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Nutrition news – telling fact from fiction

Is coconut oil good or bad? Do you need to eat meat to get enough protein? Will skipping breakfast help you lose weight?

There’s so much nutrition news in the headlines that it can be hard to tell fact from fiction. And often all the information just leads to more questions. (By the way, here are the answers to those questions above.)

As a dietitian, I often get asked about nutrition news, especially the new research that fills our social feeds and news bulletins.

I love reviewing new research studies. It’s my job. There are some truly amazing discoveries that help improve our health by making smarter food choices. Most studies gradually build on the evidence, giving us greater insights and understanding. While other studies can be a whole lot of smoke and mirrors.

Having some understanding of how to tell if a new study is something to pay attention to, or exaggerated hype, can be helpful in filtering through the constant stream of nutrition, health and diet news. 

So, what are some helpful questions to ask the next time you hear about the latest diet or nutrition news?

  • Does it promise a quick fix or sound too good to be true? Then it probably is too good to be true. This is especially the case for weight loss diets.
  • Does the study go against all the evidence on a particular topic? Then a healthy piece of scepticism is warranted.
  • Does it require you to cut out entire food group, such as grains or carbs? Unless you’ve been diagnosed with a food allergy or medical condition, this is rarely a good idea. Including foods from each of the 5 food groups is necessary to ensure our bodies get all the nutrients they need.   
  • Digging deeper, was the study done in the lab or animals? While lab studies are interesting, effects need to be tested in people before directing health and nutrition advice.
  • Is the research based on outcomes in one or a couple of people? Again, it may be interesting, and an area to watch, but this is not enough to qualify as quality research.
  • And finally, be careful not to buy into studies that promise one supplement, or one superfood, will be the cure to all your problems – it’s more likely to be a scam that could just hurt your bank account.

While some aspects of nutrition and dietary advice have changed over time – for example we are less focussed on recommending people eat a low fat diet, but rather choose healthier fats – most of what we recommend has remained largely unchanged. 

Eat plenty of fruits and veggies, legumes and wholegrains and be careful of how much added sugar and salt you have – it’s been our healthy eating message for decades and the research to support it continues to grow.

Have you seen a nutrition or diet study and wondered about what it means? We’d love to hear from you.

Sanitarium has a team of dietitians and you can email us with your nutrition questions or call us on 1800 673 392.