Nutritionist Raj Barker reveals the most common misconceptions about food and wellness she hears from clients, and sorts the fact from fiction.
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Just when we think we’re in the know with the latest health advice, a whole other theory comes crashing into the picture, and more often than not it leaves one feeling overwhelmed and more confused than ever.
As a nutritionist, it's my job to help educate clients on how to be discerning with the information they are hearing: what to take on and what to ignore. Below are three of my favourite myths to debunk.
Food in its most natural state is best, always.
This can be applied to fruits and vegetables (fresh over dried), meat (a steak over jerky), nuts and seeds (raw over roasted) and the list goes on.
When contemplating low-fat foods, the main category that comes to mind is dairy. We have full fat milk, cheese, butter etc and then we have skim, reduced fat, low-fat versions of them all.
The problem with these low-fat products is that a lot of the goodness the full-fat variety delivers is lost when the fat is extracted in order to make the product low-fat.
It undergoes a chemical process to have the fat removed and because the fat provides the flavour, a ton of artificial flavours, sweeteners or sugar is then added to ensure the food remains palatable.
While this may mean the food now contains less calories, it also contains less nutrients - therefore less benefits.
The now processed food has the capacity to disrupt hormones, our digestion and the ability to feel satiated that we get from eating unprocessed foods. The solution? Consume full fat where you can, and rest assured the body is built to synergise with foods that derive directly from the source (shout out to Mama Nature).
Your body's ability to know when you have eaten enough is much easier to access when consuming the whole food, plus you are receiving the plethora of benefits the good fats provide.
Want to know more? I delve deeper into the benefits of 'good fats' in this article.
Not all calories are created equal. The best way to recognise this is to imagine the caloric value of an avocado versus that of a Mars Bar.
Now consider the nutritional value of each food. Without going too far into the nitty gritty of it all, the avocado delivers an abundance of good, healthy fats, large amounts of fibre as well as naturally occurring vitamin C, magnesium and a whole host of essential vitamins and minerals. Eating the Mars Bar, you can expect a spike in blood sugar levels that will later lead to a blood sugar level crash that will negatively impact energy, cognitive function, mood and the list goes on.
Now, I’m certainly not here to tell you to never eat a chocolate bar again - but the point of this specific myth bust is to equip you with knowledge to make better decisions about your dietary staples.
Knowing that the avocado may have more calories but simultaneously will be providing you with a ton of nutrition is a way for you to make choices that will benefit your overall health status with more clarity.
There is such a thing as too much exercise, too much intensity and, in turn, too much stress on the body.
When we exercise, we not only burn energy, we also purposefully place a certain amount of intensity on the physical body.
This is absolutely necessary - the problem occurs when we are in these intense situations for prolonged periods our nervous system takes a beating and, over time, our bodies begin to suffer.
We have two main autonomic arms of our nervous system:
+ The Sympathetic Nervous System: The state of fight or flight
+ The Parasympathetic Nervous System: The state of rest and digest
Each arm is crucial for our survival but when we are dominant in the Sympathetic Nervous System, we risk burn out.
Physical intensity has many benefits but to commit to a highly physical practice day in and day out over long periods of time can be detrimental.
A great way to prevent excess cortisol release (stress hormone) and support access to your parasympathetic nervous system is to cycle your energy output.
Switch up your routine to combine high intensity with slow walking, deep stretching and a committed meditation practice if you’re willing and able. Cultivating this balance in the body provides equilibrium not just in your nervous system but also via your hormones, mood, energy level, sleep cycle, immune system and much, much more.
Finding your unique blueprint is a practice, have some fun as you experiment with what feels the best for you and your needs.
Nutritionist Raj Barker on why you should throw out your early 90s diet mindset once and for all, and embrace good, whole fats on your plate.