Insights & Actions for Healthy Living
Making Sense of the Nutrition Pendulum

Making Sense of the Nutrition Pendulum

Trying to eat the right thing everyday for yourself and your family seems overwhelming at times.

It is only made worse when the media messages about what you should and should not eat swing back and forth like a pendulum.

What should you believe?

What is best for you to eat?

What should you really stop eating?

Who do you trust to give you nutrition advice for the health of it?

Keeping up with what so-called ‘experts’ are saying can be dizzying.

No To Nutrition?

We are bombarded with news reports, testimonials, social media, and well-meaning friends telling us not to eat sugar, salt, butter, eggs, white bread (or any white foods for that matter), gluten, drink juice or coffee, or whatever!

In the over 30 years that I have been a practicing registered dietitian, the pendulum has swung back and forth at a high rate of speed. There seem to be more No’s than there are Yes’s.

Here are just a few of the tidbits of advice that have come across my desk in my career:

  • Don’t eat eggs, they are too high in cholesterol and they will clog your arteries leading to heart disease. Really, don’t eat any fat because it is all bad for your heart.
  • Don’t drink caffeine containing beverages including any coffee or steeped tea. Don’t drink soda, it is full of sugar. Don’t drink juice, it is full of sugar. Don’t drink diet drinks because they are full of artificial sweeteners that will give you cancer. Drink only water, but be careful because the bottle is harmful and tap water is full of contaminants and the natural spring water is really bottled from the tap at the bottling company.
  • Don’t use salt in cooking or at the table and avoid all foods made with salt. Oh yeah, you can use sea salt or Himalayan salt even though it contains as much sodium as iodized salt.
  • Don’t eat butter, only eat margarine. Oh yeah, don’t ever eat margarine because it contains trans fat. Oh yeah, don’t eat any fat. Oh yeah, eat as much coconut fat as you want, it’s a good saturated fat.
  • Don’t eat any white foods. They all are bad for you and will give you diabetes, make you gain weight and hurt gut health. But what about milk, cauliflower, jicama, turnips, tofu, yogurt and other white foods that are good for us?

Sadly, this only scratches the surface.

Latest News in Nutrition

One new study that illustrates the ever-swinging pendulum is the latest research that made headlines telling us to forget about trying to control your salt intake, pass the salt shaker and enjoy eating it as you wish.

The study research published in The Lancet by scientists of the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences report that fewer than 5% of the population is negatively affected by the consumption of 5 grams of sodium a day (the equivalent of 2.5 teaspoons of salt).

They go further to say that eating foods rich in potassium, such as fruits and vegetables, can negate the effects of sodium.

These researchers were looking for a correlation between sodium intake and heart attack and stroke. They also included people from countries around the globe, except for the United States.

The World Health Organization continues to recommend limiting sodium intake to 2 grams a day and the American Heart Association recommends 2,300 grams a day while attempting to further reduce it to 1,500 grams, especially if you have high blood pressure.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which reviews a wealth of science-based information and research, recommends we limit our intake to 2,300 grams of sodium a day.

How and What Should You Eat?

Most true nutrition experts (registered dietitians along with other trained health professionals and science-based health organizations) agree that including enough fruits and vegetables in your diet is key.

Eating a rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables, frozen vegetables, and canned varieties, according to your preference, is often lacking in most Americans diets. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says only 1 in 10 of us actually eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day.

We also agree that our goal should be reducing the number of processed foods we eat. We should avoid ready to eat meals that we heat and eat and begin cooking more from whole ingredients. This will take a little time in both thought and preparation, but it is not that difficult to accomplish.

Reducing the amount of saturated fat we eat and replacing those with more unsaturated fats, such as olive oil and avocado, is another eating strategy most experts encourage. Most of us don’t choose fish and healthy oils as often as we could or should.

Are we trying to be fat-free, salt-free and sugar-free? Should we feel bad and abandon all healthy food choices when we can’t achieve this? Absolutely not! Fat-free, salt-free and sugar-free was never the goal, instead reduction, control and moderation.

We should reduce our salt intake especially if it is higher than the recommended levels, we should be avoiding added sugars whenever we can, we should avoid trans fats, and attempt moderation in high calorie foods when we are trying to manage our weight. These are healthful goals.

Don’t Buy the Hype

Not believing the headlines or testimonials from people trying to sell you their products for good health in magic forms like pills, bottles and diets that you don’t enjoy will help you stay well.

Living a healthy lifestyle does require a commitment and time expenditure on our part. There is no magic pill or quick way to health.

Not allowing yourself to follow the pendulum back and forth as it swings will make your life and eating easier!



Leave a reply

Have you read my book?


Email addresses used for updates only