Dietitian busts wellness myths

With the endless volume of health and wellness information available these days, do we know fact from fiction – or are we following fads blindly? From avoiding fatty foods to low-carb diets being the key to weight loss, a leading dietitian breaks through some common myths by explaining the truth behind healthy eating.

Teri Lichtenstein, consulting dietitian at Entity Health, says there is an avalanche of diet and wellness misinformation circulating, particularly with people going to ‘Dr Google’ for advice.

A quick internet search of common health queries can lead down a rabbit hole of dos and don’ts about what to eat, what to avoid and how to exercise, she says. However, following uninformed or misguided health regimes and dieting fads can deprive the body of essential energy sources and vitamins, which could lead to nutrient deficiencies.

 “As a dietitian, I’ve heard plenty of diet myths over the years that people follow in an attempt to fix various health woes.

“If you don’t feel 100 per cent or you have specific health goals you want to achieve, it’s best to speak to a healthcare professional. If you are deficient in particular nutrients or have underlying conditions to address, you could also consider incorporating into your diet a daily supplement that specifically addresses these concerns.”

Teri sets the record straight on these common health myths:

1. Food cravings indicate your body is lacking in nutrients.
Teri says: “It is highly unlikely your cravings are a sign of nutritional deficiencies. Most people tend to crave sugar, salt and fats rather than fresh fruits and vegetables. For example, if a chocolate craving was an indication of a lack of magnesium, your body would more likely crave foods higher in magnesium such as spinach, nuts or beans. The reasons behind cravings are complex and can be caused by a combination of factors – emotional, psychological, social and hormonal.”

2. Chocolate will make your skin break out.
Teri says: “While chocolate is often laden with sugar and saturated fat, there is little evidence to support the idea that it directly causes acne. However, the high glycaemic load (the quantity of carbohydrates consumed as well as the rate of carbohydrate absorption) of chocolate can lead to higher serum glucose levels and insulin levels, which are known to be a potential cause for acne. Research has found that a low glycaemic load diet with minimal sugar, white rice and white bread reduces acne by decreasing the inflammation and size of the oil-producing sebaceous glands in the skin. For those wanting to address skin-related issues, you could consider taking a skin supplement that contains the master antioxidant glutathione, which can help to reduce blemishes and provide a more even skin tone.”

3. Reduced carbs lead to weight loss.
Teri says: “Dropping a few kilograms on a low-carb diet may lead people to believe it is the cure for weight-gain woes. This type of diet likely comprises lower overall calories and less junk food, leading to the weight loss. Conversely, carbohydrates are a vital energy source that, when limited, can cause feelings of lethargy. Most adults should be aiming for six serves of cereals per day, best found in wholegrain carbohydrate forms such as brown rice and wholegrain bread, which provide a slow release of sustained energy.”

4. Dried fruit is a good ‘skinny snack’.
Teri says: “The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend two serves of fruit per day, but what are the rules for dried fruit? Almost all of the water is sucked from fruit during the drying process, which concentrates the fruit’s natural sugar and calories a lot. This is why dried fruit should be enjoyed as a ‘sometimes snack’, as the high amounts of sugar and kilojoules can cause weight gain and even tooth decay if eaten too often.”

5. Drinking coffee can help with weight loss.
Teri says: “Coffee is a stimulant that increases our metabolic rate by boosting adrenaline, which can help burn more calories and break down fat. However, this is only a short-term effect. Drinking coffee every day isn’t a recommended or effective strategy for weight loss, as our tolerance to caffeine builds up over time. Over time, a large dose of caffeine would be needed to increase metabolic rate significantly and this can cause unpleasant symptoms such as interrupted sleep, sweating, increased heart rate and anxiety.”

6. The body doesn’t absorb nutrients via supplements.
Teri says: “Eating a well-balanced diet is always the recommended way of getting all the nutrients we need. For those who eat a healthy diet and are still low in certain nutrients, supplements are a helpful way of giving our bodies a strategic boost of crucial nutrients when needed.”

7. Supplements only tackle nutritional deficiencies.
Teri says: If you think supplements do work, but only if they are to provide vitamins and minerals and nothing else, think again. There are many supplements on the market that can support the body in more ways than just filling nutrient gaps. For example, glutathione is an antioxidant that helps to regulate oxidative stress, which can promote youthful skin and reduce blemishes. Another powerhouse ingredient – nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide – is a chemical compound that helps turn nutrients into energy and repairs DNA damage from ageing.”

Do you take supplements? Do you believe cravings indicate your body is lacking in a nutrient?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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