Dried Beans, Weight Loss Supplements, White Spots on Fingernails

Dried Beans, Weight Loss Supplements, White Spots on Fingernails

Q: I’m concerned about your advice to eat more dried beans – aren’t they high-calorie?
Q: I heard that the FDA declared a lot of weight-loss supplements unsafe. What ingredients should I look for to check safety?
Q: Are little white spots on fingernails the sign of a nutritional deficiency?

Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: I’m concerned about your advice to eat more dried beans – aren’t they high-calorie?

A: Legumes (dry beans and peas) are higher in calories than an equal portion of vegetables like broccoli and peppers, but they may end up actually helping weight control. Here’s the key: Instead of simply adding dried beans to your diet, let them replace something else you’re currently eating. Identify foods you typically eat that supply calories without adding the nutrients you need. Or perhaps there are healthy foods that you eat in amounts beyond what you need. One half-cup of legumes contains about 110 to 150 calories. If you use beans to replace some of the meat in a casserole or part of a portion of white rice, you will not add extra calories to your meal. If including a hearty portion of dried beans in your soup or salad means that your meal now satisfies your hunger longer and you snack less afterward, your overall calorie consumption again stays even. You raise an important point: Just because a food is “healthy,” if it ends up causing undesirable weight gain it’s not protecting your health. But in the case of dried beans, the nutrients, fiber and compounds they provide are so valuable it’s worth looking for other foods they can replace.

Q: I heard that the FDA declared a lot of weight-loss supplements unsafe. What ingredients should I look for to check safety?

A: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identified 69 weight-loss supplements as illegal because they are tainted with active pharmaceutical ingredients that are not listed on product labels. According to U.S. laws, manufacturers are responsible for their products’ safety and for label information that is not misleading. In this case, the supplements in question are reportedly contaminated with pharmaceutical ingredients found in prescription medicines. These ingredients, when given in improper amounts or to the wrong person, can cause high blood pressure, palpitations, seizures, DNA damage, allergic reactions or other problems. To check whether a supplement is on the list of contaminated productsexternal site, go to the FDA website. But just because a supplement is not on this list or claims it is “natural” or “herbal” does not mean it is safe. Check with your health professional before you try any supplements. When it comes to weight-loss supplements, evidence is sparse that any non-prescription product is both safe and effective.

Q: Are little white spots on fingernails the sign of a nutritional deficiency?

A: No – stories circulate periodically suggesting that these spots indicate a lack of calcium, zinc or some other nutrient, but there is no evidence to support such contentions. White spots on fingernails reflect injury or forceful pressure on the nail, often occurring several months before you see the spot appear. Changes in our nails can reflect health problems or nutritional deficiencies, so if you see changes that concern you, don’t hesitate to discuss them with your physician. But those little white spots are almost sure to be insignificant.