The other day I found a stack of magazines I had been quoted in many years ago. But even though the dates were old, the headlines could just as easily graced magazine covers on the stands today. “Beat Belly Fat.” “5 Foods You Should Never Eat.” “How to Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Minutes.
Although it was fun to flip through the pages and see how some fashions have changed (or have come back), it saddened me to see that even in this world of information overload, we still don’t know how or what to eat. Indeed, in its 2017 survey, the International Food Information Council Foundation reported that “Americans are consuming food information from more sources than ever before, yet our nutritional literacy is sorely lacking – and our health may be suffering as a result.” In other words, Americans are not only confused about conflicting nutrition information, but worse, they’re also actually making faulty decisions about their diets and health based on misinformation. Are you guilty of these three common mistakes?
1. You know what benefits you want from food, but you don’t know how to get them.
IFIC found that while 96 percent of people say they want their food and drink choices to deliver health benefits such as weight loss, heart health, energy and digestive health, only 45 percent of those 96 percent can accurately name a food or nutrient associated with those gains. For example, although people wanted to reduce their risk of heart disease by consuming more omega-3 fatty acids, most consumers were not able to associate fish oils with that positive outcome.
2. You rely on poor sources of information.
“About three-quarters of consumers (77 percent) say they depend upon friends and family (at least a little) for both nutrition and food safety information,” IFIC reports. Although solid relationships with friends and relatives can foster lifelong well-being, that doesn’t mean you should rely on the unprofessional advice they may have heard from someone else when it comes to your eating habits. So, if you took your hairdresser’s advice on the best supplements to take, it’s either time to get a beautician who’s also a dietitian or seek help elsewhere.
3. You believe fresh produce is healthiest.
While many people understand eating more fruits and vegetables is a good thing (after all, one-third of Americans are not meeting their fruit and veggie needs), most people don’t understand that such advice applies to all fruits and veggies, be they fresh, frozen or canned. “Even with nutritionally identical products, consumers are almost five times as likely to believe a fresh product is healthier than canned and four times as likely to believe a fresh product is healthier than frozen,” IFIC found.
The bottom line is that you might need to do little homework when it comes to believing and following the nutrition messages that you’re reading about and listening to. You can prevent falling prey to nutrition “myth”-information by checking the author’s credentials, not being swayed by scare tactics and by reading beyond the headline. When in doubt, ask a registered dietitian nutritionists for help making sense of science and guiding you through confusing supermarket aisles.