Health check: Why it’s important to ask an expert about nutrition

They call her “Dr. Quinn, Nutrition Woman” — even though she’s not a doctor — because of the Western TV show.

  • Wednesday, April 14, 2021 4:41pm
  • Life

I’ve been called a lot of names in my day: “Nutri-bird.” “The Diet Lady.” “Dr. Quinn, Nutrition Woman.” (I’m not a doctor, but that didn’t matter to one of my clients.)

Nutrition professionals identify themselves with credentials. They are RD or RDN — which stands for registered dietitian or registered dietitian nutritionist, repsectively.

Both designate experts who have earned degrees in nutrition or a related field from accredited colleges and universities. These men and women have gone on to complete an internship and/or advanced studies and passed an intense registration exam. Many states also have licensing requirements for nutritional professionals.

Why is this important? Because nutrition is a science. And if we’re going to trust information about how substances in food influence our health, we need to hear it from someone who understands the complexities of this process and can translate it into personal advice.

Nutrition is also a practical science. And here’s what’s interesting: All the intricacies we’ve discovered about how the human body uses nutrients often point to simple, basic truths.

It reminds me of a patient I had several years ago. He listened thoughtfully as we spent a lengthy amount of time on ways he could improve his diet.

Finally, he said, “I think I get it. It’s all about moderation.”

I heard that thought echoed in a recent letter from Marty, a reader in Oregon who tells me he worked in the produce and grocery business for 45 years.

“I saw a lot of what people put in their shopping baskets,” he writes. “Especially the 80-plus shoppers. Nutrition is not rocket science, they inform me,” he continued. “It’s — drum roll, please — everything in moderation. A little bit of this and a little bit of that. Like an apple a day or a little glass of wine. Or what great-grandma knew best … roughage keeps things moving.”

Indeed, it’s fascinating how research can often confirm what our mothers told us all along.

Another reader, Ruth E., asks for clarification on the “certified Angus beef” label. She writes, in part, “In the past, beef sold in stores has been labeled, usually with the USDA choice grade. Today I am seeing some beef with ‘certified angus beef’ on the label. I spoke with a butcher who said this can mean select grade beef is being sold under this label. Could you see if this is legal? Does a beef grade need to be put on labels?”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, all meat is inspected for wholesomeness. But the assignment of a grade (prime, choice or select) — which is a determination of the product’s tenderness — is voluntary.

Meat that carries the “certified Angus beef” label must be graded, however, because only beef that grades “choice” or “prime” (and comes from black-hided cattle typical of the Angus breed) can qualify as “certified Angus beef.” Select grades don’t make the cut for this particular label.

Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition.”Email her at

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