The Yin and Yang of Nutrition Information

March 10, 2015 in General, Health, Health Claims, Nutritionism by Joyce Bunderson

Yin and Yang, the Chinese symbol used within Taoism symbolize a problem that I struggle with. Yin and Yang seem to be a good metaphor for the information on the Internet. Like many, I object to putting feminine on the dark side and masculine on the bright side, but I’m just using the negative and dark verses positive and light side of the meaning behind the symbol. Is the Internet negative and dark and the information erroneous? Or is it positive and light and the information correct? So posing these conflicting questions brings me to the Eastern thought that the two complementary forces make up all aspects of life. I realize that without the freedoms that the Internet enjoys, we could lose much. But at the same time, I feel considerable frustration with the amount of erroneous nutrition information that is perpetrated upon the public.

Just yesterday I was sitting in a meeting with about 40 women. One lady was discussing how horrible drinking a sugar-containing soda was for her; she has diabetes. I certainly agree that she should choose something else to drink, rather than a sugar-sweetened soda. But the crux of her statement was that the diet sodas are just as bad, if not worse than sugar-sweetened drinks. I don’t know the root of where her information came from (though I strongly disagree with it); but I do know that the sugar industry has sponsored plenty of information to dissuade non-sugar sweetener use. Drinks that drive up a diabetic’s blood sugar is a well-known, well-researched, and well-documented fact. Now there’s even evidence that these sugary drinks are bad for non-diabetics, too. The negative effects of the use of non-caloric sweeteners are not a fact; there’s considerable research, but there is no conclusive evidence to shun diet sodas. So if you have diabetes, don’t choose sugar over a non-caloric sweetened drinks or foods. The lady in my discussion above was only having one every few days; so it is not like she’s drinking a 6-pack (72 ounces) a day. If you want a sweetened drink but you don’t want to spike your blood sugar, why not try one of the natural sweeteners like Luo Han Gau (monk fruit)? Maybe try it in a big cup of herb tea. Soda drinks are going to have natural sweeteners as an option before long, but in the meantime, don’t believe the gloom and doom about artificial sweeteners, especially if you are fully-grown.

I’ve previously discussed the gluten-free situation. Certainly, the marketers have gone wild with the demand created by those millions of people needlessly jumping onto the gluten-free bandwagon for weight management (rather than out of genuine need, as in patients with Celiac disease), despite a lack of evidence supporting such regimens for weight loss. Also, despite a strong argument that in cutting out gluten-containing products you are potentially stacking up more calories with the things substituted. This is definitely another Yin (erroneous information) pain in my side. There’s a plethora of strong evidence for eating whole grains; and it continues to come forward. The American Journal of Cardiology just published a new meta-analysis of the association between whole grain intake and reduced coronary heart disease risk. Folks, whole grains can do you a favor in reducing your risk of the number one cause of death in the U.S. and Europe. Over 400,000 persons were used in this analysis. That’s a pretty big pool. The researchers found that higher whole-grain intake has a protective effect against coronary heart disease. It’s pretty simple, really; foods that are high in refined carbs, like sugar and white flour are less healthy. Most of us (96%) do not need to go gluten-free, regardless of what the fear-mongering books like Wheat Belly and Grain Brain say. If you truly need gluten-free, however, then it would be a wise decision to choose other whole grains, like uncontaminated oats, brown rice, quinoa, sorghum, teff, wild rice, millet, corn, buckwheat, amaranth, and montina. Unfortunately, many of the gluten-free grains are more expensive.

Sometimes the fads work out well for general nutrition. One of the new fads is using more avocados, kale and Greek yogurt. It’s nice that there’s a little yang in the mix; it helps my outlook stay positive. Some new ways to use Greek yogurt are for spread instead of butter or mayo on a sandwich; you’re adding a nice layer of protein to your meal – hopefully served on whole grain bread or crackers. We love Greek yogurt in cream soups instead of cream that has considerable saturated fat. Avocados have finally left the guacamole-only category. I buy them as hard as possible; set them out at room temperature for a few days; and when ripe, store them in the vegetable bin of the fridge. We use them as spread for toast; sandwiches; diced and served on soups; salads, omelets; and in relish for fish.

Of course, one meal does not usually do you in. You can, for example, have a white roll with dinner, or a sandwich with white flour occasionally. What does matter is not eating white flour the majority of time. For example, are whole grains being chosen most of the time? Are you choosing less red meat, and more plant-based foods most of the time? Stick to the yang information and keep your arteries open and flowing.

Certainly, I’m biased for delicious, nourishing foods and valid nutrition information. But I wish there was a way for the public to sort through the yin of misinformation that is being presented to the public for those only interested in hyping profitable food products. The dark disservice to the public’s health is a huge frustration for me.

If you want to censor the dark side of the Internet through your own knowledge and critical evaluation try the information available from some of the following sites:

Choosing to eat more healthily is not necessarily easy, but it’s worth the effort- bring the correct insights from the Internet’s yang information into your life.