I hate to age myself, but I went to school for my nutrition degree more than a few years ago. Things have changed since then, and while my practice has changed, we still see some of these gems being recommended to this day.
Here's where we got it wrong all those years ago:
Avoid Butter, Use Margarine
I recommended margarine for years before I figured out that what I was recommending is a highly-processed fat that's one step up from plastic. Butter has two ingredients -- cream and salt, and the taste is light years better than oily margarine. People get all hyper when I recommend butter in small amounts instead of margarine, but believe me when I say that the tablespoon of butter that you are putting on your toast is not why your cholesterol is high.
You Need 8 Servings of Grains a Day
Lots of dietitians still recommend copious amounts of whole grains, but I believe that 8 servings a day is way too much. In fact, you can live a healthy life without grains altogether if you choose, but I think that a moderate amount in your diet is fine. Whole grains are a source of fiber and vitamins, but I do believe that the current recommendations for grains (which haven't changed since I was in school) are excessive.
Lowfat or Fat-Free Dairy is Best
Except for skim milk, fat-free dairy is disgusting and usually full of gums and fillers. I usually recommend 2 per cent everything and full-fat cheese. Because fat free cheese bounces and doesn't melt, and that's neither normal nor right. Enjoy your food, don't merely tolerate it.
Kids Should Avoid Nuts for 2 Years After Birth
Actually, kids should be exposed to nuts at between 4 and 6 months of age. Parents' eyes bug out when I tell them this. It was only when the American Academy of Pediatrics started recommending that nuts be withheld until two years of age that allergies to them started exploding. A bit of nut butter on the tongue of your child in the 4-6 month window may help desensitize them to the allergens in the nuts.
Sugar is Empty Calories But Not Harmful
Sugar is "empty calories," and too much of it is harmful as we are finding out. Whereas I was warned in nutrition school of the perils of fat, now fat seems to be the angel and sugar is the devil. That's why between classes, I would grab a bag of Rold Gold pretzels or a Rice Krispies treat, and I would always put fat-free mayonnaise on my sandwich (ew -- it tasted awful!) -- anything to avoid fat. Little did I know, I was making the wrong choice. I was always hungry, and I was consuming major amounts of carbs and chemicals.
Calories In vs Calories Out, That's The Weight Loss Equation
Your body doesn't work like that. In fact, I recommend not counting calories at all, preferring instead that clients choose quality ingredients over calories. With the calories in vs calories out idea, a 100-calorie pack of Thinsation Oreos would win out over a 250 calorie apple spread with almond butter, but which one would you say is better for you in terms of nutrients and satiety?
Your Protein Serving Should be The Size of a Deck of Cards
Protein plays a large role in muscle repair and maintenance, as well as in satiety. A piece of meat or fish that's the size of a deck of cards, or 3.5 oz, has around 25-30 grams of protein, which we are finding is the optimal amount for one meal. If your protein is lean, however, I would much rather you have more of that than loading up on the starches. Limiting yourself to a deck-sized piece is not necessary. Neither is a 16oz porterhouse, but 6oz of lean protein at meals, coupled with half a plate of vegetables, is not a bad thing.
You Need Dairy to Get Your Calcium
Uh, no you don't. It's more challenging for sure to get adequate calcium from plant sources, but it can be done and done well. Oranges, leafy greens, tofu, and almonds are sources, as well as dairy alternatives like almond or soy milk.
And Five Things From Now That I Wish Would Go Away:
Stop Eating Sugar
You shouldn't stop eating sugar, because you won't be able to avoid it completely for very long. You should, however, eat as few highly processed foods as you possibly can, especially those with lots of sugar and chemicals. Every time a nutrient emerges as a "villain," there's always a movement to strike that particular nutrient altogether from peoples' diets. Don't get crazy about sugar. Eat mostly whole unprocessed foods and you won't have to worry.
Sweeteners Make You Fat and Your Blood Sugar High
I know about the latest study about artificial sweeteners affecting gut microbiota and blood sugars, and it's interesting. What I want to say is that people eat too much "sweet" overall. Whether you use sugar, Splenda, Equal, agave, or whatever, you're training your body to expect sweetness. How about dialing down the sweetness by using less of whatever you're using?
Superfoods Will Make You Healthy
Eat a varied diet, because no one food is going to be the miracle worker in your diet. Can we stop using the word "superfood" now?
Fat is Okay Now
As I mentioned before, fat is no longer the evil nutrient we thought it was. This doesn't mean that you can suddenly eat duck fat fries every day or free-pour olive oil onto your toast. Fat is still fat, and like every other nutrient, it should be consumed mindfully. Fat plays a huge role in satiety and it is a valuable and essential nutrient, but as people are doing with shunning sugar, don't go all the way the other direction by eating as much fat as you want. There is a middle ground for both sugar and fat. Find it, okay?
My overarching sentiment is that there is really room in anyone's diet for any food at all (okay, maybe not juice or pop...I still think those are evil, but that's just me). Many people don't understand moderation, but if you can find some middle ground between eliminating a food and overeating it, plus you have a mostly whole-foods diet, you should be fine.
Try to rise above the static of the "don't eat this, it's going to kill you" in the media, and stick with the basics. Enjoy your food, eat what you love, and be active. Most of all, have a healthy attitude towards food. Easier said than done sometimes, but freeing yourself from a "diet" or "elimination" mentality is the healthiest thing you can do.MORE ON HUFFPOST:
"Instead of using a whopping dollop of mayonnaise on your sandwich, try using thin slices of avocado," suggests Megan Madden, a registered dietitian in New York, NY. A 1996 study done by researchers in Mexico found that people who ate avocado every day for one week experienced an average 17 percent drop in total blood cholesterol. What's more, their levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol decreased and HDL ("good") cholesterol increased.
The soluble fiber found in whole grains such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal binds the cholesterol in your meal and drags it out of your body, Madden says. "And, when your body needs to utilize cholesterol in the future, it draws on your blood cholesterol supply, effectively lowering your total blood cholesterol level and your risk for heart disease." And oatmeal isn’t just for breakfast; you can enjoy it any time of day with these easy recipes.
A 2011 study found that people ages 65 or older who regularly used olive oil (for both cooking and as a dressing) were 41 percent less likely to have a stroke compared to those who never use olive oil in their diet. Use a little olive oil instead of butter or drizzle some over pasta, salad or veggies to take advantage of its high mono- and polyunsaturated fats, Madden says. "And although it’s a healthier option, remember to use these oils sparingly, as all fats still contain the same number of calories."
Grabbing a handful of nuts is a heart-healthy way to beat the afternoon itch for a cookie, Madden says. "Almonds are very high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamin E and fiber, while walnuts are a great plant-based source of an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid." According to the American Heart Association, monounsaturated fats can help reduce levels of bad cholesterol in your blood and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Sterols are compounds that compete with the cholesterol in your food for absorption within your digestive tract, Madden says. "Sterols have been shown to lower both total and LDL cholesterol and can be found in certain brands of fortified orange juice, margarine spreads, and milk." Just be sure to check the label -- make sure the margarine is trans fat-free and that "partially hydrogenated oil" does not appear on the ingredient list.
Fatty fish such as mackerel, herring, tuna and salmon are chock full of omega-3 fatty acids, Madden says. "Eating fish twice a week can reduce your risk of developing heart disease by decreasing inflammation and lowering triglyceride levels, and it may even help boost your HDL levels."
Asparagus is one of the best, natural artery-clearing foods around, says Shane Ellison, an organic chemist and author of "Over-The-Counter Natural Cures". "Asparagus works within the 100,000 miles of veins and arteries to release pressure, thereby allowing the body to accommodate for inflammation that has accumulated over the years." It also helps ward off deadly clots, Ellison says.
Pomegranate contains phytochemicals that act as antioxidants to protect the lining of the arteries from damage, explains Dr. Gregg Schneider, a nutritionally-oriented dentist and expert on alternative medicine. A 2005 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that antioxidant-rich pomegranate juice stimulated the body’s production of nitric oxide, which helps keep blood flowing and arteries open.
Broccoli is rich in vitamin K, which is needed for bone formation and helps to keep calcium from damaging the arteries, Schneider says. Not to mention, broccoli is full of fiber, and studies show a high-fiber diet can also help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
"The spice turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory," Schneider says. "It contains curcumin which lowers inflammation -- a major cause of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries." A 2009 study found that curcumin helps reduce the fatty deposits in arteries by as much as 26 percent.
Forget the old 'an apple a day' adage -- it seems eating a daily persimmon is a better way to keep the doctor away. Research shows the polyphenols found in this fruit (which has twice as much fiber and more antioxidants than an apple) can help decrease levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
A 2011 study published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that drinking two daily cups of 100-percent orange juice can help reduce diastolic (resting) blood pressure. OJ contains an antioxidant that has been found to help improve blood vessel function.
A daily 4,500-milligram dose of this blue-green algae (usually found in supplement or powder form) can help relax artery walls and normalize blood pressure. It may also help your liver balance your blood fat levels -- decreasing your LDL cholesterol by 10 percent and raising HDL cholesterol by 15 percent, according a recent study.
Just one teaspoon a day of antioxidant-rich cinnamon can help reduce fats in the bloodstream, helping to prevent plaque build up in the arteries and lower bad cholesterol levels by as much as 26 percent, according to recent research. Sprinkle some on your morning coffee or on these delicious crepes.
Research shows that potassium-rich cranberries can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels and help raise the good HDL levels in your body, and regular consumption of the holiday favorite may help reduce your overall risk of heart disease by as much as 40 percent.
According to researchers in the Netherlands, people who drank more than two, but no more than four, cups of coffee a day for 13 years had about a 20 percent lower risk of heart disease than people who drank more or less coffee or no coffee at all. Moderation is the key to coffee's heart-health benefits -- the caffeine is a stimulant which can cause a temporary increase in blood pressure, and in excess, can lead to irregular heart beat.
Believe it or not, cheese could help lower your blood pressure! A recent study from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that people who eat three servings a day of low-fat dairy have lower (three points less) systolic blood pressure than those who eat less.
Green tea is rich in catechins, compounds that have been shown to decrease cholesterol absorption in your body. Another bonus? It may help prevent cancer and weight gain, too!
Talk about a perfect snack -- watermelon is not only a diet-friendly food, but it can help protect your heart, too! A Florida State University study found that people given a 4,000-milligram supplement of L-citrulline (an amino acid found in watermelon) lowered their blood pressure in just six weeks. Researchers say the amino acid helps your body produce nitric oxide, which widens blood vessels.
The potassium and folate found in spinach can help lower blood pressure, and according to recent research, one serving of nutrient-packed leafy greens (like spinach) a day can help reduce your risk of heart disease by 11 percent.
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