I am trained as a family doctor, and the journal called American Family Physician that is put out by my academy, American Academy of Family Physicians, ran a nutrition article this month: Nutrition Myths and Healthy Dietary Advice in Clinical Practice. Gasp! I was shocked beyond Mars, I was! And super excited. The authors hammered home that we need to get our patients eating whole foods in a form that is as close to what occurs in nature as possible, and they dispelled several nutritional myths which people accept as gospel.
What myths are you hanging on to? Let’s check
1. Patients need to supplement or drink dairy products to get enough calcium for bone health.
Calcium supplementation and milk consumption don’t seem to offer much benefit to bone health. They may cause detrimental effects, like an increased number of stokes, heart attacks, and even increased hip fractures! What? Yes! Our studies are very conflicting, so we’re not sure. But there is just no good evidence to support the use of calcium supplements or extra milk intake, despite what we have been told for years.
What then is a person to do, Terri? Great “real” sources of calcium include kale, broccoli, sardines, salmon, almonds, unsweetened yogurt, and cheese with no additives. Focus on food sources as close to nature as possible. Calcium supplements, fortified non-dairy milks (soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, as well as others), and even cow milk dairy available at the grocery store are highly human-processed products. (Grocery store milk has been pasteurized, homogenized, and fortified. Fat-free dairy has been further violated.)
Bone health depends on a lot more than just calcium! Bone strengthens with use, so move! Bone needs vitamin D so play outside! Bone loves vitamin C, magnesium, zinc (this is usually low in children and often low in adults), and silica (this is one of the first nutrients to go in processed foods), so please eat vegetables, fruits, nuts, and meats.
2. Americans have some of the highest calcium intakes in the work, and some of the highest rates of osteoporosis (brittle bones).
Despite fortified orange juice and vitamin D fortified milk, Americans are still getting cracked hips and crumbled spines. What we are doing with milk and vitamins just is not working, people. How long do you bang your bleeding head against a wall before you decide to make the journey around the end of it? Yes, eating and making whole foods is not as yummy as chocolate milk and ice cream, but osteoporosis is not a lack of calcium. It is a deficit of all that goes into a bone: zinc, boron, phosphorous, calcium, collagen (needs vitamin C), manganese, potassium, positive response to use (as in exercise), and more that I’m leaving out. These are micronutrients in real food that is destroyed with processing. Look at your food. How much of it is as close to nature as possible?
3. Patients need to cut down on saturated fat to help lower clogged arteries and heart disease.
We were wrong. Saturated fats are probably not the culprit behind clogged arteries, heart attacks, and strokes. Butter, cheese, and coconut oil are off the hook! However, butter mixed with flour and sugar is NOT off of the hook. Butter on your broccoli? Go for it! Here again, keep it real to keep it healthy. Any oil or fat that has been tampered with beyond a heat and pressure you are capable of producing in your own kitchen is off-limits. Could you churn butter? You betcha’. Could you stomp olives? For sure. Could you make a pot roast and skim off the fat to use for later? Absolutely. Could you mash a soybean or sunflower kernel to get its oil? You’d be “hard-pressed,” so don’t use it.
4. Dietary fat leads to obesity.
Fat does not turn into fat! And eating fat can actually make the brain feel full because of the hormone cascade it brings about, so people eat less. Eating carbohydrates, like whole grain breads or crackers, increases insulin–which then does pack on fat! So the idea that in order to be skinny and healthy you need to cut fat from your diet is a myth.
5. There are many kinds of fibers.
Fiber implies something that you eat that you cannot break down and absorb. There are so many types found in nature, and please, it goes WAY beyond soluble and insoluble fiber. These different kinds of fiber feed the bacteria in your gut which make LOTS of important nutrients for you! When you eat “fiber,” you’re eating for “two.” (Actually, you’re eating for billions!) They don’t just like the outer shell of seeds or the peel on fruit, they love all kinds of humanly indigestible products which are abundant in vegetables, fruits, seeds, and truly whole grains. Eat plant matter for two (or billions).
6. Fat people just need to cut calories to lose weight.
A body responds to food and weight loss by changing its hormone production. These hormones can change the body’s metabolism, preventing further weight loss and promoting weight gain. Losing weight really is tough! (But life is tough–you CAN do it!) Help reset the body with lots of whole, real food. Don’t cave to its sugar or grain-laden demands. That is what prompted the problem in the first place. To keep our kids from obesity with healthy eating habits is the best cure for obesity. Once obese, it really, truly is harder to lose weight.
7. Supplements are not a substitute for picky eating.
The list of micronutrients that we need for the chemical reactions in our bodies to proceed is unbelievable. Processed food is stripped of these fine, little nutrients, and adding back in only certain ones upsets the balance.
Go Kill The Cow
When I shop, my goal is to have nothing in my cart with a label. I usually don’t have 100% success, but my goal puts me a lot closer to eating as close to how the food was found in nature as I can. I like to call it my “Go kill the cow” rule. I know that’s brutal and I apologize to vegans, vegetarians, and sensitive spirits, but it evokes the image of nothing processed. That’s the goal. Whole, real food of the kind that makes YOU feel and function best.
You can do this! Nothing worth doing in life is easy. Easy paths lead to hard falls.
Source: Nutrition Myths and Healthy Dietary Advice in Clinical Practice. Lesser L, Mazza M, and Lucan S. AFP. May 2015. Volume 91, Number 9. pp 634-637