Check Your Nutrition IQ: 10 Common Assumptions You Might Have Wrong

This was originally published as my Holistic Outlook column in The Times Herald Record.

1. Eggs are unhealthy and raise choleseterol
Nope. Eggs are nutritional powerhouses and healthy for most people. They contain cholesterol but do not raise serum cholesterol. Somehow this got confused a long time ago, and it stuck, despite decades of research to the contrary. It’s one of many examples of what I call the “mechanistic medical view”,  that the way to lower cholesterol is to eliminate foods that contain it. But the body doesn’t make cholesterol from cholesterol-containing foods. Nope. The body makes cholesterol from sugars and refined and processed foods.

2. Fruit is a “free”, healthy food and you can’t gain weight eating a lot of it.
Fruits have sugar. Low glycemic/high fiber fruits such as berries can be eaten more freely. High glycemic/low fiber fruits like bananas should be eaten more cautiously, together with healthy fat and protein to slow down blood sugar uptake. “Natural” sugars don’t get a pass with your biochemistry.

3. The healthiest oil in the kitchen is olive oil.
Yes and no. Olive oil is wonderful to use cold, for dressing, dipping, etc., but has a low smoke point, so becomes unhealthy when heated. Use coconut and pastured butter for cooking. Get a good quality extra virgin olive oil and save it for the table.

4. Fish is healthier than red meat.
Depends where it comes from. Farm-raised fish, fed corn, soy, wheat and various fish and animal “by products”, no longer has the health benefits fish are known for. Much wild caught fish is contaminated with toxins. So if you buy meat that is grass fed, it is much healthier than farmed fish, including its fats. Remember: you are what you eat, eats.

5. The way to lose weight is to reduce calories and exercise more.
Nope, our bodies are more complex chemistry lab than simple bank ledger. Research shows that calories from different kinds of foods are metabolized differently. The way to lose weight is to eat real food, including healthy fats, and reduce sugars, processed foods, and refined carbohydrates. Losing fat and gaining muscle is 80% nutrition. You can’t exercise your way out of bad nutrition.

6. There is no benefit to eliminating gluten unless you have celiac disease.
I used to tell people this a decade ago, but more recent research – a lot of it -shows that gluten causes inflammation in everyone. It’s just worse for those with a gluten sensitivity or with celiac disease. And by the way, non-celiac gluten sensitivity is recognized as a separate medical diagnosis.

7. Aches and pains are an inevitable part of growing older.
As I often say: common but not normal. Regardless of your current state or diagnosis, it is usually possible to reverse this with nutrition. I’ve had countless clients who were told “nothing you can do, bone-on-bone” and they still reversed it. So can you.

8. A low fat diet is the healthiest for your heart and waistline.
In fact, research shows that eating healthy fats is one of the best strategies to improve  heart health and lower cholesterol. Another example of the mechanistic medical model. Fat in your body doesn’t come from fat in your food.  Furthermore, because fats help with satiety, they also help you eat less and therefore help you lose weight.

9. If you lose pounds, you are improving your health.
Depends on what you lose. If you are losing fat, yes indeed. But you never want to lose muscle, bone or hydration, so one number can’t tell the whole story. If you don’t have an accurate high quality body composition analyzer like I use in my office, go by your clothes, and how you feel. You can gain weight, lose fat and gain muscle and hydration, resulting in a smaller, trimmer, and healthier body.

10. Artificial sweeteners help you lose weight.
Alas, they don’t even help you maintain your weight. Studies show they increase the amount people eat, especially of carbohydrates.

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