Chia seeds or flax? Almonds or walnuts? Turkey burger or sirloin? Many people form misguided opinions about the virtues of one food over another based on media reports or hearsay. Oftentimes, there's no clear winner. I've dug up the facts on several foods, so that you can decide for yourself.
Chia seeds vs. Flax seeds
Nutritionally, ounce for ounce they are quite similar. Chia seeds have 139 calories, 8.7 grams total fat, 10.7 grams fiber, and 4.4 grams protein. Flax seeds have 140 calories, 9 grams total fat, 7 grams fiber and 6 grams protein. Both are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, with flax coming in slightly ahead. Chia seeds don't have to be ground to unlock their nutrients, whereas flax seeds do. You can cook with both to add extra nutrients to a recipe. Chia seeds' slightly higher fiber content will keep you fuller longer—and that's why I prefer to sprinkle them on my morning oatmeal. As for taste, both have minimal to none in my opinion.
Almonds vs. Walnuts
First off, I'm a big fan of all nuts. But my patients seem to favor almonds and walnuts. Per 1-ounce serving, walnuts have 190 calories, 4 grams protein, 18 grams total fat, and 2 grams fiber, while almonds have 123 calories (new research confirmed this amount vs. the 160 calories previously thought), 6 grams protein, 14 grams total fat, and 4 grams fiber. Compared to almonds, walnuts are higher in alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid, the plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acids required by the human body, and in antioxidants. Whole almonds are higher in vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Either can be enjoyed as a topping on salad, yogurt, or cereal, or simply on their own as a snack.
Russet potato vs. Sweet potato
First, let's set the record straight: Potatoes have a place in a healthy diet. I can't tell you how many people believe the opposite. (Caveat: If you load them with high-fat toppings and fry not bake 'em, that's another story.) Now, for the comparison: A simple, 6-ounce russet potato has 189 calories, .17 grams fat, and 4.2 grams fiber, while the same size sweet potato has 214 calories, .19 grams fat, and 7.1 grams fiber. Besides having a little more fiber, the sweet potato is rich in beta-carotene, which may help boost immunity and protect against certain cancers. Both potatoes are rich in potassium, vitamin C, and many other vitamins and minerals. I think it ultimately comes down to taste, with the sweet potato being, well, sweeter than the simple baked.
Sirloin burger vs. Turkey burger
My patients seem to think that choosing turkey over beef is automatically healthier. Not always. In fact, depending on the cut of beef, a turkey burger can have more fat. Four ounces of ground sirloin, a lean cut, packs 212 calories, 7.4 grams total fat, 2.8 grams saturated fat, and 34.2 grams protein, while 4 ounces of ground turkey has 168 calories, 9.3 grams total fat, 2.5 grams saturated, and 19.7 grams protein. In order to reduce the fat, ground turkey breast needs to be used. But that's not always within your control: Restaurants often make turkey burgers with dark meat and skin that's been ground—not with ground breast meat. To ensure you're making the healthiest choice, ask what type of meat they use—ground chuck is the fattiest beef cut—and pass on the extras, like cheese and bacon.
Acai Berries vs. Blueberries
Believe what you read on the Internet, and you might think acai berries are some kind of miracle food, far surpassing any other berry nutrition-wise. Acai berries are packed with antioxidants; however, blueberries are among the highest antioxidant containing fruit available. Both are also rich in minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, iron, and magnesium. This is one comparison, though, that I can easily make a decision on. I vote blueberries. Not because they're healthier, but because they're grown locally, whereas acai berries must be imported from another country. Not only does that hike up the price of acai berries, but think about the effect their transportation has on our environment.
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Keri Gans, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian, media personality, spokesperson, and author of The Small Change Diet. Gans's expert nutrition advice has been featured in Glamour, Fitness, Health, Self and Shape, and on national television and radio, including The Dr. Oz Show, Good Morning America, ABC News, Primetime, and Sirius/XM Dr. Radio.