If you were given the instructions to “stock up on food for an emergency”, what’s the first thing you’d think of?
Chances are the first few things on your list – and probably everyone else’s lists as well — come in boxes. Indeed, for some of us, almost everything on our list might come in boxes.
And that’s precisely the problem.
I was recently invited to appear on Portland TV’s Afternoon Live (click pic above to view), a show I frequently appear on in person, but because of the pandemic am now doing “Live from my kitchen!” Host Tra’Renee Chambers asked me for tips on how viewers can get their eating back on track. Since I was limited to just three tips, I didn’t want to give specific food recommendations—rather, I wanted to focus on how to make better decisions in general—specifically about foods, supplements, fat, weight-loss diets, or just about anything related to health and nutrition.
In nutrition—and in life—it’s always good to follow Ronald Reagen’s excellent advice: Trust, but verify. There are a lot of things being “sold” out there that promise us better health, longer hair, more energy, a slimmer waist, and a longer life. Some are great, some are.. well, not-so-great. (I’m being polite.)
Here are three good rules for fine-tuning your channeling your inner “Nutrition Myth-Buster”.
- First: Understand that even “trusted” sites may have a mix of good and bad information. Much of the dietary guideline information posted by these major health associations is a mix of outdated information that has since been disproven and advice that is absolutely correct. For example, the advice to stay away from saturated fat and cholesterol is woefully out-of-date, as Dr. Sinatra and I show (with abundant research citations) in our new book, “The Great Cholesterol Myth”. There have been at least a dozen studies in the last decade that have concluded that saturated fat is not a causal factor in heart disease, and we’ve actually known since the 80’s that cholesterol in the diet – for example, from eggs– means nothing. But some conventional advice is right on target, such as the advice to eat a lot of high-fiber nuts, berries, vegetables, and low-sugar fruits.
- Second: Check your sources. If you’re reading about a study, follow the link to the study itself, don’t just take the reporter’s word for it. (And if there’s no link to the actual “study”, ask yourself, why not?) And when you find the study—if it indeed exists– Ask yourself these questions: Who did the study? Was it done at a major university? Were any of the researchers compensated by companies that might stand to gain from the research? (This usually has to be mentioned in the “disclosures” section.)
In other words, was the study done by someone who is selling the very product they are recommending? That’s not necessarily a bad thing—a company selling green tea may fund a study that looks for health benefits– but you may want to look for confirming studies conducted by third-parties. And remember that research shows that when a company or industry is funding a study, they are five times more likely than chance to get the positive results they hope to get.
- Third: Don’t get fixated on one ingredient or product, thinking it’s going to cause or solve all your health problems. I’ll use saturated fat again as an example. I frequently talk about how important it is to get an ‘oil change’– change your cooking oils from pro-inflammatory soybean, canola, safflower, and sunflower and change over to the healthier, non-inflammatory ones like olive oil, butter, ghee, or plant-based Malaysian palm oil. (And if you’re thinking about all the internet chatter about how “bad” palm oil is for the environment, consider that Malaysia is one of the most environmentally conscious countries in the world, they do not harm animal habitats, they protect 50% of their forests, and their palm oil is very sustainable).
Moral of the story: Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.
That doesn’t mean everything you read is false or exaggerated or misrepresented.
But it does mean we need to be better consumers of information.
Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS