Debunking nutrition myths
Health information and advice is everywhere, and in this digital age, where information can be shared instantaneously to huge audiences by anyone, it's vital to have a critical eye and be well-equipped to be able to discern fact from opinion. This blog is here to help, debunking common nutrition myths so that you can make informed decisions on what is best for your health.
Myth - The source of our food doesn't matter
Looking at macronutrients or ‘Macros’ - protein, fat and carbohydrates - does not tell us enough about what we’re eating. It completely ignores fibre - arguably the only nutrient group we should be making sure we have enough of - and not knowing where our food comes from has huge implications for impact on our health. Consuming organic foods vastly reduces our exposure to compounds such as glyphosate that we know have impacts on our health. Consuming grass fed beef or organic eggs from outdoor reared chickens completely changes the composition of the foods. Additives like sugar alcohols and emulsifiers, and processing in UPFs all impact our microbiome. The closer we can get to understanding where our food is coming from in its whole form, not in macros, the more benefits we will reap from the fuel we feed our bodies.
Myth - we don't need to choose specific foods for pregnancy and weaning
Pregnant women are often told to eat for two, or to eat whatever they fancy. When our children are born, it can be easy to feed them whatever is convenient. Nutrition in the first 1000 days from conception to a child’s second birthday contributes to the blueprint of overall health for our children. Avoiding ultra processed foods (including those aimed at children), increasing plant intake and choosing organic where possible can have a really big impact on ours and our children’s health.
Myth - food elimination diets are sustainable for weight loss
Keto diet, caveman diet, Atkins diet, raw food diet: these will almost inevitably cause an initial weight loss followed by unsustainable restrictions leading to weight gain once normal eating resumes, as well as potentially leading to an unhealthy relationship with food. Unless you have an allergy or intolerance, there is no need to cut a whole food group out of your diet.
Myth - carbohydrates are bad for us
There is extensive good quality research supporting high carbohydrate diets as beneficial to health. While we need to limit our intake of ultra processed foods (UPFs) like pre-packaged pastries and cakes and cookies, carbohydrates including whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes which are all actually really beneficial for us and our microbiomes.
Myth - juices and teas can help us to "detox"
One of my pet peeves is this idea that we need to do something drastic like a juice diet to help our bodies ‘detox’. Our bodies are constantly detoxing thanks to clever homeostatic processes, and the best way to support that is with consistent, nutritious foods, plenty of water and giving our bodies time to do their jobs whilst we sleep by not eating for 12-14 hours windows every day. Limiting our consumption of toxins to our system through alcohol, cigarette smoke and environmental pollutants is also a good idea.
Myth - to lose weight, we just need to eat less calories
Of course, being in a calorie deficit will initially result in some weight loss but a calorie is not a calorie and our bodies adapt to try and maintain what is known as homeostatic body weight regulation and simply counting calories will not address this. No calorie controlled diets have ever worked in the long term. Our genes and microbiome have a huge impact on how we individually metabolise and absorb foods. Nutrition needs to be approached on an individual level to achieve overall health and there are companies such as ZOE actively working towards making personalised nutrition available.
Last but not least, 4 tips from our Chief Scientist to keep in mind when reviewing nutritional information online:
1. If you have any health concerns about intolerances/allergies or any other diet-related illness, consult your own doctor or dietician.
2. When looking for dietary advice online, stick to Nutritionists accredited by the Association for Nutrition (AfN) and Dieticians registered with the British Dietetic Association (BDA) that are active in their continued professional development.
3. Read different articles on the same topic to obtain a more balanced view and understanding.
4. Steer away from any one “miracle” answer that works for everyone - we are complex individuals in a complex world and there are many factors to consider.