Ever notice that certain “diet ideas” seem to circulate? They find space in your social media feeds, fade out, then reappear. These nutrition myths are often believed without scientific review or other considerations. Here are four that I (and probably you) commonly hear about:
It’s dairy’s fault
A quick search of “does dairy worsen…” leads to responses that include everything from congestion and period cramps to asthma and acne. Dairy is also sometimes marked as a pro-inflammatory food, but research disputes this. Lactase is the enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose, the natural sugar found in milk. Some people don’t produce enough lactase to do the job, leaving them lactose-intolerant. The production of lactase also declines with age. In these cases, dairy alternatives may be necessary, such as:
- Lactaid pills or milk
- Naturally lactose-free cheeses like aged cheddar and parmesan
- Almond or oat milk
There’s also a dairy protein allergy that prevents the consumption of casein and whey. Many non-dairy food products contain these ingredients, including crackers, breads, and cereals. But unless you have lactose intolerance or a dairy protein allergy, you can likely consume dairy without any adverse issues.
Natural is better
What does natural mean and why do folks believe it’s automatically “better”? The FDA doesn’t currently have a regulated definition for the term “natural.” However, the intention is for it to be used on products with no added artificial or synthetic ingredients. Many folks flock to the Natural section of their markets, looking for packaged products that they assume are healthier. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Products marked natural aren’t necessarily more nutrient-dense or lower in undesirable attributes like salt and sugar. Use Guiding Stars to find the “natural” products that provide more nutritional value to help you meet your overall wellness goals.
Gluten-free is healthier
This is a funny (not funny?) one. If you have celiac disease or a diagnosed gluten sensitivity, you often pass over the option you want for the one you need. Gluten-free (GF) foods are often higher in salt and sugar, and also lower in whole grains and fiber. Unless you must consume GF products for health reasons, there is no upside to these foods. They do not lead to weight loss, improved concentration, better child behavior, or have other health benefits.
Carbs are bad
I know, right? This one has been around for decades. Grains, starchy vegetables, milk, yogurt, and fruits/fruit juices are carbohydrates. This is because they all break down in our body as glucose, lactose, and fructose (respectively). Can you imagine a balanced diet without whole grains or fruit? Glucose is the energy source for our brain. When we deny ourselves and try to go carb-free, our brilliant brains use ketones for energy instead. But that’s not sustainable, for anyone! Carbohydrates are energy-packed, that’s true, so we don’t need too much of them. But no one (including diabetics) should completely avoid them or the vast nutrition they provide.