Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Follow Friday @nutritionwonk

If you enjoy reading topical nutrition blogs (and if you don’t, um… you may be in the wrong place) I recommend you check out one of the newer kids on the block Nutrition Wonk (aka Katherine aka @smarfdoc on twitter).

As a grad student studying nutrition biochemistry and epidemiology, Katherine takes a science-focused approach to writing about popular nutrition news. She does an excellent job of writing in a way that’s both accessible to the layperson and informative to those in the field.

Looking for an unbiased assessment of the latest article on the war on sugar? A thorough take-down of Laura Prepon’s diet book? How about an interview with Dr Yoni Freedhoff? She’s got it all, and more.

I’m looking forward to reading her future posts and I hope you will as well!


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Craisin a little hell #craisingate 2016

Earlier this week Dr. Yoni Freedhoff wrote about why he considers craisins to be better classified as candy than as fruit. I retweeted his post and posed the question on twitter: Should craisins be considered candy or fruit?

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As you can see from the results, people were overwhelming in favour of treating craisins as candy rather than as fruit. However, the results don’t tell the full story.

There was a surprising amount of vitriol expressed by some of my fellow dietitians. Apparently this topic touched on a nerve. Personally, I don’t feel all that strongly about the subject but I do take exception when people suggest that I’m causing eating disorders by daring to suggest that we should treat craisins (and perhaps other dried fruit) as we would candy, and not as we would fruit. I don’t see the need to attack each other’s professional ability over such a minor disagreement. Just because I disagree with dietitians who believe that craisins should be treated as fruit doesn’t mean that I think they’re incompetent. We don’t have to agree on everything and in the big scheme of nutrition this is pretty minor.

Anyway… A loaf of other strawmen brought to the party. Apparently I also hate camping because I think craisins are like candy. Somehow I was also implying that craisins are causing obesity (yes, I don’t get it either). I was “demonizing” craisins. Really? Really? I had no idea that people were so passionate about dried up sugary cranberries.

Let’s look at the facts. While Yoni drew some comparisons between craisins and candy, I think we should also take a moment to compare craisins and cranberries.

Dried Cranberries (60ml) Fresh Cranberries (125ml)
95 kcal 23 kcal
25.32 g carbohydrate 6.12 g carbohydrate
1.8 g fibre 2.3 g fibre
19.98 g sugar 2.03 g sugar
3 mg calcium 4 mg calcium
0 mcg vitamin A 18 mcg vitamin A (beta carotene)
0 mcg folate 1 mcg folate
0 mcg vitamin B12 0 mcg vitamin B12
0.1 mg vitamin C 6.7 mg vitamin C
1.2 mcg vitamin K 2.6 mcg vitamin K
4.92 g moisture 50 g moisture

As you can see, craisins do lose some nutrients when they’re dehydrated. They also gain a whole lotta sugar (both because the sugar is more concentrated and because a lot of sugar is added to make them tasty).

The sugar is certainly one of the reasons that I think we should treat craisins more like candy than like fruit. It’s like any sweet treat, apple pie, chocolate milk. Sure there are some redeeming qualities but just because it was once a berry, fruit, or white milk doesn’t mean that it’s equal to what that food was in it’s original state.

Why else should we consider craisins to be more akin to candy than to fruit? They’re lacking the water that’s present in whole fruit. This has three effects: 1. you’re not getting the water that you would eating whole cranberries that you do from dried, 2. the calories are far more concentrated so you only need a small portion to get the same calories that you would from eating fresh cranberries, 3. craisins are very sticky which makes them excellent contributors to the formation of dental caries.

After I had written this post, another RD (who wisely chooses to remain nameless, wanting to avoid getting caught in the fray) shared this with me:

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Sorry, for the poor resolution. Hopefully it’s clear enough for you to see that these national guidelines recommend dried fruit be included as “sometimes” foods. Which, as you can see below, is exactly what I’ve been saying.

I’m not saying that craisins are bad. Heck, I sprinkled some in my pancake batter for Pancake Tuesday (much as I might chocolate chips). I don’t think that candy is “bad” either. I don’t believe in labelling foods as “good” or “bad”. All foods fit. We should simply consume some more regularly than others and I would put craisins firmly in the “sometimes” food category.

*Thanks to my friend and fellow RD Mark McGill for the title suggestion and tweep Amanda McLaren for coining the now infamous craisingate hashtag


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Book Review: The Diet Fix

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I should start with a disclosure: I briefly worked with the author, Dr Yoni Freehoff at his weight management clinic in Ottawa, and I consider him a friend. That being said, I no longer work with him, he didn’t ask me to read or review his book, I didn’t even get a free copy! Okay, well, I kind of did, I borrowed one from the library. The book in question is The Diet Fix

Having worked with Yoni, and being a dietitian, there wasn’t anything in the book that was new or surprising to me. Basically, it was a refresher of everything we would cover with clients, minus specific nutrition information and individual concerns. In addition, I’m not someone who struggles with weight so it wasn’t of personal benefit to read the book. It’s hard to set aside my personal lens when writing about the book. However, as I was reading, I could think of several people I know who would likely benefit from reading The Diet Fix.

Yoni provides a great overview of the information that’s imparted at his clinic in the book. For anyone who doesn’t have access to services provided by a place like the Bariatric Medical InstituteThe Diet Fix is a decent stand-in. There’s a valuable emphasis on living the best life that you can and de-emphasis on the numbers on the scale. Many of us have developed unhealthy relationships with food and this book does its best to help the reader (re)gain a healthy relationship with food.

While there is a section about “resetting” various diets, the book is not a diet book. It’s a lifestyle guide book. The problem with diets is that they always have an end date, and then what? Yoni doesn’t harsh on Paleo (even though it’s so easy and tempting) or Clean Eating or any other money-making diet out there. As long as you’re able to happily and healthily live the rest of your life adhering to whatever style of eating you’ve chosen that’s okay. There are tips for how to make the most of any diet style.

Honestly, the only thing in the book that really bothered me was how often he says “folks”. And that’s probably just because I know someone else (who I can’t stand) who calls people “folks” all the time and it’s become like nails on the chalkboard to me. But I digress… The only statement in the book that I took any exception to was this:

Fruits and vegetables also fall into the carbohydrate catchall. For the most part, they’re all wonderful. The only possible exception is the potato. Dr. Walter Willett, Harvard’s chair in nutrition  since 1991 and the world’s second-most-cited scientist in history, once suggested that consuming one was akin to spooning pure white table sugar into your mouth.

Who am I to question the wisdom of Willett? I will anyway though. Sure, many people consume potatoes far too frequently and in less than nutritionally optimal forms (i.e. chips and fries), however, it’s my belief that the potato is an under-rated vegetable.

Minor quibbles aside, I enjoyed the last sections of the book the best. They addressed a number of issues, such as medications and raising healthy eaters, that most “diet” books would never touch. This makes it a great resource for anyone who wants to take charge of their health, impart healthy habits on their children, or who works with people who do. If you want to lose weight and don’t know where to start, if you’re a doctor or a dietitian, I definitely recommend giving this book a read.


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Follow Friday: Get RD services covered

In the wake of Yoni Freedhoff’s excellent article about the lack of government health plan coverage for dietitians services some dietitians have started a petition on Change to, well, change this. Please, take a minute to sign the petition and share with everyone you know.


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Follow Friday: All of the low-carb diet blogs

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When the news about the new “low-carb diet is the best long-term weight loss diet” came out I fleetingly considered writing about it. In the moment that I took to think about it, pretty much everyone else had covered it. So… Rather than reinvent the wheel. Here are some links to posts that say pretty much everything I would have said (and then some):

James Fell on Six Pack Abs: New Study: What is low carb good for

Karmal Patel on Examine.com: Is low-carb really the best weight loss diet?

Yoni Freedhoff on Weighty Matters: What I actually learned by reading that low-carb is best study

Julia Belluz on Vox: The one thing you need to know about weight loss and diet studies

There’s more, but that’s probably more than enough reading for now. I’m off to The Canteen for a sandwich. See you Monday!