Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


Sugar by any other name is still as sweet


I love sweet potatoes. They’re delicious, versatile, and packed full of nutrients like fibre, potassium, and vitamin A. However, when I came across an article extolling a new line of sweet potato ingredients for their ability to create a “clean ingredient deck” I was a little skeptical.

While the company website doesn’t provide the nutritional breakdown for the sweet potato ingredients they’re touting, I think that it’s safe to say that they’re not going to be far off from similar products already available on the market. As they themselves state, “Sweet potato ingredients can thus be expected to add a “health halo” to any product featuring them”. Has nobody told them that a “health halo” is actually a bad thing. It’s the creation of the appearance of health for food products that aren’t actually all that healthy. I suppose that as long as they’re marketing to food manufacturers that it makes sense to use that sort of language, but when consumers such as myself can see it on their website it becomes less desirable. It’s like saying, “hey, we know you’re dumb and just want to be able to fool yourself into thinking that your sugary snacks are healthy, lol.”

What are the sweet potato ingredients that they’re selling? A number of sweet potato juice concentrates, sweet potato juice, dehydrated sweet potato granules, and sweet potato flour. While I’ll admit to being intrigued by the flour, let’s face it, the others are simply sugar by other names. Sweet potato juice concentrate is unlikely to have a nutrient profile differing significantly from any other syrup on the market, likewise the juice from any other juice, and the granules from any other granular sugar. It truly is a health halo to imply that one form of sugar is healthier than another simply because it’s derived from another source.

I’ll be sticking with my whole sweet potatoes so that I can get all of the nutrients and not just the sugar and a health halo.

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How a sweet potato sets the dietitians apart from the “nutritionists”

My friend recently alerted me to a blog written by a “certified sports nutritionist”. In Nova Scotia, “nutritionist” is a protected term, and can only be used by regulated health professionals. She previously reported him to the NSDA (our regulatory body) and he was forced to change his facebook page, however, it seems that his blog has yet to be changed.

It may seem that us dietitians are just trying to protect our jobs. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t factor into our frustration with non-dietitians referring to themselves as nutritionists. We spend four years in university and the better part of another year completing internships. Of course we don’t want people who have completed a short online course marketing themselves as being equally knowledgeable.

If you read this guy’s post on sweet potatoes you can see a glimpse into why the regulation of nutrition professionals is necessary. Yes, sweet potatoes are a lovely food, both delicious and packed with nutrients. However, unlike he tells you, vitamin D is not one of the many nutrients in sweet potatoes. The only foods that contain vitamin D are some animal products (such as egg yolks and fish) and fortified foods. As far as I’m aware, sweet potatoes are not fortified with any nutrients. I think he may have confused vitamin D with vitamin A. This error alone isn’t that big of a deal, but it’s not the only one in this post (sweet potatoes are not a good source of iron, nor of vitamin B6). If he’s providing this much incorrect information in one blog post alone I fear how much misinformation he’s providing to his clients.

As appealing as the idea of getting your fitness and nutrition advice from one person is there are very few professionals who are sufficiently educated in both areas to be able to provide you with both. Before you commit to obtaining nutrition counselling from an individual I suggest you do some research to be certain that they’re adequately educated in the field. For them to be held accountable for the advice and information they provide they need to be licenced by a provincial licencing body. All dietitians who are legally permitted to practice within the province or territory will be listed on the website.