If my recently posted video about TikTok nutrition trends is any indication, we love our nutrition trends.
But just because something is trendy, doesn’t mean it’s smart or evidence-based. In fact, the reality is usually the opposite. Trends can be fun, but when they involve our health, we need to be careful. A lot of the nutrition trends I see are about spreading misinformation about how our bodies work, and about what food can (and can’t) do for our health.
If you’re asking yourself what the harm is in this, let me tell you.
At the very least, telling people that X food can harm them, when it’s actually safe, can be confusing, and mess up our relationship with food.
At worst, telling people that a raw diet/supplements/celery juice can cure their incurable disease or condition, can lead people to not seek proper medical care, in favor of a ‘natural’ cure.
But situations cause harm, which is why I’m here to debunk this stuff.
The following 5 popular 2022 nutrition trends aren’t worth believing or doing. I recommend you take a more critical second look at anyone who promotes any of these things.
Hating on seed oils.
Seed oils – canola, grapeseed, and vegetable oils – are the subject of a lot of hate lately. I get it – the science hasn’t exactly been conclusive around the benefits and risks of oils and fats in general. And proving causation in nutrition research is notoriously tough to do, leaving a lot open to interpretation.
Sometimes, all we get from the research is an educated guess, but when the vast majority of that research points in one direction, it’s probably not a great idea to run the other way.
But that’s what’s been happening.
Led by conspiracy theorists and some extreme people *ahem* Carnivore MD *ahem* who love to spread misinformation online, there’s a huge anti-seed oil movement right now. I don’t care what these people believe, but the fact that they’re using poorly-conducted research and spreading anxiety and fear around food that is perfectly safe, is harmful and wrong.
A lot of them are also into saying that vegetables and fibre aren’t necessary for health, so this is the type of garbage we’re dealing with here.
The hate for seed oils is driven by the following beliefs:
Belief: Seed oils are high in omega 6 fats, therefore they’re inflammatory. This inflammation causes all sorts of health problems.
Truth: This has never been reliably found in humans. The funny thing is that people like to blame one single ingredient for everything bad that happens to us. It makes for more notoriety and fringe acceptance if a person takes up the cause against an ingredient that mainstream medicine says in healthy, say, seed oils, than if they say what’s probably more accurate:
Seed oils are found in a lot of highly processed foods.
We eat too many highly processed foods, which are not only high in fat, but high in refined sugars and grains and low in fibre.
When we cut these foods out of our diets and replace them with whole, less processed foods, we feel better.
It’s easy to say that feeling better is due to cutting out the seed oils, but it’s probably because you’ve changed your entire diet to be more nourishing.
Seed oils are made with GMO crops, therefore they’re toxic.
There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that GMOs are harmful to humans in any way. I wish we’d get over this anti-GMO BS, but here we are.
Seed oils are produced with hexane, therefore they’re poison.
Some seed oils, such as canola, are processed with hexane. But by the time we get them at the store, the amount of hexane that’s actually in the oil is minute. So no, you won’t get hexane poisoning from a bottle of canola oil.
Solid animal fats are better for cholesterol levels and health.
Animal fats have, over the years, been associated overwhelmingly with an increase in heart disease, not a decrease.
This 2021 study in BMC Medicine found that shifting from solid fats to vegetable oils seemed to decrease risk for cardiovascular mortality.
That echoes decades of research that has shown that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated ones improves health markers.
As a dietitian, I think a healthy diet has a combination of fats, both saturated and unsaturated (but never trans fats).
Diversify your fat intake, and stop listening to people who aren’t qualified to give nutrition advice. Especially if they never seem to wear a shirt.
Drinking Himalayan salt in water.
The whole salt in water thing apparently provides ‘minerals’ and hydrates better than plain water. Nope.
Himalayan salt is one of the biggest nutrition hoaxes ever. It’s pretty, but it’s expensive, and nobody needs it. Contrary to what FlavCity Booby McParrish says, Himalayan salt is useless for health.
People like to say that Himalayan salt has ‘minerals,’ which it does, but in tiny amounts – how much salt are you eating, anyhow?
The only way you may benefit from the trace minerals in salt is if you weren’t eating anything else at all. Meaning, if your diet consisted ONLY of salt.
If you’re exercising strenuously in hot weather, you may need to replace electrolytes – but this doesn’t require Himalayan salt. A pinch of table salt in your water will do the trick.
For every other health issue, salt – even pink salt – in water is just a fad.
Micromanaging your glucose when you aren’t diabetic.
Oh thanks, Glucose Goddess, for making everyone paranoid about their blood sugars…even when they have no reason to be.
While there is a benefit in eating in a way that keeps our blood sugars stable, there’s really no sense in using a CGM or drinking ACV (another nutrition trend that just keeps on being trendy…for no reason) to help prevent glucose spikes.
The blood glucose of non-diabetics naturally rises and falls throughout the day, before, after, and in-between meals. Wearing a monitor to watch this trajectory is going to give you information that
The body isn’t meant to be ‘hacked,’ and micromanaging any of our bodily functions can turn into an unhealthy obsession. Making a few simple changes in the way we eat can help keep blood sugars stable so we feel fuller and more energized for longer:
Eat carbs with a source of protein and fat.
Eat on a regular schedule without going too long between meals (can lead to being overhungry) or continuous snacking (can cause you to never be truly hungry or full, since you’ll always have food in your stomach)
Eat as much fibre as you can manage.
Base your meals on protein and plants.
Choose whole or minimally processed foods over ultra-processed ones, as much as possible.
Using the microbiome for weight loss and personalized nutrition.
Everyone wants the microbiome to be the next health and wellness/weight loss/anti-inflammatory/disease-preventing frontier, and it may very well be…one day.
That isn’t stopping companies from selling supplements and diets that promise weight loss and optimal health through ‘healing’ the microbiome.
Yes, the microbiome is likely connected to these and many other things that relate to our health. But at the moment, we don’t have the science to support or understand the connection between them.
When the science isn’t there, there’s nothing concrete to base any of these tests or diets on.
Tests like Zoe take a snapshot of your gut bacteria. But that’s all it is – a snapshot – and we know that the microbiome can change very quickly. Changing your diet, taking medication, and travelling are only some of the things that can give you a different mix of bugs in your gut.
Gut health diets like the Beachbody Gut Health Protocol (the word ‘protocol’ is a red flag in and of itself) are simple elimination diets, led by completely unqualified people. If you have gut issues, and you randomly remove a bunch of different foods from your diet, there’s a good chance your gut issues will clear up. But you should be guided by a health professional, not a Beachbody Supertrainer.
The Gut Health Protocol mixes weight loss with the elimination diet, promising that healing your gut can have a pound-dropping effect.
Again, there is no research to back that up, and Autumn Calabrese hasn’t discovered something that the actual medical community didn’t know about.
She also hasn’t changed the law of thermodynamics: weight loss results from eating fewer calories than you take in. The Beachbody Gut Health Protocol gave me a budget of under 1200 calories a day (read my whole Gut Health Protocol review here), so hey – if you’re following that program and have lost weight, you’re probably just not eating enough. Leave the gut out of it.
Let’s dial gut health back to what we do know: the best diet for your gut has a lot of plants and fibre, fermented foods, and minimal ultra-processed foods.
And no, a bit of sugar (or sweetener) won’t cause your good gut bacteria to die off.
I’m so tired of people demonizing any food in any way. It’s like, we can’t get over ourselves and have to be so extreme about everything.
You are not superior if you eat grass-fed meat.
You are not going to live longer if you eat organic vegetables.
We know that a diet that’s high in ultra-processed foods is not associated with wonderful health outcomes, but some people can only afford those things.
Telling them that they should be buying wild fish and pasture raised eggs is elitist and disgusting.
Even shi*ting on people who drink soda or juice, as if one can of pop isn’t going to hurt you. I’m not saying that you should be drinking these things often, but let’s stop judging other people by their food choices and ignoring the fact that not everyone’s number one priority is or can be, eating the way you think they should be eating.
That brings me to a whole other group of people: the ones of demonize healthy foods and confuse the heck out of people. Some people in this group are doctors, which is equal parts disappointing and confounding.
Chickpeas and other pulses, and fruit, especially bananas and tropical fruits. Dairy, gluten, wheat, even olive oil have all been on the chopping block with these people.
Then there’s this guy, telling people that peanut butter is toxic. He’s supposedly a doctor, which is shocking but unfortunately not surprising at this point.
If you’re one of those people who trusts someone just because they call themselves ‘doctor,’ even though what they’re saying goes against all common sense and well-known fact, then please reconsider who you get your health advice from.
You don’t need trends to be healthy.
You don’t need trends to eat well.
If something is really new and groundbreaking, and if it’s backed up by legitimate science, it will be big news.