Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Don’t go with the Flow

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The above promoted tweet showed-up in my feed recently. Ugh. Can we get any more ridiculous? We don’t need special alkaline water and the benefits spouted by Flow are unsubstantiated.

In case you were wondering, the normal pH value of “raw” water ranges from 6.5-9.5. It’s generally somewhere in the middle of this range. According to the WHO, while there’s no health-based guideline proposed for pH, at values higher than 11 eye irritation and exacerbation of skin disorders may occur. At values under 4 redness and irritation of the eyes may occur, and at values less than 2.5 severe and irreversible damage to the skin occurs.

The pH of tap water has to be controlled to avoid damaging the pipes through which it travels. It also needs to be less than 8 for disinfection with chlorine to be effective. Hence, tap water usually has a pH between 7.1 and 8.0, neutral-slightly alkaline.

Despite it’s pH being its claim to fame, Flow doesn’t list the pH value of its water on the website. However, according to an article in the National Post, the founder of the company says it’s “about 8.1”. Essentially, a touch more alkaline than tap water. At slightly over $2 for a 500 ml bottle, it’s considerably more expensive than tap water though.

As I’ve discussed before, your body does an excellent job of “balancing acidity levels” all on its own. You don’t need to spend money on overpriced water to maintain a healthy pH.

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If children were plants

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I cannot believe the absurdity of things like this. While the message is good, don’t give your children sugary drinks, the approach is ridiculous. Are they sincerely suggesting that human children are comparable to plants? If I still had photoshop I would change it to show the plant being offered fertilizer (or sunshine) and the child being offered salad. Or replace the plant with a pet cat or dog being offered pet food. I can’t imagine any parent (except possibly if the guy who made soylent has kids) thinking that it’s a good idea to give their children exactly the same food at every meal.

Let’s stop making silly comparisons that undermine messages. Children are not plants.


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You can make friends with salad

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In the wake of the hate on almonds, kale, and countless other vegetables comes the defamation of salads. And dietitians everywhere wept into their leafy greens.

Now, while the author is proclaiming that “salad vegetables are pitifully low in nutrition” his real points wilt down to derision for two things: lettuce and fast food salads.

The problem with lettuce is that it contains very few nutrients and uses a lot of water to grow. The problem with fast food salads is that they’re often packed with calorific ingredients like candied nuts, deep-fried croutons, and creamy dressings while containing few vitamins and minerals as they’re predominantly lettuce-based. No argument here. Let’s look a little closer at the first claim though.

Yes, lettuce is not exactly an outstanding vegetable in the land of superfoods. That doesn’t mean that we should quit it entirely. It does contain some nutrients and precisely because it contains relatively few calories it can be a great choice for anyone who’s trying to manage their weight. Four cups of romaine lettuce contains only 40 calories! For one of the very reasons that the author eschews lettuce many people choose to eat it. The water in that lettuce also contributes to your hydration; it’s not like it’s just going to waste.

Even if lettuce isn’t the greatest. That’s no reason to dismiss salads entirely. Lettuce is not an essential salad ingredient. If you want some nutrient-packed salad greens go for spinach, kale, or shredded brussels sprouts. Salads can include loads of nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits, everything from apples to zucchini. You can include grains, nuts, seeds, cheese, meat. The salad combinations are endless, delicious, and nutritious. Salads are so much more than just lettuce.


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Why Philpott’s vendetta against almonds is cracked

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Image Breakable Almond by philografy on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Boy, does someone over at Mother Jones have a hate on for almonds. In case you haven’t seen it, Tom Philpott’s latest “California goes nuts: It takes a gallon of water to produce one almond. And that’s not the most insane fact about the hedge-fund-fueled race to plant thirsty trees in the middle of a catastrophic drought” is one in a series of pieces attacking almonds and those who love them. You may recall his article telling ignorant hipsters to lay-off the almond milk. Perhaps he’s found something that “works” and decided to stick with it? As long as we keep reading his articles about almonds, and almond products, he’ll keep writing them.

You know, I get his point, California is in the middle of a massive drought. Should we really be driving consumption of a crop that relies on huge quantities of water to survive? The thing is, nearly all of the food we eat relies on huge quantities of water. Philpott states that one little almond requires a gallon of water. One apple needs 1.75 gallons, one pound of chicken, 500 gallons of water, one hamburger, 633 gallons, one glass of milk 54 gallons. And it’s not just the food we eat, it’s everything. A ton of steel used to make one car requires a whopping 32, 000 gallons of water (1)!!! We should probably all be thinking more about the environmental impact of everything we purchase.

But is it really the almond’s fault that we’re in this mess? Is it your fault for choosing almond butter over peanut butter for your morning toast? The almond is just a scapegoat. After all, as Philpott states himself, the largest importer of all of these California almonds is China. I don’t have any data on Canadian consumption of California almonds but I doubt that you switching from almonds to walnuts is going to have much of an impact on almond production and the drought in California. Instead of making people feel guilty for enjoying some chocolate covered almonds it would be nice if journalists were using their platforms to educate people about the problems with our current food system and to encourage them to lobby the government to stop creating a system whereby large-scale industrial crops are the most profitable. Start encouraging the government to take immediate action to curb climate change and protect the environment so that we’ll all be able to enjoy almonds into our old age.


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Can you drink too much water?

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Something that I’ve been hearing a fair amount recently is that you can drink too much water. Ever since the eight cups of water rule-of-thumb was debunked a few years ago it seems that popular opinion is swinging the other way and people are concluding that we should drink less water.

While it’s certainly possible to drink too much water, it’s highly unlikely that the average person will manage to do so in the run of a day. The people dying from hyponatremia (low sodium levels in the body which can be caused by excessive water consumption) are usually athletes who are consuming more water than their bodies have lost and/or not enough accompanying electrolytes. I could also sit at a desk and chug a gallon of water with the same effect, but no one’s ever suggested that this is a good idea.

Okay, so you may not be likely to die from hyponatremia but aren’t you still putting a strain on your kidneys by drinking water throughout the day? Unless you have a medical condition, healthy kidneys can excrete as much as 12 litres of urine a day! (this is according to Krause’s Food & Nutrition Therapy by Mahan and Escott-Stump). That’s a damn sight more than 8 cups, 2-3 litres, or whichever recommendation you’ve heard. It’s highly unlikely that you’re going to cause damage to your kidneys by drinking water throughout the day and you’re more likely to suffer from dehydration than over-hydration.

Of course, the amount of water each person needs varies. It depends on how much water you’re losing through sweat, your altitude, pregnancy and breastfeeding, health status, etc. According to the Institute of Medicine, the average adult woman needs about 2.2 litres of fluids a day, the average adult man, about 3 litres. Thirst is certainly a great indicator that you should have something to drink. And it’s true that other beverages (yes, even coffee and tea) and foods can contribute to your overall hydration. Water is the most commonly recommended choice as it doesn’t contain any added calories, sugar, or other substances you might wish to avoid. It’s can also be free and is generally easily obtained.

Don’t be scared off by people saying that you can drink too much water. And don’t use it as an excuse to avoid drinking water all day. We are approximately 60% water and we need to consume adequate fluids to maintain healthy body function. Don’t ditch your water bottle!