Social media has become a place for people of all backgrounds to learn and share information about various topics, including living healthful lives through exercise and nutrition. With the increased interest in healthy eating, you may see various articles or posts making claims such as instant weight loss, or drastic diet changes claiming to purify the body and get you “healthy as ever”. It is important when you read these articles or hear these claims that you always look at who is providing the advice to make sure the information is science-based and credible. I always take a look at who wrote the article and how their educational or career background provides credibility to the information they are sharing.
I've seen many claims via the Internet regarding nutrition that I have disagreed with, or thought would not be a safe or healthy recommendation for everyone across the board. Remember, everything is relative. Some foods are healthier than others, and you can choose to eat as healthy as you feel comfortable with. Everything is okay in moderation, and I am living proof that it is possible to enjoy all foods once in a while and stay healthy at the same time.
Below I have listed some of the popular statements or claims I often hear people refer to as something they heard by a doctor on television or read online. I would like to provide you with some information that will help you better understand the truth behind these claims, as well as some general advice on how to approach each of them. Remember; always talk with your personal physician before making any new drastic diet or lifestyle changes.
Now, let's do some “myth-busting”!
“Bread causes weight gain”
Bread gets a bad reputation for being processed and high in carbohydrates. The truth is, yes, bread provides a good amount of carbohydrates, but those carbs help provide the body with useful energy to keep you energized and strong. There are certain types of bread products, such as white bread, that are more processed causing them to lose nutrients. These products do not provide much additional benefit to the body rather than just a boost of carbohydrates.
However, whole grain bread products, such as 100% whole wheat bread, are a great source of fiber and vitamins. Carbohydrates are a necessary component of a healthy diet, but it is important to choose the right types. Focus on choosing bread products labelled “100% whole grain/wheat”. Always check the ingredients list to ensure there are no “enriched flour” ingredients. Enriched means that due to nutrients being lost during processing, they had to add nutrients back in at the end to make up some that were lost, but not all. Purely whole grain products should not contain any enriched flour, and the higher fiber content will actually help promote healthy digestion and a healthy body weight!
“Butter is better”
Butter, although delicious, is not necessarily the healthiest option to use as a spread on a regular basis. Butter can be used healthfully in moderation, just like any other food, but if you're someone that likes to use a spread daily in cooking or spread on toast, I would recommend choosing a more heart healthy alternative regularly. Butter is high in saturated fat, which too much of can lead to high cholesterol and heart disease later in life. Choose a spread made with some heart healthy oil, such as olive oil or canola oil. Also make sure the spread does not contain Trans fats.
Margarines often contain Trans fats, which really do not provide any benefit to the human body. Many food companies are beginning to produce their spreads with heart healthy oils and cutting out the processed Trans fats. When choosing a spread, look in the ingredients list and avoid products that contain any “partially-hydrogenated” fats or oils. There are plenty of healthier options on the market these days, as well as a variety of overall ingredient substitutions if you want to cut out these spreads completely. Contact me for product recommendations or ingredient ideas!
Are you finding that you just can’t go without that real butter on your toast? That’s okay! Just aim to use it in smaller amounts and not as often, and replace using butter in cooking with olive oil or canola oil to cut back on daily saturated fat intake!
“Dairy-free milks are always healthier than cow’s milk”
Lately more and more dairy-free milk alternatives have been popping up on store shelves, made from all different sources including soy, rice, quinoa, almonds, flax, etc. For some people and in certain circumstances, these are great! However, cow’s milk is usually much higher in protein when compared to these dairy-free beverages, which is great for someone who especially does not eat enough protein within their daily meals.
Someone who cannot drink cow’s milk due to an allergy can then switch to something like soy or almond milk, but it is important to consider a few things when doing so. Always choose the unsweetened varieties most often. It is okay to go with sweetened once in a while, but they are very high in sugar and if consumed too much it may not be the healthiest option for your body. If you are completely cutting out all dairy products, also make sure that you are able to make up the lost protein from other places in your diet. You can eat more poultry, lean beef, fish and beans to gain more beneficial protein that will help keep you energize and keep your muscles strong.
“Fruit is unhealthy because it is so high in sugar”
I often hear people tell me “someone told me fruit is high in sugar and makes it hard to lose weight so I stopped eating it.” Fruit can be high in sugar, or carbohydrates, but all of those sugars are coming naturally from what we call “fructose.” You may be wondering then, “Why can’t I just have a cookie instead of a banana if they are both high in sugar?” Great question!
Cookies contain some natural sugars from the carbohydrate sources used to make them (flour & dairy), but they also contain some added sugars and added fats. A banana, although high in natural sugars, is also bringing along an impressive amount of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that will be working for your body to keep you healthy, and is naturally low in fat and calories. The cookie provides extra calories and fats, and it does not provide any of those antioxidants that help boost your immune system and prevent disease. Focus on aiming to provide your body with the most nutrient-dense food sources most of the time, and enjoy those chocolate chip cookies in moderation (even I do!).
“Canola oil is genetically modified, therefore it is an unhealthy oil to use”
Do I even dare to venture into the genetically modified category? This is a huge topic of interest in recent months and I hear about it on a daily basis. Genetically modified foods are a large part of the American diet, and there is still much more research that needs to be done to determine the concrete facts on how genetically modified foods affect the human body over time. Some studies show that they do not have negative effects on the body, whereas other studies have found some negative effects in lab animals. I look forward to learning more about GMO’s in the future as more research is done over the years, but based on the research currently available, I do not focus on cutting out all genetically modified foods from my diet. In general I focus on a balanced diet from mostly natural and nutrient dense foods, with the processed stuff in moderation.
Canola oil is a great source of heart healthy fats, making it a great option to use in cooking. If you are not comfortable using canola oil, switch to heart healthy oil, such as olive. Focus on cutting down on saturated fats and increasing the mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats, which both can help to promote heart health.
“Detoxes will help you drop the weight and detox your whole body”
Detoxing may lead you to losing a few pounds in just a few short days, but most of the time this weight will come sneaking right back in as soon as a normal diet is resumed. The human body already contains many organs that help filter toxins from your body and excrete them through your urine. If your body is healthy and you drink plenty of water, your body will do natural detoxing for you, without you having to do any of the hard work!
“Juicing will give you the most benefit from your foods to cleanse the body naturally”
While 100% fruit and vegetable juices can be very high in vitamins & antioxidants, they are not always the best option. When a fruit or vegetable is juiced, most of the fiber that is contained in the peels or small seeds are sucked out and discarded. If you were to instead throw these fruits and vegetables into a blender and make a smoothie with them, all of that extra fiber and nutrients will be contained in your beverage, providing you with even more health benefits than just a juice. A smoothie will help fill you up more, keep you full longer, and will help promote healthy digestion.
Juicing can, however, be a healthy option to replace processed juices with added sugar in the diet. Just try not to replace your daily fruit and vegetable consumption with a juice instead. 100% fruit or vegetable juice should be used as a supplemental form of nutrients when you need that extra boost, and they should always fit into a balanced diet with enough fiber and protein.
“Mostly everyone is sensitive to gluten, they just don't know it”
Not everyone is sensitive to gluten. Celiac disease is becoming a more common problem for people across the country and awareness of this condition is growing rapidly. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack anything consumed containing gluten, leading to long-term digestive problems and a higher risk of cancers and other conditions later in life. For anyone with Celiac disease it is very important to avoid all gluten-containing foods and ingredients.
If one does not have Celiac disease, it is still possible to be gluten-sensitive, but it is not as common as people think. Always check with your doctor or physician before cutting all gluten-containing foods out of your diet to make sure you really do need to avoid gluten. By cutting out all gluten-containing foods, you will be missing out on a large portion of your normally balanced diet, making it very easy to become deficient in various nutrients. Gluten-free alternatives tend to be much lower in fiber and vitamins than their whole-wheat competitors. If going completely gluten-free it is important to make sure you are making up the extra fiber somewhere else in your daily diet, as well as getting a balance of vitamins and minerals. Many whole wheat bread products contain added B-vitamins that Americans typically lack from other foods, so when these products are suddenly cut out completely, you are also suddenly losing all of those extra vitamins as well.
Many people will tell me that they have not been tested for any gluten sensitivities or allergies, but since they cut out all gluten from their diet they feel much healthier. This is most likely because when an entire food group is cut out of the diet the person will probably lose a couple of pounds. Feeling a few pounds lighter can make someone feel more energized, or even just healthier in general, but this result is not necessarily from the lack of gluten, but instead from the cut on daily calorie intake.
“Coconut oil is the healthiest form of oil to consume daily”
While coconut oil gets a lot of its fame from its high content of mono-unsaturated fatty acids, it is also very high in saturated fat. While it does provide the body with some benefits of the heart healthy fats, it should be consumed in moderation due to the high saturated fat content which can lead to high cholesterol and heart disease.
I would love to hear about any other nutrition claims you've heard that you were skeptical about or were considering trying. Feel free to comment or e-mail me with any feedback or questions you wish to discuss! Stay healthy, friends!