Nutritionists urge consumers to forget fads, follow sensible advice
If you are looking to get healthier in the New Year, you can find plenty of ways to go about it. It seems for every person resolving to lose weight or eat better, a different diet, food activist or blog promises great results.
Nutritionists with the LSU AgCenter caution consumers that much of the information available online, from friends or family, or in books and magazines may not contain the soundest advice.
Georgianna Tuuri, an associate professor of dietetics in the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences, said food myths abound, and it can be difficult for good information to compete with the bad, especially with the lack of trust consumers have in the food industry.
“Our food supply is the safest, more affordable and available than it’s ever been, but people are so afraid of it,” Tuuri said.
Tuuri said she and other nutritionists are seeing more and more consumers turn to fad diets that can be harmful. People tend to trust information from their friends or what they read on popular food blogs more than they trust scientific information.
Tuuri used the term “tribal shunning” to show how people, especially mothers, feel they need to follow information from their friends or risk being rejected by their community.
“You see this in terms of what moms will feed their children,” she said. Mothers may be made to feel ashamed for feeding their children certain snacks or juices that can be part of a healthful diet.
“To some groups, shared values are more important than facts or technical expertise,” she said.
Sandra May, a registered dietitian with the AgCenter, said current fad diets such as gluten-free and paleo diets lack important vitamins, nutrients and fiber.
“Sure, you may lose weight following the paleo diet, but you are eliminating food groups such as whole grains and legumes,” May said. “And these diets usually aren’t sustainable.”
Another consideration is the human gut, which has evolved to process foods that paleo people didn’t eat, she said, so there is no need to eat entirely in that manner. Unless you have celiac disease, there is no reason to take gluten out of your diet, May said.
Juicing or detoxing can also be dangerous, May said, especially for diabetics.
“Some detox supplements and teas act as laxatives. This can lead to mineral deficiencies and dehydration,” May said.
A common mantra among food activists is don’t eat anything you can’t pronounce.
Louise Wicker, director of the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences, said just because a word is hard to pronounce doesn’t mean the product is unhealthful.
“When you break down the ingredients of a banana, it has many words that could be considered difficult to pronounce,” Wicker said.
May reminds consumers there are no quick fixes to getting healthy. She recommends following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the U.S. Department of Agriculture MyPlate guide to healthful eating.
“These recommendations are based on scientific research, and if followed, can help consumers lose weight and live healthier,” May said.
Consumers can follow May, Tuuri and other AgCenter nutritionists on Facebook and Twitter throughout the month of January when they will be dispelling popular food myths. Look for the hashtag #healthbites.