There’s too much information on human nutrition nowadays. The media is pushing commercials about various weight loss products, light beverages, low fat diet programs, high protein bars etc. Health is undoubtedly a hot topic today. It’s however important to note that we are more unhealthy today than before.
Obesity is out of control. Recent studies indicate that a third of all children in the US are obese. Blood pressures and cardiovascular issues are on the rise and heart disease is now the leading cause of death in the world. In addition, there are more hip fractures among the elderly than ever before. Something is seriously wrong but what is it?
Could it possibly be that the media and the food industry are playing with our minds by looking up to their own interests? Well, perhaps but here are some examples about the most common misconceptions in the field of modern nutrition. However, the main message that I want to share today stresses on the importance of using your common sense and being critical when reading nutrition articles and buying food. Lastly, listen to your body and its reactions to establish whether the food you eat is suitable for you as an individual.
Dairy for strong and healthy bones?
Today’s dairy products are nothing close to what we used to consume 20 years ago. My parents bought their milk and butter from the farms at the edge of the city. Those farms did not pasteurize or homogenize their products in order to make them last longer. Moreover, they didn’t inject their cows with chemical growth hormones to increase their productivity.
Yes, even though we are the only species on earth that consume milk after infancy, it is safe to consume natural un-manipulated products. However, it is the process that milk goes through makes the calcium and other nutrients to transform into substances/chemicals that aren’t recognizable in the body resulting to lactose intolerance, weaker bones, allergies, inflammations and many other health issues.
Therefore, like everything else, consume dairy products in moderation and go as natural and local as possible. Or like every other species on the planet, leave dairy after the breast feeding is over. Dark leafy greens are packed with natural calcium so don’t worry.
(Michaelsson et al 2014, Feskanich et al 2014)
Consuming diet and light products to get fewer calories?
It is highly recommended to take fewer calories. It is however important to note that counting calories is a myth. Not all calories are created equal. Also, not all calories are good for you. If they were, there would be no difference between eating four cups of candy and three meals of fresh fruits, berries and vegetables, right?
Whether you choose the light beverage instead of the original one, you will still get the additives and preservatives that are the cause of most health issues, not the calories. There is no such thing as eating too much fresh fruits, berries, vegetables or nuts and seeds. You simply can’t go over the “calorie recommendation” and gain weight eating fruits and vegetables.
Therefore, if you wish to avoid obtaining severe health issues like type 2-diabetes and obesity for example, leave the marketed light- and diet beverages aside and drink pure water. Depending on your desires, add some juice from fresh fruits, unrefined salt or sugar to boost it up. Lastly, it is ok to have a beer or a coke or two per week as long as the basics of your everyday diet are in order.
(Nettleton et al 2009, Lutsey et al 2008)
Grains for Dietary Fiber?
Dietary fiber has a lot of health benefits as we know. It is vital from nurturing the colon to heart health. Yes, grains have tons of fiber in their natural form. However, grain products and the industry aren’t like they used to be.
The journey of a grain kernel into bread is long and rough. It includes lots of processing like heating and preservatives transforming the grain itself into something hard for us humans to digest. Links between consumption of highly processed grain products and gluten intolerances as well as celiac diseases have been found.
Moreover, as a physiotherapist and nutritional consultant, I and many of my colleagues have found out that leaving grain and dairy out of the diets for a month leads to substantial health improvements.
Sufficient amounts of dietary fiber can be obtained from dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, some fruits and vegetables like bananas, dates and broccoli. Therefore, make a trial period for a month and see how your body begins to feel. If you however wish to continue with grain products, try to find non-refined products and add them into your diet as they are or with minimal heating.
(Catassi et al 2008, Venge and R. Hallgren 2007, Feighery 1999)
Where Do You Get Your Protein?
That is a common question among health enthusiasts except the need for extra protein in everyday diets is a misconception. Almost everything we eat contains loads of protein and all excess protein is stored in the body as fat leading to weight gain and other health problems.
Another issue with protein rich foods is that they are often highly refined and full of additives (e.g. dairy, meat and protein powders). Lastly, according to the research and studies carried out by the International Olympic Committee, it is primarily carbohydrates, not proteins that need to be replaced after exercise. Protein becomes essential only when we don’t consume sufficient amounts of natural carbohydrates obtained in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables.
However, if you still believe in the power of protein, or don’t consume sufficient amounts of fresh produce, try to find natural protein sources like dark leafy greens (spinach, kale), vegetables (avocado, broccoli) or nuts and seeds (almonds, flax seeds).
All in all, there is a lot of confusion about nutrition today. In this article, the essential misconceptions affecting health have been discussed. The dairy and grain industries are refining their products causing digestion issues leading to severe health issues for consumers. In addition, diet and light versions of foods and beverages are invented in order to empower industries instead of human health. For the same reason, protein products are developed leading to obesity and other metabolic disorders. The real challenge therefore is to begin to change the way we think about nutrition. What is good for me individually and what works is the question we should all be asking ourselves instead of listening to the media.
More entries by Teijo
Michaelsson, A. Wolk, S. Langenskiöld, S. Basu, E. Warensjö, H. Melhus and L Byberg. Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies. October 2014. Department of Surgical Sciences, Uppsala University, Stockholm, Sweden. British Medical Journal. Vol. 349.
Feskanich, H. Bischoff-Ferrari, L. Frazier and W. Willett. Milk Consumption During Teenage Years and Risk of Hip Fractures in Older Adults. January 2014. Department of medicine, Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Boston, Massachussets, USA. Journal of American Medical Association. Vol. 168. Issue 1.
Lutsey, L. Steffen and J. Stevens. Dietary Intake and the Development of the Metabolic Syndrome: The Atherosclerosis Risk in communities study. January 2008. American Heart Association, Dallas, Texas, USA. Circulation. Journal of the American Heart Association. Vol. 117. P. 754-761.
Nettleton, P. Lutsey, Y. Wang, J. Lima, E. Michos and D. Jacobs. Diet Soda Intake and Risk of Incident Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. April 2009. University of Texas Health Sciences Center, Houston, Texas, USA. Diabetes Care. Vol. 32. Issue 4. P. 688-694.
Catassi, IM. Rätsch, E. Fabiani, S. Ricci, F. Bordicchia, R. Pierdomenico and PL. Giorgi. High prevalence of undiagnosed coeliac disease in 5280 Italian students screened by anti gliadin antibodies. 21 Jan. 2008 online.
Feighery. Coeliac Disease. Brittish Medical Journal. 24 July 1999. Department of Immunology, St James’s Hospital, Dublin, Irland. p.319-236.
Venge and R. Hallgren. Mucosal reactivity to cow’s milk protein in coeliac disease. Clinical and Experimental Immunology. Mar 2007. 147(3):449-455. Department of Medical Sciences, University Hospital of Uppsala, Sweden.
Book: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Graham D. 2008. p.73-83.