Health & Fitness

Take this quiz, and think hard about the choices. There may be any number of true, false, or borderline answers; that’s part of the challenge.

  1. Soy:
      A. Helps protect against breast and prostate cancer.
      B. Reduces menopausal hot flashes.
      C. Is a common, tasty substitute for those awful carbs.
      D. Lowers cholesterol.
      E. Sauce is a healthy addition to oriental stir frys.
      F. Is cheap insurance against several health problems.
  2. The right oils (fats) are vital to any healthy diet. Is olive oil is the best?
      A. It is the healthiest commonly available oil.
      B. But canola oil is a close second.
      C. No, peanut is best for stir fry, because it remains stable at stir fry temps.
      D. Just buy olive and canola oil and forget the rest.
      E. Add walnut oil to your diet, mainly over bread, for its Omega 3 oils.
      F. Any oil low in sat fats is heart-healthy. Use whichever you like best as long as you don’t get fat on them.
  3. The ubiquitous vitamin C.
      A. Don’t do squat unless you’re deficient in it.
      B. Shortens colds by a few sneezes.
      C. Cuts the number of colds by 20-40%.
      D. Is pretty good, cheap insurance against colds at 1,000 mg daily, especially in the winter.
      F. should come from food rather than supplements.
  4. High blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.
      A. One in five U.S. adults has near-diabetic blood sugar levels, largely due to overeating.
      B. 10% of us are on the verge of joining the 25% with high blood pressure, often reversible by losing weight.
      C. The acceptable limits of triglycerides, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and HDL (good) cholesterol are being relaxed as we learn more about other, more important cardiovascular disease markers such as C-reactive protein.
      D. A few doddering months added to the end of our lives is not worth a lifetime on tofu and celery.
  5. Did you gain enough weight over the holidays to worry about?
      A. Yes. Five pounds is significant.
      B. No, because I’ll work it off.
      C. No. I was a good girl and nibbled lightly, for my health. I lost three pounds.
      D. A few doddering months added to the end of our lives is not worth a lifetime on tofu and celery.
  6. Exercise, pollution, and aging produce free radicals, which promote cancer. Antioxidants help neutralize the free radicals. Should we get our antioxidants from organic vs synthetic vs food sources?
      A. Organic is generally the best source of most of our nutrition.
      B. Synthetic is fine as long as the source is reliable.
      C. Eat food, man . . . we need the whole package as Mother Nature designed it, so the lesser micronutrients complement the major ones.
      D. Some antioxidants assimilate best from supplements, others from food, which lets us balance the oils, carbs, dairy, and meats our individual diets allow or forbid.
      E. This whole antioxidant theory is a crock.
      F. Wrong. Antioxidants do help prevent, maybe even reverse, cancers and heart disease, and any source is better than none.
  7. High fiber.
      A. It helps old people stay regular.
      B. It helps prevent colon cancer by reducing the transit time of carcinogens.
      C. It makes our daily lives simpler.
      D. It’s a natural component of a healthy diet.
      E. Does nothing for colon cancer, but helps prevent cardiovascular disease.
      F. Discourages constipation, constipation and diverticulosis.
      G. Plentiful in salads.
      H. Great stuff, but tastes too healthy.
  8. Milk . . . and cancer, calcium, colds, mucus, and singing/speaking.
      A. The extra mucus milk generates makes colds more bothersome,
      B. And interferes with clear singing or speaking.
      C. It’s a good source of calcium, which we all need more of.
      D. The recommended levels are about right.
  9. E. coli: nuisance or real danger?
      A. It won’t kill us, but it might make some people wish they were dead for a couple of days.
      B. Cooking meat until the pink is gone and the juice is clear kills E. coli.
      C. Pasteurization is a necessary precaution for milk, juice, and cider, but
      D. Rinsing veggies is sufficient, but sprouts require thorough scrubbing for protection.
  10. Obesity.
      A. Is second only to smoking as our number one killer.
      B. Has MANY causes, some purely medical and thus unmanageable by calorie control.
      C. Is not a big health risk if we exercise enough to keep our cardiovascular system fit.
      D. Just a 20% change in weight can significantly alter health risks.
      E. Is so prevalent in the U.S. that cruise ship furniture is collapsing as ships leave U.S. ports.

    All this and much more comes from the December issue of the Nutrition Action Healthletter, which you can contact at This consumer-advocacy food safety research institute is such a threat to junk food purveyors that some of them hijacked the CSPI website a couple of years ago; clicking on cspinet sent us to a very extensive anti-CSPI web site called cspinut . . . a testimony to the threat the CSPI poses to them.

    Let’s see the answers. Never mind the score; knowledge is the issue.

    1. Only D is true. Soy doesn’t do much else, consumers complain about its taste and texture, the right carbs are very healthy, soy sauce is mostly salt, and although cheap, there’s no proof it provides any insurance.
    2. D & E combined pretty well sum it up, and F isn’t too far off. Canola is the healthiest because it’s lowest in sat fats, and takes wok heat better than olive oil. It has little taste, so it can substitute for butter in many recipes and works on salads. Peanut oil is highly heat-resistant and thus stable in a hot wok, walnut can’t handle the heat of cooking, and olive is good in many ways, especially on bread. We get too much of most of the other oils in commercial foods, so we don’t need to buy them.
    3. It may shorten a cold by half a day, but does little else, so only A and B are true.
    4. A. Fully 40% -- two in five – of us are near- (pre-) diabetic, and losing just 10 pounds can prevent sliding into full-fledged diabetes.
      B. True.
      C. Ack-basswards. The acceptable levels are tightening; they were too generous.
      D. We don’t have to give up great eating to stay healthy and vigorous decades longer. Simplistically, just subtract the original Atkins diet from your shopping list and eat hearty. You know the drill: whole grains, vegetables, fruit, some low-fat dairy, plenty of fish, some poultry (sans skin), and a little lean red meat now and then. The primary foods non-diabetics need to minimize or avoid are saturated fat, trans fat, junk food including refined breads, and simply too many calories. Do that, and with any luck, we’ll die on the tennis court at 82 rather than in a hospital ward at 55.
    5. A. We typically gain one pound.
      B. No, we don’t. Thus each year’s pound is important after 10-20 years.
      C. Unless you’re overweight and working hard to shed it, you’re anorexic. Get help.
      See 4D.
    6. Of the whole entry, including premise and choices, E is most true, with C a close second in general. Each new antioxidant test so far blows more holes into the antioxidant theory.
    7. A. Yes . . . and everyone else, regardless of age. If a bowel movement isn’t a quick, effortless, pleasure, you probably need more fiber.
      B. False.
      C. True. See A.
      D. True.
      E. True, especially of whole grains.
      F. True.
      G. False. Whole grains, beans, and many fruits have far more fiber.
      H. Are you kidding? Some of the tastiest foods are high in fiber.
    8. Only D is true, and men in particular should avoid consuming more than the recommended 1,500 mg because it may promote prostate cancer.
    9. A is a whopper. Its lucky victims merely get bloody diarrhea and stomach cramps. 5% die, a third suffer severe symptoms for years, and 8% have extreme lifelong disability.
      B. Only a thermometer knows whether E. coli is dead.
      C. True.
      D. Not sufficient, especially of foreign produce, and we know of no way to clean sprouts of E. coli. Wash the veggies well, and the infirm or very cautious may want to avoid sprouts altogether.
    10. A. That announced was based on a government error. But substitute “cancer cause” for “killer” and it’s true.
      B. Nope. It’s still about calories.
      C. Sorry. Obesity causes a huge list of deadly and/or crippling problems.
      D. It takes just a 10% change, either way, to effect a significant health change.
      E. True.
    Regardless of your score, you win if this quiz improves your eating habits.