When it comes to diet and health, don’t believe everything you hear. Widely publicized information could be incomplete, preliminary, or flawed and create massive misunderstanding. Nutrition expert, Sari Greaves, RDN will help you clear the confusion.
Diet Myth # 1: Weight gain is a common sign of gluten sensitivity.
Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are different. Celiac disease is an autoimmune reaction to gluten (a protein in wheat, rye, barley, and oats) that damages the intestinal lining and includes symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, anemia, fatigue, headache, skin rashes, mouth ulcers, and joint pain. Some people with celiac disease experience weight loss and absorb less calories.
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a little-studied diagnosis describing individuals who cannot tolerate gluten and experience symptoms such as bloating and fatigue but lack the same antibodies and intestinal damage as seen in celiac disease. The problem is that little is known about NCGS, from how much gluten is needed to trigger symptoms to whether gluten is even the culprit.
Bottom line advice: If you think you are sensitive to gluten, find out if you have celiac disease. That means a blood test for three antibodies and, if you have them, a biopsy. Why test first? Going off gluten can make the antibodies temporarily disappear, which makes celiac harder to detect. A gluten- free diet is the treatment for celiac disease. If everything’s negative but you feel better without gluten, chances are you may be eating healthier and less junk food. Talk to a dietitian to make sure you are getting adequate B-vitamins and fiber in your diet.
Diet Myth # 2: Protein drinks curb appetite
“Satisfies hunger longer,” promise Special K Protein Shakes, which are largely blends of water, nonfat milk, whey protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, and sugar. “With every tasty shake, you’ll get the nutritional benefits of 10g protein and 5g fiber that can help satisfy your hunger so you can lose weight.” Really? Some studies report that higher-protein foods make people feel more full than lower-protein foods, but other studies find no difference.
Bottom line advice: If you want to feel full, have some food, not a drink. A drink- with or without protein- may be less satiating than a solid food. A little more protein may satisfy hunger but the jury is still out on whether that translates to weight loss. Still, if you’re cutting calories, it makes sense to cut carbs and fat rather than protein. A 10 oz. Special K Protein shake has 10 grams of protein at the expense of 190 calories and the fiber comes largely from maltodextrin and polydextrose, processed fibers that may have little or no effect on appetite. Want some protein and fiber? Try 5 oz of fat-free plain greek yogurt (90 calories, 15 g protein) with a light sprinkle of nuts.
Diet Myth # 3: Low-fat foods promote weight loss.
Decreasing the fat content of the diet does not guarantee that you’re decreasing calories. Whether you’re eating full-fat or low-fat ice cream, what shows up on the bathroom scale is largely determined by portion control. The food industry has been dishing out larger buns, burritos, bagels, cakes, cookies, scones, muffins, pizza, soft pretzels, pancakes, paninis, wraps, soft drinks, pasta, lo mein, and rice, making it easier to eat more of everything, including both fat and sugar from white flour carbs.
Bottom line advice: Slash dietary fat where it matters most by targeting foods that can improve heart health and actually shave off calories. If you’re going from full-fat to skim milk, you’re almost halving the calories. If you’re going from fatty cuts of meat to very lean cuts of meat, you’re decreasing the calories significantly. But if you’re going to eat fat-free brownies, cookies, waffles, and pancakes, it’s highly unlikely you’re saving any calories at all.
Diet Myth # 4: Dairy foods keep you lean
Study links drinking fattier milk to lower weight. Really? The notion that high-fat dairy foods keep you lean isn’t really grounded in much solid evidence. High-fat dairy may make you feel more satiated, but the research is skimpy.
Bottom line advice: Right now, there is no real link between full-fat dairy foods and less weight gain, so it’s best to continue sipping on skim milk.
Diet Myth # 5: A healthy Mediterranean diet is eating Greek or Italian food.
A Mediterranean diet has been linked to lowered risk of heart disease for young populations. But what constitutes a Mediterranean diet can be misinterpreted. If you go to an Italian or Greek restaurant, you’re getting cheese on almost everything, white bread gyros, and there is definitely meat on the menu. A healthy Mediterranean diet is rich in beans, low-fat dairy, nuts, fish, vegetables, and fruits; its moderate in lean meats and poultry.
Bottom line advice: To make a diet more Mediterranean, you can add unsaturated fat (largely from olive oil) and subtract carbs. But many people forget to subtract. If you are going to drizzle extra-virgin olive oil on your salad, (120 calories per tablespoon, you are better off misting!) make sure to subtract the croutons which are high in salt and usually made with white bread. Cut back on the portions of pasta or rice and choose whole grains as opposed to refined grains.
References: Nutrition Action Healthletter, June 2014, http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/news/20131212/celiac-disease-gluten-sensitive