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8 Nutrition Myths that Drive Dietitians Crazy


Keto is a healthy diet for weight loss. Coconut sugar is better for health than cane sugar. Eating protein will build muscle. Pregnant women shouldn't eat fish.


Social media promotes a lot of nutrition myths. A group of dietitians share the 8 nutrition myths that drive them crazy.


Nutrition Myths that Drive Dietitians Crazy
Nutrition Myths that Drive Dietitians Crazy

Where Nutrition Myths Come From

The risks and benefits of regularly eating specific foods are incredibly difficult to study and draw conclusions on because of several factors. To begin with, researchers can’t always isolate nutrients from food, nor can they ask people to eat only one food for a period of time due to ethical considerations. Even if they could, what good would it do? Eating a single food for weeks wouldn’t mimic real life. 

 

Another factor is that the impact a nutrient has on one population may not hold true for another.

 

Yet another reason it’s difficult to study the effects of food on humans is the inability to control for other factors like health status, lifestyle habits, medications, and environment.

 

Despite its challenges, research continues to be done on food and the study results make headlines. Nutrition research is important. The more we experiment, the more we learn.


However, sometimes a study’s (mis)interpretation has lasting effects that lead people to restrict certain food groups, develop a poor relationship with food, lose pleasure in eating, and even acquire nutrient deficiencies. Misinterpretation of study results, along with influencers and even some doctors trying to earn attention in the media, may have contributed to some of the myths that exist around food today. 

 

Below are eight nutrition myths that drive dietitians crazy and the reasons why.    

 

8 Nutrition Myths that Drive Dietitians Crazy


Nutrition Myth #1: Dairy foods are inflammatory.

dairy foods
Myth: Dairy is inflammatory.

“The most annoying myth that I hear frequently is that dairy foods are inflammatory,” says Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD and Owner of Sound Bites Nutrition in Ohio.

 

“Not only are low-fat dairy products part of the DASH diet, they may also help lower inflammation,” she argues.

 


“A recent systematic review of studies found that dairy protein had either neutral or beneficial effects on inflammation in individuals without severe inflammatory conditions. The review included studies on milk, cheese, yogurt, and dairy protein consumption."

 

"Individuals with lactose intolerance may be able to enjoy some dairy products such as cheese or yogurt in moderation.”

 

Dairy is an important component of the diet because it offers one of the few food sources of vitamin D, a vitamin most of the global population is deficient in. Dairy also provides calcium and protein. 

 

While calcium, vitamin D, and protein can come from other sources, if a person enjoys dairy, it’s an easy and healthful way to get these nutrients.

 

If you like food puns, check out Lisa’s fun Food Pun Shop whose proceeds help support food and/or nutrition education!

 

 

Nutrition Myth #2: Low-fat or fat-free dairy products are always healthier.


whole milk
Myth: Low fat milk is always healthier.

Myths around dairy are common.

 

Amy Beney, MS, RD, CDCES and owner of Nutrition Insights PLLC in New York shares, “Whole milk dairy was once feared as the cause of weight gain and negative health consequences of drinking whole milk.”

 

Amy wants to turn this myth on its head. “There has been research about the health benefits of whole milk dairy. Research has shown that in addition to a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables and whole grains, there are some health benefits of whole milk dairy.” 

 

“Drinking 1 cup of whole milk per day was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, colorectal cancer, metabolic syndrome, obesity and osteoporosis. Milk is a great source of protein which can be filling and satisfying when trying to lose weight.”

 

Research is suggesting that the fat from dairy is less likely to be a major contributor of obesity, as has been argued by the USDA. Instead, saturated fats from ultra-processed foods, large American-sized portions, and high intakes of sugar or sugar substitutes are stronger candidates for food-induced weight gain.

 

 

Nutrition Myth #3: It is unhealthy to cook with olive oil.

olive oil
Myth: It's unhealthy to cook with olive oil.

Tansy Boggon, author and nutritionist of Joyful Eating Nutrition in New Zealand, debunks the myth that, “Some diet proponents say to use olive oil only for salads and drizzling, proclaiming that cooking with olive oil has a carcinogenic effect due to releasing toxins when heated.”  


“The opposite is true,” she argues.


“The antioxidants in olive oil protect against the free radicals produced during cooking. So, although when you cook with extra virgin olive oil you won’t get as much of the antioxidant benefits, it is not harmful and will still be a good source of monounsaturated fats, a more health-promoting choice than saturated fats.”


Check out Tansy’s blog Joyful Eating.

 


Nutrition Myth #4: Coconut oil is better for you than other oils.


coconut and coconut oil
Myth: Coconut oil is healthier than other oils.

Following up on Tansy’s myth about olive oil, it’s frustrating to see so many influencers creating recipes with coconut oil, claiming it’s healthier for you than other cooking oils. In fact, the science right now suggests it is worse.


Although there may be exciting components of coconut oil that may tease at the idea of health benefits like weight loss, cardiovascular health, and Alzheimer's prevention, the science to date does not draw any of these conclusions.


According to a systematic review of all high quality evidence on coconut oil published in Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research and Reviews in 2020, coconut oil has a negative impact on cardiometabolic health. Coconut oil raises LDL, HDL, and total cholesterol.


\The phenolic and antioxidant properties of coconut oil that would be expected to improve heart health and prevent Alzheimer’s have only been shown in cell cultures rather than in humans. Further, the properties that make coconut oil plausible in improving brain health (capric and caprylic acid) are too low in volume; adding coconut oil to the diet without other supplements wouldn’t make any difference in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. 


The weight loss myth comes from coconut oil having medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which are digested differently from long chain fatty acids found in most of our dietary fat. However, lauric acid is the major fatty acid found in coconut oil, and although it is considered an MCT based on biochemical properties, it has also been classified as a long chain fatty acid in terms of digestion and metabolism. Therefore, coconut oil’s ability to aid in weight loss is still debatable because lauric acid does not behave like other MCTs.


For now, the health risks of replacing other oils with coconut oil outweigh any potential benefits. It’s best to use heart healthy oils recommended by the American Heart Association that are rich in poly- and mono-unsaturated fats like olive, canola, or safflower oil.


If you’re a California resident who wants to work with a Registered Dietitian, make an appointment at ZESTNutritionService.com. 

 

 

Nutrition Myth #5: Fruit has too much sugar.


variety of fruit
Myth: Fruit has too much sugar.

"One of the biggest myths that drives me crazy is that fruit has too much sugar,” says Melissa Mitri, MS, RD, Nutrition Writer, and Owner of Melissa Mitri Nutrition in Connecticut.

 

“Unfortunately, many people fear fruit nowadays because of the myth that it contains too much sugar. Much of this stems from low-carb diet proponents or people who are fearful of eating too much sugar.


But, there is absolutely no evidence to back up this myth.”

 

Melissa explains, “While fruit contains sugar, it is in the form of fructose, a natural fruit sugar. Fruit is also rich in essential vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, which can support weight loss and keep us full.“ These nutrients also keep our immune systems strong and may prevent illness when others around us are sick. They can also help reduce plaque build-up in arteries and free-radical activity that’s associated with cancer. 

 

“It is not the natural sugar from fruit we should limit, but the added sugar in ultra-processed foods like sugary cereals, flavored yogurt, and baked goods,” Melissa reminds us.

 

The fiber in fruit helps prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes. Those with diabetes need to test out and learn their portion limits. Individuals with diabetes should talk to a dietitian about tailoring their diet to ensure fruit is included.

 

And for even the most sugar-conscious, it would be foolish to limit all fruits. Avocados contain zero grams of naturally occurring sugar per serving and does not affect the glycemic response. Avocados contain unsaturated fats that support cardiovascular health, but should be limited to about half an avocado per day due to the higher calories.

 

“And if you're still not convinced,” Melissa concludes, “this research study shows a clear link: those who eat more fruit tend to weigh less. Fruit - fear no more!"

 

If you want help with weight loss, consider Melissa’s nutrition program.

 

 

Nutrition Myth #6: Eggs are bad for your health.

Sunny-side-up egg on veggies.
Myth: Eggs are bad for health.

“Eggs are a complete protein and a great source of essential amino acids,” says Amy Beney. 

 

“Many people are afraid to eat eggs regularly due to their high saturated fat levels.” They think that eggs are bad for cardiovascular health. 


Research supports that this is a myth and that eggs are actually a heart healthy food,” Amy clarifies. 

 

How can eggs be good for your heart?

 

Amy explains, “They are considered heart healthy due to their unique nutritional profile.  According to research, eggs do not increase the biomarkers associated with heart disease risk. In contrast, eggs contain several nutritional components which protect against chronic disease, including lutein, zeaxanthin, choline, vitamin D, selenium, and vitamin A.” 

 

Eggs three to four times are week can provide added protein to the diet as well.

  

 

Nutrition Myth #7: Carrots are high in sugar.  


Person holding bunch of carrots by the stems.
Myth: Carrots are high in sugar.

One more myth that Amy wants to set the record straight on is the sugar content of carrots.

 

“In one cup of chopped carrots, which is a healthy serving, there are 6 grams of sugar. This sugar gives carrots their sweet taste.  Is this a lot of sugar?”

 

Amy says, “No. Compare it to 12 oz. of Pepsi, which has 41 grams of sugar, or 5 Swedish Fish that have 23 grams of total sugar.” 

 

In fact, the American Diabetes Association lists carrots as a non-starchy vegetable that is recommended to add to your meals and snacks.  

 

“Carrots also provide other health benefits such as fiber and potassium.  They are a crunchy snack that is easily transportable and doesn’t go bad quickly,” according to Amy. And of course, carrots are good for our eyes. This is not a myth! For those deficient in vitamin A, carrots can help improve night vision.  

 

If you need nutrition or diabetes support in NY, consider making a telehealth appointment with Amy.

 

Nutrition Myth #8: Shop the perimeter of the grocery store.


Woman comparing cheese at the grocery store.
Myth: Only shop the perimeter of the grocery store.

Finally, one myth that drives many dietitians crazy is that consumers should "only shop the perimeter of the grocery store."

 

Christina Iaboni, RD in Ontario, Canada shares, “I view this as a myth and outdated nutrition advice.


The perimeter does have all the fresh produce, dairy, and lots of healthy options, but the middle aisles also have lots to offer. In the middle aisles, you can find beans and legumes, canned fish, nuts and nut butters, and lots of whole-grain options like oats and quinoa.”


Tansy adds, “Furthermore, foods in the perimeter are not necessarily more nutritionally dense or health-promoting than those found in the aisles. All foods fit in a balanced diet, and all the aisles offer foods that provide nourishment and enjoyment.”

 

If any of my Canadian family and friends want to work with a dietitian, I recommend checking out Christina’s services here:  https://christinaiaboni.com/

 

 

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