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Mythbusting 101 With a Registered Dietitian: Four Facts You Should Know Before Your Next Grocery Store Trip

June 21, 2022

The most popular questions I receive as a Registered Dietitian often regard a quest for truth around some tidbit of nutrition information that is trending on social media. I repeat, people want the truth. We are at information overload and the confusion about what is accurate is real. Consumers deserve quality nutrition information and transparency. So let’s set the record straight on a few things starting with these four popular diet myths:

MYTH #1: It’s expensive to eat healthy.

Eating healthy does not have to break the bank; the trick is in how you shop. When you focus on purchasing fresh or frozen foods and making recipes with just a few ingredients, healthy eating is not only simple but less expensive. Here are a few grocery shopping tricks:

  • Have a plan and a list. Stick to it at the store. 
  • Make the freezer section your BFF.
  • Stock up on staple dry ingredients. Brown rice, whole wheat pasta, dried or canned beans or lentils… the works. 
  • Shop seasonally to get the good sales. 

But don’t I need to buy everything organic for optimal health? Simple answer – NO.

Yes, unfortunately buying organic can get pricey. The main difference is in the farming practices and what chemicals can/cannot be used. While farming practices are important, there is no nutritional difference between organic and conventionally grown produce. However, there may be nutritional differences between organic and conventional meat products. Organic cows feed on grass for at least 20% of the year; an animal’s feed impacts the nutritional value of the meat.

MYTH #2: Dairy isn’t good for you. 

With June being National Dairy Month, it’s time to squash this myth. Dairy products have gotten a bad rap in the last few years due to complaints of stomach and skin issues blamed on dairy, saturated fat, lactose intolerance, IBS, milk allergies, etc.  

Once and for all, I am here to declare that dairy can definitely be a part of a healthy diet While dairy isn’t necessary in the diet for optimal health, for many people, it is the easiest way to get the calcium, vitamin D, and protein they need to keep their heart, muscles, and bones healthy and functioning properly.

The American Heart Association still recommends adults stick to fat-free or low-fat dairy products. But, new research suggests full-fat dairy might not be much of a threat to heart health. A report that looked at 20 studies found no association between the consumption of most dairy products and cardiovascular disease. The exception was milk, but the results showed that only very high milk consumption — an average of almost a liter a day — was linked with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

If you choose to consume dairy products, do so in moderation and try not to drink a liter of milk a day.

MYTH #3: Everyone should avoid eating gluten.

Going gluten-free has been a huge trend in the last decade. Gluten is not inherently bad for you, however, for some people it can trigger immune responses.

Gluten is a collective term that refers to many different types of proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). It’s important in baking because it impacts the density, elasticity and texture of baked goods.

“Gluten Intolerance” refers to one of three conditions (varying in severity):

  • Celiac Disease – An inflammatory autoimmune disease.
  • Wheat Allergy – More common in children than adults; abnormal immune response to specific proteins.
  • Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity – Diagnosed when a person does not have either of the above conditions yet still experiences intestinal symptoms and other symptoms — such as headache, fatigue, and joint pain.

So for most people without a diagnosed intolerance, gluten is perfectly safe to consume without adverse effects.

MYTH #4: All fad diets are safe and designed for the long-term.

Fad diets tend to come and go and are primarily designed to make money. Some could actually be harmful to your long-term health. Beware of the “quick fix” when it comes to nutrition & wellness. When it comes to the trendiest of the fad diets, look out for the following:

  • Claims that are not typically backed by a wealth of scientific research. 
  • Diets not designed by medical professionals.
  • They are a short-term solution, but the long-term impact on health is unknown.
  • Many are not sustainable for the long-term. Body weight could go down and then up again which can be harmful to health.
  • Promotes restrictive eating and a negative relationship with food.

The best bet for weight loss or long-term health is to find a sustainable and nourishing eating pattern that meets your individual needs.

The moral of the story is to get your nutrition information from a Registered Dietitian. As a profession, we are on a mission to disseminate accurate nutrition and health information and debunk myths as they emerge. If you are looking for answers, look to a dietitian.