How to Eat Right: Time-Tested Nutrition Wisdom vs. Social Media Myths

How to Eat Right: Time-Tested Nutrition Wisdom vs. Social Media Myths

In a world where nutrition advice seems to change with every social media post, it’s time to set the record straight and embrace the timeless wisdom of healthy eating! Contrary to the misconception that nutrition guidance is in constant flux, the fundamental principles of good nutrition have remained steadfast throughout the years. Back in the 1950s, the pioneers of dietary science were already emphasizing the importance of calorie balance and steering clear of foods high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar to ward off obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Fast forward to today, and the current U.S. Dietary Guidelines continue to champion these very same core principles. As the saying goes, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” This mantra, rooted in sound nutritional principles, has not only endured the test of time but also leaves room for savoring the foods you love. Now, let’s embark on a journey to bust some popular nutrition myths and pave the way for healthier, more informed choices!


The belief that fresh fruits and vegetables are invariably healthier than their canned, frozen, or dried counterparts has persisted over time. However, research has debunked this notion, demonstrating that frozen, canned, and dried fruits and vegetables can be equally nutritious. They can also offer cost savings and ensure a consistent supply of fruits and vegetables at home. It’s important to exercise caution, though, as some canned, frozen, and dried varieties may contain added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. To make healthier choices, consumers should scrutinize nutrition labels and opt for products with minimal amounts of these ingredients.


The misconception that all fats are inherently detrimental to health has its origins in studies from the late 1940s linking high-fat diets to elevated cholesterol levels. By the 1980s, this led to widespread promotion of low-fat diets as beneficial for everyone, despite a lack of solid evidence supporting these claims in preventing heart disease, obesity, and other health concerns. Consequently, many individuals and food manufacturers substituted calories from fats with those from refined carbohydrates like white flour and added sugar. This shift did not yield the expected results; instead, overweight and obesity rates increased significantly. Not all fats are harmful; healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fats (found in olive oil, avocados, and certain nuts and seeds) and polyunsaturated fats (found in sunflower oil, walnuts, fish, and flaxseed), can actually reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Good fats are also essential for energy production, hormone synthesis, cellular function, and nutrient absorption. Consumers not to automatically assume that “fat-free” products are healthy but rather to prioritize items with simple ingredients and no added sugars.


The belief that “calories in, calories out” is the primary determinant of long-term weight gain is not entirely accurate. While it is true that consuming more calories than one burns can lead to weight gain, it does not necessarily mean that eating more will make someone overweight or obese. The types of foods individuals consume may play a more significant role in long-term weight management. Ultra-processed foods, such as refined starchy snacks, cereals, crackers, energy bars, baked goods, sodas, and sweets, can contribute to weight gain because they are quickly digested and result in the liver converting glucose, fructose, and amino acids into fat. To maintain a healthy weight, the emphasis should shift from calorie counting to prioritizing overall healthy eating habits. In other words, quality matters more than quantity.


The misconception that people with type 2 diabetes should avoid consuming fruits arises from confusing fruit juices, which can raise blood sugar levels due to their high sugar and low fiber content, with whole fruits. Research has shown that this is not the case. Some studies indicate that individuals who include one serving of whole fruit in their daily diet, particularly blueberries, grapes, and apples, have a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Additionally, for those already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, incorporating whole fruits into their diet can help control blood sugar levels. Individuals including those with type 2 diabetes, can benefit from the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber found in fruits. Please consult with your endocrinologist for medical advice.


The assertion that plant-based milk is inherently healthier than dairy milk is unfounded. Pland-based milk alternatives typically contain less protein than cow’s milk, with almond milk containing around 1 or 2 grams of protein per cup and oat milk containing around 2 or 3 grams per cup, compared to cow’s milk’s approximately 8 grams per cup. Furthermore, many plant-based milk products contain added ingredients like sodium and sugars that can have adverse effects on health. It is essential for consumers to scrutinize the nutritional content of these products and choose options with minimal additives.


Potatoes have often been criticized within the nutrition community due to their high glycemic index, which can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. However, potatoes can be a healthy addition to one’s diet. Potatoes are rich in vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and other essential nutrients, especially when consumed with the skin. They are also affordable and available year-round. To maximize their health benefits, individuals should prepare potatoes through methods such as roasting, baking, boiling, or air-frying. Remember as with anything else quantity limits matter to get the good while leaving the bad.


The belief that plant-based protein is inherently incomplete is a common misconception. All plant-based foods contain all 20 amino acids, including the nine essential ones. The difference lies in the proportion of these amino acids, which may not be as ideal as in animal-based foods. To obtain a balanced mix, individuals simply need to consume a variety of plant-based foods (recommended 10 varieties per day on a rotation basis), such as beans, grains, and nuts, throughout the day, ensuring an adequate total protein intake. Fortunately, most Americans typically consume more than enough protein from plant sources, making it easier to achieve a well-rounded diet.


There has been a longstanding concern that consuming soy can increase the risk of breast cancer due to the high levels of plant estrogens (isoflavones) in soy. While animal studies have shown that high doses of these compounds can stimulate breast tumor growth, this relationship has not been substantiated in human studies. Thus, current scientific evidence does not suggest a connection between soy consumption and an increased risk of breast cancer in humans. In fact, soy-based foods and beverages, including tofu, tempeh, edamame, miso, and soy milk, may have a protective effect against breast cancer risk and support overall health. Soy foods are also rich in beneficial nutrients that reduce the risk of heart disease, such as high-quality protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.