Top 3 Nutrition Myths Debunked
By Marcie Vaske, MS, LN
January 14, 2020
With the New Year comes nutrition recommendations, suggestions and the latest go-to diets, and separating the truth from hype is tricky. As a nutritionist, I’ve heard my fair share of trends and in full disclosure, I admit I have fallen for nutrition myths in the past, too – before I was well versed in current research. In high school and college, I ran for the hills if there was fat anywhere on my plate; certain that if I ate it, I would get fat and have a heart attack. Unfortunately this is all too relatable, for a long time we all believed the low fat claims to be true. But as time has gone by and new research has come out, we know this notion is simply untrue, however, just the other day a client declared that if she even looks at butter it makes her gain weight, and since she has heart disease in her family, fats are to be limited.
Why do some nutrition myths eventually go away, but others hang on far too long even after substantiated evidence proves otherwise? A professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York said, “Let’s face it, myths and misinformation are much more seductive than the truth. A balanced diet, enough sleep and regular exercise are usually the best course for fighting disease and staying healthy. The truth just isn’t that interesting to people.” So let’s combat those myths that may just open up a new way of thinking for you.
Myth #1: You Need Dairy for Strong Bones
Almost everyday clients ask me how to get enough dairy in their diets. The common belief is that we must drink milk to keep our bones strong, especially if there is osteoporosis in our family history. There is a nugget of truth in this statement; low calcium intake is linked to low bone mass and weakened bones, but milk, cheese and yogurt are not the only sources of calcium. North America is one of the countries with the highest dairy consumption in the world, but we also have the highest rates of osteoporosis. Studies indicate that drinking more milk does not make a difference. Milk or dairy isn’t all we need to make healthy bones. Minerals and vitamins like potassium, magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K are all critical to keeping our bones happy!
Great calcium sources, such as green, leafy vegetables, almonds, salmon and broccoli, are actually easier for our bodies to metabolize and use. Don’t forget to add the butter, which leads me to myth number two, fat.
Myth #2: Eating Fat Makes You Fat
As I mentioned above, I believed this myth whole-heartedly and perhaps you did, or still do. Almost every day I work with clients I still spend time debunking this myth. Research clearly suggests eating fat WILL NOT make you fat. In fact, it can help you lose weight. Have I gotten your attention?
Nugget of truth, fat has more calories per gram than either carbs or proteins, but it is not the enemy we once all believed. The International Journal of Obesity conducted a study that found eating fat helps you enjoy food more and keeps you fuller longer, both of which are keys to sustained weight loss. A review of 21 studies published in 2010 (with a total of 347,747 participants) concluded that there is absolutely no association between saturated fat and heart disease. Another review published in 2014 looked at data from 76 studies (with a total of 643,226 participants) and again found no link between saturated fat and heart disease.
Good fats contain a plethora of important nutrients and offer amazing benefits. One of the most important is that fats feed our brains, which is critical since 65% of our brain is made up of fat. Fat improves our mood, stabilizes our blood sugar, helps maintain a healthy protective membrane around each and every cell in our body, plus it tastes amazing.
So, what fats are beneficial, and how often should you eat them? At Nutritional Weight & Wellness, we think you should add a healthy fat to all your meals and snacks. We often suggest smoothies with canned coconut milk or avocado (both sources of good fat), cooking your morning eggs in real butter (yum!), and adding nuts, seeds or homemade dressings to salads. Over the years, I’ve had client after client begin eating these healthy fats and return to report having better energy, feeling satisfied and not hungry all the time, and losing weight while they put butter on their sweet potato! That leads me to myth number three that cutting carbs will help you lose weight.
(Another reason to stay away from low fat products – when we all believed that fat would make us fat, food manufacturers took the fat out of our food and put sugar in as a replacement for flavor. BIG mistake, but that’s a whole other story.)
Myth #3: Restricting Carbs Helps You Lose Weight
Another myth I hear every day in nutrition counseling. Clients are certain that if they eat potatoes or rice they won’t lose weight. Nugget of truth, eating copious amounts of refined-carbohydrate-rich foods will raise your blood sugar and put you at a greater risk for heart disease and diabetes. However, taking out good carbs, just because they are “carbs” is not necessary and more often than not leads to feelings of restriction, eventually leading you back to a box of cookies or a bag of chips. Jean Harvey-Berino, Ph.D., R.D., Chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of Vermont, cited one recent report that stated, “Although there was a greater weight loss initially, low-carb dieters tended to regain more weight by the end of three years.”
So, what carbs are the good kind, and how often should you eat them? At Nutritional Weight & Wellness, we recommend 5-7 cups per day of lower carb green vegetables, such as spinach, green beans, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. We also
recommend adding a 1/2 cup serving of a starchier carb with each meal, like a sweet potato, beets or a grain like wild rice.
Hopefully this helped to sort out a few of the confusing messages out there. My clients who have trusted the advice we give at Nutritional Weight & Wellness are always shocked to find that their hunger dissipates and they lose weight by throwing these myths out the window. Another client recently stated she didn’t know how bad she had been feeling before she added carbs and healthy fats throughout the day (she also lost weight eating this way.) If you want personalized help in your health journey and some more information about these engrained myths, please come see me or one of our other nutritionists and dietitians for a nutrition consultation. We’ll equip you with the tools you need to make realistic, sustainable changes for your life and your unique health history.