Q: As a woman in my 40s, I’ve experienced a wide variety of fad diets that come and go. One week I read that it is bad to eat carbohydrates. The following week, it’s whole dairy products. I’ve seen articles saying I should only eat between certain times of the day. There is a lot of conflicting information. How to distinguish between nutritional myth and reality?
A: Amidst the sea of nutrition information, there is a sea of inaccuracies. It can seem difficult to know what is right for you.
Let’s debunk 10 myths so you can feel more confident about your nutrition:
1. Eating healthy is too expensive.
It may take a little planning and time in the kitchen, but eating healthy on a budget is possible. Some helpful tips include planning meals and snacks around the sales and creating a shopping list. Stock up on seasonal vegetables and fruits as well as staples like brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, dried beans and lentils, especially during sales. Consider buying frozen or canned fruits and vegetables as an alternative to fresh produce. Be sure to check the ingredient list to avoid foods with added sugars or salt.
2. Everyone should follow a gluten-free diet.
Unless you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, you don’t need to avoid gluten. Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Whole wheat products have great nutritional benefits, including essential B vitamins and fiber. Be careful when manufacturers remove gluten, as additional sugar, salt, or refined starches are often added to make up for the difference in flavor and texture. If you follow a gluten-free diet for medical reasons, check the ingredient list and the Nutrition Facts label to make sure you choose a healthy option.
3. Use unrefined sugars, such as honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar instead of white table sugar.
Sugar is sugar. Although unrefined sugar options may contain a small number of vitamins and minerals, the benefit is minimal. They are still considered added sugars and contribute to the recommended daily limit of added sugar in the diet.
4. High fat products equals weight gain.
The trend for fat-free and low-fat diets is a thing of the past – the 80s and 90s to be exact. Yet some people are still afraid of fat. It shouldn’t be, because fats have beneficial functions, like protecting our organs, maintaining cell membranes, promoting growth and development, and absorbing essential vitamins. Be aware, however, that fats are not created equal. Choose heart-healthy unsaturated fats, such as olive and canola oil, nuts, nut butters, and avocados, over those high in saturated and trans fats, such as fatty meats and produce. high-fat dairy.
5. Avoid carbs if you want to lose weight.
The low carb diet is a fad diet that has continued to pop up over the years. It gives carbs — fruits and whole grains included — a bad name. People who have followed this diet have been successful in losing weight, but whenever someone cuts out highly processed high carbohydrate foods such as crisps, cookies, white bread and potatoes covered in butter and of sauce, one would expect them to achieve the same results. Any diet or eating plan that eliminates an entire food group gets a red flag because it is likely to be lacking in vital nutrients.
6. A detox diet will remove toxins from the body.
There is little evidence that dietary cleanses do any of the things they promise. The thing is, you don’t need to buy a product to cleanse your body. Your liver, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract do a good job of detoxifying every day. If you’re looking to rejuvenate your body, focus on eating whole foods, drinking water, and cutting out highly processed foods from your diet.
7. You shouldn’t eat anything after 7 p.m.
Although late night snacking can cause weight gain or prevent weight loss, it’s not because of the time on the clock. Instead, it’s about knowing why you’re eating. It is common to search for food for reasons other than physical hunger in the evening, whether it is a habit, boredom or craving. Pay more attention to what you eat than when.
8. Certain foods, such as grapefruit, cayenne pepper or vinegar, can burn fat.
Unfortunately, no food burns fat, makes you lose weight faster, or raises your metabolism enough to affect weight loss. Diets that focus on a single food, like those mentioned above, are restrictive and lack the nutrients the body needs. They are also not long lasting, and any weight loss that may occur is the result of calorie restriction and will likely return once you stop.
9. The best way to reduce your sodium intake is to stop using the salt shaker.
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. The average American consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day. The problem, however, is not as simple as removing the salt shaker from the table. Much of the excess sodium Americans consume in their diets comes from salts added to ready-to-eat processed foods and restaurant meals. Limit processed foods and enjoy fresher, home-cooked meals.
10. Low-fat or fat-free products are healthier choices.
Many products labeled low-fat or fat-free contain added sugar or sodium to compensate for the loss of flavor when removing or reducing fat. Plus, fats contribute to satiety, which keeps you feeling full longer. Choosing a fat-free product to cut calories can backfire, as you may find yourself snacking soon after.
My best advice if you want to eat healthy is to always check the nutrition facts label when choosing between fat free, low fat and regular. Pay attention to the sugar and sodium content. Choose whole foods over processed ones and make sure you drink enough water. If you feel you need a more specific menu, ask your healthcare professional to refer you to a dietitian or nutritionist.
Allyn Wergin, RDN, Clinical Nutrition Services, Mayo Clinic Health System, New Prague and Le Suer, Minn.