During my time in quarantine, I decided to go back to school as a nutritional sciences major.
It has been incredibly eye-opening. Nutritional sciences are complex and relatively new in the scientific community. This means that there is constantly new information being discovered. I decided to share some of the most important and surprising facts I’ve learned with you. So, take these tips and live as healthy a life as possible!
1.Carbs are Good… Really
Carbs are the number one nutrient targeted as bad by most fad diets. Many people find that when they cut out carbs, they lose a lot of weight – and they lose it quickly. However, what they don’t realize is that they’re cutting off their brain’s preferred energy source. The brain relies on glucose, which is a sugar found in carbs. This caused your body to go into a state of ketosis, which people experience when going on the keto diet. This is essentially a survival state when your brain is being starved and turns fat into ketones. This is meant to be a short-term solution until you consume more glucose. However, this is not a generally healthy state to be in, considering that ketones are not your brain’s preferred source of fuel, and there are portions of the brain that are only able to function using glucose.
This means that carbs are the most healthy source of energy for your brain – but, the trick is to be careful in choosing your carbs. Fruit, vegetables, and whole grains are your best options. Carbs like white flour and white rice will raise your blood sugar and lack important nutrients like fiber, so choose brown rice and whole wheat bread over their white counterparts.
2. Cleanses are Fake News
Touted by our favorite celebrities, this has become the age of cleanses. Juice cleanses, no-sugar cleanses, detoxing… There are so many that claim to help you lose weight, lower your blood sugar, cleanse organs like the liver, and so on. However, your body is so adept at cleansing itself that you don’t actually need to “cleanse”. Eating a healthy diet with the occasional treat should be more than enough to keep your body in tip-top shape. With these cleanses, you are missing out on so many nutrients.
For instance, the juice cleanse claims to help you lose weight, but what it really does is deprive your body of important nutrients like fiber, fat, and protein and give you an overdose of sugar. Why would you choose to drink an 8 oz glass of apple juice, which probably contains the juice and sugar content of five to seven apples, when you can just eat one apple and get all of the fiber and phytonutrients? Eating an apple will keep you full and satisfied while drinking juice just makes you hungry. And all of that weight you lose while you’re doing a juice cleanse? You’ll gain it all back immediately when you return to solid food.
3. Doctors Train Extensively in Many Things – But Nutritional Sciences is Not One of Them
This one shocked me since nutrition is key to a healthy life. Apparently, nutritional sciences is not one of the areas of study that doctors must complete. Don’t get me wrong, most are qualified to give you the care you need. But if they see that an issue is due to malnutrition, they will send you to a certified dietician-nutritionist to sort out the food issue. There are some doctors who elect to study nutritional sciences, but it is not a requirement.
4. Supplements are not Regulated…. At All
You know that megadose of Vitamin C you take daily? You may want to toss it if it does not contain the USP label. Dietary supplements are not approved by the FDA or any other regulation process. This means that the label could very well be lying to you. It is very common for supplements to be removed from shelves because consumers were getting ill from toxic components.
Many supplements have been found to contain false claims about how much of the main ingredient is in the supplement, or if the supplement even contains the ingredient at all. Sometimes it can have more of the ingredient than it claims, which can also cause toxicity to the consumer (yes, there is such a thing as overdosing on a vitamin or mineral). Luckily, some supplements contain a USP label, which means that the supplement has, in fact, been evaluated and does contain the ingredients it claims to have. The USP label looks like this:
5. And, You Probably Don’t Need Supplements Anyway
If you eat healthy food – plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats – you probably are getting enough of your nutrients to begin with. And, that’s how you SHOULD be getting most of your nutrients – through whole foods. As mentioned above, taking supplements can increase your risk of toxicity – and, yes, this also applies to water-soluble vitamins. On the other hand, eating whole foods will not only ensure that you’re getting the best-quality version of your nutrients, but it is much harder to OD on them.
However, there are some people who are deficient in specific nutrients and should take supplements. Most people on vegan and strict vegetarian diets are deficient in vitamin B12 because this vitamin is most abundantly found in animal products. Or, people at risk for osteoporosis would be wise to take calcium supplements for preventative measures. But, that’s part of the reason why it’s so important to visit the doctor. Your doctor will take blood and your medical history and can tell you what and how much of a supplement you should take. But, you can kiss those giant, super expensive multivitamin pills and drinks goodbye.
6. Protein Drinks are for Critically Ill, Hospitalized Patients – Not for Gym Rats
For anyone out there guzzling protein drinks thinking it’ll make them big, strong, and lean, think again. These dietary concoctions were formulated not for fitness gurus, but for people critically ill in hospitals who are unable to eat solid food. When you are sick and injured, a diet higher in protein than average is mandatory because protein helps your body heal and recover. Therefore, people who can not chew food and are recovering from an illness, injury, or surgery must somehow consume something both liquid and high in protein.
Somewhere along the line, these drinks started being marketed as miracle food for anyone looking to get ripped. What most people don’t realize is that you don’t need nearly as much protein in your diet as societal pressures would dictate. Protein should be 10-35% of your daily calories, depending on your fitness level. Most people get more than enough in the 10-15% range. This is another reason why the keto diet can be so harmful – a diet that high in protein can cause kidney disease, kidney stones, weight gain, and halitosis, among other symptoms.
7. Sorry, but Butter is Definitively Unhealthy and Coconut Oil is No Miracle Food
Forget all of those diets that tout butter and coconut oil (keto, I’m calling you out again). There are many people who claim these saturated fats to not only be ok to eat, but actively healthy. Think again. Saturated fats are the fats like butter, coconut, and palm oil that are solid at room temperature. These have been proven time and time again to promote heart disease. Yes, there are some health benefits to both – butter has a good amount of vitamin A and coconut oil has a healthy dose of vitamin E, for example.
But, the negatives outweigh the positives in this scenario, plus there are a plethora of other, healthier food sources that reap the same benefits. Saturated fats should be less than 10% of your daily calorie intake; some nutritional science experts even say less than 5%. So, save these for special occasions and break out the olive and canola oils instead.
I can’t believe how many important things I learned from just one semester.
Nutritional sciences are so fascinating. I have incorporated these new, healthier habits into my daily routine. Hopefully it’ll be just as helpful for you as it has been for me!
My name is Andrea and I live in Los Angeles, California. By day, I am an actor and by night I am working towards a degree in nutritional science.