Busting some nutrition myths
March is Nutrition Month and, this year, dietitians across Canada are “busting” common food and nutrition myths to reduce confusion around making healthy choices.
Here is the full scoop on a few popular food and nutrition beliefs.
• Myth No. 1: Everyone should follow a gluten-free diet.
The truth is, a strict gluten-free diet is essential for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, but it is not necessary for everyone.
Gluten is a protein in wheat, rye, barley, kamut and spelt and any foods made with these grains.
It can be found in many foods, from bread, crackers and baked goods to salad dressings, soy sauce and beer.
This makes a gluten-free diet restrictive and challenging to follow.
Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are on the rise and gluten-free grains such as quinoa, rice, buckwheat, amaranth and millet are gaining popularity.
Like any whole grain, these are an important part of a healthy diet and are great for adding variety.
Including more whole grains in your diet is recommended for everyone but, unless you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, it is not necessary to strictly avoid gluten.
If you suspect you are having an adverse reaction to gluten, see your doctor to be screened for celiac disease before eliminating gluten from your diet, otherwise it is difficult to get an accurate diagnosis.
• Myth No. 2: If a food is low in fat, it must be healthy.
The truth is, just because a food is low in fat does not mean it is a healthier choice.
Good examples are candy and pop; despite being low in fat, they are high in sugar and do not contain beneficial nutrients.
As well, low-fat frozen desserts, baked goods and other treats are often considerably higher in sugar, so it is important to read the nutrient facts table and ingredients list.
The important thing to know is fat is a key nutrient to include in our diet, but we want to choose the healthy types of fat.
These come from foods like nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and fish.
• Myth No. 3: Healthy food is too expensive.
The cost of food is an important issue for many people.
It is true there are many expensive health-food items but it is untrue all healthy foods cost more.
Also consider healthy food has more bang for your buck; more nutrition per dollar.
With a bit of planning and wise choices you can create healthy, affordable meals that taste great.
Choose flours and whole grains in bulk, in-season fresh produce, eggs and legumes (dried lentils and other beans).
Also, look for sales on frozen fruits and vegetables, canned fish and dairy products and buy extra.
For more information and ideas for healthy eating on a budget, check out the food security section at healthlinkbc.ca/dietitian.
• Myth No. 4: Only people with high blood pressure need to limit sodium.
Actually, we should all be concerned about how much sodium we eat because studies show Canadians get too much.
The average Canadian consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily.
However, the recommended intake is only 1,500 milligrams per day, which is often the amount in just one restaurant meal.
A diet high in sodium can put you at risk for stroke, heart disease, and kidney disease.
To limit sodium, choose more fresh foods, fruits and vegetables, and cook from scratch as often as possible.
Looking for low-sodium recipes? Try this yummy squash soup.
1 butternut squash (or other small orange squash)
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 apple, cored and chopped
1 can of low fat coconut milk (read the ingredients to choose a brand that is sulphite free)
3 or 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 to 1 tsp. red Thai curry paste (different brands vary in potency so start with less and add more to reach your desired flavour)
Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and place cut side down on a lined baking sheet and bake at 350 F for 45 minutes or, for a faster metho,d microwave on high for approximately 15 minutes (pierce the outer skin with a fork).
Add oil to a large pot over medium heat, then add garlic, onion and apple and sauté for about five minutes or until soft.
Add the coconut milk and soup stock.
Scoop out the flesh of the cooked squash and add to the soup. Puree with a hand blender. Add red Thai curry paste to suite your tastebuds.
Simone Jennings is a Kamloops dietitian.