First, fat is the enemy and low-fat is your friend, then sugar is the enemy and quinoa is your friend, then grains are the enemy and kale smoothies are your friend, then bacon becomes a superfood and then it gives you cancer… There’s the paleo diet, the 5:2 diet, calorie counting, clean eating, raw, vegan… In a world full of contradictory advice from a myriad of “experts”, how are we to know which advice to really follow?
I want to give you some questions to help you evaluate and discern between fact and fad in the crazy world of dietary information.
Who is telling you the information?
Whether someone has written a cookbook, or was on television, or has a large following on social media doesn’t mean they are qualified to give you nutrition advice.
Recently Pete Evans, celebrity chef from My Kitchen Rules, author of many cookbooks and passionate advocate of the Paleo diet, has come under a lot of fire from the press for recommending harmful dietary advice to hundreds of thousands of people without any nutrition qualifications. Some of his advice has turned out to be downright dangerous, and he often complicates what health is, ignoring the science.
Photo: @MatthewONeil Twitter – Dietitian
Even doctors may not give the right nutrition advice. Dr Atkins created the Atkins diet, a low-carbohydrate or ketogenic diet. But following the Atkins diet can have side effects such as nausea, bad breath, increased risk of cardiovascular disease and more. What’s more is it often cuts out or limits many beneficial foods like wholegrain foods and vegetables.
Then there’s the 5:2 diet, which advocates 2 fasting days and 5 days of unrestricted eating a week. This is just as effective as calorie restriction diets for long term weight loss, however, it is often unsustainable and doesn’t reinforce healthy eating behaviour.
And finally, there are short courses. Some personal trainers do a six week nutrition course, and while this is a good start, six weeks cannot fully equip someone to offer dietary advice to specifically tailored to their clients.
Qualified dietitians and nutritionists spend a minimum of four years studying biology, chemistry, and food science in order to understand how food affects the body. It’s complicated. But our job is to translate the complicated science into practical, real nutrition advice.
But how do I know who to trust?
Next time you come across some dietary advice, try asking these questions to test whether it’s fact or fad:
- Who is giving me the advice?
- What qualifications do they actually have (if any)? Are they relevant qualifications to the advice they are giving me?
- Do they refer to any scientific studies to back up their advice?
- Does it advise me to cut out complete food groups? (usually a bad sign)
- How does this advice compare to the National Dietary Advice of my country? (In Australia, we have the Australian Dietary Guidelines, based on 55,000 scientific studies by a team of nutrition and medical experts – click here for more information on how it is put together)
- What do they have to gain by me following their advice? (If they can gain financially from the advice they’re giving – be wary!)
With the array nutrition information available, be careful who you trust.
For tailored nutrition advice, see an Accredited Practising Dietitian (to find an APD near you click here).
Photo: Health by Got Credit
Do you find it hard to know who to trust? Do you think it complicates healthy eating? (Comment below)
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