Heather Martin, registered dietician, leads a nutrition seminar open to the public Jan. 17 at the San Marcos Public Library.
The tangy taste of kale, the creamy texture of yogurt and the pungent aroma of oranges: all foods that, blended together, may make great smoothies.
They are also considered to be “super” by registered and licensed clinical dietitian Heather Martin, who shared her knowledge of nutrition at last week’s presentation at the San Marcos Public Library.
“Superfoods: The Good, the Bad & The Uglifruit” was Martin’s first presentation on nutrition at the public library, although she has spoken on the topic at other locations in town. The Texas State alumna believes it is beneficial for San Marcos residents to be educated about what they consume so they can be more health conscious.
“You don’t have to feel like you have to eat a lot of weird food,” Martin said.
San Marcos resident Jeannette Young attended Martin’s presentation because she is interested in eating healthy foods.
Young said she was surprised that artificial sweeteners used in colas might not have any adverse side effects. What may make colas bad for a person’s health is the phosphoric acid content, an agent that gives colas a distinctive tangy flavor and is commonly used for rust removal, Martin said.
For those who just cannot shake caffeine, Martin recommended black tea for its anti-cancer compounds or coffee, which may reduce depression and diabetes.
“There’s so much publicity that you really don’t know what you can believe,” Young said. “So, I decided I wanted to come listen to somebody who had an education and was going to be honest about it, and she was.”
Other foods that Martin deemed “bad” included farmed or Atlantic salmon because the fish are usually fed meal from Asia, which may be polluted with toxic polychlorinated biphenyl.
Instead, Martin recommended wild-caught salmon and sardines, which she said are low in contaminants.
According to the American Heart Association, fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, essential fatty acids not made in the body, which may benefit heart health. The association recommends eating two servings of fish per week.
Black tea made from bags may also have positive health benefits, but Martin said bottled drinks typically have low antioxidant levels and high sugar content.
Martin considered microwave popcorn to be one of the worst foods someone can have in their home because of a potentially toxic airborne chemical called diacetyl that is used in the butter flavoring of some company’s products.
A healthy and less expensive alternative to microwave popcorn is to place kernels in a plain brown bag, roll the top down to seal and microwave, she said.
To some audience members’ surprise, Martin included rice and sunflower seeds in her discussion of “good” foods that may have a positive effect on a person’s health.
Martin recommended that people who have high cholesterol eat the antioxidant-rich red rice with the approval of their doctor.
As an alternative to peanut butter, Martin said she and her child, who is allergic to nuts, enjoy SunButter, a brand of sunflower seed spread.
Martin’s presentation debunked myths about presumably healthy foods such as the vegan staple packaged tofu, which can have a high aluminum content associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
The presentation also reinforced positive health habits, such as reading and researching product labels and starting a personal garden, for attendees.
Martin said the biggest misconception about healthy eating is that it is expensive. She considers the cost of the food item, the taste and how difficult it is to wash when deciding whether or not to purchase a product labeled organic at a higher cost.
“Include different things in your diet. Don’t get hung up on which one is the very best lettuce. Just eat different lettuces,” Martin said. “Variation is far more important than any single food group you could be adding. So, if you don’t like it, I don’t want you to eat it.”