Time to Let Go of the Lore
As we tackled exercise and stretching myths last week, this week, it’s time to take a look at all that nutrition lore that drives our decision-making when it comes to shopping. The health industry is a billion-dollar business – everything from protein shakes to the magical properties of kale. Many of my clients are aghast to find out that after spending hundreds, even thousands, of dollars on the latest fads that kale and blueberries won’t save the world.
Much of what we believe to be true about nutrition, many of the decisions we make about what to eat, is based on hearsay, trends, and brilliant campaigns. Consider the billions of dollars that go into pushing agendas. To end a month of fools and follies, let’s take a critical look at some of those nutrition trends.
- Kale will save the world! Yes. We’re on a kale craze. And why not? It’s high in calcium, rich in Vitamin C to give our immune systems a boost, and holds a bundle of antioxidants to help protect against cancer. Plus, add the fact it’s high in iron and fiber, who doesn’t love kale? Everything in excess, though, is toxic. Even kale. Kale is in the cruciferous family like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, bok choy, arugula … among others. All cruciferous veggies are jam-packed with wonderful things. That said, with the kale craze and juice cleanse craze, doctors are seeing a spike in thyroid problems. If you have a family history of thyroid issues, eat a lot of raw cruciferous vegetables (or have jumped on the juice cleanse bandwagon), and have a diet lacking iodine, you might be setting your body up for a toxic surprise. So … be moderate. Add iodine-rich foods to your diet (navy beans, cranberries, a dash of salt), cook or steam your cruciferous veggies (as they release fewer goitrins when cooked), and keep your diet filled with variety. I’m not telling you to not eat kale and other cruciferous veggies. Just eat a little bit of everything to keep balance!
- Vegetarians and vegans are depriving their bodies of much-need proteins. Some regions, and generations, struggle with vegetarianism. Lack of support from family and friends make being a vegan and/or vegetarian even more challenging. Changing from a meat-based diet to a vegetable-based diet has challenges simply because we live in a meat-centered world. As a registered dietitian, I’d say we all have dietary challenges. Vegetarians simply need to educate themselves to meet dietary recommendations. And many who do are healthier than my regular clients because they have to be so intentional about what they eat.
- Beware of soy! Soy has been on many women’s blacklist ever since a study came out that claimed it would change a woman’s breast density, leaving her more at-risk for developing breast cancer. These studies were ingrained in our mindset, even though they were debunked in 2013. In fact, soy, a mainstay of many Asian diets, has proven to be a defense against breast cancer. Soy is an incredible source of protein, good fats, calcium and iron. So, let’s put soy back on the table
- Go carb-free (or fat-free, or sugar-free or or or). Diet trends tend to be radical, cutting entire food groups out of our diets. Our bodies need a little bit of everything. I’m not talking highly-processed foods (chips, crackers, processed meats) or refined sugars. I’m talking about heathy grains, fruits and vegetables, and the good fats you find in olive oil, fatty fish, nuts and avocados. Our bodies need a little bit of everything – a lot of variety – to get all essential nutrients to function.
Many people make decisions about what they eat based on a single article, study, or information a friend of a friend received from somebody else. So much of our energy is focused on what we should or shouldn’t eat, when our energy can be focused on eating what makes our bodies feel good, enjoying each bite for how it nourishes us, and letting go of the guilt. It’s about changing our mindsets. And, when in doubt, consult with a registered dietitian. It’s our job to keep up with the latest trends, fads, and information to best advise you on how to eat better.