Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Should moderation have a place on your plate?



I found myself getting annoyed by this article as I was reading it. While I agree that “moderation” is not the best term to use when referring to eating habits, I don’t agree with the way that this article characterized it.

According to the article, “moderation” should be done away with because there are some foods that we should eat lots of and other foods that we should avoid. I’m more inclined to think that we should do away with “moderation” because it’s not clearly defined in terms of a balanced diet. I see nothing wrong with the sentiment that all foods can be a part of a healthy diet. However, instead of “moderation” we should probably be talking about “every day” foods and “sometimes” foods.

As the article states, we should be eating plenty of vegetables and fruits. Few would dispute that. Where the article and I disagree is about the inclusion of “sugary treats” in a healthy diet. The article states that “none” is better than “moderate” amounts. Well, sure if you’re treating all foods equally in terms of “moderation”. Of course you shouldn’t consume equal quantities of doughnuts and brussels sprouts. I don’t think that doughnuts (or whatever sweet treat it is that you enjoy) have to be entirely eliminated from your diet in order to be healthy. What good is a healthy diet if you’re miserable and hate it? If you’re happy never eating doughnuts, that’s cool. I’m happy for you. Most of us aren’t.

The main study cited to support Ludwig’s argument against moderation is not as cut and dry as he’d have us believe. Ludwig wants us to think that the study was stopped short because those in the control diet (who were advised to eat a low-fat diet) were at greater risk of death than those in the experimental groups (i.e. one assigned to a Mediterranean diet high in extra-virgin olive oil and one assigned to a Mediterranean diet high in nuts). The study was actually concluded early because the researchers had sufficient data to draw conclusions. Continuing it would be unnecessary for their purposes but it wasn’t putting participants lives at risk. Indeed, there was no significant difference in mortality between the groups. Although there was slightly greater risk of stroke among the control group.

This study has been highly criticized for a number of reasons. One reason being that the diets followed by each group weren’t actually all that different from each other; the low-fat control group didn’t actually consume a low-fat diet. However, the Mediterranean groups were given regular counselling sessions while the control group was not. It’s possible that this counselling alone could have accounted for the slightly lower stroke risk in the experimental groups in comparison to the control group. The study allegedly only included participants at high-risk of cardiovascular disease. As no difference in mortality was seen between the groups what are the chances that following any of these diet conditions would improve health outcomes for the general population?

Besides the study mentioned by Ludwig, the article mentions a few other studies which I don’t feel it’s quite as worthwhile to examine closely. Primarily because they’re like “duh Captain Obvious”. Although it’s quite possible that their designs were also not great, as we so often see with nutrition research. Anyway… They tells us of a study that found that people who eat a high variety of sweets and condiments but a low variety of vegetables “made people fatter”. Another study found that eating “plenty” of vegetables lowered the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

The conclusion of the article:

The takeaway? The quality of the foods you’re eating matters more than the relative quantity. In other words, what you eat matters – not just its amount.

It’s probably time to stop saying, “everything is OK in moderation.” Some things just aren’t.

My conclusion: eat plenty of vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and fruit. These foods should be the foundation of any healthy diet. However, there are other foods that we eat for pleasure like pastries, chocolates, and potato chips. You don’t have to eliminate these foods from your diet to be healthy. Treat them as treats. The occasional cookie won’t kill you.

Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people see food and nutrition from a different perspective and understand that nutrition and health are not necessarily a result of personal choice.

8 thoughts on “Should moderation have a place on your plate?

  1. I agree with your artricle that everything in moderation is a no-brainer I cannot agree with your conclusion that whole grains are a part of a healthy diet. As you well know whole grains are inedible and must be processed.

    Wheat is doused in pesticides from seed to storage

    Clearfield wheat is used currently. It was created to be resistant to herbicides. They did not use gene splicing, but chemical mu-tagenesis. They used sodium azide which is highly toxic to humans. They exposed the wheat seed to sodium azide inducing mutations which made it resistant to the herbicide they were using. You cannot control what the sodium azide did to the other genes in the plant. They made no other effort to assess what other changes happened to the plant. It is an uncontrollable, unpredictable, and crude way to change a plant. This predates modern genetic modification. Modern genetic modification is done by gene-splicing. This gene-splicing is actually an improvement on chemical mutagenesis.

    Sodium azide is best known as the chemical found in automobile airbags. An electrical charge triggered by automobile impact causes sodium azide to explode and convert to nitrogen gas inside the airbag.
    It is a common practice among conventional wheat farming operations to douse wheat seeds with insecticides and fungicides before they are even planted. Then, while the wheat stalks are growing, they are (sometimes repeatedly) doused with pesticides, insecticides and fungicides.

    Many of the common pesticides used have been found to have estrogen-mimicking properties, which can lead to hormonal imbalances, and may lay the foundation for breast cancer (and other hormonally-based cancers), endometriosis and early puberty in children.

    When the wheat has been harvested and is ready to store, collection bins are sprayed with insecticide. The wheat is sprayed again with “protectant” chemicals once in the bins. If insects are found in enough of the samples from the bins, they are then fumigated with toxic gases. Furthermore, some farmers apply plant growth regulators, often comprised of synthetic hormones, to their crops.

    Referece http://www.grainscanada.gc.ca/storage-entrepose/cc-mlc-eng.htm
    Now the wheat is ready to be milled, here are just some of the chemicals added to white flour
    Emulsifiers lecithin, sodium stearoyl lactylate (SSL), glycerol monostearate, diglycerides, sucrose esters of fatty acids, monoglyceride and lecithin enriched in lysophospholipids, sucrose palmitate (sucrose ester), citrate ester of monoglyceride (citrate MG), polysorbate (polyoxyethylene sorbitan monostearate), carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC), stearyl palmityl tartrate, sodium alginate, kappa carrageenan
    Dough Conditioners diacetyl tartaric acid ester of monoglyceride (DATEM), calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate, calcium carbonate, monocalcium phosphate
    Flour maturing (oxidant) Azodicarbonamide In the UK it’s believed it may cause asthma, and may cause allergic reactions in those allergic to azo compounds.

    Bleaching (oxidant): Benzoyl
    Chlorine, chlorine dioxide. Chlorine (gas) is always used to bleach cake flours and mixes. Chlorine is not allowed in most European countries.

    Nitrogen peroxide. Discontinued everywhere but the USA and Australia.
    acetone peroxide. Not permitted in the U.K.

    Dough Conditioners (oxidant, increases volume)
    Potassium Bromate. This chemical is known to cause cancer in animals. In California there must be a warning label if this is in the baked goods (Weiss, Amendola). It’s added to make the dough stronger and quickens mixing and fermentation. It isn’t allowed in Canada, Europe, Brazil, Peru, Nigeria, etc.
    Calcium bromate, calcium iodate, calcium peroxide, calcium dioxide, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate, potassium persulfate, ammonium persulfate, potassium iodate
    Reductants & enzymes reduce the mixing time so more baked goods can be produced.
    Reducing agents: L-cysteine, glutathione (GSH), bisulfite salts.

    Enzymes: amylase, lipoxygenase, transglutaminase (strengthens dough)
    Preservatives: Calcium Propionate

    BHA and BHT Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) may cause cancer
    Food colorings: Blue 1, Blue 2, Red 3, Green 3, Yellow 6. All of these are linked to cancer.
    Center for Science in the Public Interest says Acesulfame-K, artificial colorings blue 1, red 3, yellow 6, and transfats in baked goods should be avoided because they are “Unsafe in amounts consumed or very poorly tested and not worth any risk.” .

    One or more of: increase dough yield, resiliency, improve texture and shelf life, thicken, gel, stabilize: xanthan gum, guar gum, gum arabic, locust bean gum, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC), high ester pectin
    Leavening agents: calcium phosphate
    Mold inhibitors: salts of propionic acid

    If this is not convincing, I do not know what is.


  2. Reblogged this on dietitianeats and commented:
    A great post from fellow RD Diana on moderation, sweets and why you don’t have to eliminate pleasure foods from your diet.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Many of my clients prefer to use portion control over moderation stating they like the idea, “I can occasionally have a treat.” Most of my clients really are interested in actual amounts that are allowed in each food group (I am fortunate:))


  4. Hello, makes sense to me, thanks for the post


  5. Pingback: Just because it’s “always delicious” doesn’t mean it’s not a diet book |

  6. You are such a wonderful, sensible discerning Dietitian. I’ve got to reblog your posts to encourage more of my followers to discover your blog!!! You’ve been trained well and exhibit such common sense! If I hadn’t just posted an article, I would have today.

    As a Christian nutritional counselor, it’s great to find another spreading Truth regarding nutritional doctrine. As you wrote: “My conclusion: eat plenty of vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and fruit. These foods should be the foundation of any healthy diet.” That’s exactly what God professed in Genesis 1:29! (and meat in Genesis 9:3) I urge all my patients to eat for nutrients. Every nutrient has a purpose and those who proclaim all these crazy diets are as undermining as biblically false preachers. And 1 Corinthians 10:23 states anything is fine in moderation. Keep up the good work. Blessings back, :)

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Reblogged this on New Creations Ministries and commented:
    This wonderful dietitian stated it as well as I ever could. I believe her sensible, encouraging posts should be read by all those who desire actual healthy living, not another fantasy diet profession.

    Liked by 2 people

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