Follow the Science NOT the Fad
I know it’s hard when your best friend starts a diet, is looking great, and you really want to follow her directions. But, what works for one person may or may not work for someone else. There are so many nutrition myths out there that send people down a scattered path. Just because the juice fast helped her lose 7 pounds this week (just wait to see those pounds return) doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
That’s where I draw the line – your health!
And with all the misinformation, especially great marketing campaigns trying to sell products, it’s really difficult to understand what it means to eat healthy. There really aren’t “good” foods or “bad” foods (there’s some exceptions, like hydrogenated oils, but luckily, with good science more of these have been banned or at least require labeling now). But, it’s more simplistic to label foods good or bad so “rules” can be created regarding what you “should” or “shouldn’t” eat. Yet research seldom supports these “rules” . . . and neither should you.
Here’s common nutrition myths to ignore:
Nutrition Myth #1: Eating eggs will raise your cholesterol level.
I’m sure you’ve heard this one. Eggs were a staple for American breakfasts and then suddenly the cholesterol in the yolks was going to kill us all. This isn’t based on science. Dietary cholesterol does not raise your blood cholesterol levels. Dietary cholesterol has almost no effect on your cholesterol levels.
There are foods that can affect your cholesterol levels such as hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated fats. So, skip the processed and fried foods and you’ll avoid the foods that increase your cholesterol. Stick with whole foods and you don’t have to worry.
Nutrition Myth #2: Gluten-free diets are healthier.
Marketing professionals have done a great job jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon. A few years ago it was difficult to find gluten-free products at grocery stores and now there are entire sections dedicated to processed foods with the label gluten-free.
While gluten-free diets are necessary for anyone with celiac disease, they may also be helpful for those that have an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten or people with certain cancer markers (like me). And, I’ve certainly had clients that while in the United States suffered with issues from wheat and while in Europe were able to eat wheat without issues. So, there is some degree of truth for sensitive individuals since America does not regulate agriculture that same what European countries do.
But, from a strictly nutritional standpoint, a gluten-free diet isn’t necessarily healthier, especially if using processed foods in place of whole goods. Many gluten-free products are higher in sugar and use refined flours including genetically modified corn. If someone isn’t sensitive to gluten, a wheat version of food may actually be healthier with fewer ingredients. The more the food is processed, the less healthy it is.
Nutrition Myth #3: Choose low fat or non-fat dairy because dairy raises your risk of heart disease.
Fat does not make you fat! The 90’s made everyone believe that low-fat was the answer. Full-fat dairy has no correlation to heart disease according to research. In truth, I questioned the research over a decade ago but big money played a role in determining what was considered “healthy” (and to some extent it still does but that’s for another day). As far back as the 1950’s research was showing that an appropriate about of healthy fat was good for our health.
In fact, choosing full-fat dairy, in moderation, over non-fat diary has indicated lower obesity rates. The working hypothesis is that this occurs because fat is filling and satiating so people feel fuller and end up eating fewer calories during the day.
Obviously this isn’t a license to sit down to pint of ice cream though. Again, little is truly “good” or “bad”, so within a proper diet a small serving of ice cream may be the wonderful satisfying dessert you need to feel great and stay within your goals.
Which brings me to my least favorite nutrition myth:
Nutrition Myth #4: All calories are created equal.
I won’t belabor this BS as I’ve written about it before. But, nutritionally speaking, a calorie isn’t just a calorie. Yes, a calorie is a very specific, scientific measurement (the energy needed to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water one degree Celsius is a calorie), so it that way a calorie is a just a calorie. But, again, we’re talking health here.
Foods have specific macronutrients and micronutrients that have different effects on health. There’s simple examples such as protein requiring more energy to metabolize and hot peppers boosting metabolism affecting the rate at which calories burn. But, more importantly are the micronutrients in foods and how the body can use those calories.
Just try and live on a diet of Nutter Butters and see how good you feel. Okay, please don’t try that, but just think about it. Now eat the same number of calories in whole foods – eggs for breakfast, salad for lunch, meat and veggies for dinner, maybe some of that full-fat ice cream for dessert. Whole foods have the micronutrients your body needs – processed foods don’t. So the same number of calories of each won’t give you the energy you need or the health you desire.
The real solution is to serious question what you read. Look if there are studies, where did they come from, and who paid for the research. Nutrition claims can be murky. Understanding it all is my full-time occupation after multiple degrees and I still sometimes struggle to find the truth. If something seems like it doesn’t make sense, keep searching. Remember to think for yourself.
In the end, there is no one right way to eat for all people. When in doubt, check with your practitioner; hopefully they’re spending some amount of time keeping up with the constantly evolving science.