On a daily basis you are likely to find tons of posts on your News Feed on Facebook informing you about a new superfood and the wonders it can do for your body. And although trying your hand in making a superfood salad for your lunch at the office is never a bad idea, you shouldn’t believe your friends when they claim that eating carbs is super bad for you and you should avoid them completely. In a world where we have so much information at our finger tips everyday, it gets harder to sift through the nonsense and find what’s true and what’s not. Of course this line of thinking shouldn’t just be restricted to health information, it should also be applied to anything you read on the Internet and watch on TV.
How often have you clicked on a news story only to find out a few minutes or hours later that it was fake? It happens to too many of us and it happens more often than it should. Recently, an image trending on Facebook displayed a picture of an onion, the caption told people that once onions are cut they become poisonous, whether they are stored in the fridge or not. This was passed around thousands of times with various comments from people who threw out their onions exclaiming that they had no idea. This is an excellent example of how false information can spread panic. Just to be clear, onions do not become poisonous once they’re cut. As long as they’re refrigerated and stored properly, they are perfectly safe to use again.
We interviewed Kate Tompkins, a Clinical Dietitian at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, to help us squash some of these ridiculous diet myths and to inform us on what a real dietitian thinks of several of these popular “fad diets” people are following. She’s gone to school for many, many years and learned a lot on the subject, having worked under several dietitians in highly respected hospitals. Needless to say, she knows what she’s talking about. Here’s what we learned about these dreaded diet myths, straight from a dietitian’s mouth.
1. Butter VS Margarine?
This one really isn’t that black and white. Kate says that margarine is usually better, since it’s made with vegetable oils containing good fats, however, it really just depends on what is actually being used to make each product. Butter is made from animal product, which contains saturated fats, but margarine sometimes has trans fat in it. Basically, check the labels, and don’t eat entire sticks of butter straight out of the box! Use both products (whichever one you fancy most, or both if you like to take a walk on the wild side) in moderation.
2. What’s up With This Gluten Free Business?
According to Tompkins, a gluten free diet is important if you’ve been diagnosed with Celiac disease, or have gluten sensitivity. However, there’s really no evidence saying a gluten free diet is more beneficial than a diet that includes gluten if you don’t have to worry about consuming it. What a relief for all of us mac-and-cheese (and Olive Garden breadstick) lovers!
3. Is the Paleo Diet All it’s Cracked up to Be?
Kate tells us that the Paleo diet encourages unprocessed foods, like organic fruits, vegetables, fish, eggs, nuts, and seeds. While eating unprocessed foods is definitely much better for you, she says the problem with the Paleo diet is that it cuts out whole grains and low fat dairy. It’s not necessary to do so to have a healthy diet or to lose weight. Whole grains contain fiber that can actually help you remain full so you don’t stuff your face and continue to engorge yourself; dairy contains calcium and vitamin D, which is why mom always said, “finish your milk and your bones will grow big and strong!” If you cut out these food groups from your normal diet, you could potentially have deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals, and fiber, which helps you poop regularly, and you definitely want to keep pooping regularly.
4. What Top 5 Foods Should People Stick With?
Tompkins gets this question a lot, and insists that people should make sure to eat the proper amounts of whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat diary, and of course, fruits and vegetables. And beans! (We know that that’s actually six foods, but you can’t neglect beans; they don’t always make you fart, and they really are good for your heart!)
5. Is my Friend Right that Coconut Oil Is the Most Nutritious Food?
No. Your friend was misinformed. Coconut oil has saturated fat in it, the type that can raise cholesterol values, and whether or not it has all the benefits people think it does, it still remains to be seen. Kate reminds us that moderation is key with any type of saturated fat.
6. Do Carbs Make us Fat? Should we Cut Them Out Completely?
“No!” Kate exclaims. Carbohydrates are the body’s natural energy source! There are so many foods that contain carbs, many of which you probably don’t even realize. Yes, carbs are in bread and pasta. However, they’re also in certain fruits, milk, and beans! Limiting carbs from processed foods like candy, pastries, and soft drinks can improve your health, but carbs from foods such as potatoes, fruits, and whole grain breads are excellent sources of fiber, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, and folic acid. Look at all that goodness you get from scary old carbs!
7. Multivitamins/Supplements: Should we Be Taking Them or Not?
I think the obvious answer here is that if you have a deficiency, you should probably be taking supplements to help you get your daily-recommended value of whatever it is that you’re deficient in. However, most people with a regular diet don’t really need multivitamins or supplements (unless you’re pregnant of course.) “The best way to stay healthy is to consume a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods. If you do this, you are likely meeting all your vitamin and mineral needs and therefore don’t need to go and spend money on supplements!” Kate says.
8. Is Breakfast Really the Most Important Meal of the Day?
There’s a grey area that comes with this question. Kate says that it really depends on the individual. Basically, if you skip breakfast and you feel that rumble in your tummy coming on at 10 AM, you’re more than likely left with vending machine food, or the equivalent from a convenient store. It’s also likely that you’ll end up overcompensating at lunch. So the idea is that if you have a healthy breakfast at home, you won’t need to eat three bags of chips and a candy bar waiting for your lunch break to roll around. “If you do skip breakfast, make sure you have a healthy snack option on hand so that you don’t let yourself get too hungry,” Kate suggests. Many health officials agree that breakfast is important because it gives you energy to start your day, but that’s only the case if you’re eating the proper healthy foods.
9. Is Sugar Really as Bad as the Media Makes it?
Tompkins reminds us that there are two types of sugars that we need to learn to differentiate between. On one hand we have the naturally occurring sugars, which you can find in fruit and milk, while on the other hand we have the added sugars, which are basically any type of sweetener added to foods. With sugar, we need to remember that the issue is with how we use it, not necessarily the fact that it’s there. Currently, it’s incorporated into our diets in incredibly large amounts. You’ve seen the images circulating that show via sugar cubes how much sugar is in what drink or candy bar. Kate suggests being mindful of how much sugar is added into whatever it is that you’re about to eat. That’s where the trusty old nutrition label comes in handy. There’s actually a new nutrition label that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to help you figure out exactly how much sugar is in your product.
10. Are Things we Read on the Internet True?
If a sentence starts with “I read this on the Internet” then it’s likely that it’s not entirely true. As previously stated, we have a wealth of information at our fingertips, but it’s also very easy for someone to add their opinion, making it seem like fact. Kate says to pay close attention to the source of your information. “There are a lot of diet myths out there! And it seems like everyday there’s a new ‘superfood’ or ‘miracle diet’ to follow.” When it comes to your nutrition and wellness information, make sure you are getting your answers from a registered dietitian, or your doctor. Generally you should only get information on health and diet by someone who is credible in the field. “You will likely see information provided by a ‘nutritionist,’ but unfortunately, their education, background and knowledge cannot be verified. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist,” Kate warns. “Registered dietitians are the nutrition experts. They receive extensive education regarding nutrition, have completed supervised practice in healthcare, foodservice and community organizations, and are required to maintain their credentials with continuing education.” Basically, use your common sense when gathering information from the Internet. Don’t be a dummy and believe everything you read online!
Tompkins says any diet that tells you to cut out whole food groups, or to follow strict menus, should be questioned, especially if it promises quick weight loss or “no need to exercise.” She suggests that a real healthy diet is choosing a variety of foods from all food groups, and most importantly, practicing moderation with foods that aren’t that nutritious. Now you can inform your friends when they start judging you for eating carbs, or not eating gluten free foods. Thanks Kate, and Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, for all of your helpful (and scientifically proven) dietary information!
*Kate Tompkins was interviewed by the author