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Nutrition Myths, Debunked

Registered Dietitian, Joni Gerken, is here to debunk some widely known myths around eating, one of the most important aspects of training!

Myth: Eating healthy is more expensive.

It does seem that the less saturated fat or sugar a food item has the more expensive it is. The truth is that is a result of marketing on premade, processed foods. It does take a bit more planning ahead, but healthy eating can be done on a tight budget. A few tips are to buy whole foods in bulk or buy generic brands. Also cook large portions to have leftovers for multiple meals. Just think, a pound of dried chickpeas that costs less than $1, can make about 8 cups of hummus. Yes, you do need the additional ingredients of lemon, garlic, olive oil, and tahini, but still far cheaper than the $3-$5 a cup for popular prepared brands. As a time saver, make a large batch and freeze in smaller portions for later use.

Myth: You should avoid bread and pasta to lose weight.

Grains themselves do not promote weight gain, but it is important to choose whole grains over refined grains. Whole grains include whole wheat, oats, brown rice, quinoa, along with others. Whole grains include the germ and bran of the grain, which is full of fiber, protein, healthy fats, as well as vitamins in minerals. When it comes to weight loss whole grains can help you feel fuller longer and stabilize blood sugar, helping to overall reduce how many calories you eat.

Myth: Avoid gluten for a healthier diet.

If you do not have an intolerance or allergy to gluten, there is no reason to avoid it. In fact, by avoiding gluten you might be reducing your whole grain and fiber intake. Marketing is good on foods advertised as gluten free, making them look healthier, but often they are made of refined grains such as white rice. If you are among the estimated 1% of the population who cannot eat gluten, make sure you are looking for gluten alternatives that are whole grain. If you can eat gluten, avoid the unnecessary effort, and enjoy whole wheat, barley, and rye grains.

Myth: Eating fat will make you fat.

Fat plays a major role in satiety, meaning that fat helps you to stay fuller longer. Fat slows down your digestive system by triggering a slower release of food from your stomach down into your intestines. By staying fuller longer you will eat less calories. This reduced intake is even enough to compensate for the high amount of calories in fat compared to protein and carbohydrates, which has been the source of much of fats bad reputation. Do prioritize both mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fat while minimizing saturated and trans-fats.

Myth: Cow milk and other dairy products are unhealthy.

Milk is full of protein and calcium for a healthy body. Most milk is also fortified with Vitamin D to aid in calcium absorption. This is especially important considering such high risk of Vitamin D deficiency for anyone living above the 37th parallel north circle of latitude (above North Carolina on the East Coast). The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, just released in December continues to recommend three servings of dairy per day for its nutrient benefits. Lactaid options can be a great alternative for people who are lactose intolerance. If you have a milk allergy or avoid animal-based foods, read the labels on your dairy alternatives to make sure they are fortified with close to the 250mg of calcium that dairy has and are fortified with vitamin D as well.

Myth: Skipping meals will help you lose weight.

This has especially been an area of debate with increased popularity of intermittent fasting. Though, there has been some solid evidenced supporting benefits of intermitting fasting for weight loss in lab rats, this has not actually been replicated in humans. Skipping meals can make you feel sluggish which is counterintuitive to a healthy and active lifestyle. Skipping meals can also result in overeating at the next meal. Lastly, it can be very difficult to eat the minimum five servings a day of fruits and vegetable with fewer meals.

Myth: Eating specific foods such as grapefruit, vinegar, and cayenne pepper will help you burn fat.

There is no evidence to support one specific food to increase fat metabolism. Also, these diets focusing on one food tend to be very limited, increasing potential of missing out on essential nutrients. For a healthy diet focus on balancing food groups (fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains, and dairy) and variety within those food groups.

Myth: Eating collagen will increase collagen in your body.

Collagen is a type of protein that helps provide strength and structure throughout our body. It has become a focus with its role in wrinkle prevention for skin, and limiting joint pain. Unfortunately, eating collagen does not necessarily mean more collagen in your body. Like all proteins, your digestive system breaks down collagen into individual amino acids for absorption. After absorption your body uses the amino acids to construct whatever protein it is need of, which may or may not be collagen. So don’t waste your money on collagen supplementation and ensure that you are getting enough overall protein in your diet. Also, make sure to eat enough fruits and vegetables for adequate Vitamin C, since Vitamin C is also essential for collagen production.

Which one surprises you the most?

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