Welcome to Part 2 of 5 Big Fat Nutrition Lies. Here’s to clearing up a few more common misconceptions in the world of nutrition:
Lie No. 6: Carbs Should be Your Biggest Source of Calories (and fat should be your smallest).
Fact: Extensive research has proven a low-fat, high-carb diet to be ineffective and potentially dangerous. If you remember back to the days of the food pyramid, grains found their home at the base of the pyramid, suggesting they should be our biggest source of calories. Fats hung out at the very tip of the pyramid, suggesting we should consume them sparingly. This outdated reference was finally revised by the USDA and the food pyramid has died a long overdue death. Unfortunately, confusion regarding this topic continues to linger. Allow me to explain…Many years ago, it was believed that dietary fat led to weight gain and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. This was based on low quality, flawed studies that since have been proven wrong- repeatedly! Regardless, the low-fat diet craze began and in addition to consuming less fat, it was recommended we eat more carbs (about 50-60% of our calorie intake!). Around the time this low-fat, high-carb diet was implemented, the health of our nation plummeted. The obesity epidemic began and disease rates sky rocketed. Decades and several massive studies later, this diet has been proven ineffective and even harmful to many individuals- specifically those with obesity, metabolic syndrome or diabetes.
Studies today consistently show that diets that are high in fat and low in carbs are much more effective for weight-loss and preventing disease. Stop fearing fat! The truth is we need fat to utilize essential fatty acids, support a healthy immune system, proper metabolic function, strong bones and muscles. Healthy, natural fats that are found in fish, animals, animal products, nuts and natural oils are very good for us and actually help protect against cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity. So if you have been avoiding fat, stop! Enjoy it, it’s nutritious AND delicious! (The only fat that needs to be avoided is Trans Fat– it is not natural and very harmful to the human body.) *Also, please remember not all carbohydrates are “bad” and they are absolutely an essential part of our diet- they just don’t need to make up 50-60% of it. Focus on getting the majority of your carbs from fruits and vegetables.
Lie No. 7: Everyone Should be Eating Whole Grains.
Fact: Grains are not a necessary part of our diet and can actually be harmful to our metabolism. Whole grains have been all the rage lately and although they are more nutrient dense and less processed than refined grains, that doesn’t mean that they are appropriate for everyone. If you are someone who does not enjoy eating grains or they are problematic for you, it’s perfectly fine to avoid them. Your health is not at risk because we don’t NEED to eat whole grains. Every beneficial nutrient (fiber, vitamins, minerals) found in whole grains can be found in several other foods. In fact, most fruits and vegetables are better sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals than the average whole grain. The most common grain in the United States’ diet is wheat, which contains gluten that a significant portion of our population may be sensitive to. Intolerant or not, gluten causes inflammation in the body, which can lead to a whole slew of chronic diseases. If you are a grain-lover, I challenge you to expand your horizon beyond wheat and incorporate a variety of grains like quinoa, barley, rye, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, farro, millet, Kamut and oats in your diet.
Lie No. 8: Vegetarian & Vegan Diets are the Healthiest
Fact: Vegetarians and Vegans Can Be Missing Key Nutrients for Health. Let me start out by saying that I completely respect individuals choosing to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet for moral or religious reasons. However, if you’re following one of these diets simply because you have heard it’s healthier, you may want to reconsider. Vegetarian and Vegan diets tend to be very high in carbohydrates and low in protein and fat, which has been scientifically proven to be problematic for overall health promotion and disease prevention. Individuals following a vegetarian or vegan diet are also at a very high risk of developing a Vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that helps support bone health, muscle mass, healthy hormonal levels and cognitive function. This nutrient is ONLY found in animal-based proteins so if you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet, it should be supplemented. Vegetarians and vegans also tend to consume a diet rich in soy and soy products. Soy has been a very controversial topic, but what we do know is that it contains phytoestrogens and high levels have been associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, Type 2 Diabetes, infertility, depression and several cancers. If possible, I recommend incorporating responsible animal products such as grass-fed meat, free-range poultry and fermented dairy to your diet. If not, at the very least take a Vitamin B12 supplement, focus on getting plenty of healthy fats and protein from vegetarian sources and consume soy in small amounts.
Lie No. 9: You Should Eat 5-6 Small Meals Per Day to “Keep Metabolism High”
Fact: Eating all the time doesn’t make you healthier or help your metabolism. It’s true that your metabolism increases slightly when you eat in order to digest the food, but it’s the total amount of food consumed in a day that determines the energy you use, NOT the number (or frequency) of meals. Several studies have put the small, frequent meals method to the test and found it ineffective. It’s also not natural for the human body to be continuously in the fed state. Fasting, or not eating for a while is natural and good for you. Your body uses this time to burn fat more efficiently and clean waste products out of our cells. People also tend to feel fuller with fewer, bigger meals than with smaller, frequent meals. Your digestive system prefers to move food in bulk too. To help curb in-between meal hunger, make sure you’re getting enough protein and fat at mealtime. They both increase satiety and will help keep you feeling full until your next meal.
Feel free to comment with any questions.