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Diet myths – and what we can learn from them

Smoothie bowl with chia seeds, muesli, strawberries, banana slices and coconut flakes

The nutrition world is plagued with misconceptions. Think of them like pesky grass seeds becoming lodged in your socks after a walk in dry grass. As you trudge through the complex land of nutrition, misconceptions gather, making for an irritating journey.

But just as grass seeds can sprout into wildflowers, there are lessons to be learnt from misleading information.

Allow me to break down some common grass seed myths collected in the nutrition world, examining the positives they can present as wildflowers, or the irritation they inspire as a prickle.

1. “I’m eating clean”

  • The pros: People ‘eating clean’ usually cut out many nasty processed foods – which is great.
  • The cons: For many people, the battle of good foods vs bad foods can create a
    poor relationship with food. We see many people from the ‘clean eating’ world enter the ‘binge eating’ world, and of course, unfortunately find the slippery slope to a land of much unhappier pastures.
  • The lesson: As Dr Rick Kausman says – “All food is morally neutral”.

2. “I’m giving up gluten or dairy”

  • The pros: Can be useful for a very small percentage of the population, including those with cow’s milk protein intolerance (youngins mainly) and coeliac disease.
  • The cons: People who misguidedly give up dairy foods run the risk of poor bone formation or bone thinning, especially adolescents and the elderly.
  • The lesson: Gluten sensitivity is a very contentious medical condition. Always see your health professional before making major diet changes.
  • Note: Many people do feel better in the belly with less gluten and dairy. These people may actually be intolerant to FODMAPs. See an Accredited Practising Dietitian for more information and a proper assessment.

3. “I’ve quit sugar” (and that includes fruit!)

  • The pros: People usually cut out lollies, confectionary and sugary drinks, improving their diet.
  • The cons: Eating fruit has been linked to a reduction in heart disease and stroke risk. Some strict advocates for ‘quitting sugar’ will say that there is nothing in fruit that isn’t in vegetables, so why eat it? However, it’s not quite that simple. Often it’s the kaleidoscope of nutrients within food that works synergistically to lessen disease and improve health.
  • The lesson: Fructose will probably only kill you if you are a lab rat being fed unnaturally super-duper amounts of it. Eat your fruit!

4. “You’re a dietitian – aren’t you just going to tell me to eat the foods that your lead organisation is sponsored by?”

  • The pros: It’s true that our Association is sponsored, and this is a very contentious issue. Being aware of this is an important part of doing your own research.
  • The cons: Assuming dietitians are only out to sell you sponsored products is a false misconception that discourages people from getting expert advice from qualified dietitians. I actually don’t discuss much label reading in my practice – mainly because I don’t encourage many foods that have a label.
  • The lesson: Make sure you’re getting expert advice from a qualified dietitian by visiting the Dietitians Association of Australia.

For more fitness, nutrition and lifestyle thoughts from Daniel Thomson, head to barefootlifestyle.com.au

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