The health industry can be a minefield. With so much conflicting information out there, it is difficult to know fact from fiction, theory from reality. Even as a practitioner, it can be confusing! Every day I hear about something new, or that what we previously thought is being questioned. But then I take a step back and remind myself of what I have learned both through studies and through experience in clinic, it really doesn’t need to be complicated. As a society, I feel we gravitate toward ideas that are very reductionist – we cut things out entirely, or overdose on one specific nutrient. We also love to follow formula’s that work for other people, with little regard to tuning into how we feel. The body doesn’t work that way! The truth is, eating should be simple and sensible…
Eat real food, food you recognise so that your body also recognises it, not too much, mostly plants. And listen to what feels right (uniquely) for you…
So let’s take a look at some common health misconceptions that have become popular, and see where they fall short.
Have you heard… Fruit contains sugar, and sugar is bad for you!
Fruit is a whole food, from the earth, perfectly packaged. There is no way that this has the same effect on the body as refined or artificial sweet stuff! It goes back to the simple concept, if you can recognise it, your body probably does too. When we consume fruit we get vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, folate and calcium. We also get the benefit of antioxidants such as organic phenols, which have been shown to decrease oxidation helping to prevent chronic disease and promoting healthy aging. The fibre acts as a buffer to the natural sugar being consumed, ensuring it is slow releasing and preventing those dreaded highs and lows of refined sugars. Not only that, but ripe fruits are the most alkaline of all foods. We want our body to stay alkaline to prevent chronic disease and toxicity and make us feel and look our most vibrant.
Any ill effect of fructose, the sugar found in fruit, is strictly limited to that of industrial fructose such as high-fructose corn-syrup. In fact, this study proves that a diet that restricts fructose from added sugars but includes fruit, is more beneficial for weight-loss than a diet that limits both fruit and added sugars. Indeed, restricting fruit intake has even been shown to be ineffective in type 2 diabetes patients. This research even suggests that fruit may have a different, more powerful effect on weight-loss than veggies!
Have you heard… Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!
This catchy phrase is actually thought to have originated from cereal companies and clever marketing campaigns. Realistically, all meals are equally important when it comes to stabilising your blood sugar and controlling appetite. There is no evidence to support breakfast as the more important. As a nutritionist, it really comes down to a few things including when a person
wakes up, exercises, finishes eating the night before and their stress and hormone levels. It also comes down to personal preference and whether this particular individual thrives intermittently fasting. Some people prefer to start the day light and work their way up to heavier meals. As long as you are leaving a good gap between dinner and breakfast and are choosing real, whole foods, however/whenever you choose to break your fast is personal choice and what works for you.
Have you heard… There’s no such thing as too much protein!
Not so fast. Higher protein diets, especially those obtained through excessive meat consumption, are linked to chronic diseases such as kidney disease, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Not to mention the other uncomfortable conditions often associated such as constipation, IBS, bad breath, acne, hormonal imbalance and other lifestyle impedances. The type of fat, excess protein, natural carcinogens, synthetic hormones and antibiotics, the natural hormones in the animal and of course, the absence of fibre in all animal products all play a part in these problems. What’s more, pathogenic bacteria in our bodies thrive on accumulated excess, unused proteins (“junk protein”). However when we give our bodies a break from protein or consume it moderately, our natural recycling process, autophagy, is allowed to operate smoothly, breaking down these accumulated “junk proteins” into usable amino acids.
High protein diets have also been found to have adverse effects on metabolic function, because protein consumption reduces the body’s sensitivity to insulin after a meal. A quick note on high-protein diets for weight-loss, this statement really sums it up – they offer quick weight loss (a large part of which is attributed to the diuretic effect due to low-carbohydrate intake), that has been found to be unsustainable and carries negative health consequences. There are very few long-term studies on the safety and effectiveness of such diets. A good rule of thumb: .8g protein for every kg of body weight i.e. 65 kg woman should have around 52g of protein/day.
Have you heard… Snacking is bad for you! No wait, it’s good for you!
This one has myths both ways! To be honest, just like breakfast, snacking is personal preference. Whilst I don’t believe the adage that “eating frequently revs up your metabolism”, it can definitely help with appetite control for some – meaning they don’t overeat at their next main meal. This is great! So long as snacks are made with health in mind i.e. whole-foods. Raw unsalted nuts, carrots with tahini, One of Eimele’s veggie soups or their delicious plant-based snack bars are all great satiating snack ideas.
On the other hand, over-snacking i.e. grazing can be detrimental. The Migrating Motor Complex (MMC), a critical 4-step ‘janitor’ system that basically increases gastric, biliary and pancreatic secretions to sweep up your last meal, is only activated after approximately 3–4 hours after eating.
So long as you leave around 3 hours between food consumption, whether snacking or not, it’s your call! Be particularly mindful of this if small-intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is of concern.