Category Archives: Do Your Research

Nutrition Myth: GMOs Cause Cancer (Or a Variety of Other Horrible, Scary Things)

Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, are probably one of the most controversial, not-actually-controversial-at-all topics out there when it comes to food and food safety. It’s not uncommon to see websites or articles touting the claim that GMOs are inherently bad, unsafe, or unhealthy and that science has proved they aren’t fit for consumption. Many brands have started labeling themselves as “non-GMO,” and some states have considered passing laws that would require foods to label whether or not they contained GMOs.

So it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that this is a hotly debated issue. But the truth is, every major scientific organization has officially stated that research has conclusively shown genetically modified food poses no significant health risk to humans. In other words, the anti-GMO movement is about as scientifically credible as anti-vaxxers. (Hint: Not even a little bit credible.)

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Nutrition Fiction: Low-Carb Diets Are Best (/Carbs Are Evil)

I have to start this post with a biology lesson. You probably already know that there are three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. These are our bodies’ sources of fuel, but they are not all treated equally.

The article I linked to above explains this quite well, and in more detail than I’m going to, but the short version is that carbohydrates are your body’s primary fuel source, largely because they are the easiest to break down. While your body can and will break fats and proteins down into energy, it takes longer than breaking down carbs and therefore, as a less efficient process, is not preferred by your body in most cases.

Fat contains the most energy potential per gram, so it is also commonly used by the body as a source of fuel – either in low intensity exercise where it has the time to break the fat down, or during endurance exercise in an attempt to preserve glycogen (sugar), which comes from carbs and is used by your body to create energy.

Finally, the least preferred source of fuel is protein. It is used in late stages of endurance exercise, when glycogen (sugar) runs really low and the body is forced to break protein into amino acids for fuel. However, this is not ideal because protein is much better used for other purposes – specifically muscle build and repair functions.

So that brings us to how low carb diets work.

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Ok Internet, We Need to Talk.

So as I’ve been increasing my interest in both cooking and healthy eating, I’ve spent a fair amount of time searching the internet for healthy recipes I can try. As a result, I’ve noticed something: a significant portion of the internet has no idea what healthy means.

Now in some cases this is understandable; for example, I recently found an entire blog dedicated to healthier recipes for baking. She does a really great job making recipes that are significantly healthier than a typical, comparable recipe, and I intend to make a huge number of things on her site, but there is a limit to how healthy things can be when you’re baking. And that’s fine.

What’s not fine is when people post things like “extra super cheesy bacon squash mac and cheese” and pretend that it’s healthy because they used squash instead of wheat pasta. I’m sorry, internet, but that’s just not how it works. You don’t get to pretend that unhealthy dishes are suddenly healthy just because you took out the gluten; gluten isn’t even bad for you, unless you have celiac disease.

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Further Proof that Calorie Density Matters

I recently wrote a post explaining that even if you think the only thing you care about is losing weight, you should still care about the quality of the food you’re eating because it will affect how hungry you feel. I came across an opportunity to further emphasize that point, so I’m going to go ahead and do so.

This:

Mashed Potatoes and Broccoli Chicken Dinner

My exceptionally large, but actual, dinner from Monday night which ultimately contained four servings of broccoli, four servings of mashed potatoes, and a serving of chicken, has 50 fewer calories (660) than this:

The original cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory, which also happens to be the lowest calorie (710) cheesecake on the menu that uses actual sugar instead of Splenda.

I rest my case.

Nutrition Fact and Fiction: A Calorie is a Calorie

This is a surprisingly controversial topic in the world of internet dieting, and it’s for a good reason. A lot of people will try to tell you that it’s not this easy because they want to sell you on something else (please note the literal use of the world “sell” here). However, the truth is, it really is that simple: if you burn more calories than you take in, you will lose weight. Period. Full stop. You could eat nothing but Twinkies, and as long as it adds up to fewer calories than you burn you will lose weight.

So, if the only thing you care about is dropping a few pounds, that’s your solution: consume fewer calories, burn more, or both. As long as you do it correctly, it will work.* The problem is, losing weight is probably not the only thing you care about.

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Why Nutrition Is Hard and What You Can Do About It

If there’s one thing the internet thinks it knows a lot about (other than celebrities), it’s nutrition. It’s practically impossible to spend more than a few minutes online without encountering some form of article, advertisement, or post talking about weight loss or food and what you should eat when and how. All this information can easily be overwhelming, and it’s hard to separate the scientific facts from the latest fads and trends.

As past of my efforts to both lose weight and get proper fuel for my runs, I’ve done quite a bit of research to this end – finding out the real, hard, scientifically supported facts of nutrition. And I’ll get to those throughout a (probably long) series of posts about nutrition fact and fiction. But first, I want to address why there’s so much varying information out there and what you can do to try to separate the bad information from the good.

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