Questions and Answers for Nutrition

Whole grain foods provide energy, a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals and dietary fiber. All of these nutrients are vital for the health and maintenance of our bodies.

Whole Grains Contain Several Nutrients:

  • Dietary fiber-  helps reduce blood cholesterol levels, may lower risk of heart disease, helps reduce constipation and diverticulosis, and helps provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories. Whole grains are good sources of dietary fiber, but most refined (processed) grains contain little fiber.
  • Thiamin (vitamin B1)-  helps produce energy from carbohydrates in all body cells.
  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2)-  helps produce energy in all body cells, and helps change tryptophan, an amino acid, into niacin.
  • Niacin (a B vitamin)-  helps the body use sugars and fatty acids, helps enzymes function normally in the body, and help produce energy in all body cells.
  • Folate (folic acid)  helps the body form red blood cells, and is important during pregnancy to reduce a woman’s risk of having a baby with a spinal cord or brain defect.***
  • Iron  carries oxygen in the blood and reduces risk of iron-deficiency anemia.
  • Magnesium  builds bones and releases energy from muscles.
  • Selenium  protects cells from oxidation and helps build a healthy immune system.
  • Phytochemicals  help protect against diseases, serve as antioxidants, detoxifiers, immune boosters and anti-inflammatories. Inflammation plays a major role in heart attacks, some cancers, allergies, Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune diseases.

Reference Link-Dietary Guidelines


2.  When I drain and rinse canned beans, how much do I reduce the sodium content?

 In a study done at the Institute of Technologies in 2009, sodium was reduced by 36% after draining, and by 41% after draining and rinsing for a variety of brands and types of canned beans

Reference Link- Beans


3.  The nurse in my district has been asking me to provide carbohydrate information for students who are diabetic for the new products on our menus.  When I look at the product CN labels & nutritional analysis, I noticed that there is a number for “sugars” and a different one for “total carbohydrate”.  I am confused.   What information does she need? Help! She keeps calling!

You are not alone; many people (including people with diabetes) are confused by this.  The answer is easily located on all nutrition labels, including CN labels. “Carbohydrate Counting” is a common technique used by people with diabetes to help control their blood sugar (glucose).  Blood glucose is the basic fuel our bodies use.  Carbohydrates are broken down to glucose by our bodies.  How much a person needs depends on several factors; how active they are, their body composition and life cycle stage.  Growing children are frequently more difficult to manage as diabetics because their daily needs often vary a great deal.  Diabetics are allotted a certain amount of carbohydrate at meals and snacks by their M.D. or R.D. (registered dietitian).   Knowing how much carbohydrate is in the foods that they eat and then “counting” them up throughout the day (at each meal or snack consumed) helps them better manage their blood sugar, reducing the complications of diabetes.  Because diabetes can be a potentially life threatening disease, accurate reporting of carbohydrates is crucial.


Carbohydrates are found in many foods but are highest in starchy foods (like bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, dried beans, corn and cereal), fruits and juice and some dairy products (like milk and yogurt).  

Foods that are lower in carbohydrate include: non-starchy vegetables (like lettuce and tomatoes) and foods that are higher in protein (like chicken, beef, fish and cheese)

Carbohydrate come in different forms, often called complex carbohydrates or simple sugars but ALL carbohydrates can affect a diabetic’s blood sugar.

THE BOTTOM LINE:   Locate the term “Total Carbohydrate” on the label and provide that number to the nurse who contacted you.  Many districts find it helpful to regularly list and distribute this information to their districts. 

Reference Links: USDA / Labeling ~ FDA / Inspection Guides ~ Diabetes Food / Menu Planning


4.  What's Healthier and/or less expensive: fresh, canned or frozen fruits and vegetables?

It depends on season and food item. Frozen & canned are processed at their nutritional peak, preserving nutrients.  Use fresh as often as possible to get all the natural nutrition from the product.  However, if it is off-season, frozen or canned varieties may have more nutrients because of the time passed from harvest to table when produce is imported from other parts of the world.  So the key is variety, eat lots of different colors, and choose fresh when in season.