Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Simple diet “tweaks” trashed

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For a special summer treat I picked-up a copy of the British Glamour (it’s so much better than the American version!). I was a little disappointed (although not very surprised) to see a list of simple diet tweaks provided by a doctor.

  1. “Milk and coffee together are very hard to digest – so swap the dairy for soya, rice or almond milk” 

There is no scientific basis for this claim as far as I can tell. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using a milk alternative in your coffee, or drinking it black, but unless you have difficulty digesting milk anyway adding it to your coffee shouldn’t be an issue.

2. “Squirt half a lemon or put a spoon of apple cider vinegar into a bottle of water; ti makes your body less acidic and more alkaline”

Actually, your body has an excellent pH buffering system and consuming certain types of foods may affect the pH of your urine but it will have no impact on the acidity of your blood.

3. “Always have fruit first – not at the end of a meal. It can ferment in your gut and makes digestion more difficult.”

This myth has been making the round for years. It fails to acknowledge the basic process of digestion. Your stomach churns all of the food together with your gastric juices. That apple is going to get nicely mixed in with the rest of your food whether you eat it at the beginning or the end of your meal. There is no way that a piece of fruit is going to be sitting in your stomach long enough, nor will it be exposed to the necessary bacteria, to undergo fermentation. Eat your fruit whenever you damn please.

4. “Give your digestive system a rest by ‘food combining’ – have carbs and soup or salad for lunch, and fish or chicken with cooked vegetables for dinner.”

This is not going to give your digestive system any sort of break. It still has to operate to digest whatever foodstuffs you consume, be they carbs, fats, or proteins. All this is going to do is make eating a much more complicated affair and make it difficult to obtain all of your nutrients. Far better to have a combination of these macronutrients at each meal to ensure that you’re getting all of your nutrients and to promote satiety. After all, that lunch of just carbs is likely to leave you ravenous and pave the way for overeating at suppertime.


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De-Debunking nutrition and fitness myths

I came across this article the other day Debunking Fitness and Nutrition Myths and feel compelled to debunk some of  the debunking.

Myth #1: You need to focus primarily on calories in versus calories out to loose [sic] weight.

The “trainer/nutrition coach” states that this is not the case, otherwise we would see weight loss if people consumed one or two meals a day with the appropriate number of calories for weight loss. He also argues that the foods we eat wouldn’t matter either. I agree that healthy weight loss should be achieved through a balanced diet and regular meals and snacks throughout the day. However, calories really are one of the most important things. If we eat more than we burn, we’re not going to lose weight. Obviously I think that good nutrition is important, otherwise I wouldn’t do what I do. However, several people have now infamously shown that weight loss is possible on a nearly all twinkie, or other such junk food, diet. Hence, yes, weight loss is more complicated than calories in versus calories out but it is still the primary focus of most effective weight management programs.

Myth #2: You should never eat before bed.

I wrote about this myth myself recently but my reasoning differed greatly from this mans. He says: “if you never spike your blood sugar, you will not store fat.  So, it really depends on what you’re eating before hitting the hay at night.” What? This is complete nonsense. You can gain weight on low-glycemic diets. Spiking your blood sugar doesn’t have any bearing on weight gain or loss.

Myth #4: You get the best results if you exercise on an empty stomach.

The trainer states that you will burn muscle if you exercise on an empty stomach. Now, this is not my area of expertise, but as I understand it, you will burn the glycogen in your muscle first, then fat, then muscle. The average gym-goer is pretty unlikely to get to the point of burning muscle if they workout before breakfast. That being said, for optimal performance you should have something small and easily digested, like a banana about an hour before exercise and ensure that you’re adequately hydrated.


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Will an evening snack make you fat?

A nutrition myth that I’ve been hearing a lot lately is the no eating after a certain time in the evening, usually 7:00 or 8:00. The common misconception is that anything you eat after a certain time is just going to turn into fat. This is absolutely not true. I think that the intentions behind this myth were well-meaning. However, the best intentions don’t necessarily have the best effect.

 

One reason I think that this myth was started was because it’s not ideal to eat right before you go to bed. When you’re asleep your digestive system slows down so it’s going to take longer to digest any food in your stomach. For those who suffer from gastric reflux, there’s also an increased risk of experiencing reflux if you eat too close to bedtime. The second reason that I think this myth was developed was that we tend to do most of our mindless eating in the evenings. Think about it, all day long you’re so good and then you get home from work, have supper, sit in front of the tv and start munching on chips or cookies. You’re tired and stressed and you’re much more likely to gravitate towards high calorie, low nutrient foods and to eat too much of them.

 

The problem with this well-intentioned myth is that if you’re eating supper at 6:00 and not going to bed until 11:00 or later, that’s a really long time to go without eating. It’s much better to have a planned snack in the evening than to go hungry or to start mindlessly snacking.

 

Choose healthy foods like fruit and low-fat yoghurt, a small bowl of cereal, or peanut butter and whole grain crackers. Even a planned indulgence is better than an unplanned over-indulgence.  If what you want is ice cream, go for a small bowl or have a portion-controlled selection like a skinny cow or tofuti-cutie. If what you want is chips have a small helping. Take your serving, put the bag away at the back of the cupboard, and then enjoy, or buy the mini 100-calorie bags.

 

If your body needs the calories, it needs the calories and it’s not going to automatically turn them into fat because you ate them after a certain time of day. If your body doesn’t need the calories, it doesn’t need the calories and it’s going to turn them into fat no matter what time of day they were eaten.


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Nutrition Month 2012: Get the real deal on Dietitians of Canada

Nutrition Month 2012: Get the real deal on your meal?
In case you haven’t already heard: March is Nutrition Month! Every year, Dietitians of Canada runs a campaign for Nutrition Month. I was excited when I heard that this years theme was “Get the real deal on your meal!” It’s all about “busting up food and nutrition myths.” Awesome, pretty much exactly my MO on this blog. Then I saw the material…. My excitement quickly turned to disappointment upon seeing what appears to me to be a missed opportunity. Some of the purported myths may actually be truths, and even the ones that are true are “busted” in such a wishy-washy manner that they may as well be true. Fortunately, my disappointment was short-lived as I realised that I could attempt to tackle this missed opportunity. So, every day this month, I’ll be re-busting one of DC’s myths. There’s 39 in total so I may skip a few, or double-up.
I’d like to begin today by addressing the issue of sponsorship. Personally I am not a member of Dietitians of Canada because I think it’s shameful, not to mention unethical, that they accept sponsorship from the food industry. To me, that’s a major conflict of interest, and as registered dietitians we’d be investigated by our provincial governing body (and hopefully stripped of credentials) if we were receiving money from the food industry. DC does not disappoint with the sponsors of Nutrition Month 2012. The sponsors this year are: Dairy Farmers of Canada, Loblaw Companies Limited, General Mills Canada, Unilever – specifically Hellman’s and Lipton. How can anyone take a nutrition campaign seriously that’s sponsored by mayonnaise and a company that makes Betty Crocker?! Is it a coincidence that the myths include: three myths about milk, a myth about tea, and a myth about mayonnaise? I think not.