Nutrition Part Deux - Debunking Myths and Misconceptions.
In our last blog we talked about different diet types and which way of eating may work best for you. Today we will discuss many of the common misconceptions regarding nutrition and shed a little light on how true they are.
Carbs are the enemy!!!
I'm going to tell you a secret..... All plant based foods are mostly carbohydrates.
If you're saying that all carbs are evil, then vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and beans are too. Does this sound right? The benefits of plant-predominant diets include both longevity, and vitality. Forget about “carbs,” and think instead in terms of the foods that are best for you.
Highly processed grains and added sugar are bad, not because they are carbohydrate, but because they have been stripped of nutrients, raise insulin levels, and they’re often high in added fats, sodium, and indecipherable ingredients. Carbs are not evil; junk food is evil!!!!!
Sugar is okay in moderation...
Sugar provides calories with zero nutrients aka “empty” calories. It also goes quickly into the blood, where it triggers an insulin release. High levels of insulin can lead to weight gain, particularly around the mid section, where it does the most harm. Perhaps more important, sugar triggers appetite, so we simply tend to eat more when sugar is added as an ingredient. The food industry knows this very well and puts sugar into formulations to stimulate our appetites, and make us all eat more than we should. Always check your food labels for added sugar. There is often added sugar in foods we would least suspect (pasta sauce, salad dressings, even salty snacks). The average person should have no more than around 25 grams of added sugar/day (6tsp), children should have even less.
We can't deny that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is definitely the best way to go, but we often hear of people ditching the whole foods and opting for a "Juice Cleanse". Juice cleanses claim that they "cleanse your body of toxins".
The truth is, your body detoxifies itself daily and it does a pretty good job of it! This is the primary job of the liver, kidneys,and a few other organs. They do a far better “cleanse” than any juice. How do you make sure that these organs are cleansing the best that they can? By taking good care of yourself, of course. That means eating a well balanced diet, not smoking, exercising, sleeping enough, managing your stress, etc.
I can outwork my bad diet
It is hard to outrun all of the tempting calories and junk that we are surrounded by each day. Both diet and exercise play a big role in overall health. However, as important as exercise is... if your goal is weight loss or even weight maintenance, the focus should be more on controlling calories "IN" rather than calories "OUT", bottom line.
But the box says that it's healthy
All of the best foods in the world do not come with boxes or nutrition labels and are only one ingredient. Blueberries, almonds, broccoli, apples, fish, etc. If you are choosing foods that are packaged, one thing to check for sure is the ingredient list. It should be short and have things that you recognize. If you are noticing that it has a long list of things that you have never heard of, beware! Chemicals and added sugar are on your horizon. Food companies can be very deceiving by what they put on their labels. More often than not foods that are labeled as 100% Natural are mistaken for 100% Organic and are often assumed to be foods that are minimally processed and do not contain any hormones, antibiotics or artificial flavors. In the United States, neither the FDA nor the USDA has rules or regulations for products labeled "natural." As a result, food manufacturers often place a "natural" label on foods containing heavily processed ingredients.
If I eat more superfoods it will fix the rest of my diet...
No single food, separate from the overall quality of diet, exerts a major health effect. If your diet is excellent, no single food will be responsible for the benefits. If your diet is terrible, no single food will compensate for it.
Alcohol has health benefits
We've all heard that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol can have health benefits, and I'm sure that some may justify having that extra beer with that in mind.
The consensus is that "moderate" alcohol consumption (2 drinks for men, 1 drink for women/ men metabolize alcohol more efficiently) can have some benefits. Mostly relaxation.
Let me be clear that the consumption of almost any amount of alcohol puts you at a higher risk for certain types of cancer, so if you are drinking for the "health benefits" you should discontinue asap. If you are drinking for pleasure then keep it in moderation. If you're wondering about calories... straight spirits are the best, beer is the worst unless you are mixing your spirits with a ton of other things. The skin of grapes does contain antioxidants which can deliver some health benefits which suggests that red wine may be the best kind of alcohol, but once again don't drink because you think it's healthy.
How do you avoid falling victim to these myths? Focus on foods. A diet can look many different ways, and still be optimal. But a diet cannot be optimal if it is not made up mostly of some balanced combination of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and water. If you get the foods right, the nutrients sort themselves out. But if you focus on nutrients rather than foods, you quickly learn that there is more than one way to eat badly, and we Americans seem all too eager to try them all.
Resources: Mark Bittman & David Katz "The last conversation you'll ever have to have about eating right"