

Charles Stuart Platkin is a syndicated health, nutrition and fitness columnist and founder of iWellness Solutions. He can be reached at info@dietdetective.com.

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