Nutrition Myths (Part 1) with Salima Valla, R.H.N.
Everyone is talking about nutrition these days, from actors and athletes to bloggers and bodybuilders, and even your next-door neighbour who won’t stop talking about intermittent fasting! Sometimes we’re surrounded by so many different opinions, it can be pretty overwhelming! To help cut through some of the noise, check out these common nutrition claims and why it’s ok to just ignore them.
- You need to eat meat for protein
North America is pretty protein-obsessed, and we’re not wrong—protein is essential for muscle repair and for the production of hormones, neurotransmitters, antibodies and enzymes. But how much do we actually need? This depends on lifestyle—the more active you are and the more lean body mass you have, the more you need. So what about plant-based endurance and strength athletes? How are they getting enough? Epidemiological studies following vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians and omnivores have shown consistently that vegan diets are sufficient in protein if not abundant. Protein is so critical to the function of our bodies, that nature has us covered! If you’re eating enough calories and enough variety, you’re getting enough protein. So now that we’re not as worried about protein anymore, we can think about our most urgent deficiency—fibre!
- Are you sure? I was told that plant proteins are incomplete…
A few decades ago, the concept of protein combining became wildly popular—no matter how many times it was debunked in later years. There was—and still is—a widespread belief that the only way to ensure that we’re getting adequate protein is to combine our various protein sources so that we get all the essential amino acids in one meal. For example, we’re told that we should eat rice together with beans, since the former doesn’t contain much lysine, while the latter lacks in methionine. In reality, plants actually do contain all the essential amino acids but in varying amounts. And to top it all off, it turns out that our bodies are incredibly intelligent and resourceful. They maintain something called amino acid pools, so depending on what we are eating and what we need in order to perform various functions, our bodies just grab what they need and keep getting the job done.
- I’m pretty sure all carbs are bad for you
Carbohydrates are a macronutrient, and our body’s preferred source of energy, so how can they be inherently bad? First of all, what kind of carbs are we talking about? Complex carbs in sweet potatoes and whole grains? Or refined carbs in pastries and sugary cereal? The sweet potatoes and whole grains, as well as fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds in their whole form are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fibre. They slow down our digestion, keep our blood sugar steady, and feed our beneficial gut bacteria. Foods that contain refined carbs are usually processed and have very few nutrients left and very little fibre, so they are digested quickly, causing blood sugar to spike and feeding our NOT-so-beneficial bacteria. Bottom line? It’s not about eliminating all carbs—it’s about choosing our carb sources wisely.
- Everyone should at least stay away from gluten, right?
Yes, but only if they have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Even if you have the latter, and you’ve ruled out celiac disease, it may be worth looking into whether some other factors are at play. Most of our gluten sources are highly processed, like breads, pastas, tortillas, pastries, cakes, etc., and contain various additives, preservatives, and commercial pesticides, so the culprit may not be the gluten itself. You may be able to overcome this sensitivity by working with a nutritionist or naturopath and eliminating some foods temporarily. But if you are not sensitive to gluten, don’t deprive yourself! Gluten grains are full of fibre, B vitamins and antioxidants; just try to eat sources that are as minimally processed as you can find—and organic if possible.
- A raw-food diet is the most nutritious diet
On one hand, raw fruits and vegetables are very nutritious; they’re high in vitamin C and rich in food enzymes, which help you digest those very foods in which they’re packaged. But on the other hand, cooking your food not only increases antioxidant content but it can also make those foods easier to break down, especially if you have digestive issues. So what’s the solution? Balance! Try to incorporate both cooked and raw foods throughout your day and find a balance that works for you. Just make sure that your cooked food isn’t OVERcooked, or some nutrients will get depleted!
Guest Blogger Spotlight
Salima Valla is a holistic nutritionist certified in plant-based nutrition and she loves sharing her favourite vegan recipes on Instagram (@voilasalima). She will be talking about some of the most common nutrition myths and why they are not true!