So many of us worry about eating the “right” foods. But sometimes the things that make us feel bad are sold to us as inherently good. The point is, knowing the difference.
There’s no doubt deciding how to eat is becoming more confusing with internet “experts” and companies spreading bullshit health claims. I hear about a new “revolutionary way of eating” as often as I get Bed, Bath, and Beyond coupons in the mail.
It’s challenging to decipher all the news and figure out which “experts” to rely on for accurate and sound health information. To help you sort fake food news from actual news, I brilliantly came up with an acronym: FAKE. It stands for fear-mongering, absolutistic, Kardashian, and exclusive. Let me explain.
Claims like “Sugar is as addictive as heroin,” that are dramatic and often left poorly explained. Many of these claims that are poorly supported by cherry-picked results from poorly executed or small research studies.
The “all or nothing” philosophy. Unless there is a medical or purely ethical basis, you should never have to completely cut out a food group or nutrient. You should never feel a sense of guilt if straying from a set of diet principles.
If any celebrity with zero scientific, professional training endorses a diet, food, product? Just NOPE. Pay them no mind.
Most fad diets or trends are made to be difficult to achieve or afford a.k.a “This revolutionary diet plan is yours for just 18 payments of $39.95.”
So, whenever you are reading something brand new in your favorite media outlet’s wellness sections, be sure to ask yourself, is this FAKE?
Now, with the FAKE test in mind, let’s bust some food myths, so we can enter 2018 fresh out of fake food stories.
Clean eating is a simple concept that has turned into a monster. Simply put, it is about eating “whole” foods in their most natural form possible. In terms of FAKE, clean eating is very ~exclusive~ due to the cost of actually meeting the diet’s standard. Eating purely organic, unprocessed foods is costly and time consuming.
To clarify, the argument I am making is in connection to our personal relationship with food and health, not our food system. Obviously, I completely agree with the clean eating philosophy that the way food is produced and manufactured greatly needs to be assessed. So too, do our personal feelings of guilt about not eating “right.”
With each new health trend, being “healthy” is becoming more and more difficult to achieve for the average person. And clean eating has got to be the most absolute in its rules. And as a dietician who works with families with limited budgets daily, I can speak for them and say, organic, superfood, clean smoothie bowls are not realistic.
Food is already expensive for many families, and thinking you should only buy high-dollar health food products is a recipe for disappointment.
Cleanses and detoxes
Why is everyone so obsessed with getting diarrhea? Seriously, every detox tea is made to give you the runs. This one relates to the “Kardashian” in the FAKE acronym, although it’s not just that particular family who helped spur the Instagram tea #ad phenomenon.
If you need to take a shit, increase your intake of water and fiber and take a walk. Stop buying pricey tea-toxes if you’re on more of a Metamucil budget (it works the same). Or you can make goals for long-term changes and incorporate fibrous foods, rather than stressing your digestive system out. Here’s an excessive list of foods ranked by fiber content.
FYI: Your body is naturally made to detox. That’s why you have a liver, kidneys, and an entire digestive system. And if you’re body isn’t “detoxing” efficiently, you’re probably in the ER.
The alkaline diet has spawned from the idea your diet affects your bodies pH balance and eating an acidic diet increases one’s risk of cancer. Research has shown cancer does thrive in an acidic environment on a cellular level. I repeat, on a cellular level—which is nearly impossible for you to change, especially in terms of diet. Your cells are making the changes. Not “acidic” foods like coffee, oranges, tomatoes, mushrooms, or yogurt.
This diet is particularly “fear-mongering” as its promoters scare individuals into following its principles to prevent cancer. I have seen claims such as, “Your body’s acid is quadrupling your risk of cancer! You must restore balance now by getting rid of all acidic foods in your diet.” Ugh.
Again, if your body’s pH was that out of balance you’d be in the hospital. The body rigidly regulates your acid-base balance through your respiratory system and kidneys. And if either systems are in disorder, you’re presenting of symptoms of alkalosis or acidosis. These are serious symptoms like edema, tachycardia, or seizures. Give your bodies some credit for doing its job.
Refined sugar vs. “natural” sugar
Fructose, maple syrup, date syrup, turbinado “raw” sugar, and high fructose corn syrup—it’s all sugar. Overall, there isn’t any benefit with swapping white sugar with one of the more “natural” sugars. You can call it whatever you want.
There’s a misconception that the refining process is adding toxic ingredients in our food. In terms of sugar, this just isn’t true. Refined sugar is just raw sugar that has undergone a process of heating, cooling, and spinning to remove its outer layer (aka molasses). And many companies used activated charcoal to complete this process (which is now a widely used skincare ingredient).
Guess what? A similar process must occur to obtain these beloved “natural” sugars. They must be striped from their natural forms, whether sugarcane or dates, to achieve the final concentrated, sweet product. There is little difference in how refined sugar and “natural” sugars are metabolized by the body. The point is they are both refined and natural sugars are considered to be “added sugars.”
Added sugars will be highlighted on the new nutrition labels, due to their effects (i.e. increasing risk of insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes) on our health if consumed in excess amounts. But a little bit of any sugar is a-okay!
Bottomline: Do what you want, including releasing yourself from the confinement of FAKE dietary rules. If they’re dragging you down, or making you feel bad (on any level), kick ’em to the curb this year.
Alexandra Reed is a registered dietician and nutrition coach.
Before making any changes to your diet or nutrition plan, be sure to personally consult with your doctor or a registered dietician/healthcare provider first.