Spring is in the air! This time of year brings warmer weather, longer days, and perhaps less cloudiness and rain and more delightful sunshine. Spring is the season of new beginnings, fresh buds blooms and the earth seems to come to life again. There’s also a common activity that many take part in – spring cleaning. March is also Nutrition Month (aka my favourite initiative), given my passion for nutrition and health. And on that note, let’s take the opportunity to debunk eight nutrition myths and learn the real facts!
Disclaimer – The information is this feature is meant to make you think about being critical about the information we are bombarded with in the media. It is not meant to cause worry or make you revamp your diet. At the end of the day, we all need to make the choices that makes most sense to us at the time. If you have concerns about your diet, consider consulting a dietitian – see the December, 2014, article in Benefits FYI for information on using your UBC Extended Health Benefits for dietitian services.
Avoid carbs if you want to lose weight.
Restricting carbohydrates (carbs) typically involves lowering or eliminating carbohydrate-containing foods like grain products, some fruits, starchy vegetables, some dairy products, as well as high sugar-containing foods. While this can help one lose weight in the short-term due to a lower caloric intake, restrictive diets are not sustainable on a long-term basis. Our bodies need carbohydrates for energy and optimal brain function. Regardless of the diet approach, long-term lifestyle changes in eating habits and physical activity are required to prevent weight loss and maintenance. Complex carbohydrates are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals and fibre.
- Learn more about low carbohydrate diets.
- Learn more about smart choices to include carbohydrates in your diet.
Late-night snacking causes weight gain.
Healthy snacking is a smart way to help ensure adequate nutrient intake for energy and wellbeing. Snacking in between meals can help keep blood glucose levels stable throughout the day. Remember to snack wisely, measure portion sizes, and listen to hunger cues. Visit Healthy Snacks for Adults for great ideas and snack foods to bring to work that will keep you satisfied in between meals or after a workout. It’s more about the type and the amount of food you consume and less about the timing.
You need to take vitamin and mineral supplements to be healthy.
Food first! Most healthy individuals can meet their vitamin and mineral needs with a well-balanced diet. There are certain population groups that require some extra nutrients in the form of supplements including, but not limited to, older individuals, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and those with restricted diets.
Everyone should eat a gluten-free diet.
A gluten-free diet is a necessity for individuals with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested, or with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Gluten is a protein found most commonly in wheat, barley and rye. Unless you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, you don’t need to avoid gluten. Whole grains, among other high-fibre foods, are a healthy choice and offer dietary fibre needed for proper digestion. A gluten-free diet, when not planned properly, can lack vitamins, minerals and fibre. Consult a doctor if you think you may have a gluten allergy or sensitivity.
Superfoods will keep you super healthy.
Goji berries, kale, chia seeds, and quinoa: the list of “superfoods” grows every year. Just as there is no super pill to make you healthy, there isn’t one food that can make you lose weight or cure cancer. Superfoods are simply trends. There is no clear definition of what constitutes a superfood. While these foods can be beneficial to have in our diets due to their nutrient density, so are apples and carrots. Superfoods are often portrayed in the media that one only has to consume them to achieve health and wellbeing. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and you want to keep moderation and variety in mind to achieve health benefits.
Home cooking takes too much time.
Home cooking doesn’t take as much time as you might think! I urge you to get in the kitchen and be involved in the preparation of the foods that nourish you. It does not have to be complicated. It really doesn’t take that much time to grill a piece of fresh salmon and arrange a tossed vegetable salad with oil and vinegar. If you are not experienced in the kitchen, start with simple straightforward meals. Great local and fresh ingredients don’t need much tampering to construct a delicious and nutritious meal. Planning meals in advance let you use your time wisely and make extra for lunches the next day.
- Check out these 5 best time-saving cooking tips.
- If you need inspiration to get in the kitchen, please watch Michael Pollan’s Cooked Series (now on Netflix) based on his book Cooked.
- Need healthy recipes? Try Cookspiration.
Only people with hypertension need to limit their sodium intake.
Sodium is a mineral found in salt and is needed to control blood pressure and to help with muscle and nerve function. The recommended daily intake of sodium is less than 1,500 milligrams, or 2/3 teaspoon of table salt. Most Canadians consume double the amount of sodium needed largely due to the fact that the sodium we consume is hidden in prepared foods. Excess sodium can increase the risk of hypertension and the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Find out the sodium content of common foods.
- For information on lowering your sodium intake, check out the DASH Diet.
A detox diet is needed to clear the toxins from your body.
There’s been a recent obsession with “detox” diets, as if our bodies aren’t equipped to rid of “toxins”. Toxicity is the degree to which a substance can damage an organism. An abundance of numerous substances can eventually cause toxicity, which is why moderation is so important. There are substances that can cause acute or chronic toxicity in high amounts and it’s best to avoid these. Detox diets make big promises but don’t deliver the science to back up their claims. It is true that a couple of days free from processed foods and high in fibrous foods such as vegetables and fruits will do a digestive system some good and will in turn make you feel better. Our bodies are quite spectacular and our liver, kidneys, intestines, and lungs eliminate unwanted waste. Our insides are not dirty and don’t need to be cleansed with juices, pills or potions. Some detox diets include intestine-clearing supplements that might actually be harmful (try prune juice instead!). The gut microbiota play a crucial role in our health, immune function and digestion.
There are no “bad” or “good” foods. What is beneficial for one person, may cause another person extreme discomfort, indigestion, and even allergic reaction. We are all unique and have differing nutrient requirements. Be critical of what you hear and read as it is difficult to sift through the overwhelming amount of health information and unsupported claims.
Keep in mind that stressing about 10 calories or beating yourself up for eating the occasional treat can be more harmful than the actual food you eat. If you want advice, consult a credible and trusted health professional and seek assistance through our many benefits at UBC such as EFAP and Extended Health Benefit coverage. Do what makes most sense to you at the time and take advice from trusted sources.