Myth busting common misconceptions about food and exercise
Every week there seems to be a new nutrition topic covered in the media: new fads, new solutions for weight loss and new foods that are bad for you. Many of the claims are often discredited upon further research, yet their impact on dietary choices remains.
Studies from the 1950s and 1960s changed the way we ate, the foods we ate and the amount we ate. All of this has had a detrimental effect on our health.
Nutrition lies published in the media are still common today; studies subsidized by pharmaceutical companies, food manufacturers and food associations are often tilted to make the public believe that one food is healthier than another to spur sales and increase visibility.
That is why I wanted to take this opportunity to give you the facts, based on true medical research, to debunk common nutrition misconceptions. Here are what I consider seven highly significant nutrition lies circulating today:
LIE #1: You must eat whole grains
When low-fat diets became all the rage, an increase of whole grains was supported. According to the USDA, as of 2000, Americans were consuming nearly 200 pounds of grain per year, up 45 percent in 30 years.
In fact, the amount of wheat flour, corn products and rice has all dramatically increased. All in that same time frame, autoimmune diseases, Type 2 diabetes, cancers and cardiovascular disease rates have increased.
But, we have been told for decades to eat more whole grains, right? That is why it makes my list for largest nutrition lies.
TRUTH: Whole grains are not nutrient dense, and actually can harm your metabolism.
The gluten, found in most grains, causes inflammation in the body, which leads to many chronic diseases and conditions including allergies, arthritis, cognitive decline, Celiac, Crohn’s, Fibromyalgia, GERD, Guillan-Barre, Lupus, certain types of cancer and so many more.
The naturally occurring starches in whole grains cause surges in insulin levels because they are quickly turned into sugar during digestion. This fluctuation in insulin levels can be detrimental for individuals with diabetes, but also cause those without diabetes to experience dramatic swings in energy and concentration.
In addition, fluctuating blood glucose levels are associated with obesity and even infertility, as the spike of insulin in the body affects other hormonal balances leading to metabolic diseases.
But what about the nutrition of whole grains?
Actually, the phytic acid in whole grains binds to essential minerals in the intestine, and keeps them from properly absorbing in your system. This can result osteoporosis as minerals affected include calcium, zinc, copper, magnesium and iron. Calcium supplements don’t typically help with those eating a diet rich in phytic acid because the calcium is still being blocked from being absorbed.
Phytic acid is found in the outer covering – or bran – of whole grains, seeds and nuts.
Sprouting the grains helps break phytic acid down, and makes it easier to digest. This process also helps to increase the rate of absorption of key nutrients.
What about fiber?
There are so many better solutions for fiber than whole grains; many of the best sources are actually vegetables! As you look at your daily plate, it so important to make sure that you are getting many fiber-rich vegetables that not only have fiber but are loaded with antioxidants.
SOLUTION: Eat sprouted grains and healthy fiber rich foods
As you can see, whole grains really are not that good for you. Fortunately, there are a host of great tasting, nutrient dense foods that are easily substituted into your diet. Remember, not all carbohydrates are bad. In fact, we need them in our diet. Lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, artichokes, avocados, eggplant, berries, melons and quinoa are all nutrient dense, support healthy metabolic function and replace the fiber in whole grains.
Remember, if you want to occasionally indulge in whole grains, choose sprouted or fermented grains so you can absorb all the nutrition they contain.
LIE #2: Vegetarian diets are the healthiest
While vegetables certainly are very good for you, the truth is most vegetarian diets focus on large portions of whole grains and cereals, and not as many fruits and vegetables. Plus, they tend to be diets rich in carbohydrates, and relatively low in protein and healthy saturated fats.
TRUTH: Vegetarians can struggle with vitamin B-12 deficiency and be missing key nutrition for health!
Vegetarians who eat dairy or other animal products may get some Vitamin B-12 in their diet, but not enough. Their diet is also lacking the important healthy fats and minerals from the bones and meats of animals, that can help cell and brain function.
And vegans, who do not eat any animal products, are even more prone to Vitamin B12 deficiency, at an alarming rate. In fact, some studies show that over 90 percent of vegans are deficient in this essential nutrient.
Only animal-based proteins contain the essential amino acids and B-12 necessary to thrive. These nutrients are associated with bone health, muscle mass, healthy hormonal levels – including testosterone, cognitive function, emotional stability, hypothyroidism and fatigue.
Symptoms of a B-12 deficiency read like a case study in today’s average American wellness: low energy, infertility, depression, poor memory, digestive issues, leaky gut, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and dementia.
According to a recent study from researchers at Alexianer Krefeld GmbH in Germany, Vitamin B-12 deficiency increases with age, and this can contribute to the developing of dementia. Fortunately, researchers of this study believe that the most symptoms of the deficiency can be reversed, if caught early.
Another problem with a typical vegetarian or vegan diet, is the high percentage of soy consumed. Phytoestrogens in soy mimics estrogen, and high levels have been associated with the increased risk in certain types of cancer.
Endocrine disruptors, such as chemicals, preservatives or high phytoestrogen foods – such as those in soy and soy products – throw hormones out of balance and potentially lead to endometriosis, infertility, cancer of the breast, prostate and ovaries, Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, depression and osteoporosis. Soy is not your friend, and the fact that it is considered healthy in many circles, is another nutrition lie.
SOLUTION: Add responsible sources of meat, fish and grass-fed or fermented dairy to your diet
My Healing Foods Diet is rich with a balance of healthy proteins, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and healthy fats. A central part of the diet is organic grass-fed beef, lamb, bison and free-range poultry. This diet helps to decrease inflammation, alkalizes the body to make it less hospitable to some types of cancer, stabilizes blood glucose levels, eliminates toxins in the body and provides an optimum balance of nutrients.
If you are vegetarian, and if you can, I recommend having some animal products such as ghee, butter, fermented kefir, eggs, and including as many sources of Vitamin B as possible.
LIE #3: Saturated fat is bad
For over 50 years saturated fat was demonized by one study, and health professionals across the world jumped onto the bandwagon to do away with saturated fat. This is quite possibly the most disturbing nutrition lie in the media. The result: a diet richer in carbohydrates and grains, and the introduction of unhealthy fats.
However, a re-analysis of the original study finds the study excluded data from 16 countries, because the data did not fit with the researchers’ hypothesis. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition evaluated 21 medical studies to determine if a reduction in saturated fat improved cardiovascular health.
The study included nearly 350,000 subjects. The result? There is no evidence that saturated fat is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, or coronary heart disease.
TRUTH: Saturated fats are good for you, and critical to your body’s function!
Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils have replaced saturated oils in the standard Western diet. The rise in popularity of these oils is directly related to the low-fat diet craze, but also the dramatic increase in heart disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes we see now. Vegetable oils, including corn, peanut, soybean or canola oil should be avoided, and replaced with healthy oils including coconut oil, ghee, sesame oil, grass-fed butter and olive oil.
Colorectal cancer is often associated with diets high in saturated fats. However, that is simply not true. The Women’s Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial studied postmenopausal women for more than eight years and shows that a low-fat diet does not reduce the risk for colorectal cancer. In addition, a study of nearly 50,000 postmenopausal women finds that a low-fat diet does not result in a significant reduction in breast cancer risk.
SOLUTION: Incorporate healthy saturated fats into your diet
Coconut Oil is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. This extremely versatile, once vilified oil, is a medium-chain fatty acid that is easily digested – and packed with anti-microbial properties, including lauric acid. Unlike other healthy fats, coconut oil is resistant to heat damage.
Ghee is another healthy fat with a high smoke point, and packed with fat soluble vitamins A, D and E. Both ghee and coconut oil are actually associated with weight loss, as the energy from medium-chain fatty acids help to burn other fats in our system.
For raw applications, use olive oil, almond oil or avocado oil. They are all terrific for adding nutrients and great flavor.
LIE #4: Running is healthy
The running craze started in the 1970s, around the same time as low-fat diets. The problem is that running causes wear and tear on the bones, muscles and can even damage the hormonal system. Intense and prolonged exercise actually releases free radicals into the body that contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries and oxidative stress.
According to Dr James O’Keefe – the Director of Preventative Cardiology at Saint Luke’s Mid-American Heart Institute – high-intensity interval training improves fitness, without taking the long-term toll on muscular, skeletal and other systems in the body.
Another recent study indicates that people who don’t exercise at all and high-mileage runners both tend to have shorter lifespans than moderate runners. Seventy percent of the runners in the study reported running more than 20 miles per week.
TRUTH: Everything in moderation, and exercise is better in bursts!
You’ve heard the saying everything in moderation, including moderation, and this seems to be the case with running. If you enjoy running, do so at a lower intensity, at a lower pace, and for shorter period of times. If you decide to run, keep it to jogging two to three times per week, at a slow pace for up to a maximum of two to three hours total.
Over-exercising can lead to serious health consequences, so exercise smart! Running great distances, at great intensity is not healthy, and one of the largest nutrition lies supported today.
SOLUTION: Replace running with High Intensity Interval Training
Exercise is still a vital part of staving of disease, reducing stress and maintaining a healthy weight. High Intensity Interval Training, or burst training, is a combination of short, high intensity bursts of exercise partnered with slow periods to allow the body to recover.
Burst Training is associated with greater fat burning, and it actually encourages your body to continue burning fat up to 48 hours after exercise is complete! If you love to run because you love to be outdoors, take up tennis, ski, walk or hike. The important thing during exercise is to listen to your body, stay hydrated, and allow your body to recover.
LIE #5: Everyone Should Eat… (insert name of hottest diet fad here!)
People, for the most part, mean well. And when they find a diet that works for their bodies, they believe it is the diet everyone should be eating. This is simply not true. Today, people tout Paleo, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian and other diets as if they are the only solution for good health. Each of these diets, and many others out there, fail to provide adequate balanced nutrition. This is especially true with the Food Pyramid.
The problem with the “diet trends” is that they often have a list of foods with do’s and don’ts, and each person simply picks the foods on the list that they like or can tolerate the best. This still does not offer the diversity of nutrition, nor does it train the majority of people on how to eat for nutrition rather than convenience. There are also nutrition deficiencies that come up if you are not intentional about what foods you chose to eat while following these diet fads.
For example, totally limiting dairy from your diet can upset your calcium levels, and limits essential fat soluble vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. Incorporating raw dairy and fermented dairy into your diet supports a strong immune system, increases bone density, supports healthy neurological function, weight loss and helps to build lean muscle mass. You can also choose calcium-rich foods that are non-dairy, such as kale, sardines, kefir and broccoli, but you must be intentional about incorporating these foods on a regular basis.
Vegans miss out on these nutrients, and are often seriously lacking in Vitamin B-12. The resulting B-12 deficiency can cause certain types of cancer, infertility, neurological disorders, cardiovascular disorders and autoimmune diseases.
TRUTH: The body needs diversity and nutrient-dense foods to get all needed vitamins and minerals
It is essential to eat a diet rich with organic grass-fed meats, dairy, fruits, sprouted grains, quinoa, vegetables and legumes to obtain a balanced diet.
SOLUTION: Eat for your best health and wellness
The important thing is to listen to your body. If you have food sensitivities or allergies, it is best to eliminate or at the very least, limit these foods. The goal with any diet or nutrition plan you select, is one that you can maintain for a lifetime.
Research indicates that incorporating a broader understanding of the behavioral, social, physiological and the evolution of the diet through the years, helps to develop good long-lasting nutrition practices.
Personally, I don’t eat a Paleo diet, but I eat something close to it. I do believe that eliminating all processed foods is essential: sodium, sugar, unhealthy fats, and other chemicals hide in nearly every prepared, canned or boxed food. However, raw dairy, yogurt and kefir are prohibited on the Paleo diet, but I believe that they are central to good health.
Additionally, my diet excludes foods that I do not believe support wellness, such as pork, shellfish, catfish, alligator and snakes. I encourage you to use my Healing Foods Shopping List to help you create a long-lasting diet that is just right for you.
LIE #6: All sugar is bad
Let’s set the record straight – all sugar is not bad, this is a nutrition lie common in the media. What is true, is that refined sugars are bad! They are high in calories and affect the production of insulin. A diet high in refined sugars is linked to Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and pancreatic cancer.
TRUTH: We need a balanced amount of healthy sugars to thrive
Our bodies need a balance of nutrients, including sugars, to thrive. Simply because refined sugars are bad, it does not mean we should rush out and start using artificial sweeteners either! Artificial sweeteners are linked to kidney damage, weight gain, some types of cancers, thyroid dysfunction, headaches, memory loss, seizures and much more. If you have been lured into believing that all natural sugars are bad, and you are consuming artificial sweeteners, please stop immediately!
SOLUTION: Choose natural sweeteners in moderation
Coconut sugar, raw stevia, dates – there are many naturally sweet, yet nutritious, sweeteners that are good for you!
One of my top natural sweeteners is raw honey. It is packed with therapeutic benefits including boosting immune system function, supporting restful sleep and balancing the pH levels in the body. It is rich with amino acids, the B vitamins, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and other essential minerals. Or try manuka honey for even more healing benefits!
Blackstrap molasses offers a rich warm sweetness, while being high in iron, potassium, calcium, copper and manganese.
Instead of refined white sugar that has zero nutritional value, try one of my recommended sweeteners you should be using.
LIE #7: You can “make up” for a bad diet with supplements
This is simply one of the largest nutrition lies out there! A diet of processed foods, refined sugar, whole grains and other foods that are not nutrient dense, cannot be counteracted with supplements – no matter how many you take.
Healthy foods contain tens of thousands of phytochemicals, fiber, proteins and fats that simply cannot be replicated into pill or supplement form. Eating a well-balanced diet, rich with fruits, vegetables and high-quality proteins gives you the majority of the nutrients you need.
High-quality supplements are good as a supplement, but are not designed to replace the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you get from your diet. In essence, supplements can help to close a nutritional gap, but should never be used in place of a well-balanced and healthy diet.
TRUTH: The majority of your nutrition must come from whole healthy foods
Certain vitamin or mineral deficiencies can be supplemented effectively, but vitamin B-12, calcium, probiotics, magnesium, and others must be derived from natural sources.
Unfortunately, there are many supplements on the market today, which simply will not improve your health, and sadly, your supplements could be made of shower scum.
When you take any supplements, make sure they are food-based and use several nutrients partnered together to make them absorbable and effective. You body was made to digest food, and it needs your nutrients in a form that it can recognize and digest!
SOLUTION: Eat whole, healthy foods!
Focus on foods that are rich in B12, Vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, vitamin D, folate and vitamin K, which builds bones better than calcium. Nutrients derived directly from food are easier to digest, and have greater bioavailability than those in the majority of supplements on the market today. Use supplements if you believe you have a deficiency, but be sure to partner it with foods that support reversing the deficiency.
This article originally appeared on DrAxe.com and is republished here with permission.