For the last day of national nutrition month, Philadelphia Ujima helps you celebrate by giving you the truth to some common nutrition myths!
Myth: Diabetes is caused by eating a high sugar diet.
Truth: Type 2 diabetes is caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. Individuals have a higher risk of developing diabetes if one or both parents have diabetes. Lifestyle factors that can contribute to the development of diabetes include poor diet, lack of physical activity, and smoking. A diet high in sugar can contribute to the development of diabetes, but it is not the direct cause. The good news is eating a balanced diet, being physically active, and quitting smoking can prevent the development of type 2 diabetes or help manage your condition if you have been diagnosed with diabetes.
Myth: Fad diets are a good way to quickly lose weight.
Truth: While a fad diet may result in rapid weight loss, the weight will easily be regained once the person discontinues the diet. It is more beneficial to focus on making manageable behavioral changes (such as exercising one more day per week or switching from whole milk to 1% milk) and taking small steps towards developing a healthy lifestyle. If you are trying to lose weight, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends a gradual weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week. This gradual weight loss will be easier to maintain long term. So throw that fad diet out the window and focus on eating a balanced diet and engaging in physical activity!
Myth: Eating a lot of carbohydrates will make me gain weight.
Truth: At the end of the day, it’s the amount of Calories, not the types of foods they come from, that cause weight gain. Eating an excess of carbohydrates, proteins or fats will lead to an increase in weight. For many people, a diet that has more protein (e.g. lean meats, fish, beans, eggs, nuts, etc.) helps to control hunger. The most current research suggests that a diet that focuses on lean protein and healthy fats improves many individuals’ ability to lose weight and improve their heart health. However, choosing the “right” carbohydrates could achieve the same outcomes. Instead of eating refined grains and sugary snacks, choosing whole-grain and fiber-rich options may help some people reduce their appetite, lose weight, and improve their heart health much like high-protein diets. Thus, worry less about how many carbohydrates you eat. Find healthy foods that you like and that help you feel full.
Myth: Eating late at night will make me gain weight.
Truth: Calories will add up no matter when you eat them. It is okay to let yourself eat at night as long as you make healthy choices like you would during the day. If you find yourself craving a snack at night, try cutting up some fresh fruits or vegetables during the day and storing them as a quick snack option. You may also want to try mixed nuts or low-fat yogurt. Scientists have shown that when we are tired it is harder for us to make healthier choices than when we feel awake. Without enough rest, our brain’s reward centers are more easily triggered by the idea of eating high-fat and high-sugar foods than when we are well rested. Therefore, the next time you have a late-night craving, allow yourself a healthy snack and maybe some warm tea, a calm book, or relaxing music to help you fall asleep. The healthier your sleep schedule, the easier it will be to make nutritious food choices!
Myth: Frozen or canned fruits and vegetables aren't as healthy as fresh fruits and vegetables.
Truth: When it comes to fruits and vegetables it is common to assume that fresh produce trumps frozen or canned varieties. Research has shown frozen and canned foods can be just as healthy as fresh foods. When produce is in season the cost tends to be lower because it is more available, so it is best to buy fresh if possible. Canned and frozen foods are generally less expensive and have a longer shelf life as long as the container remains intact. Plus they are convenient, quick to prepare and packaged at peak ripeness, so you’ll be saving on extra Calories without missing out on nutritional value and flavor! Keep in mind these helpful tips while food shopping:
Canned fruits: Try to look for products with descriptions such as unsweetened, packed in 100% fruit juice, no added sugar, or packed in its own juices on the label. Remember that fruits canned in syrup have more added sugar and Calories.
Canned vegetables: Beware of hidden salt! Pay attention to labels with no salt added and reduced sodium. Compare food labels between products and choose items with less sodium. Remember to rinse canned vegetables in a food strainer, as this may remove up to 50% of excess sodium.
Frozen fruits and vegetables: Frozen fruits may be sweetened or unsweetened and frozen vegetables are sometimes packaged with butter or sauces. Be sure to read the label and choose unsweetened fruits and plain vegetables.
Myth: A reliable indicator of a healthful diet is body weight.
Truth: Health and weight are connected, but the measure of a healthful diet is a combination of factors including but not limited to weight. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a screening tool that is calculated using a person’s height and weight but does not tell how much lean mass (i.e. muscle) or fat mass a person has. As a general rule of thumb BMI is a fairly reliable indicator for body fat in adults. Exceptions to this rule include athletes and the elderly. Individuals with very low or very high BMIs tend to have the greatest health risks. A BMI within the overweight or obese is associated with increased risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure (hypertension) and even certain forms of cancer. However, an individual with a BMI within the normal weight range may still have health risks if he or she smokes cigarettes, consumes excess fat, sugar and sodium containing foods, or does not engage in regular physical activity.
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Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2012). Understanding Body Mass Index. Available at: http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6844&terms=body%20mass%20 index.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2014). What’s best? Fresh, frozen or canned vegetables? Available at: http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442451636 &terms=frozen%20food.
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American Diabetes Association. (2014). Lower your risk. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/are-you-at-risk/lower-your-risk/.
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