Mythbusting a key to better nutrition and healthy eating
By Aimee Bowcott
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Monday, March 7, 2022
These days, myths and misinformation are everywhere, and the internet, social media, celebrity advice, family, friends and other sources can sometimes make the path to better nutrition and healthier lifestyles incredibly confusing.
If you've ever thought, Wow that sounds too good to be true!, that generally means it is! So much of the information out there is not based on any evidence or science, but instead promotes fad diets that typically emphasize weight loss over the building of healthful, life-long habits.
Here are three pro tips from Dietitians of Canada to help you spot misinformation and avoid fads.
Beware of exaggerated claims
Is it promising a quick fix like fast weight-loss or a miracle cure? Is it rigid and impossible to adapt into your lifestyle or state of health? Does it cut out major food categories (i.e. carbohydrates) and does it stop you from enjoying your favourite foods? Making changes to your health requires a commitment to eating well and regular exercise. You should be able to enjoy all foods, and if you cut out major groups of foods, you won't get the nutrients your body needs for energy and health.
Watch your wallet
Are they trying to sell you products such as special foods or supplements instead of teaching you how to make better food choices at home, at play, at work or while eating out? Promises such as Take this pill and you will lose weight while you sleep! or No exercise needed! aren't grounded in reality. The truth is, there are no quick fixes. Getting healthier by making small consistent behaviour changes takes time, but the good news is that, with a little effort and perseverance, they can be incorporated into every aspect of your life.
Study the studies
Many dietary claims are based on anecdotal, personal stories rather than on facts or science. Although it’s nice to hear about a success story from a celebrity or "average person," it’s not proof that something works or is true. Likewise, it's not always a good policy to place your trust in a claim backed by the latest "study" that has managed to make headlines. Is a claim based on a single study or a few research studies? Were the studies with animals or humans? Are you similar to the humans that were studied (age, gender, lifestyle etc.)? The stronger the study design, and the more studies available that draw the same conclusions, the stronger the evidence that something it true.
Dietitians are university-trained, regulated health professionals who base their advice on the best available scientific information. They are qualified professionals who can translate complex medical and nutrition information into practical and healthy eating advice for you and your family, help with nutrition concerns such as food sensitivities and allergies, and create nutrition care plans for specific medical conditions.
Dietitians are sometimes asked why health and nutrition recommendations change so often. The truth is that they don't change nearly as often as the naysayers would have you believe. While it's true that recommendations can change over time as we learn more about nutritional science and as we change as a society, a single new study or theory is rarely enough to make Dietitians change their recommendations. In fact, the basic advice has remained unchanged for decades: eat a variety of whole foods (including vegetables, fruits, dairy, legumes, nuts and fish), be active everyday and enjoy treats, sweets and alcohol in moderation.
When it comes to your health and nutrition, it's best to consult the experts. Think about it: You wouldn't ask a celebrity how to build a safe bridge, you'd ask a professional engineer. You wouldn't ask a blog writer to fill your cavity, you'd ask a dentist. The same thinking should apply to nutrition advice. Dietitians are Manitoba's only regulation nutrition professionals. They don't go in for fads or gimmicks and they have nothing to sell. What they do offer is up-to-date science and a commitment to helping you understand the connection between food and your physical, mental and emotional health at any size.
Take the time to learn more about what a dietitian does, why people go to see a dietitian, and how a dietitian can help you. For more information, visit www.unlockfood.ca, or speak to a dietitian over the phone by contacting Dial-a-Dietitian toll free at 1-877-830-2892 or 204-788-8248 in Winnipeg.
Aimee Bowcott is Regional Manager Clinical Nutrition - Community for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.