Many people are confused by nutrition.
This confusion relates to the sheer volume of information available to us at any one time.
It’s hard to know who to trust. Anyone can publish information about nutrition and many people do with and without adequate training in nutrition.
To help to clear up some misinformation, here are the top facts that most people don’t know about nutrition:
1. Nutrition is a science.
You’ve eaten all your life so you have come to know what foods you enjoy and what makes you feel good. This is great!
Unfortunately, many people take this as being an expert on nutrition. Just because something worked for you, it does not mean that it will work for everyone else in the world.
2. Variety of food increases nutrition.
One thing people miss is definitely the “your body thrives on variety” thing. Grilled chicken and steamed broccoli 3x a day will not satisfy it! (Laila Shana’a, Dietetic Intern).
Even though the Australian Dietary Guidelines states “Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five groups every day”, this is not common sense for many people.
3. It is important to enjoy your food.
How much you enjoy your food affects how many nutrients you absorb. (Courtney, Dietitian at No Green Smoothies). The more you enjoy your food, the better you absorb it! (Tiffany Mei Haug, MS, RDN, EDOC).
4. Small dietary changes can make a big difference.
Small dietary changes can make a big difference. Many people believe that they must completely change their diet to make an impact in their health but this isn’t necessarily true. There was a recent study that showed that making small healthful dietary changes did indeed have long-term benefits (1). (Kate Chury, RD).
Small dietary changes help to increase or maintain motivation because progress is able to be seen.
5. Dieting makes people heavier.
Dieting does not “work” (2). “Work” meaning dieting does not provide long-term weight loss (or actually improve health).
To be clear, dieting is anything that takes you away from your inborn ability to trust yourself and eat naturally or intuitively.
You are dieting if you use willpower and/or control your food intake. Other examples of dieting include using meal plans, calorie counting, weighing or measuring yourself, taking diet products or supplements, or detoxing.
Basically, dieting is restrictive and leave you feeling deprived. You are also dieting if you use exercise as a means to change your body shape, size or weight.
It may be possible for you to lose weight in the initial phases of dieting, but in the long-term, you will likely regain that weight plus some (2).
6. Dieting or striving to lose weight is not caring for yourself.
Fun and pleasure are a big part of life, nutrition and caring for yourself.
Dieting causes the joy to disappear in eating. When this happens, nutrition suffers.
You’ll find yourself comparing yourself and your dietary intake with other people’s. This leaves you feeling preoccupied with food and your body, which does not feel good.
Even though dieting seems like it is a form of self-care, it really isn’t.
Dieting does not support you in trusting yourself and making decisions that are true to you.
Listening and responding to your body in the best ways you can, are basic and important forms of self-care.
Intuitive eating is the way humans are naturally meant to eat and meet their nutritional needs for nourishment and pleasure. Intuitive eating also involves listening and responding to your body appropriately.
7. Most people think they aren’t dieting.
Most people are not aware that how they are interacting with food is a form of dieting.
Generally, most people don’t want to be associated with dieting.
The minority of the population that knows that dieting is unhelpful and harmful still diet because they don’t know what to do to improve their health.
Even if people did know what to do to improve their nutrition, diets are now being disguised as non-diets. For example, healthy eating, clean eating, mindful eating, intuitive eating and lifestyle change are being used by diet-promoting organisations to sell diets.
8. No one food or nutrient is the problem.
One food is unlikely to cause health problems or make you fat.
A combination of foods, your lifestyle and your genetics are important factors in the health.
Nutrition is key to a good quality of life, however, it competes with your genetics, your past history with food and your body, and what is going on for you now.
An exception is in the instance of allergies and intolerances. One food or food group may, in fact, be problematic for you and therefore may need reducing or eliminating completely. Make an appointment with your Accredited Practising Dietitian and doctor to help with managing your condition.
9. Gluten-free and organic foods are not healthier.
If you have Coeliac Disease, Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivities or malabsorption of fermentable sugars (FODMAPs), gluten-free foods may be necessary for you.
For the rest of the population, gluten-free and organic does not mean that the food is healthier compared to gluten-containing or non-organic foods.
For healthy individuals, the gluten-free and organic way eating is usually restrictive and expensive.
If not managed appropriately, gluten-free eating can lead to nutrient deficiencies such as protein, iron, calcium, fibre, thiamine, niacin, folate, riboflavin and zinc.
10. Eating food is more nutritious than taking vitamin or nutritional supplements.
Eat your vitamins and minerals in real food.
Nutritional supplements may be useful, however, food contains plant substances that are just as important for health.
All of these plant substances (e.g. polyphenols) do not appear in nutritional supplements. You may be missing out if you rely on taking nutritional supplements rather than food for your vitamins and minerals.
It is easy to overdose on supplements, more so than food. Besides, food is much more enjoyable!
11. Eggs are not bad.
Eggs are nutritious, versatile and a convenient food to eat.
Even though eggs contain cholesterol, they do not significantly increase LDL-cholesterol.
Saturated fat and Trans fats have far greater impacts on LDL-cholesterol.
Consuming up to 6 eggs a week does not increase cardiovascular disease risk or high cholesterol for healthy individuals.
Some people are more sensitive to cholesterol in their diets (3). Speaking to an Accredited Practising Dietitian for individualised advice is the best option.
12. Eating fast is not helpful.
Eating fast causes a stress response leading to slower metabolism, reduced calorie burning capacity, reduced vitamin & mineral absorption & reduced muscle building. (Pam Bailey).
13. Food will not save you from death.
You’ll die anyway. I work in a hospital and see all walks of life, all eat differently, all shapes and sizes, but what really matters is what kind of person you are and who is around you at the end. Might be a tad morbid but very true. Don’t waste time fussing over food. Enjoy it. (Skye Jade, Dietitian).
Nutrition is wonderful and important. It can help to improve your quality of life, however, it is not going to stave off death.
14. Moderation is the key.
“Moderation” in nutrition is the act of avoiding extremes or finding that middle ground with applying nutrition knowledge and skills to everyday life.
When you find moderation, you stop dieting and eat naturally or intuitively.
Eating will become pleasurable and simple again.
You’ll stop comparing yourself and your dietary intake with others and diet rules.
You’ll learn how to reconnect with your internal body cues or appetite.
Essentially, you will improve your relationship with food and your body, which supports you in living your life to the fullest.
What do you think most people don’t know about nutrition and weight? Comment below.
Natalie Thompson is a non-dieting Accredited Practising Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviours to help improve health whilst nurturing relationships with food and body.