With all the confusing messages about healthy eating & nutrition science I decided this important topic warranted two separate blogs. Last month’s blog focused on nutrition priorities and this month I will discuss some of the popular nutrition headlines.
Gluten Free-the cure all?
No one can deny the current popularity of gluten free diets. Books & celebrities are advocating for a gluten free diet for “clean living” and weight loss. What the promoters fail to point out is that cutting out gluten containing foods like cookies, cakes & deep fried battered foods is a positive nutritional change that results in fewer calories consumed (hence weight loss). This effect is not directly related to gluten consumption. Additionally, three large studies have shown that people with the highest gluten intake were actually 20 % less likely to develop diabetes. Furthermore, these studies debunk the claim that eating gluten causes weight gain as evident by the finding that there was no relationship between gluten intake and weight. There is no benefit to avoiding gluten if you do not have a gluten sensitivity or allergy.
Health Halo Package Claims-Help or Hinder?
While food label reading is a component of healthy eating, it may unfortunately bring out the unwanted side effect of health halos. A halo effect on a certain food or brand causes the person to perceive the product as healthy, thus resulting in overconsumption of said product. Health claims on a food package does not mean that food provides nutritional benefits, as these claims can be misleading. Always check the Nutrition Facts panel & pay attention to portion sizes. Healthy, unprocessed food does not contain (nor need) a health claim.
Does Healthy Eating Cost More?
The claim “healthy eating is too expensive” is often cited as a reason for consuming cheap, processed convenience food. Current research contradicts this belief by showing that people who prepare home cooked meals engage in healthier eating habits & actually spend less money on food. Frequent eating out is associated with poorer health habits. Processed, convenience “health” foods actually cost more money than preparing a home cooked meal. If you struggle with ideas for healthy meal preparation, research quick and easy ways to prepare meals at home. The Internet contains an overabundance of healthy recipes & tips-just know where to look. Explore websites such as Ellie Krieger’s Real Good Food, Cooking Light & Eating Well (to name just a few).
The research on nutrition & health will be ever evolving, this much we know. However, we can be confident that the basic principles of healthy eating won’t change, consuming real, whole foods with a variety of plant rich foods including fruits, vegetables & whole grains.