bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


2 Comments

Follow Friday: Ask the dietitian

url-1

I’m writing a monthly column for Rustik Magazine, titled: Ask the Dietitian. Check out my first contribution on staying healthy during the flu season. If you have any questions you’d like to see addressed in the column, or any blog topics, feel free to comment below or send me an email: dmc555 [at] gmail [dot] com. Have a great weekend!


2 Comments

Does eating breakfast make you racist?

Image by alsis35 on flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Image by alsis35 on flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Man, Mother Jones sure does love the ire-inducing click-bait headlines. The latest: Why you should stop eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner: Dogmatic adherence to mealtimes is anti-science, racist, and might actually be making you sick. Melodramatic much?

Why anti-science you might ask? Well, fasted mice apparently have more “robust” brain cells, live longer, and are skinnier than non-fasted mice. Reminder: mice are not humans and what applies to rodents may not (and often doesn’t) apply to humans. The other science was a tiny study (16 participants, 8 in each treatment group) that found no significant differences between those who ate three meals a day and those who ate three meals and snacks (both groups consumed the same number of calories). And a study of 24 women who ate either two or five meals a day (again, the same number of calories). The researchers found that both groups burned the same number of calories. Does this mean that we should all start intermittent fasting? I’m going with no.

While some people can be content following an intermittent fasting diet, not everyone will be happy going for long periods without food. Firstly, these studies didn’t show that there was a benefit to eating more meals every day, but they also didn’t show a benefit to eating fewer meals. Secondly, these studies didn’t address the qualitative aspects associated with meal frequency. To me, this suggests that if you’re happy and healthy eating three square a day, or more, or less, then that’s what you should do.

Why racist? Well, apparently the Europeans scorned Native Americans for not eating three square meals a day. Obviously not cool. However, it’s a little absurd to suggest that eating breakfast makes you a racist.

Why making you sick? So far as I can tell, the only reference to this in the article is regarding people eating too many calories for their sedentary lifestyles, particularly “large country breakfasts” which anecdotally lead to increased reports of indigestion.

After all of this incendiary information, the article concludes with some reasonable advice:

Instead of obsessing about meal size and frequency, Ochner recommends something simpler: Don’t eat when it’s time for a meal; eat when you feel hungry. That, he says, is a lost art.

While I agree that we shouldn’t obsess too much about meal size and frequency I don’t think that the majority of us are ready for eating only when we’re hungry. For most of us that leads to overeating. Preventative eating, and front-loading the day can be key for people struggling with weight management issues and mindless eating in the evening. For many of us, eating on a schedule works great. The key is to figuring out what works best for you rather than adhering to patterns of eating recommended in a magazine article. There are no hard and fast rules.


2 Comments

Sexifying food

imgres

Apparently the hot new trend at the grocery stores is gender-specific food. *insert massive eye roll here*

There are breads specifically formulated for marketed to men and women. Trail mixes. Cereals. Snack bars. Who knows what they’ll come up with next. At least, unlike many personal care products, the versions for women don’t appear to be more costly than the versions for men.

The nutritionist quoted in the CBC article raises an interesting point that I hadn’t thought of, that people might treat these foods as supplements. It’s kind of a weird notion because we dietitians are usually encouraging people to get their nutrients from food and only using supplements when nutrient needs cannot be met by food alone. To suggest that it’s concerning that people might be using food to obtain their nutrients is pretty much the reverse of what we advise. However, when they’re making claims regarding specific nutrients I can see how it might be an issue. Consuming a bread with calcium, for example, is not going to meet your calcium needs.

I wanted to compare the bread for women to the bread for men. However, these products from Stonemill Bakehouse are now defunct. All I can find are front-of-package images. The women’s wellbeing bread contains hemp and quinoa and claims to contain calcium and vitamin D. The men’s wellbeing bread contains barley and rye and claims to be high in protein and fibre. Of course, there’s nothing that makes hemp and quinoa better for women than for men, just as there’s nothing that makes barley and rye better suited to men than to women. Stonemill removed the gender-specific labelling on these breads as a result of customer backlash (go customers!). Supposedly they had customer welfare in mind when they developed these breads. I can’t help but think that money might have been a factor as well. You know, the husband needs one loaf of bread and the wife needs another. There’s two loaves of bread sold, as opposed to one. They are still selling the breads but with new labelling and amongst the wellbeing breads on their website I can’t tell which ones are the made-over sex breads.

While some micronutrient needs vary between men and women, needs between individuals of the same sex are are likely to vary more. Gender or sex specific foods are more about marketing than meeting nutrient needs. Don’t buy into the hype.


3 Comments

Follow Friday: School lunches around the world

2b5bf3f276953aada07129526cc7eb42_970x

This collection of photographs of school lunches from around the world has been shared on twitter and facebook a lot. On the off chance that you haven’t seen it yet it’s interesting and mouth-watering. It’s sad to see the American school lunch. Even sadder to know that Canada doesn’t have a national school lunch program. However, it’s nice to see that some countries have nutritious and appealing school lunches. We can only hope that North America will learn from their examples.


3 Comments

Let’s deactivate the activated charcoal detox trend

3436028377_721f666f72_z

Photo by Ken Fager on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

A friend recently alerted me to the latest detox trend: charcoal infused beverages. What?? I haven’t seen any around here (thankfully), it tends to take a little while for trends to make their way to Nova Scotia. All of my fingers are crossed that this will fizzle out before it can catch on here.

The argument for these activated charcoal containing beverages, made by beauty bloggers, good old vagina steaming Gwyneth, and the purveyors of these burnt beverages, is that the charcoal will bind any toxins in your body and remove them. Supposedly they’re great for avoiding hangovers and blessing you with glowing skin. Sandwiched in between these arguments in the article linked above is the sensible advice put forth by a registered dietitian:

She notes that adding charcoal to vegetable juice doesn’t make sense because the charcoal — not the drinker’s body — will absorb the juice’s nutrients.

“I don’t really see a purpose,” she says. “I think it’s going on the fad of ‘detox, detox, detox.’ ”

It’s important to be aware that the human body is designed to filter toxins using the liver and kidneys. Most of these detox beverages are a waste of money at best, some are dangerous at worst. Regular consumption of charcoal beverages could actually leave you nutrient deficient, not so great for your skin and other organs. It also won’t remove bacteria, as mentioned by one proponent.

Activated charcoal has been used for years in hospitals (and prior to that by indigenous populations) to help treat drug overdoses and poisonings. The activated charcoal binds to these substances, removing them from the body. Extremely useful in the case of an overdose. Not so useful on a regular basis. If you’re consuming any medication the charcoal will happily bind to that and remove it from your body. The charcoal will also only remove toxins and drugs that have not already been absorbed from the digestive system. Drinking one of these the morning after over-indulging will not cure your hangover. In fact, activated charcoal is not useful in treating alcohol poisoning, nor a number of other poisonings. There are also some medications that activated charcoal can interact with and cause electrolyte imbalances.

While this trend is quite new, it’s hard to say what many of the long-term effects of charcoal ingestion might be. As we know that burnt food, and foods cooked at high temperatures may increase the risk of some cancers, it’s quite possible that charcoal ingestion could pose a similar risk.

Novel idea: How about instead of trying to rid our bodies of toxins, we put nutritious nourishing foods into them in the first place.