Q: I heard grapefruit interacts with certain medications. Is this true?
A: Yes. Unlike other citrus fruits, grapefruit interferes with the metabolism of a few dozen drugs (see partial list below). A chemical component within the fruit prohibits a certain digestive enzyme in the body from breaking down these medications. By continuing to consume grapefruit or grapefruit juice, you decrease the efficacy of the medication you’re on, and the drug itself can build up to dangerously high levels in the blood. Grapefruit should be fully avoided, as its effects wear off very slowly and are still evident 24 hours after consumption. Separating medicine and grapefruit by several hours will not prevent the drug-nutrient interaction. Having grapefruit once accidentally, most likely, will do no harm, but it’s advisable to switch to another type of fruit or fruit juice. The National Institutes of Health recommends not making any sudden diet changes, however, if you’ve always taken your medication with grapefruit. Speak to your doctor first, as your body may be accustomed to a certain level of the drug in your blood.
Avoid grapefruit and grapefruit products when taking the following:
- The high blood pressure/angina drugs Plendil and Procardia/Adalat
- The cholesterol-lowering agents Zocor, Lipitor and Mevacor
- The immunosuppressant medications Sandimmune and Rapamune
- The anti-anxiety/anti-insomnia drugs Valium, Halcion and Versed
- The neurological medications BuSpar, Zoloft and Tegretol
Note: This is not a complete list of medications that interact with grapefruit. Always check with your physician and/or pharmacist.
My previous post on understanding the food pyramid provided guidelines on how many servings from each food group should be consumed per day. Use that information, along with the tips below to make your diet as nutritious as possible.
|-Make half your daily grain choices whole grains.-Good sources: whole grain or whole wheat bread or pasta, oats, rye, barley, couscous
-Poor sources: enriched wheat flour (e.g. white bread), cookies, cakes, doughnuts
-When preparing mixed dishes, such as soups or stews, include whole grains such as barley or quinoa. Use whole grain bread crumbs in meatloaf and use whole wheat flour for up to half of the flour used in pancake, waffle and muffin recipes.
|-While 100% fruit juice counts towards daily fruit intake, try and limit consumption to less than ¾ cup per day (1.5 servings). Juice lacks the fiber that whole fruits provide.
-When selecting canned items, be sure the fruit is canned in 100% fruit juice or water, rather than syrup
|-While french fries technically count as a veggie, it’s important to mix it up! Be sure to also eat dark green and orange veggies, such as spinach, broccoli, carrots and squash.
|-Milk choices, including fluid milk, cottage cheese and yogurt, should be fat-free or low-fat.
-Foods made from milk that have little to no calcium, including cream cheese, cream and butter are not included in this group. Instead, they appear under “oils,” because of their fat content.
|Meats, poultry, fish, nuts
|-Choose lean or low-fat cuts and remember that preparation method matters! Baking or grilling a cutlet is a lot healthier than deep-frying it!-Wondering how many nuts make up ½ oz? It’s 12 almonds, 24 pistachios or 7 walnut halves.
-Good sources: beans, tofu, fish, chicken without skin, eggs, lean meat, peanut butter, seeds
-Poor sources: baked beans, fried eggs, sausages, spare ribs
-Eat fish at least twice a week and select fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout and herring.
-Organ meats, including liver, as well as egg yolks are high in cholesterol, but egg whites are cholesterol-free!
-Processed meats, such as ham, sausage, hot dogs and deli meats are high in sodium, so limit your intake.
||-It’s best to steer clear of solid fats, like butter and lard, because solid fats are high in trans fat and saturated fat, which increase your risk for heart disease. Instead, use liquid fats, such as canola, corn and olive oils. (Note: coconut and palm kernel are the two oils high in saturated fat and should be used sparingly.)
-When choosing margarine to purchase, look for one with zero grams trans fat.
Q: How do I interpret the USDA’s food pyramid? What are appropriate portions for each food group?
A: The food pyramid consists of six major categories: grains, fruits, vegetables, meat & beans, milk and oils. The guidelines below are based on a diet containing roughly 2,000 calories per day – enough for the average adult. By visiting MyPyramid.gov, you can create a personal food pyramid and menu plan! Try keeping a food diary for a day or two and see how your diet matches up to the following recommendations. Then you’ll be able make substitutions and adjustments where necessary.
||Single Serving Size
|Grains – 6 servings per day
||1 slice of bread = ¼ typical bagel = ½ English muffin = 1 cup of cereal = ½ cup cooked oatmeal, rice or pasta = ¼ cup granola
|Fruit – 4 servings per day
||½ cup fruit slices = 1 medium-sized banana/apple/peach = ¼ cup dried fruit = ½ cup fruit juice
|Vegetables – 5 servings per day
||½ cup cooked veggies = ½ cup raw veggies = ½ cup vegetable juice = ½ cup legumes = 1 cup raw, leafy greens (e.g. spinach, lettuce)
Note: Legumes will also appear in the meat group because of their high protein content, but technically, they are vegetables.
|Dairy – 3 servings per day
||1 cup (8 fl oz) milk = 2 oz processed cheese (e.g. American) = 1 cup yogurt = 1.5 oz natural cheese (e.g. cheddar, mozzarella)
|Meats, poultry, fish, nuts – 6 servings per day
||1 oz lean meat, chicken or fish = 1 slice of deli meat = 1 egg = ¼ cup legumes or tofu = 1 tbsp peanut butter = ½ oz nuts or seeds
|Oils – 6 servings per day
||1 tsp oil = 1 tbsp mayonnaise = 2 tbsp light salad dressing = 1 tsp margarine