The sweet truth about nutrition information
Usually my blogs start out with some piece of Nutrition Misinformation that has been totally misinterpreted and this latest blog is no different. Recently I have heard a lot in the media about carbohydrates and fruit in particular. Anywhere from fruit is pure sugar to fruit is as dangerous to a Diabetic as crack. With information being released on how much sugar people should be consuming and how high intakes are throughout the world people are in sheer panic and tracking their sugar intakes to a tee. Well this information is in fact untrue! These days articles and information are sensationalized. It’s about grabbing attention and getting followers, it might not be, and often isn’t the case that these articles provide guidance or tips. Hence the current sugar crisis. People are throwing fruit out the window and crossing themselves when presented with fruit like it’s an unholy food sent to throw our blood sugars out of whack and kill Diabetics one banana at a time.
Natural sugars are found is a lot of products from potatoes to bread to milk to fruit! Milk you say?! Yes! I bet you have looked at your milk label since all of this sugar information came about and wondered what sugar is doing in milk. Well it isn’t added to white milk. That’s the natural milk sugar Lactose you see reflected in the nutrient label. When we look at food labels it’s really important to figure out what is an added sugar and what is a natural sugar (labels don’t differentiate). Health Canada and other regulatory bodies have recently provided recommended intakes for sugar consumption but this information is in relation to added sugars. Such as candy, juices, sports drinks, cookies, baked goods and other products that have sugar added during the production process that otherwise was not originally there. Potatoes, squash, grains, fruits and milk products do not fall under this category.
“But my Doctor told me to avoid fruit when I was diagnosed with Diabetes” ok, this is a valid point of view, but your Doctor is a primary health care provider and also a gateway to other health professionals. Nutrition is a specialty and most Doctors have little or no background in Nutrition. Recently Dr. Brian Goldman wrote an article titled “Don’t ask your doctor for advice on nutrition, unless…” He states “In a study of medical school graduates entering residency to become paediatricians, they were tested on an 18-point nutrition questionnaire. The average mark was just 52 per cent. Other studies have documented that on average, the knowledge doctors have about obesity and how to manage it is out of date.” In addition to that “A study published in the journal Academic Medicine found that in the 2008-2009 academic year, just 27 per cent of 105 medical schools met the minimum requirement of 25 hours of teaching on nutrition.” Dietitians are required to do a full course load for 4 years at 5 courses a semester which leads to hundreds of hours of nutrition education. They are also required to complete a 1 year internship before writing their exam to practice and Dr. Brian Goldman agrees that Dietitians are the nutrition experts “Registered dietitians are the ones I’d ask. They have the requisite knowledge and experience to do the job.” You can read the article here if you like.
Now, I think Doctors are great! I go to mine regularly and I trust him with my life. Most people spend their lives looking for a Doctor who is invested in their health. Mine will contact me personally if I go too long without an appointment. But he’s also the first person who said….give me your card to I can refer my patients to you. I think that is great. Being a health professional isn’t just about what you know but also referring to other people when you don’t know enough.
So getting to the nitty gritty of it all…this blog was initially about FRUIT consumption! Fruits do contain natural sugars that can impact your blood sugar, this much is true, however, it isn’t just about ONE thing that you’re eating. It’s all about timing and what other foods are being consumed with it and also about the other nutrients in the food. Unlike granola bars, chips and cookies, fruit is full of fibre and other important vitamins and minerals. Avoiding a whole food group because a personal trainer with no nutrition background or a well-intentioned doctor told you to isn’t enough. You need more information.
When a Diabetic client sits in front of me for the first time we do several things a.) discuss timing of foods b.) how many meals a day they’re having and finally c.) what things they eating at each meal and snack. It’s important to pair 2 or more food groups at each meal and snack. Carbohydrates should always be paired with a protein. Why? Because protein is low in carbohydrates and is digested slower. A carbohydrate consumed by itself is broken down very quickly. Consuming high fibre carbohydrates with a protein will slow down that process, keep your blood sugar stable and keep you full longer. Avoiding carbs is not the answer to the dilemma. It’s choosing which ones to eat and pairing them with another great food. So here are some examples of how to successfully pair a fruit with a protein source:
- Apple slices and 2 Tbsp peanut butter for dipping
- 1 cup chopped fruit and ¼ cup of nuts or seeds
- Berries and Greek yogurt
- ½ cup grapes and 1.5 oz low fat cheese
- 1 cup berries and ½ cup cottage cheese
- ½ banana, 2 Tbsp peanut butter and a rice cake
Sometimes when articles are written and new research is presented it’s important to consider the fact that researchers do research and educators use this research to develop tools and put together methods to help you. It’s important in today’s society, where anyone can post on the internet, to get the real facts from the real experts. Dietitians are nutrition experts and we work with people every day to meet their health needs from weight loss to renal failure to basic cooking skills, you will find us in Community Health, Hospitals, Private Practice, Culinary school, Universities and in the Government to mention a few. The one thing we all have in common no matter what area we practice in is, giving you the right knowledge and skills to be the healthiest version of yourself.
The take home message from this is, knowledge comes from more than one place. No surgery technique, medication prescription, or nutrition recommendation was ever decided because of one study or one magical ingredient or tool. The recommendations health professionals make were tried, tested and tested again. Seek out the real facts from the real experts.
Adrianna Smallwood, Registered Dietitian and Food and Nutrition Expert