It occurred to me that not everything we “hear” about nutrition is indeed fact. Here are a few things I’ve heard or overheard in my years as a nutrition professional. (Don’t worry, I won’t use names.)
“I don’t eat red meat. I only eat pork.” Uhh … although the ad campaign is very catchy, nutrition experts do not consider pork in the white meat category. Cooked pork meat is generally lighter in color than beef but is still considered a red meat. One thing that is true about pork — many cuts are extremely lean and can easily fit into a healthful diet.
“You can’t get enough protein in your diet if you are a vegetarian.” Actually, there are many plant-based foods that supply adequate amounts of protein for those who choose to avoid animal foods. Soy-based foods, for example, are considered “complete” proteins in that — like animal-based foods — they supply all of the essential amino acid building blocks for protein structures in the body. Grains and vegetables also contain protein. One example is quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) — a complete protein as well as a whole grain, according to the Whole Grains Council www.wholegrainscouncil.org. One cup of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams of protein, about the amount in an egg.
“Gluten is bad for you.” This is only true if you have an intolerance to gluten — a protein that occurs naturally in wheat, rye and barley. When a person with celiac disease eats gluten, for instance, the protein triggers an immune response in the small intestine. Over time, this can damage the digestive tract to the point that nutrients cannot be adequately absorbed and this creates a lot of nutritional problems.
Gluten intolerance is another condition — although not as well understood as celiac disease — that affects some people. Products labeled “gluten-free” are so labeled to help folks who need to avoid gluten identify it in food products. If you don’t have these conditions, your body uses gluten as it does other proteins.
“I really don’t eat that much.” This in fact could very well be true when I hear this from people struggling to lose weight. Small meals can be packed with hidden calories if they are loaded with fat, for example. And some people have dieted and gained, dieted and gained for so long that their metabolism (how the body burns calories for energy) is pretty messed up. If you are gaining weight and really not eating “that much,” have your doctor check you out. If no medical condition is the cause, consider speeding up the ol’ body’s calorie burning potential with this sure-fire solution: physical activity. Both aerobic “huff and puff” exercise as well as strength training have been shown to build muscle cells — the body’s most metabolically active players.
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in California. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at to firstname.lastname@example.org.