5 Nutrition Myths Dietitians Wish You Would Just Forget
In today’s tech-saavy world, the amount of nutrition information on the internet is endless! In fact, when you type “Healthy Food” into the Google search bar nearly 12 billion hits come up…that can be overwhelming for anyone! It’s hard to know information is factual. Keep reading on to learn more about fact vs. fiction and how to identify reliable internet resources for future use.
Fiction: “Want to lose weight? Then don’t eat carbs or fruit.”
Fact: It is important to understand just what carbohydrates do for us. Carbs are the bodies quick source of energy. When we consume them through foods such as grains, starchy veggies, and fruits we break them down into natural sugars that can then be used as energy. Carbs such as grains and starchy veggies breakdown into a natural sugar called glucose. Fruits breakdown into a natural sugar called fructose. Our body, especially our brain and muscles, requires glucose for energy. In fact, our body has systems to breakdown, create, and produce glucose when we don’t eat enough starchy foods. While fruit contains natural sugar, it also contains fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants our bodies need to function optimally. However, not all sugar is created equal. Added sugars, are often found in processed foods like sweetened drinks (soda, fruit punch), dessert foods (candy, cakes, cookies, pies), sweetened dairy foods (ice cream, flavored yogurt and milk), and sweetened grain foods (cereals, instant-oatmeal). Whenever possible, when you want something sweet to eat, select fresh, frozen, and canned fruit without added sugar. Aim for 1-2 cups of fruit per day. Click here to see what the American Heart Association has to say about added sugars.
Fiction: “Everyone should go keto.”
Fact: Building off the “carbs are bad” myth, we should probably talk about the Keto-diet as it continues to be all the rage right now. Keto is essentially a high fat, moderate protein, and very low carb diet. The main goal of this diet is to alter the body’s metabolism in such a way that is begins to utilize ketones as its main form of energy instead of glucose. Someone knows they are in “ketosis” via a urine or blood sample. Originally, the Keto diet was found to be effective for individuals suffering from epilepsy and other neurological diseases like brain cancer and dementia. Currently, however, the biggest reason people adopt this way of eating is for weight loss. While this diet can help with weight management, it is extremely restrictive and eliminates many very healthy foods. Foods such as whole grains, starchy veggies, and most fruits are completely restricted along with all of the very beneficial fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found within them. It is important to understand there are many eating patterns that are less restrictive, more sustainable, incorporate more healthful foods, and are just as effective for weight loss. Research has shown that eating patterns such as the Mediterranean diet and vegetarian diets are just as effective in promoting over health and weight maintenance. To say “everyone should go keto” is a large overstatement, individuals should choose the eating pattern that fits their lifestyle, provides as many healthful foods as possible, and is something that can be followed for the long term.
Fiction: “Juicing all of your fruits and veggies is the best way to consume them.”
Fact: While juicing fruits and veggies will provide you with the vitamins and antioxidants found within them, you are missing one of the most important aspects of produce…the fiber! During the process of juicing, the fiber is extracted and discarded. This is a problem because fiber is a very important part of a healthy diet. Fiber is key for a healthy digestive system, aids in lowering cholesterol, and supports balanced blood sugar. The bottom line, eating the whole food gets you more health benefits than simply drinking the juice. Check out Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s article regarding fiber.
Fiction: “Taking high dose vitamin C will prevent you from getting sick.”
Fact: Unfortunately, due to marketing of vitamin C-containing supplements, there is a lot of misinformation regarding vitamin C on the internet. The worst myth advertised on the internet is that very high doses of vitamin C will keep you from getting a cold. While it is true that vitamin C plays a role in supporting a healthy immune system and that we do need to get Vitamin C in our diet, our bodies can only absorb so much vitamin C at one time. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, we are only able to absorb around 200 mg every couple of hours. Many supplements contain 4-5 times this amount! That extra vitamin C gets absorbed slowly and may irritate your digestive system and cause diarrhea. Your best bet is to reach for easy and convenient natural sources of Vitamin C such as citrus fruits, kiwi, red bell peppers, broccoli, and spinach.
Fiction: “Everyone should go gluten-free”
Fact: Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Dietitians are frequently asked about gluten-free diets as many people believe that everyone would benefit from avoiding gluten. This concept has become so popular it has caused gluten to become a food villain that is to be avoided at all costs. However, many people don’t know exactly what gluten is, its purpose, or who actually needs to avoid it. Gluten is a protein that provides structure and shape to breads and baked goods. Because it also acts like a glue, binding and holding foods together, it is found in many packaged and processed foods.
There are certain medical conditions that only get better through avoiding gluten. Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disease in which eating gluten causes damage to the small intestines with the potential to lead to other serious health conditions if left unmanaged. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is another condition in which avoiding gluten can help. For more information on these two conditions, signs/symptoms, treatment and resources check out the Celiac Disease Foundation or the Gluten Intolerance Group website.
Outside of diagnosed medical conditions such as these, there is little benefit and maybe some harm in avoiding gluten. Choosing high quality whole grains such as wheat, barley, and rye will provide important vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber critical for a healthy well-rounded diet. If there are any foods to be limited, it would be the highly processed, refined grain food products that do not provide much nutritional value. Click here for more information on whole grains and their health benefits.
These are just a few of the many false nutrition tips circulating the web today. It is important to understand where and who to get your nutritional advice from. Getting information from a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) is the best first step! There are a host of RDNs and student clinicians at Bastyr Center for Natural Health enthusiastically waiting to help you reach your nutrition goals, click here to schedule an appointment to discuss how to reach your health potential through foods.
About the Author
Samanntha Clark completed her dietetic internship at Bastyr Intern in Kenmore, Washington. She believes in the power a whole foods-based approach can have on our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. She is an advocate for evidence-based interventions and approaches each patient or client with a passion for creating individualized and achievable goals to sustain healthy lifestyle changes.