By Avance Care Registered Dietitian Grace Burton, MS, RD, LDN
It’s about that time for another round of nutrition mythbusters! There is an overwhelming amount of nutrition information in the media, not to mention the fact that it tends to be very contradictory. This makes it hard to determine what is trustworthy advice. I have rounded up some of the most common questions/comments I still receive from patients regarding diets, fads, and trends within the nutrition world in hopes to provide some clarification for others too.
Myth: In order to lose weight, you must follow a low carb diet.
Truth: Carbohydrates won’t prevent weight loss unless your portions are too large – but this goes for any food. High quality carbohydrates provide important nutrients and can actually support weight management, and therefore, we should eat them on a regular basis.
All carbohydrates break down into sugar (glucose), which is our body’s main source of energy. Carbohydrates provide necessary fuel for the brain and cells so that our bodies can function properly.
With that being said, not all carbohydrates are created equally. The key is to choose the higher quality carbohydrates, which contain more fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. These carbs provide key nutrients that help to control cholesterol, blood sugar, digestion, and weight. Not to mention, they help to prevent chronic disease and cancer.
The carbohydrates that you do want to limit have less of the beneficial nutrients and are in foods such as white, refined grains, desserts, and sugary beverages.
Another thing to note is that restriction of anything usually leads to over-indulging. Trying to limit or cut out carbohydrates usually intensifies the cravings (especially for the refined/sugary carbs) which can result in overeating them. Therefore, it’s best to include them in moderate amounts throughout the day to help maintain adequate blood sugar, energy levels, and appetite.
Myth: Dairy is bad for you.
Truth: Dairy provides protein, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals and should only be avoided if you’re allergic to it.
There are so many plant-based dairy products out there now but many of them lack in protein and naturally occurring calcium compared to cow dairy. When choosing dairy products, look for low-fat and non-fat dairy products to help reduce the amount of saturated fat.
Myth: Gluten is bad for you.
Truth: Gluten is a protein found in many whole grain products that provide fiber and other nutrients. You should only avoid gluten if you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance.
The gluten-free diet is another trendy weight loss diet and it’s hard to miss all the “gluten-free” labels on many food products these days. Following a gluten-free diet may lead to weight loss because overall, it is a restrictive diet. However, many gluten-free foods tend to have less fiber and more sugar than gluten containing foods. Therefore, you tend to miss out on key nutrients that contribute to optimal health.
Myth: You must cut out all “bad” foods in order to lose weight and be healthy.
Truth: There are no “good” and “bad” foods and no individual food can cause weight gain. A healthy diet is not a perfect diet. It is a balance of nourishing and enjoyable foods that make our bodies feel good.
Diet culture has led us to believe that in order to successfully lose weight and lead healthy lives, we must cut out certain foods, such as carbs, sugar, fried, or processed foods. However, this restrictive mindset is hard to sustain long-term, which is why people often fall off track with their diets. Adopting the “everything in moderation” mindset and realizing that a healthy diet should be more inclusive rather than exclusive can help us to be more successful in the long run.
Another helpful mindset to adopt is “progress not perfection”. Rather than setting the expectation that you have to eat a perfect meal every time, think of it as trying to make small changes where you can. So the next time your family wants to order pizza, enjoy your pizza with a veggie on it or a side salad instead of depriving yourself from the pizza altogether!
Myth: Don’t eat after 6PM.
Truth: Eating after 6PM won’t contribute to weight gain unless you’re eating foods in excess, which will cause weight gain no matter what time you eat.
Rather than the timing of eating having a potential impact on our weight, it’s the portion of foods that affect our weight. If you don’t usually eat dinner until 7PM or if you tend to have a snack before bedtime, weight gain shouldn’t be a concern as long as you’re making nutritious choices and consuming appropriate portion sizes. In fact, going to bed hungry can often disrupt sleep or lead to overeating the next morning. So as long as we are being mindful with our eating, there’s no need to worry about setting a cut off time for eating at night.
Myth: Don’t eat bananas (or any fruit for that matter).
Truth: Fruit does contain natural sugar, but it also contains fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Due to the fiber and overall nutrient content in fruits, you don’t need to avoid any of them and consuming a variety of fruits helps to get different nutrients.
Sadly, fruit has become another food that is frequently feared within diet culture due to the sugar content. However, it is more important to limit added sugar found in sweets, sugary beverages, and many refined, processed foods. These foods tend to lack fiber, meaning they spike blood sugar more quickly than fruit. Eating fruit as part of a meal or as a snack paired with protein or healthy fat can help to stabilize blood sugar levels.
Myth: Avoid all foods higher in fat.
Truth: Fat is a necessary macronutrient that has important roles in our bodies like keeping us satisfied and helping us absorb vitamins from our foods. Heart-healthy fats should be a regular part of our diet.
Opt for more of the heart-healthy fats that can be found in plant-based sources, such as avocados, olives, olive/canola oil, nuts/seeds, and nut butters. Fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna, provides an excellent source of healthy fats as well.
Fats that come from high fat animal products and fried foods should be limited. These include full fat dairy products, butter, and high fat/processed meats such as ribeye steaks, bacon, and sausage.
Don’t all of those myths aka “food rules” feel restrictive and exhausting to keep up with? Come learn more about a balanced diet where all foods can fit!
If you need help with establishing realistic New Year’s resolutions or if you’re looking to improve your health in 2021, reach out to schedule an appointment with an Avance Care Registered Dietitian by calling (919) 237-1337, option 4.
Grace is a registered dietitian working at the Wake Forest location. In her free time, she enjoys playing with her new puppy, Lucy. She also likes to run and especially likes doing races in other cities because it gives her an excuse to visit new places. She loves trying new restaurants, spending time with family and friends, and cheering on the NC State Wolfpack at football and basketball games.