Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Top 10 food and medicine myths brought to you by Big Food and Big Pharma

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Image by publik15 on flickr, used under a Creative Commons Licence.

I know that everyone was rejoicing recently because Natural News was blacklisted from Google search results. However, it seems that such jubilation was a tad premature. Natural News wasn’t disappeared because of its propensity for propagating fake news and it’s right back in Google searches less than a month later. So, I feel that it’s worthwhile to respond to some of the nonsense that they’re spouting.

This article on the Top 10 Food and Medicine Myths You Probably Fell for at Some Point  particularly amused me due to the suggestion that “Big Food” and “Big Pharma” are in bed together. As if somehow there’s a conspiracy in which farmers, food manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies have some sort of stone-cutters type secret society. At their top secret meetings they’re supposedly conspiring to make us all sick while cramming more of our hard earned dollars into their overflowing deep pockets.

Let’s take a look at each of the ten myths…

  1. Milk… It does a body good. According to Natural News, drinking milk is bad because we’re the only species to drink it past infancy, and from (gasp) another animal; it’s just “not natural”. The truth: I think I’ve made this point before, but it bears repeating that we’re the only species to do a LOT of things: cook our food, wear clothes, watch tv, etc.
  2. Red meat is worse for your body than chicken, turkey, or pig. Their argument being that ALL meat is bad for us. The truth: Plant-based diets may be healthier, but not all meats are created equal. Processed and red meat are linked with slightly higher cancer rates than is poultry. Not all meat is raised and slaughtered under inhumane conditions. This is just fear mongering. If you’re concerned about the origins of your meat, know your farmer.
  3. Organic canola is a healthy choice. I’ll concede that they make a good point here by saying that “everything is organic is not healthy”. However, the arguments canola comes from “toxic” rapeseed and canola contains trans-fat from processing don’t hold weight. The truth: Canola is bred to be low in erucic acid (the toxic component of rapeseed). It’s also high in mono- and poly-unsaturated fats (1). Liquid oils do not contain trans-fat.
  4. Organic soy (that’s unfermented) is good for you. The arguments here are so out-to-lunch that I’m not even sure how to address them. Supposedly, big food and big pharma are pushing organic soy products on us for some undisclosed nefarious reason. Supposedly soy contributes to a whole host of health problems. The truth: Unless you have a soy allergy, or are on thyroid medication, there’s no reason to worry about soy. Despite the prevalent belief that soy causes breast cancer, the evidence shows that soy consumption is actually more likely to decrease risk, than to increase it (2).
  5. Vaccines no longer contain mercury (thimerosal), and the CDC even says so. The truth: Thimerosal is still used in flu vaccines, but no routine childhood vaccines. It’s outside my scope as a dietitian to provide advice about vaccines but I’m fairly confident that having polio or small pox would be much worse than any risk of being vaccinated.
  6. Chemotherapy is the best chance to beat cancer once you’ve been diagnosed. According to Natural News, your chance of survival is 2.3% on chemo and there are loads of successful natural remedies such as garlic and baking soda. The truth: your chance of survival depends on many factors such as the type of cancer and early diagnosis. Chemo and radiation may be awful but they are the most effective treatments to date. Natural “remedies” are not effective.
  7. Many cancer cases are inherited in our genes from our parents or their parents. Supposedly we’re told this to prevent us from seeking out natural remedies. The truth: Why would the cause influence the treatment? Regardless of the source, natural “remedies” are not effective.
  8. There is no cure for cancer. More of the same. The truth: STOP FALLING FOR THIS BULLSHIT. THERE IS NO BIG CONSPIRACY HIDING THE CURE FOR CANCER.
  9. The FDA and CDC function in the best interest of American consumers by inspecting food and medicine for dangerous substances. Again, there is a big conspiracy and Big Pharma is running the show. The truth: Sure, the FDA and CDC may not always be effective but there is no larger conspiracy against Americans.
  10. Fluoride in toothpaste and tap water helps humans keep their teeth strong and free of decay. We’re supposed to watch some video that will tell us “the truth”. The truth: fluoride is effective in reducing tooth decay.


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Follow Friday: @Evergreen_RD

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Back on track with the RD Follow Fridays for the penultimate Friday in Nutrition Month. This week I’d like to suggest you follow the fabulous Marianne Bloudoff of BC. Like me, she took a meandering path to a career in dietetics. Unlike me, she had a cool career in fisheries management before heading back to uni to study dietetics in order to combine her love for both science and nutrition.

Much like me, again, she ended up moving away from the ocean to work in public health. She’s currently employed as a population health dietitian with the Northern Health Authority and is the regional lead for food security. The region being the entire northern half of the province. She’s a regular contributor to the Northern Health Matters blog.

I got to find out some other cool facts about Marianne when I told her I wanted to write a post on her. Like, did you know that she competed for Australia in synchronized skating at the world championships?? How cool is that?! On a less cool note, she’s one of those unfortunate souls who dislikes cilantro :(

You can find Marianne blogging at Evergreen Eats or follow her on various social medias… She’s on twitter as @Evergreen_RD where you can find her posting about nutrition, recipes, politics, and whatever else strikes her fancy. On Instagram as @Evergreen_RD where she primarily posts gorgeous food photos. On Facebook as (nope, she fooled you!) EvergreeneatsRD where she shares lots of food porn and recipes and I’m getting hungry writing this post. Last but not least, for the dog lovers out there, you can follow her French Bulldog Barley on Instagram too @barley_thefrenchie.

Do you know an amazing RD who should be featured in a future Follow Friday post? Get at me!


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Should feminists stay out of the kitchen?

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I read this article the other day and it made me go back and take a look at the post I wrote a little while back about how we need to stop glorifying the inability to cook.

The article is about how “real women” are still expected to cook and examines the role of women in sitcoms and cooking shows. It made me wonder if my original take was sexist. Did I only talk about women? I was certainly thinking about female characters like Lorelai Gilmore and Olivia Pope. I did also think about the importance of showing men cooking but maybe I didn’t make that very clear. I definitely didn’t think about the possibility that showing women who were incapable of cooking (or at least unwilling to cook) was actually a feminist act. And I really have mixed feelings about it right now.

I do not believe that a woman belongs in the kitchen. I do not think that it’s a woman’s measure of worth to serve the men and children in their lives. I don’t think that we all need to love cooking or spend as much time doing it as I do. However, I wonder if making a refusal to cook is truly a feminist act or more an instance of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. It may be levelling the playing field to have both men and women out of the kitchen but I think that’s more bringing everyone down a level rather than lifting everyone up.

As I said in my previous post, cooking is an important life skill. Food literacy is as important as any other form of literacy. What we prepare for ourselves is generally going to be more nutritious and less calorically dense than food we purchase ready-made and from restaurants. It’s better for us and better for our wallets. It doesn’t have to mean hours of slaving over a hot stove. A good home cooked meal can be as quick and simple as a vegetable frittata or stir-fry; ready in under 30 minutes.

We should be encouraging more people to get in the kitchen, not glorifying culinary ineptitude. On television we should be showing both men and women cooking for themselves, for their families, for their friends, and show children helping in the kitchen. In real life, we should be advocating to have mandatory home ec reinstated in schools. We (both women and men) should be taking the effort to prepare nourishing meals for ourselves because we are all worthy of good nutrition.


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Is healthy food cheaper? Is that even the question?

 

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Continuing on with my ranting discussion about food security, I can’t help but comment on a study out of England that was getting huge media attention over the past couple of weeks. The study showed that “pound for pound” it was less expensive to eat healthy foods than to eat ultra-processed foods. The majority of the news stories concluded that poor people could be eating healthfully they just prefer to pay more for “taste and convenience”, according to one of the study’s authors. To which I say, check your privilege.

As I’ve said before, food insecurity is not a matter of simple math. While there are certainly myriad factors that contribute to our decisions about what to eat, lack of income is the root cause of food insecurity. Dismissing money as a concern on the basis of this study is wishful thinking more than anything. It’s also an insult to people who are struggling to make ends meet and feed themselves and their families.

Because some researchers went to the store and found that a pound of carrots is cheaper than a pound of french fries, the logical conclusion is that everyone should be able to afford to eat nutritious meals prepared from minimally processed ingredients? That seems like quite the leap to me. There’s no accounting for calories or ease of preparation in this comparison. Sure, a pound of vegetables may be less expensive than a pound of frozen ready-meals but I think that most people would agree that carrots do not make a balanced meal on their own. To make a nutritionally balanced meal, you’d need to round those carrots out with some dark green leafy veg, some protein like meat, fish, beans, or tofu (the authors acknowledge that meat and fish are the exception to their affordability rule), and a grain such as rice, quinoa, or whole grain bread. As most of these items need to be purchased in quantities greater than those needed for a single meal, it can quickly become more expensive to buy ingredients for a home cooked meal than it is to buy something already, or nearly, prepared. Yes, pound for pound, a bag of rice will be less expensive than frozen dinners but a bag of rice doesn’t make for much of a meal.

Stop trying to use your research to “prove” that poor people are choosing to feed their children junk. Take a good hard look at your own privilege and ask yourself how you can make this a more equitable society in which we try to help those who are struggling rather than shaming and blaming them.

 


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Follow Friday: #trypod month

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I should be writing about Nutrition Month but… yawn. It’s also Trypod Month so here, in no particular order, are the podcasts that I listen to on the regular. I’m always looking for more because I listen to them while I’m running (which is a lot these days gearing up for Boston) and cooking and cleaning and driving so if you have any suggestions for me, feel free to leave a comment!

This American Life – the quintessential gateway podcast. True stories of life in America (and sometimes elsewhere). Usually hosted by Ira Glass with excellent reporting by a slew of producers. You can also find them on twitter @ThisAmerLife

Snap Judgment – a storytelling podcast, with a beat, hosted by Glynn Washington. On twitter @snapjudgment

The Moth – classic storytelling podcast with live events across the US (with a few in Canada). Twitter: @themoth

Surprisingly Awesome – a member of the gimlet media dynasty (seriously, they’re churning out new podcasts like crazy). Each episode features something that you probably think is lame but by the time the episode ends you’re converted to believing that it’s awesome. Twitter: @surprisingshow

Invisibilia – a fascinating show about the hidden forces that drive our behaviour with way too short seasons ;) Twitter: @NPRinvisibilia

Within the Wires – a quirky show from Night Vale featuring a series of “relaxation” cassettes. Twitter: @withinthewires

More Perfect – a spin-off from Radiolab about the Supreme Court. Twitter: @moreperfect

Note to Self – the tech show that everyone should be listening to. Feeds my paranoia about the Internet and smart phones and facebook. Twitter: @notetoself

Alice Isn’t Dead – a fictional series about a truck driver searching for her missing wife. Brought to you by Night Vale. Twitter: @AlicePodcast

Someone Knows Something – Canada’s (disappointing) answer to Serial. I keep listening anyway. Twitter: @skscbc

Undisclosed – this podcast was like the in depth story behind Serial telling Adnan’s story and then moving on to stories of others who were wrongfully convicted in the US. Hosted by lawyers, it’s very enlightening about how the US justice system works (or doesn’t sometimes). Twitter: @undisclosedpod

Death, Sex & Money – interviews with people asking about things that are usually taboo. Twitter: @deathsexmoney

Radiolab – another classic podcast. It brings you stories that you probably won’t hear anywhere else. I feel like I’ve learned a lot from this one. Twitter: @radiolab

the memory palace – Nate DiMao has the most soothing voice and brings you fascinating stories from the past. Twitter: @thememorypalace

Modern Love – essays about love from the NYT column read by actors.

Love + Radio – in-depth eclectic interviews. Twitter: @loveandradio

Science Vs – the first season came from Australia. Now Wendy Zukerman is part of the Gimlet media dynasty. Great takes on popular trends comparing fact and fiction. Twitter: @sciencevs

The Allusionist – a unique podcast exploring language. Twitter: @allusionistshow

Strangers – true stories connecting us to others. Twitter: @leathau

StartUp – each season features a new startup and follows their story. Twitter: @podcaststartup

Criminal – the original crime podcast featuring stories about criminals and crimes. Twitter: @criminalshow

The Sporkful – the only food podcast that I listen to and it’s one for eaters. Twitter: @thesporkful

Reply All – a podcast about the Internet. I love their yes-yes-no segment where Alex, Alex, and PJ explain the meaning of things like tweets and memes. Twitter: @replyall

Love Me – CBC actually made a decent podcast! Twitter: @luolkowski

Sooo Many White Guys – comedian Phoebe Robinson interviews everyone except white guys. Twitter: @dopequeenpheebs

Embedded – a deeper look at stories from the media. Twitter: @kellymcevers

Revisionist History – I find Malcolm Gladwell to be condescending and sexist. In spite of that I really enjoy his podcast. In Revisionist History he takes something from the past and reexamines it. Twitter: @rvsthistory

Only Human – stories about health. Informative and interesting. Twitter: @onlyhuman

Heavyweight – the new show from Jonathan Goldstein, the man who brought you WireTap every Saturday at 3:30 pm on CBC radio one. If you didn’t listen to that, go binge on those podcasts first. Heavyweight brings you more from that cast of characters you loved on WireTap taking a look at pivotal moments in people’s lives. Twitter: @heavyweight

Reveal– Al Letson takes a deeper look at stories that have been in the news. Twitter: @reveal

Undone – only one season of this show that looked at how big stories that we thought were over were actually the beginning of other things. Twitter: @undoneshow

LifeAfter – podcast theatre thriller. By the same people who brought you The Message. Twitter: @lifeafteronline

Crimetown – the unbelievable story of crime and corruption in Boston. I love the theme music. Twitter: @crimetown

Homecoming – a thriller with a stellar cast. Twitter: @homecomingshow

DTR – a podcast from gimlet and tinder about defining relationships in the digital age. Interesting but feels a little forced.

On the Media – a sort-of inside scoop on things you might have seen or heard on the news. They did a fantastic series on poverty that should be required listening for everyone. Twitter: @onthemedia

#GoodMuslimBadMuslim – Taz and Zahra share stories about being Muslim (it’s a lot more than that). Twitter: @zahracomedy and @tazzystar

Twice Removed – this podcast takes a walk through a different person’s family tree in each episode and then reveals a mystery relative. Twitter: @twiceremoved

Benjamin Walker’s Theory of Everything – a little bit of everything. Twitter: @benjaminwalker

In the Dark – the wild in-depth story of the investigation into the abduction of an 11 year-old boy. They’re currently accepting donations to get a second season going. Twitter: @apmreports

Missing Richard Simmons – I feel really weird about listening to this podcast. It seems kind of exploitative and yet I can’t get enough. Before this podcast came out I didn’t even know Richard Simmons was mia and now I must know what the story is. Twitter: @missingrsimmons

Serial – I almost forgot to tell you about this one because the last season was lacklustre and ended a while back I forgot to add it to stitcher on my (now not so new) phone. Anyway, the first season was SO GOOD. Even with Sarah injecting herself into it more than I would have liked. Twitter: @serial

Limetown – another drama I nearly forgot about in which a reporter asks what happened to the people of Limetown. Twitter: @limetownstories