Debunking Nutrition Misinformation
A typical day here at Green Mountain includes an hour or 2 of nutrition class where women come together and we discuss topics centered on food.
We cover lots of ground. Topics like our gut health, food addiction, menopause, PCOS, metabolism, and how to feed ourselves and feed our families.
With these discussions lots of questions come up around things that we read about or hear about so I thought it would be nice to create a blog post around a few of the myths that we’ve debunked around here over the last couple of weeks.
Here goes –
1. You should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day.
Truth is, there’s no scientific rationale behind this one.
Can you believe that? I couldn’t at first. I figured it had to have scientific evidence since it’s so commonly recommended but it turns out, not so!
The bottom line on this one is this: Since we’re all different (different sizes, different intakes, different movement throughout the day), there is no hard and fast rule on hydration. Therefore our best approach at proper hydration is that we drink enough fluid so we’re urinating every 2–4 hours and the urine is light in color.
Here’s one more thing on this: Other than alcohol, most any fluid will hydrate you. Yes, even coffee and tea. The idea that caffeine in the form of coffee and tea dehydrates us is a myth.
Sure, there is a mild diuretic effect, but even still, in the end it hydrates us. In fact, foods count too. For example, yogurt is primarily water and most all fruits and vegetables are, too! (A large percentage of plants are about 90% water.)
2. You should eat a variety of vegetables and fruits.
Okay, so this one is, in fact, true.
Variety is key, but I find it interesting that the word variety seems to only show up when it comes to vegetables and fruit. Variety can be the focus for all foods.
Think of it this way: If we ate only brown rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner, we would only expose ourselves to the beneficial nutrients within brown rice. But once we expand our horizons and eat pasta, quinoa, wild rice or chocolate cake, we are exposing ourselves to a broader set of nutrients.
The bigger the variety, the broader our exposure to nutrients.
The same goes for all food groups. Take fat, for example. Cook only with coconut oil, then we get only the nutrients contained in the coconut. So consider other options like olive oil, butter, toasted sesame oil and canola oil, too.
Take this approach when selecting nuts: Instead of identifying the best most nutritious nut, expose yourself to lots and know that each has its own set of great nutrients. None better than the next — just different.
3. You need to eat salmon to get your omega-3 fats.
Yes, wild salmon is rich in omega-3 fats, a fat that we need to get from food because we can’t make it on our own. But omega-3 fats are found in a whole lot more foods than just salmon.
The way I like to look at it is this: Omega-3 content in animal foods or products from them depend on what the animal ate. Take a cow as case in point. If a cow eats grass and grass contains the plant form of omega-3 fats, then the lean mass of the cow contains a high amount of omega-3. And so does the dairy that comes from it: The milk, cheese and butter. Cool, right?
We can also get omega-3 fats from plants, too. Walnuts are pretty rich in omega-3 and so are seeds. So consider adding some walnuts, ground flax and sunflower seeds to your oatmeal or yogurt in the morning, or toss some in a bag for an afternoon snack with a piece of fresh fruit.
Point is, lots of foods contain omega-3 fats, not just salmon and not just fish oil tablets.
4. Small, frequent meals boost your metabolism & help aid weight loss.
This stems from something known as the ‘thermic effect of food,’ which means basically that it takes energy to make energy. So when we eat food (energy), we use energy to digest it, absorb it and assimilate or store it.
But the difference in the thermic effect of food between someone eating 3 meals a day and someone else eating the same amount of energy broken into 5 mini-meals is trivial at best.
Better than this approach is to get to know your hunger.
Are you a person who fares better throughout the day when you have mini-meals scattered throughout, or do you find that your hunger is satisfied and balanced with 3 meals and an optional snack?
Take a few days to do an experiment and observe how your hunger is managed using each approach and settle on the one that works for you. Using hunger as a guide instead of external complicated formulas like the thermic effect of food helps us find our natural, healthy weight.
5. We need to supplement 1200 milligrams of calcium every day.
The USDA recommends that women 50 years plus consume a total of 1200 milligrams of calcium each day and women under 50 consume a total of 1000 milligrams.
The operative word here is total. Which means we should first consider the amount we get from food.
Calcium is a mineral contained in the soil so plants growing in the soil will absorb calcium. Lots of vegetables contain a good deal of calcium; greens especially and dried fruit have concentrated amounts.
Beans and legumes like lentils, soy and kidney are rich in calcium and so are nuts and seeds. We can get calcium from lots of food sources including, but not limited to, dairy.
I like to call myself a “food first” dietitian. I typically encourage women to get calcium from the foods that contain it and then, if we aren’t able to get the amount needed from food alone, consider supplementing.
Often there is enough calcium in a women’s multivitamin to make up the difference, so additional calcium beyond the food and an optional multivitamin might not be necessary.
So there you have it. Just a few of the interesting topics that come up in conversation around here on any given day.
If you have any other questions you’ve always wondered about or potential myths you’d like debunked, feel free to post them and I will collect them up for my next post!