When Nutrition is Confusing

Nutrition is confusing. There are so many diets, trends, research studies, super foods and new age ideas coming for you at all angles. You’ll find them on the internet, in movies, reality shows, magazines, radio, your next door neighbor. One day coconut oil is bad for you and the next day it’s good, one day vitamins are good for you and the next day they aren’t. This can get overwhelming even for people in the nutrition field. But there are some tips to weed out the truth versus the lies. Read below to learn how to decode.

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  • Use Reliable Sources – With weight and obesity being a rising issue in the US,  Americans are looking for the answers to improve their health. Unfortunately we search for quick fixes, so when we see things like “Lose 10 pounds in a week!” or “try this diet for flat abs!” we immediately get excited. But where did we see these posts, and are they reliable? Blogs, magazines and news articles provide a lot of great information, but anyone can write them. Just because you see it in print doesn’t mean it’s true. When searching for answers to nutrition-related questions use websites that end in .edu, .gov or .org. or articles written by nutrition and health professionals. For reliable information try the Mayo Clinic, NIH, or WebMD. Resist the urge to trust a website with the name “Lose Weight Now!”
  • Take reality TV and nutrition talk shows with a grain of salt (I’m talking to you Dr. Oz) – When something is on TV it is broadcasted to the world and competing with top shows and entertainment. The goal for these shows is to make things interesting and to provide a wow-factor to keep people coming back for more. I hate to burst everyone’s bubble, but with nutrition there is no wow-factor. It’s about balanced eating and exercising. But that doesn’t sell and a show about eating fruits and vegetables is b-o-r-i-n-g. Therefore we overcompensate and promote people exercising for 9 hours a day as a way to lose weight (Biggest Loser). Or we tell people that (insert weird food here) will cure everything so buy all of eat and eat it with every meal, every day for the rest of your life. One food will not change your life and exercising all day every day will eventually burn you out. Remember that many of these shows are for entertainment purposes only.
  • Look into research studies – This may take some extra effort, but when you hear a new research study came out, it’s not always a bad thing to question it. Although we trust research reports, there are a few factors that make some research studies better than others. Sometimes research studies use a small focus group, or they use lab rats instead of humans, both of which might not represent our population well. Sometimes in research studies they have people consuming more of a product than normal, which can cause side effects no matter what the food. If you hear something that is too good to be true, it may be because it is. Question things and look into it before believing what you hear.
  • Everything in Moderation – At the end of the day it all goes back to eating foods in moderation. One food won’t make or break anything, it’s what we do repeatedly over time that matters. I also use this phrase when it comes to conflicting research. Right now there are a few foods that are up for question based on current research. The ones I get the most questions about are eggs, coconut oil, soy and sugar substitutes. There  are some research studies touting the benefits, while other studies warn against eating them. When there is conflicting research I recommend, like anything else, eating these foods in moderation and enjoying a variety of foods for best health.

While nutrition information varies and can be confusing it is important to remember that every body is different. What works for one person might not work for someone else. Listen to your body and do what works best for you. Listen to reliable resources and if you have questions, ask them! I will often repeat the same facts over again and this is because tried and true nutrition facts stay the same. If something new and crazy comes out, it is best to question it first.

In related news, as soon as I was about hit publish on this post, I ran into this article by the New York Times. Read on for more information about this topic.

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