Mar 18 2015

Common Diet Misconceptions

Spring Break is upon us.  How many of you are guilty of aimlessly dieting the few months leading up to swimsuit season?  Or how many of you are guilty of looking up “quick fixes” online for weight loss?  Hundreds of results will appear on the internet now-a-days:  ranging from “don’t eat carbs,” to “cut out dairy,” to “eat more protein to build muscle,” or “take xyz weight loss pill.”  The problem with these so called “quick fixes” is that they are not only unrealistic, but they are also unhealthy in the long term. 

There is a reason why there are five different food groups: Carbohydrates, Protein, Fat, Dairy and Fruits & Vegetables.  Okay, maybe that is six, but you get the point.  And, it’s because our bodies need all of these food sources!  Let’s look at why each food group is essential to overall health and how they work together to maintain the bodies we have and work toward achieving the bodies we want in the long term. 

Carbohydrates: The body’s preferred fuel source.  Carbohydrates in the form of whole grain breads, cereals, and pasta provide energy to the body in the form of glucose.  What some don’t realize is that fruit and milk products also contain carbohydrates.  So, if you are looking to cut out carbs you may want to reconsider.  Without proper carbohydrate consumption the body can go into ketoacidosis, a process in which the body burns fat for fuel.  This can lead to low blood sugar and in the severe cases coma and death.    

Protein:  Composed of amino acids, or the building blocks of protein, this food group is essential in muscle repair, proper growth and maintenance, but did you know your hair and nails are made of protein too?  But just like with anything, there can be too much of a good thing.  The average American consumes enough protein in their diet.  Over consumption of protein, most commonly in the form of protein powders or supplements, can introduce the body to harmful metals, damage the kidneys and liver, and lead to weight gain. 

Fat:  If you want to lose fat, cut fat out of the diet…right?  Well, not necessarily.  The body needs a minimum amount of fat to promote cognitive function, absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, & K, and aid in regulating cholesterol and glucose levels.  Choosing the type and amount of fat is key.  Choose mono and poly unsaturated fats which will be liquids at room temperature.  Good sources include olive, canola, peanut, and safflower oil.  Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat, can be found in salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, ground flaxseed, and any nuts and seeds.  These fatty acids may have a particular benefit toward heart health.

Dairy:  That milk mustache looks good on you.  Loaded with calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus low-fat dairy products are a nice addition to a meal or can be eaten alone as a snack.  Most recently, milk has been bashed for being packed with hormones and steroids.  Against the odds, all milk contains small levels of hormones naturally produced from the cow itself.  These hormones pose no significant health risk when consumed by humans mostly due to their break down and removal before entering the digestive track.  For more information look here:        

Fruits & Vegetables: This category is a no brainer!  Antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals of all sorts and a good source of water, fruits and vegetables should be eaten at every meal.  Go for the darker color, what is in season, and what you can afford.  Make a simple salad by chopping tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onion and dressing it with Italian salad dressing.

Diets and weight loss products come and go, but what will always be left is real food.  Focus on quality, enjoyment, and balance of your meals and be assured that you are doing right by your health when choosing to eat from all of the above food groups.  Doing so will allow you to reach the ultimate goal of leading a healthy LIFESTYLE as opposed to finishing a “quick fix” diet.