Food Fight! A Healthy Food Face-Off

by Matthew Kadey, MS, RD on Nov 25, 2014

As a dietitian, I’m a vociferous proponent of both strawberries and raspberries. You see, reams of studies are proving that berries are at the top of the functional-fruit heap, deliciously promoting wellness with a huge wallop of antioxidants. But what if you had to fret over choosing just one? After all, many people have a limited food budget. So it’s important to learn which similarly healthy foods can give you the most nutritional bang for your buck. That’s why we put together this health food face-off to suss out the edibles that soar above the rest.

The Contenders: Goat Milk vs. Cow Milk

Each great white is a good source of protein and vitamin D, but the horned variety of milk may have a leg up on its moo juice counterpart in other areas. A study published in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis found that under similar rearing conditions, goat milk provides higher levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fats as well as the bone-building minerals calcium, magnesium and phosphorus than cow’s milk (Ceballos et al. 2009). Why? Well, goat milk contains a higher solid-to-liquid ratio, so it has a better chance of being more nutrient-dense. Some people also find goat milk easier to digest because differences in its protein structure make it lower in a casein protein that can cause stomach woes. However, both milks have similar lactose content.

The winner: goat milk

The Contenders: Almond Butter vs. Peanut Butter

It might be time for a splurge in the nut-butter aisle. Compared with the peanut spread, almond butter has a bit less saturated fat but twice as much monounsaturated fat. A large review of studies published in the journal Food & Nutrition Research found that replacing some of the saturated fat in our diets with monounsaturated fat can improve blood cholesterol numbers, making almond butter a heart-healthy spread for your toast (Schwab et al. 2014). Almond butter also bests its peanut counterpart for the bone-strengthening minerals calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, and has three times more of the antioxidant vitamin E. In the spirit of fair play, however, peanut butter does deliver higher levels of protein.

The winner: almond butter

The Contenders: Raspberries vs. Strawberries

You really can’t go wrong with any berries from a nutritional standpoint, but say you’re off to a deserted island and need to choose just one rosy berry to take along for nourishment. Well, you may want to grab several pints of raspberries. Food scientists at Cornell University found that raspberries have a higher antioxidant activity than strawberries (Wolfe et al. 2008). This means they may do a better job at mopping up those cell-damaging free radicals that can instigate diseases like cancer. While strawberries have about twice as much vitamin C, raspberries deliver three times more dietary fiber, which more Americans struggle to get enough of. You’ll also benefit from a larger dose of vitamin K, which a 2014 Journal of Nutrition study found to slash the risk of mortality from cardiovascular and other diseases when consumed in higher amounts (Juanola-Falgarona et al. 2014).

The winner: raspberries

The Contenders: Broccoli vs. Cauliflower

President George Bush Sr. may have expressed disdain for broccoli, but few vegetables can top it nutritionally. Compared with its pale cruciferous counterpart, broccoli has twice as much vitamin C and six times more vitamin K. Broccoli also supplies much more beta-carotene, which the body can convert to vitamin A to bolster immune and eye health. The verdant florets are also richer in sulforaphane, a powerful phytochemical with cancer-fighting efficacy.

The winner: Broccoli

The Contenders: Hemp Seeds vs. Flax Seeds

Also called hemp hearts, the seeds of the hemp plant (not the same as marijuana) make most other seeds look like nutritional featherweights. For starters, hemp seeds contain about 70 percent more protein than flax does, making them a great choice for active bodies. They also supply higher amounts of a range of nutrients including energy-boosting iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and manganese. Best of all, you don’t have to grind hemp seeds into a powder like you do with flax to absorb its nutritional bounty.

The winner: hemp seeds

The Contenders: Beef Tenderloin vs. Pork Tenderloin

Not only does pork tenderloin often come with a sticker price that is much easier to swallow, “the other white meat” contains just as much protein but less than half the saturated fat, making it a leaner choice for the dinner table. An added bonus is an extra bit of selenium, an antioxidant found to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in the journal Diabetes Care (Park et al. 2012).

The winner: pork tenderloin

The Contenders: Honey vs. Maple Syrup

All sweeteners are best consumed in moderation, but when you need to add sweetness to plain yogurt or a batch of muffins, it’s a better idea to go with more natural options like maple syrup or honey. But consider reaching for tree goo more often. Maple syrup has about 20% fewer calories than the bee sugar, plus recent studies show maple syrup, particularly darker grades, contains unique antioxidants (Singh et al. 2014). But remember, maple-flavored corn syrup is no way to adorn your pancakes.

The winner: maple syrup

PHOTOGRAPHY: trpnblies7

References

Ceballos, L.S., et al. 2009. Composition of goat and cow milk produced under similar conditions and analyzed by identical methodology. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 22 (4), 322-329.

Juanola-Falgarona, M., et al. 2014. Dietary Intake of Vitamin K Is Inversely Associated with Mortality Risk. Journal of Nutrition, 144 (5), 743-50.

Park, K., et al. Toenail selenium and incidence of type 2 diabetes in U.S. men and women. Diabetes Care, 35 (7), 1,544-1551.

Schwab, U., et al. 2014. Effect of the amount and type of dietary fat on cardiometabolic risk factors and risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer: a systematic review. Food & Nutrition Research, 58.

Singh, A.S., et al. 2014. Variation and correlation of properties in different grades of maple syrup. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 69 (1), 50-56.

Wolfe, K.L., et al. 2008. Cellular antioxidant activity of common fruits. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 56 (18), 8,418-8,426.

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About the Author

Matthew Kadey,  MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD IDEA Author/Presenter

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award-winning journalist, Canada-based dietitian, freelance nutrition writer and recipe developer. He has written for dozens of magazines including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Vegetarian Times and Fitness.