Five Nutrition Myths You Need to Stop Believing

As told to Shelby Rowe Moyer

Madison-based Emmy Bawden, a registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Real Good Nutrition, has the answers to your burning nutrition questions — like, what is with all the different milk alternatives and which one should I buy? Bawden’s own experience navigating a difficult relationship with food as well as celiac disease has led her to her current career serving others through wellness.

Nutrition can feel like a never-ending stream of information, so we asked her about some myths that could be undermining your health.

EVERYONE CAN BENEFIT FROM TAKING A PROBIOTIC SUPPLEMENT.

“Unfortunately, more evidence is needed to say that a generally healthy person can benefit from a probiotic supplement. On the other hand, evidence does suggest they can be effective for certain gastrointestinal disorders such as IBS and infectious diarrhea. However, they aren’t without safety and quality concerns and are often expensive. Probiotics are not ‘one-size-fits-all’ and should be targeted to each individual’s health concerns. Probiotic-rich foods — such as kefir — may be more worthwhile, because you’ll also consume their beneficial byproducts and nutrients, like protein and calcium.”

WE SHOULD AVOID LECTIN-RICH FOODS LIKE BEANS AND GRAINS BECAUSE THEY CAN CAUSE INFLAMMATION AND OTHER HEALTH CONCERNS.

“Lectins are proteins found in all foods, and they function as natural insecticides in beans, legumes, grains, nuts and tomatoes. The concern is that they may impair our body’s ability to absorb nutrients and they are referred to as ‘antinutrients’ for this reason. While they can be toxic in high amounts, they decrease to a negligible amount that is not likely to cause harm with cooking, sprouting and fermenting. In fact, beans and grains are the two foods that I regularly recommend eating more of! They offer important benefits such as soluble fiber, antioxidants and micronutrients and should be consumed without fear.”

YOU CAN’T OVERDO IT ON FIBER.

“More isn’t necessarily better when it comes to fiber, because too much can lead to gastrointestinal disturbances; impaired nutrient intake and absorption; and intestinal obstruction, in extreme cases. A good target for fiber is 25-38 grams per day, and instead of focusing on volume, consider how many different sources of fiber you’re eating — our gut loves variety! Try adding oats to muffins, sunflower seeds and avocado on salads, hummus on sandwiches, dried edamame in trail mix and ground flax seed in meatball recipes (yes, really!).”

FOOD SENSITIVITY TESTS ARE AN ACCURATE DIAGNOSTIC TOOL.

“Food sensitivity tests have become a popular way to identify food sensitivities by measuring the Immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody. Unfortunately, they are not fully scientifically valid, because the production of IgG antibodies does not necessarily indicate a problem. Instead, it’s a normal reaction to repeated food exposures. These tests, which are not regulated by the FDA and have been known to provide false results, can result in unnecessary restrictions, nutrient deficiencies and a strained relationship with food. The gold standard for detecting food intolerances is to work with a health care provider, who can analyze your symptoms in relation to your food intake and make targeted recommendations.”

CUTTING CARBS WILL HELP TO BOOST YOUR MOOD.

“Although low-carb diets promise mood-boosting outcomes, low carbohydrate intake has actually been linked to lower levels of serotonin (a brain chemical that contributes to feelings of happi- ness). Serotonin production relies on the amino acid tryptophan, which is made available with adequate carbohydrate intake. Include carbohydrates in your diet as well as nutrients that have been shown to support your mood, like zinc (pumpkin seeds), chromium (broccoli), magnesium (almonds), folate (spinach), vitamin D (trout) and omega-3s (salmon).“

BAWDEN’S MUST-HAVES

WHO DO YOU FOLLOW FOR INSPIRATION OR NUTRITION INFORMATION?

@foodheaven (my favorite Podcast, too!), @chr1styharrison, @flourishheights and @theguthealthdoctor — to name a few!

WHAT’S A SPICE YOU LOVE?

Smoked paprika. I put it on fish, in homemade bean dips, baba ganoush, roasted veggies, egg dishes, stews, dry rubs for meat … everything!

IS THERE A SUPPLEMENT YOU SWEAR BY?

Fish oil. I find that most people I work with (myself included) don’t meet the recommended omega-3 intake from their diet alone. Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which play an important role in managing inflammation and promoting the health of our heart, skin, eyes and brain, to name a few benefits.

I THINK PEOPLE SHOULD BRANCH OUT AND TRY…

KEFIR! It’s a fermented, drinkable yogurt, and it’s super high in probiotics (including many of the most well-studied strains for digestive concerns). It also offers a great source of calcium, vitamin D and protein.

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