10 Nutrition Myths Dietitians Hate The Most

The pros say it’s time to stop believing these misconceptions about healthy eating and weight loss.

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When it comes to hot-button topics, proper nutrition is near the top of the list. Regularly, Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN’s) hear clients continuously tell them they’re fed up with hearing conflicting nutrition information and don’t know what to believe. Dietitians are with you on this one! Everyone seems to think they are a nutrition expert these days, which results in widespread nutrition confusion. Here are the top 10 nutrition myths that dietitians cannot stand, and the truths they want you to know.

Myth #1: Superfoods are exotic and expensive.

This myth is a pet peeve for many RDN’s. While most dietitians love learning about nutrient-packed foods from around the world, they want people to know that local, everyday foods are superfoods, too, and are far less expensive! Eating a diet that’s high in processed foods but then adding in some goji berries and spirulina doesn’t mean you have a healthy diet. You’ll save money and be much more robust if you focus on eating more whole foods and “everyday superfoods” like spinach, mushrooms, squash, blueberries, oranges, apples, lentils, whole grains, and nuts. These familiar foods are packed with antioxidants and fiber and won’t blow your budget like that small bag of acai powder will.

When a new exotic superfood comes on the market and becomes super popular, keep in mind that it’s probably just a fad. There will never be one food that’s better than all the others. Remember: Variety is essential when it comes to eating well. Ask yourself if spending money on the superfood of the moment is the best way to enhance your health, or if other parts of your diet could use a tune-up.

Myth #2: Being slim means you’re healthy.

This myth is a tough one to let go of because our society is so focused on body size. Everywhere we look, society seems to tell us that being slender is more desirable. Luckily, this myth is starting to dissolve. “We really have very little control over the size and shape of our bodies, and these things don’t determine our health,” says Kaleigh McMordie, RDN, of Lively Table. Research suggests that overweight people who are active can be healthier and live longer than slimmer people who don’t exercise. We all have different body types, and it’s about time we stopped focusing on size and shifted our focus to developing healthier habits.

Dietitians want to see people choosing foods based on their nutritional benefits, not just thinking about calories. For example, having salmon on a salad is a more nutritious choice than having processed chicken breast strips loaded with artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.

Myth #3: Vegetarians and vegans don’t get enough protein.

This one has been around for a long time, and plant-based dietitians have had enough. There is no substantial evidence that people must have meat to survive. “A well-balanced plant-based diet with a variety of plant foods is healthful and nourishing to the body,” says Jennifer Rodriguez, RDN, of Food Is Vida. “It can provide all amino acids needed when caloric needs are met for an individual.” As Amy Gorin, RDN, a dietitian in New York City, explains, “You have to plan out your meals and make sure to incorporate good sources of protein. Pulses such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, and dried peas are a good source of protein, offering about 8 grams per ½ cup cooked serving. I like to pair them with sautéed veggies and brown rice or even use them as a pizza topping.”

A well-planned vegetarian or vegan diet may also lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and some types of cancer. However, if you want to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, it’s a great idea to meet with a dietitian to make sure you’re getting all of the nutrients you need.

Myth #4: You should avoid all sugar—even fruit.

Sugar-free diets are all the rage right now, but there’s a difference between sugar found in whole foods such as fruit and vegetables and the refined sugar found in processed foods. Those whole foods naturally come with fiber to help slow down your body’s absorption of their natural sugars. “The 2015 Dietary Guidelines explicitly calls for limiting added sugars, the type of sweeteners found in cookies, cake, candy, and sweet beverages, to 10% of your daily calories or less,” explains Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, of Better Is The New Perfect. “That recommendation doesn’t include naturally sweet foods, which are sources of important vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.”

If you want to cut back on sugar, it makes far more sense to limit added sugars instead of cutting nutrient-packed foods out of your diet. Food companies disguise added sugars under many different names so be cautious when at the grocery. (See Here are 56—yikes!—to recognize.) Clearly, fruit, vegetables, yogurt, and kefir are in a different category than soda and baked goods. The latter are high in added sugars and calories and low in nutrients.

Myth #5: Soy is full of female hormones.

Are you worried that eating soy foods or soy protein will make men grow breasts or increase your cancer risk? The research on soy says these are myths. “What I want people to know is that there is a huge difference between estrogen (the hormone in your body) and phytoestrogen (the much weaker type found in soy),” stresses Nita Sharda, RDN, of Carrots & Cake. “When we review the literature, there is no significant effect on human health when soy is consumed. In fact, eating 2-3 servings of whole soy foods a day can have a protective effect.”

Ginger Hultin, dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, states, “Soy will not cause feminizing effects in men, it is safe and healthy for children to eat, and it does not cause or promote cancer. There is evidence that it is good for bone health and the cardiovascular system and it is a nutritionally dense, protein-rich food source.” It is best to choose whole soy foods like soybeans (edamame) and fermented soy such as tempeh and miso for gut health. These types of soy are the least processed and will be highest in nutrients.

Myth #6: You need to ban carbs to lose weight.

Ok, this one is my pet peeve! This nutrition myth has been around for years, and it drives myself and dietitians like Kristen Smith, RDN, founder of 360FamilyNutrition, nuts. “Don’t be afraid to eat carbohydrate-containing foods, but try to keep the portions in check,” Smith says. “One of the best options for keeping portions of carbohydrates in check is to follow the USDA’s MyPlate method: Fill 1/2 of your plate with fruits and vegetables, 1/4 with whole grains, and 1/4 with a lean protein source.” Christina Fitzgerald, RD, owner of Fitzgerald Nutrition, agrees: “When thinking about nutrition and weight, the bigger picture of overall quality and quantity of food choices is much more important. Eating more than your body needs will cause weight gain, not one nutrient alone.”

Swapping out refined grains like white bread for carbs that provide slow-burning energy, such as steel-cut oats, sweet potatoes, and quinoa is a healthy move, but banning all carbs from your diet is not necessary. At worst, it could lead to more carb cravings, and weight regains once you go off your low-carb plan.

Myth #7: The diet that works for models and celebrities will work for you.

So your favorite celebrity drank nothing but tuna water and asparagus juice and lost 15 pounds in two days. Does that mean you should try the same thing and expect to get the same results? Of course not! Thinking that celebrity diets will work for you is a myth dietitians hate. First of all, consider the source of this extreme diet information. Is it helping to sell magazines or get more page views? As The Plant-Powered Dietitian Sharon Palmer, RDN, says, “You have no idea if the purported diet is really what the celebrity consumes.”

Celebrities are usually chosen based on their good looks and slender body types, which are genetic gifts. Palmer notes, “People have tremendous genetic variability in body type and metabolism, making it very difficult for many people to achieve the magazines’ portrayal of what they consider beauty.” I like to remind myself and my clients that models and other celebrities have tons of help running their lives. That means they’re okay to spend a couple of days not functioning well thanks to a crash diet. You probably don’t have the same luxury, or a full-time doctor at your beck and call when things go wrong. Not to mention the negative impacts on your health and metabolism over time. Get your nutrition and diet advice from people who are experts, not celebrities.

Myth #8: Natural sugar isn’t sugar.

So you’re trying to cut down on added sugars, and you’ve switched out your white sugar for honey, agave, or maple syrup. You may be getting a few antioxidant benefits from the honey or maple syrup, but otherwise, your body similarly metabolizes them and other sugars. Rebecca Clyde, RDN, owner of Nourish Nutrition, has had people tell her they’re following a sugar-free diet, but they still have agave or honey. “Honey, agave, and other types of sugar are not sugar-free, and they are still processed to some degree,” she points out. “They aren’t healthier than cane sugar. Let’s stop villainizing sugar and honoring honey and other sweeteners and just count them all as equal.”

Myth #9: High-fat foods are bad for you.

Think eating fat makes you fat? Research suggests this is a myth. A lower calorie eating plan that includes healthy fats can help people lose more weight than a similar diet that’s low in fat, according to a study in the International Journal of Obesity. That’s because fat helps you enjoy your food more and prevents you from going hungry. Both of these are key to losing weight and keeping it off.

“While fat definitely has more calories per gram than protein and carbs (9 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram), it’s not the enemy,” assures Natalie Rizzo, RDN, a registered dietitian in New York City. “An observational study suggests that replacing 5% of your total calories from saturated fat with unsaturated fat actually decreases death rates by 27%. In other words, don’t be scared of the healthy fats found in foods like walnuts, olive oil, and avocados.” Include some healthy fats at each meal to help you feel satisfied and stay full longer. Add avocado to smoothies, wraps, oatmeal, and salads along with nuts and seeds. You can also use it in salad dressings combined with extra virgin olive oil.

Myth #10: Mixing carbs with protein and fat is bad for digestion.

The myth that mixing different types of foods is hard on our digestive system has been around for decades. Initially, it was referred to as “food combining,” and it’s now experiencing a resurgence as “the Dissociated Diet.” The idea is that you need to eat protein-rich foods such as eggs at one meal and carbohydrate-rich foods such as toast at another meal, but never together. “This myth makes no scientific sense because once food reaches your stomach, your stomach acid begins breaking down all types of food.,” says Lindsey Pine, RDN, owner of TastyBalance Nutrition. “In fact, it’s beneficial to mix carbs, protein, and fat in the same meal or snack because you’ll get a wide range of nutrients, avoid insulin spikes, and the protein and fat will help with satiety.” Could you imagine never having berries with your yogurt or cheese with crackers ever again? Your digestive system is designed to handle a variety of foods.

Eat what you enjoy and what makes you feel good. Do not base your eating regimen on the latest fad diet!

Adapted from: 

Nutritional Nugget

Create a work of art! Add color to salads with baby carrots, shredded red cabbage, or green beans. Include seasonal veggies for variety throughout the year.

WOD Nugget

Patria: One’s native country or homeland

Inspirational Nugget

When thinking about life, remember this: No amount of guilt can solve the past, and no amount of anxiety can change the future.



Eye-catching labels stigmatize many healthy foods

When customers walk down aisles of grocery stores, they are inundated with labels such as organic, fair-trade and cage-free, just to name a few. Labels such as these may be eye-catching but are often free of any scientific basis and stigmatize conventionally produced foods, a new University of Delaware led study found.

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The paper published recently in the journal Applied Economics Perspectives and Policy examined the good, the bad and the ugly of food labeling to see how labels identifying the process in which food was produced positively and negatively influenced consumer behavior. By reviewing over 90 academic studies on consumer response to process labels, the researchers found that while these labels satisfy consumer demand for quality assurances and can create value for both consumers and producers, misinterpretation is common and can stigmatize food produced by conventional processes even when there is no scientific evidence those foods cause harm. For the poor, in particular, there is danger in misunderstanding which food items are safe, said Kent Messer, the study’s lead author and the Unidel Howard Cosgrove Career Development Chair for the Environment. “That has me worried about the poor and those who are food insecure,” said Messer, who is also director of the Center for Experimental and Applied Economics in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Because now you’re trying to make everything a high-end food choice and frankly, we just want to have healthy food choices, we don’t need to have extra labels that scare away people,”

Process labels, by definition, focus on the production of food, but largely ignore important outcomes of the process such as taste or healthiness. According to Messer and his study co-authors, policy changes could help consumers better understand their choices. They argue governments should not impose bans on process labels but rather encourage labels that help document how the processes affect important quality traits, such as calorie count. “Relying on process labels alone, on the other hand, is a laissez-faire approach that inevitably surrenders the educational component of labeling to mass media, the colorful array of opinion providers, and even food retailers, who may not always be honest brokers of information,” the researchers wrote.

The Good

With regards to the positive impact process labels have on consumers, Messer said that consumers are able to more freely align their purchasing decisions with their values and preferences. If, for example, a consumer wants to buy fair trade coffee, they are able to do so with greater ease. “The good part is that process labels can help bridge the trust between the producer and the consumer because it gives the consumer more insight into the market,” said Messer. “New products can be introduced this way, niche markets can be created, and consumers, in many cases, are willing to pay more for these products. It’s good for the industry, consumers are getting what they want, and new players get to find ways of getting a higher price.”

The Bad

The sad part is that consumers are already in the midst of a marketplace filled with information that can be overwhelming because of the sheer amount of product choices and information available. Also, when most consumers go to buy food, they are often crunched for time. “Human choice tends to be worse when you put time constraints on it,” said Messer. “Maybe you’ve got a child in the aisle with you, and now you’re adding this new label, and there’s lots of misinterpretation of what it means. The natural label is a classic one which means very little, yet consumers assume it means more than it does. They think it means ‘No GMO,’ but it doesn’t. They think it means it is ‘organic,’ but it isn’t. This label is not helping them align their values with their food, and they’re paying a price premium but not getting what they wanted to buy.”

Messer said that another problem is “halo effects,” overly optimistic misinterpretation of what a label means. “If you show consumers a chocolate bar that is labeled as ‘fair trade,’ some will tell you that it has lower calories,” Messer said. “But the label is not about calories. Consumers do this frequently with the ‘organic’ label as they think it is healthy for the consumer. Organic practices may be healthier for the farm workers or the environment, but for the actual consumer, there’s very little evidence behind that. You’re getting lots of mixed, wrong messages out there.”

The Ugly

Like halo effects, the ugly side of food processing labels come into play when labels sound like they have a positive impact but really have a negative one. A label such as “low food miles” might sound nice but could actually be causing more harm than good. “Sometimes, where food is grown doesn’t mean that it’s actually the best for climate change,” said Messer. Hothouse tomatoes grown in Canada, for example, might have low food miles for Canadian consumers but it’s probably far better environmentally, because of all the energy expended in creating tomatoes in an energy-intensive hothouse in Canada, to grow the tomatoes in Florida and then ship them to Canada.

“If you just count miles and not true energy use, you can get people paying more money for something that’s actually going the opposite of what they wanted which is to get a lower carbon footprint,” said Messer. He added that the ugly side of food labeling is that a lot of fear is being introduced into the marketplace that isn’t based on science. “When you start labeling everything as ‘free of this’ such as ‘gluten-free water,’ you can end up listing stuff that could never have been present in the food in the first place,” Messer said. “These ‘free of’ labels can cause unnecessary fear and cast the conventionally produced food in a harsh, negative light.”

Since the vast majority of the food market is still conventionally produced and is the lower cost product, there is a danger in taking that safe food and calling it unsafe because of a few new entrants into the food market. Messer also said that there is evidence that food companies are getting worried about investing in science and technology because they don’t know how the consumer is going to respond or how marketers are going to attack their food product because it’s new and different and therefore, can be labeled as harmful or dangerous. “We’ve got a lot of mouths to feed in our country and around the world,” Messer said. “We are currently able to feed so many because of advances in agricultural science and technology. If we’re afraid of that now, we have a long-term impact on the poor that could be quite negative in our country and around the world. That’s when I start thinking these process labels could really be ugly.”

Adapted by: Kent D. Messer, Marco Costanigro, Harry M. Kaiser. Labeling Food Processes: The Good, the Bad and the UglyApplied Economic Perspectives and Policy, 2017; 39 (3): 407 DOI: 10.1093/aepp/ppx028

Nutrition Nugget

Don’t Drink Sugar Calories! Sugary drinks are the most fattening things you can put into your body. This is because liquid sugar calories are not registered by the brain in the same way as calories from solid foods. For this reason, when you drink soda, you end up intaking more total calories. Sugary drinks are strongly associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and all sorts of health problems. Keep in mind that fruit juices are almost as bad as soda in this regard. They contain just as much sugar, and the small amounts of antioxidants do NOT negate the harmful effects of the sugar.

W.O.D. Nugget

Dolce: (especially as a direction) sweetly and softly.

Inspiration Nugget

God will help you overcome wrong motives and intentions if you'll simply ask and receive help rather than trying to do it on your own.





Sugary drink sales plummeted after price increase, study says

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From Colombia to South Africa, France to India, governments around the globe are exploring whether taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) might curb obesity rates. Do these fines actually work to prevent people from choosing sweet drinks? Adding a small fee to the price tag of SSB’s at one UK restaurant chain most likely contributed to a decline in their sales, according to a study (published Oct. 2017) in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. Jamie’s Italian, a chain created by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, launched its own health campaign in September 2015. Along with adding 10 pence (about 13 cents) per drink to SSB, the chain offered new lower-sugar beverages and redesigned its menus.

After the fee was introduced, the chain observed an 11% decline in the number of sugar-sweetened beverages sold per customer during the first 12 weeks, according to the researchers. Over a six-month period, after the levy was charged, the number of sugary drinks had declined by 9.3% per customer. “Sugar taxes are currently prevalent policies to curb obesity rates and improve population diet,” said Steven Cummins, senior author of the study and a professor of population health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “There’s actually very little evidence that they work in practice. There’s only a couple of studies that assess the impact of these kinds of (taxes) in real life on real customers.” Cummins and his colleagues analyzed Jamie’s Italian health campaign to add to this knowledge base.

‘Fat man of Europe’

Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages, including non-diet sodas, flavored juices, and some sports drinks, is associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cavities. In the UK, sugar-sweetened drinks may account for half of the excess calories consumed per day by children (two-thirds by U.S. children) while one in four British adults (one in three U.S.) are obese, according to a 2013 report from the United Nations.  The same report also found that obesity rates among adults have more than tripled in the past three decades. In 2015, the National Health Service made public its worries that the UK has become the “fat man of Europe.” Shortly after that, Jamie’s Italian decided, according to its website, to “raise awareness of how much sugar is present in certain soft drinks and make people think about their sugar intake, particularly that of their children” by adding 10 pence to the price tag.
Any profits raised by the fee were to be donated to The Children’s Health Fund in support of programs aimed at improving children’s health and food education, the campaign made clear. Cummins said he and his colleagues “had no control over the design or delivery” of Jamie’s Italian health intervention. Independently, the restaurant chain created and implemented the fee, made changes to its menu to explain the new price, introduced fruit spritzers (fruit juice mixed with water) and created promotional materials. “Jamie Oliver also broadcasted an hourlong documentary just a few days before the levy was introduced,” Cummins added. “So there was quite a lot of media coverage.”
The price increase can be seen as a complex “intervention” including a financial element in combination with non-fiscal components, the researchers said. Analyzing sales data from before and after the intervention, Cummins and his colleagues calculated the average number of sugar-sweetened beverage sales per customer in 37 Jamie’s Italian restaurants. In the 12 months prior, a total of 2,058,581 non-alcoholic beverages were sold in the restaurants, and 38% (775,230) of them were sugar-sweetened drinks. Adding a 10-pence fee to SSB was associated with significant declines (11.04%) in sales per customer, with the highest reductions in restaurants with higher SSB sales per customer (18.77%), the results indicated.
It could be that customers switched to water or other kinds of beverages, potentially fruit juices, or the adults might even choose alcoholic drinks, Cummins said. “We don’t exactly know what they’re substituting for; my guess is primarily water.”A longer follow-up period is required to assess whether the effects will be sustained, the researchers noted. “It’s a straightforward intervention, actually, and there’s no reason why other commercial restaurant chains cannot implement this kind of intervention,” Cummins said. “It wouldn’t require major changes or costs.”
That said, his experience of working with Jamie’s Italian suggested no harm regarding negative financial consequences. “There may be some financial impact, and we don’t know what it might be, but it’s likely not large,” Cummins said. “It may be that other types of chains that sell different types of food might have a larger impact economically” — but this is “fairly unlikely.”

Small changes

“A lot is going on here in this study,” said Jayson L. Lusk, a professor and head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University, who did not participate in the research or the analysis. “It’s hard to conclude that the price change in sugar-sweetened beverages is the main cause of the changes being observed,” Lusk said, noting that bottled water and diet cola consumption fell at about the same rate as the increased-price sugary beverages after the intervention began. Meanwhile, the beverages introduced after the price increase introduce a “confound” into the experiment: an element that disrupts and adds confusion to the results. Overall, previous research on this topic suggests that such taxes will probably have small effects on consumption of taxed beverages and that people will merely substitute other high-calorie, non-taxed drinks and foods, Lusk said.
So, can sugar-sweetened beverage taxes lower SSB consumption? “Yes, by a small amount,” he said. “But that’s different than saying sugar-sweetened beverage taxes reduce caloric intake. “There’s also literature showing these taxes tend to be regressive, affecting lower-income households more than higher-income households,” Lusk said. Jason M. Fletcher, a professor of public affairs and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said some of the results from the new study suggest a “general weakness in the analysis.” Fletcher did not participate in the new study.
After the intervention, there was a reduction in sales of all types of beverages compared with before the intervention, Fletcher noted, and the authors did not adequately estimate the effects of the 10-pence levy for each beverage in their analysis. “In our own work, we find support for substitution effects in the U.S., where higher taxes on soda lead to two effects: (1) less consumption of soda and (2) more consumption of other high-calorie drinks,” Fletcher said. “Combining these effects can lead to no increase in health.” Americans consume more than 40 gallons of sugary drinks per capita each year, on average.
“Sugar taxes in England have not been proposed, but there is in legislation to be implemented next year as a proposal from Her Majesty’s Treasury on implementing a sugar tax of 20% on producers and manufacturers of sugar-sweetened beverages — so not to the consumer but to the producers themselves,” Cummins said. Some of the major manufacturers have announced that they are going to reformulate their products to avoid the tax. “So in one sense, the policy has already had an effect regarding persuading companies to reformulate their products to avoid the extra costs that will be levied upon them,” Cummins said. “Within the whole of the food system, there are a variety of different types of responses,” he said, adding that he hopes to study these responses. “We’re interested in capturing these kinds of systemwide effects.”
Nutrition Nugget
Eat Your Chocolate! Yes, you read that right! Having a small amount of dark chocolate – 70-85% cocoa – is rich in fiber, iron, and magnesium, among other minerals. Plus, it’s a great source of antioxidants which reduces free radicals in your body.
Word of the Nugget
 Analects: A collection of short literary or philosophical extracts.
Inspiration Nugget
People have to pretend you're a bad person so they don't feel guilty about the things they did to you.