As a sensible-minded person, you may be trying to find a way to eat healthier these days. With limited time and possibly money, you may also be tempted to turn to wonder cure-alls to provide the nutrition you need but might not have the time to consume. Unfortunately, the claims for superfoods, fad diets, and supplements, and what they can provide, may be misleading.
While some supplements are made with ingredients that are effective and clinically trialed, many others are not as reliable. The same principle applies to many health-boosting wonderfoods and diets advertised by promoting stunning results. Here’s an overview of a few of the more prevalent mythical nutrition trends and what you might consider doing instead:
Gluten-Free Will Make You Happy
This is a popular trend right now. There is a theory that gluten makes your body run inefficiently, leaving you feeling lethargic and unhealthy. This is a prime example of a pervasive media-propagated nutritional trend, with many nutritionists advising you to avoid gluten altogether. In reality, only those diagnosed with celiac disease, a digestive disorder, are truly unable to cope with gluten. This affects approximately 1% of the developed world. Otherwise, gluten is a relatively benign protein complex present in oats, wheat, barley, rye, and other similar grains.
The feelings of being bloated may often come from people eating too much of a good thing, which can lead to feelings of sluggishness and weight gain (especially if you are inactive). There are, however, other legitimate reasons to cut back on your intake of cereals, grains, breads, pasta, baked goods, and carbohydrates (including sugars!). But if you feel like you could have celiac disease (also spelled coeliac disease): go and get tested. If not, moderate your intake of gluten and you shouldn’t be subjected to the often-cited side effects.
All Fats Are Bad
This is another pervasive myth. The food industry and media organizations have for years suggested that cutting fat out of your diet is healthy. Indeed, the most common pejorative for people who are medically overweight or obese is “fat.” But fat is similar to other food groups in the sense that some sources of fat are preferable to others. And your body needs fat to function properly!
Fat also provides a great source of calories for consistent energy levels over a long period of time, and is much more satiating than carbohydrates. Ideally, you should aim to ingest fats from sources that have been minimally processed: nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, lean meats, fatty fish, eggs, avocados, olives, and possibly some whole dairy. Avoid fried foods and other sources of trans fats. And if you do need to lose weight, cut down on your total caloric intake (especially from carbohydrates), replacing carbs with bulky, filling foods like vegetables and protein sources (and some fat for satiety and the absorption of nutrients, but not so much that you prevent the burning of your body’s stored fat).
You Shouldn’t Eat Eggs
The humble egg has garnered a lot of negative press owing to the increased public belief that cholesterol is unhealthy. With this belief, eggs have been villainized with a reputation that they increase your cholesterol levels and cause damage.
The problem is that cholesterol is essential for life; every single cell in your body needs cholesterol. Cholesterol is also used to produce Vitamin D and the hormones your body needs to function properly. And there doesn’t seem to be a direct correlation to cholesterol intake in your diet and cholesterol levels in your bloodstream. Your body also produces cholesterol, and the more you ingest the less you make.
Also, eggs are extremely nutritious. Egg yolks contain a huge range of essential vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin D, Vitamin A, B Vitamins that are difficult to get from other sources including Vitamin B-12, biotin, riboflavin, choline, iodine, selenium, molybdenum, and phosphorus, in addition to an excellent amount of protein by weight. Eggs should definitely be considered one of the original and genuine superfoods!
You Should Get All Your Vitamins From Food
Many natural health blogs and advisory services make the claim that, in order to get the “highest-value” nutrition, you need to get it directly from food–and nothing else. From the insistence that a good steak or chicken breast will provide superior protein to a shake, to the idea that the alphabet vitamins are better found in food. While getting your vitamins in this manner means you’re likely eating a well-rounded diet (and probably eating nutritiously), it’s not necessarily true that you shouldn’t also get some of your vitamins and minerals from supplementation.
There are a few reasons you may want to use supplemental nutrition. Many nutrients are actually better ingested via supplements, as various factors–such as the presence of fat–can aid the bioavailability of essential nutrients. Vitamins and minerals in supplements can also be in a form that is easier to digest. Plus, when it comes to Vitamin D, if you live in an area that is too far from the equator (like most of the United States), you can’t even produce Vitamin D during part of the year and may need to supplement with Vitamin D. Furthermore, the nutrient levels in fruits and vegetables have been steadily decreasing over the past half-century, and today you don’t get nearly the amounts of vitamins and minerals from plants that you would have in the past. Supplements can help you fill in your nutritional gaps. And antioxidants have many benefits, including anti-aging benefits like fighting free radical damage and supporting your skin in the sun. Definitely eat as nutritious and healthy as you can! But consider ways that supplementing your diet can improve your health.
Other Nutrition Myths
A few other common nutritional myths include the belief that eating smaller meals throughout the day is preferential to discrete meals (and/or skipping meals), microwaves destroy nutrients more than conventional cooking, and regular “detoxing” is important to cleanse your body. You can read more about commonly-perpetuated nutrition myths here.
By: Jane Sandwood