Debunking Nutrition Myths

Tracy Williams, www.tracysplate.com

Most Americans have probably heard the new term "fake news," especially since social media has risen in popularity as a news source. Fake news is truly not a new term, especially in the specialty area of health and wellness. If news outlets do not have writers and editors to help research medical news, they may perpetuate nutrition myths rather than airing an accurate, vetted nutrition segment. According to Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD, "Registered dietitian nutritionists are the food and nutrition experts who have the education and training to translate the science of nutrition into nutritious eating to promote health and prevent and treat disease."

Myth: Fad Diets that Cause Weight Loss are Healthy

Myth: Fad Diets that Cause Weight Loss are Healthy

Fad diets have become popular because the media puts pressure on boys, girls, women and men to keep their weight down and stay slim and attractive. All dietitians agree that it is healthier to not follow fad diets because many of them require people to skip entire food groups, which could result in missing out on important nutrients. These nutrients are especially crucial for those with disabilities. The National Weight Control Registry has found people can lose weight on any diet plan, balanced or not. Those who are successful at keeping the weight off eat a balanced diet with a variety of food, exercise regularly and find way to monitor their progress.

Myth: Low Carb is the Key to Losing Pounds

Another popular media myth is that people have to eat a low carbohydrate diet to keep weight off. "Many people are eating more total calories and participating in less physical activity, and this is the real reason Americans are gaining weight," says Michelle Stewart, MPH, RD, LDN, and CDE. Neva Cochran explains, "Carbohydrates are the primary energy sources our bodies and our brains so they are essential for good health. Carbohydrate-rich foods provide an array of nutrients like fiber, vitamins, antioxidants and probiotics. Avoiding carbohydrate foods force the body to convert protein and fat into energy, which takes these nutrients away from their primary jobs in the body."

Myth: Fat-free and Low-fat Equal Low Calories

It seems as if some people are lucky to be blessed with a high metabolism, but most people must work hard at monitoring their caloric intake and their physical activity. According to Angela Lemond, RDN, CSP, LD, "If people have high energy output, they may be able to eat whatever they want and not worry about weight gain, like those who run marathons or work as furniture movers." Dr. Sylvia Klinger, DBA, MS, RD, LDN, CPT agrees saying, "Every person has specific individual needs dictated by many health factors, by the basic formula to lose weight equals calories in compared to calories out and to living a healthy lifestyle needs to end in a balance." In regards to calorie intake, some people believe that fat-free or low-fat products have no calories; this is incorrect. Neva Cochran says that reducing or removing fat does lower the calories, but sometimes protein and carbohydrate in the product still provide calories so fat-free does not equal calorie free.

Myth: Low Carb is the Key to Losing Pounds

Myth: Sugar Causes Diabetes for People of All Abilities

In terms of individual metabolism and calories, Americans of all abilities are confused how to define what causes diabetes. According to Dr. Sylvia Klinger, "Diabetes is a chronic disease that results when the pancreas stops producing insulin. Obesity may lead to Type II diabetes. Eating sugar in moderation does not cause diabetes any more than any other food." Angela Lemond agrees that obesity and weight gain can cause Type II diabetes. Neva Cochran adds that a person with diabetes must control their carbohydrate intake, including sugars to match insulin or other medication taken to control their blood sugar. In addition, family history, ethnicity and age play a role in diabetes, not just diet.

Myth: Thin Automatically Means Healthy

Michelle Stewart notes that people can be healthy at any size. Angela Lemond adds that people of any size can also be unhealthy. For instance, being too thin can lead to lowered immunity for some people. "We need to be careful stereotyping people as "healthy" based on whether they are too thin or overweight," says Dr. Klinger. A number of thin people may have a chronic illness, an eating disorder, or cancer. Yet some overweight people may be healthy despite the extra pounds.

Everyone at any weight should have their nutritional needs answered. In addition, if someone is underweight and not consuming enough calories, their body will start breaking down muscle tissue to provide energy for their body, explains Cochran. All dietitians agree that thin people can still have high cholesterol and other cardiovascular risk factors, no matter what their body size.

Myth: Eating Healthy is Always More Expensive

Myth: Eating Healthy is Always More Expensive

There is another popular misconception that healthy options at the local grocery store are more expensive, which mean that people on tight budgets can only make unhealthy choices. Angela Lemond advises that more planning may be necessary to eat healthy on a budget. For instance, it is important to compare the price of a can or bag of beans to the price of chips at the local grocery store. Many snack foods that are high in salt, fat, sugar and calories are more expensive than in season fruits and veggies, says Cochran. She suggests buying canned or frozen fruits and veggies to save money. Store brands will cost less than major brands and will still have the same nutritional quality. Cindy Kleckner, RDN, LD, FAND encourages clients to shop store flyers and purchase fresh meats that are reduced for quick sale. All dietitians agree that clients should stick to making purchases based on store flyers and coupons, as well as shopping for produce items that are in season. Frozen as well as canned fruits and veggies are still nutritionally sound.

In conclusion, the media, including social media can cause confusion about what is necessary to achieve a healthy lifestyle. Even Facebook friends may try to influence the picture of health without any real professional experience. As a rule of thumb, the best sources for information on nutrition and healthy lifestyles include the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, government websites, like ChooseMyPlate.gov and WebMD. It is always important to check the education and training and credentials of those writing articles related to nutrition and health. Proper education from credible resources is the only way we can work together to debunk a variety of nutrition and lifestyle myths. 

About the Author:

Tracy Williams has her degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Dominican University. She is a five time recipient of nutrition education grants from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She enjoys public speaking, writing on nutrition topics. She enjoys debunking myths related to nutrition issues for all people no matter how they may experience life. She has presented at nonprofit organizations, schools, rotary clubs, garden clubs, libraries, as well as a few churches. She is a strong advocate for all diversity in the world around, especially for people with disabilities because she happens to have cerebral palsy. You can connect with her on Facebook, LinkedIn and her website, www.tracysplate.com. She loves to inspire people to live a healthier lifestyle. Change this on the speaker profiles page too.

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