This is a guest post written by Nadia Felsch. Nadia Felsch is a Clinical Nutritionist (BHSc) who consults globally from Sydney. Calling out nutrition myths, challenging food mindset, providing valuable food education and delicious recipes is her main jam, provided via client consultations, working online, on social media @nadiafelsch, via workshops and with her range of @wholefoodsociety baking mixes.
As a Clinical Nutritionist who works with individuals to bring about their best health and guide them to empowered and delicious eating, I’ve literally heard it all. And anytime that I spend online provides further evidence of the countless nutrition myths that exist.
What I find important for individuals confused by everything they read and hear is to separate fact from fiction and I like to use my knowledge to empower their own intuition with eating where I can.
Here are a few of the big myths doing the rounds currently…
Our bodies run on carbohydrates. Straight up. There’s no other way to view that physiological fact. However, the number of individuals that think by eating less carbs they will serve their body well is astonishing!
A little on the science.
Carbohydrates that you eat store in the body as glycogen.
We can only store a set amount and we store this glycogen along with water.
So if someone either restricts their dietary carb intake and/or over-exercises, the first fuel that the body uses is this glycogen.
And when released into the bloodstream for use, those water molecules are released also.
Hence why on a scale after say 24 hours of the above scenario, you may see a loss in weight.
This is termed ‘water weight’ and is not fat.
In fact, what occurs in diets that restrict dietary carbohydrates is that, like all diets, their coined “success” lies in eating less food overall.
Success in a fluid form here because we can’t continue to eat less than we require without serious adverse reaction. Whether that be fatigue, low mood or even illness for example.
And the other side is eating more carbs, more food and gaining more weight than you may have lost when you inevitably return to normal eating patterns.
Carbs (or no single food) will make you fat.
Whilst significant weight fluctuations are not advisable for health, it’s what you do in the long-term that counts to weight stability and health.
And whilst tempting, avoiding carbs and dieting overall is one of the largest predictors of future weight gain.
Adding food fears won’t bring about your best health.
Besides, unless it’s animal meat, everything is a carb so quit worrying about it and get in touch with how your body likes to be fuelled to feel your best!
Which definitely involves carbohydrates.
It’s all organic food markets and meal prep right? Spirulina and salmon? Poached chicken and greens?
No. But also maybe.
Healthy eating is regularly choosing food that nourishes, satiates and satisfies you.
Although there may be commonalities, this will look different for everyone.
And in that sense when it works for you and you experience first-hand those benefits on a consistent basis, it’s never hard.
Hard is a mindset and very likely to be felt when you’re not enjoying what you’re doing.
So if “healthy eating” feels hard then you’re simply not yet doing what works for you.
Experiment. Trial and error. Try recipes and ideas out. See what lands for you.
Always be your own intuitive detective. Rinse and repeat.
This in so many ways seems harmless and then at times, I think it can be the most harmful myth.
Kombucha; a fermented tea; has been around for centuries. Though it’s now totally “cool” and available in every size, shape, colour and store.
Sold to us as “probiotic-containing” and “gut-health building,” whilst at its core this is simply a drink. In some cases a tasty drink sure.
Also a drink that is unregulated in its production and therefore wildly inconsistent in its methods.
Some traditional ferments for instance may well contain strains of positive bacteria theorised to help populate ‘good bacteria’ in your bowel and “keep out nasty strains.”
Ask yourself though how do you know that you even need those bacteria strains?(You don’t know).
Could they in fact provide an imbalance of bacteria in your particular case? (Possibly yes).
Or perhaps the drink; especially when mass produced and not traditionally brewed; may not contain any/enough bacteria to help you at all and you’ve relied on it for “gut health.” (Likely too).
Not one single product, even a tasty drink, provides “gut health.”
Like all aspects of health, it’s what we do most of the time and over long periods of time. A more reliable and evidence-based approach to “gut health” is the regular inclusion of a variety of plant fibres to feed your gut bacteria.
Fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and wholegrains.
And water to help move that fibre through.
So what’s the harm in drinking it then?
If you’ve NOT got underlying gut complaints (bloating, indigestion, reflux, IBS, nausea, flatulence etc.) AND you’re not relying on kombucha to save your soul then likely there’s little harm. Drink it, enjoy it, live a balanced life and move on.
You may benefit even, we simply don’t know though.
However, many of the above complaints can actually be worsened by kombucha intake.
So as is always best in health and wellbeing, seek the care of a qualified Nutritionist/Dietitian before assuming this drink can “fix” your gut.
Following right on from the above advice to seek professional Nutrition advice is this myth.
Whilst intellectually some may disagree with its presence in this list, the enormous following of #whole30 #cleaneating and #paleo hastags across Instagram tells a different story.
It can be tempting to see an image of, and hear stories of someone who’s supposedly killing it with their own health. Who’s overcome a health adversity by doing x or lost weight and kept it off by eating y.
Someone like you right?
Except that, and most crucially, that influential individual(s) you’re relying on for Nutrition advice is unqualified to give it.
Their lack of knowledge and education in human physiology, biology, chemistry and food science is one important thing sure, though so is their obvious lack of ethics and understanding of public health and safety.
There’s a reason why professionals don’t give wild advice on social media.
Because it has the potential to harm.
Opposing the Hippocratic Oath of doctors and healthcare providers the world over, “first do no harm.”
In most fields it can be said that the more you know, the less you say.
The less you can say because you understand the ramifications of your words and advice being taken out of context or misunderstood.
And as I also believe wholeheartedly, the more you understand that individuals are exactly that and should be provided such advice 1:1.
Not in a blanket healthcare statement or dietary advice on Instagram.
Let Instagram inspire, excite and connect you to fabulous minds and ideas.
Don’t let it be your Nutritionist.
This food fear hangover is still lingering unfortunately all the way back to the earlier part of this decade.
Science first up.
Carbohydrates (all of them) break down to sugar in the body. That’s what glucose is.
And as you learnt in the first myth buster, that’s how our body runs.
Our body does not discriminate between sugar types as shitty marketing would have you believe.
In other words, the sugar in fruit and the sugar in chocolate break down to the same sugar molecules inside your body.
The difference in this example is that the fibre in fruit, slows the release of that sugar into your bloodstream. This provides for less of a “sugar rush” than would be expected after eating chocolate and a more even blood sugar level.
Rice malt syrup vs honey for example = no difference. They’re sugar.
Except that you’re likely to over-eat the former as it tastes substantially less sweet than the latter.
What’s crucial however is that neither fruit, chocolate or honey should be demonised.
All of them can fit into someone’s healthy diet should they choose and prefer to eat them.
Whilst yes, a vast proportion of the world consume high volumes of “added sugar” that we simply don’t require in the form of processed foods and drinks, this same population does not tend to consume a balanced and nourishing all-round diet.
One molecule is not the reason for their health status and related illnesses.
Rather, everything that they eat, don’t eat, think about, don’t do and do is responsible.
Fear not about sugar because guess what? Sugar is in vegetables too.
As always, refocus that fear into cultivating what your body feels like. Get in touch with how your body likes to be fuelled to feel your best.