Food and Nutrition, it’s a topic that is literally everywhere you look, from the latest superfood trends (unicorn 🦄 everything) to some of the most controversial diets – we are looking at you paleo.
Add some sensationalist news headlines, statements from “insta-famous self-titled health and wellness gurus”, chefs and nutrition professionals, mix in the rate at which news is spread, you’ve got the recipe for a controversial storm.
Best case scenario you avoid foods that are bad for you, worst case scenario you end up choosing unhealthier options, while thinking you’re making a healthy choice.
I’ll be honest nutrition is such a broad and relatively unexplored topic, and the research is always changing.
Look at eggs for example: 5 years ago, the advice warned against over consumption because of its link to bad heart health, these days more concise research has portrayed eggs and cardiovascular health in a more positive light.
You don’t have to look far to find healthy eating advice, however not all advice is good advice.
Myth 1) Clean Treats are always a healthier option.
Foods with the words “clean” “guilt-free” and “healthy” in the title seem to come with a health halo around them. However, be warned, even salt looks like sugar and these recipes generally use a lot of other ingredients such as: nuts, coconut oil and sweeteners such as agave syrup to compensate for flavour and texture.
When it comes to natural sweeteners sugar is still sugar and on a molecular level the sugar in an apple is the same as the sugar in Coca-Cola. There can be a difference in how our bodies break down sugar when it is combined with fibre and protein, but simply being “natural” doesn’t cut it.
Although the ingredients are “less refined” and more natural, the overall energy, sugar, fat and saturated fat content can still be quite high.
Portion size is still just as important with these treats, just like it is with chocolates and other processed treat foods.
Myth 2) Everyone needs to be taking multivitamins.
Scroll through your Instagram feed, I guarantee it won’t be long before you find a post promoting the benefits of multivitamins.
If you have a medical condition that puts you at risk for vitamin deficiencies such as coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease or if you’ve undergone surgery such as a gastric bypass a supplement such as a multivitamin can be necessary to help meet your individual needs.
Plant based diet followers generally take a vitamin B complex supplement as they may be lacking in some micronutrients such as vitamin B12 or iron.
If you are very active and wanting to provide your muscles with the best support both pre and post workout supplements like L-glutamine may be beneficial.
Be warned there is however little regulation over the quality of “multivitamins” meaning that they may contain higher amounts of vitamins and minerals then what is promoted on the label.
Most multivitamins sold in health food or drug stores are synthetically created so they are poorly absorbed and not utilised by the body efficiently. They also can contain fillers, food dyes and other ingredients which can affect vitamin absorption in the gut.
Your body knows how to break down food and utilise its energy, we can’t say the same for a synthetic pill.
If you follow a balanced and healthy diet and are generally a healthy person, multivitamin supplements are unnecessary. You can get all the vitamins and minerals you need from foods so really your just wasting money on multivitamins.
Include more foods such as: almonds, shellfish, quinoa, seaweed or even fermented vegetables to give your diet a health boost and provide all you need from vitamin A- Zinc.
Myth 3) Everyone will benefit from giving up gluten.
You don’t need to look any further then your local cafe to notice that the abundance of gluten free foods is so much more readily available then it was once upon a time.
However, eating gluten free is not always necessary healthier if you do not have coeliac disease or a gluten intolerance/sensitivity.
Not all gluten free foods are created equally or healthfully and many baked goods may still use nutrient-poor refined flours, not to mention they can also be higher in artificial sugars.
If you think you might be sensitive to gluten, it’s always best to visit a dietitian to ask about being tested.
Myth 4) Salads are always the healthiest option on the menu.
Salad is generally considered to be the healthiest option on the menu, but don’t be fooled all the add-ons piled onto your bed of lettuce can make the overall energy, sugar and fat content just as high if not higher than the burger, pizza or pasta that your trying to resist.
Be wary of salad toppings that can add up quickly such as commercially made dressings, cheese, sweetened and dried fruit, bacon and croutons to name a few. Other ingredients such as avocado and nuts are healthy in small amounts, however these are generally served in large portion sizes.
To make your salad as healthy as possible, look for ones with lots of leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, kale), lean protein such as grilled/poached chicken, a small serving of a healthy fat i.e. 1 handful of unsalted nuts and an oil-based dressing on the side.
Not only does the dressing on the side allow you to control how much your adding into your salad but the oil helps your body to absorb all the fat-soluble nutrients you’re eating.
Myth 5) Nut milks are better than dairy milks.
If you cannot tolerate dairy milk then nut based milk is generally a good choice nutritionally.
Milk is rich in protein and calcium and it’s important to remember that almond milk contains literally none-of these nutrients.
While some non-dairy milks have a little calcium added, it is always in much smaller amounts then are found in soy or dairy milks.
If you do choose to drink nut milk, make sure you get your calcium from somewhere else such as hard (yellow) cheeses, chia seeds, greens such as spinach, kale, broccoli or even soybeans, white beans or navy beans to name a few.
I hope this helps you to debunk the most controversial food and nutrition myths and understand more of the science behind the food we eat and drink.
If you have any dietary concerns it’s always best to see an accredited health professional such as a nutritionist, dietitian or even your local doctor they can help tailor a plan to meet your individual nutrition goals.
In the day in age where everyone is a nutrition expert it’s important to remember that, evidence-based advice is the gold standard and that you should always seek advice from a qualified professional not Google.