Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bad Dietary Advice From the Internet

I admit it; I am a social media junkie. Facebook and Twitter take up way too much of my time. In brief moments of clarity, I fear as a society we are substituting this for real conversations and interactions. It is not all bad; I have reconnected with many old friends, made new friends and caught up with family. I find many entertaining items, some that make me laugh and others that make me think. However, too often I find really bad information shared by good people with the best of intentions.
I have read posts chiding abstinence from dairy products because they produce mucus in our systems and cancer cells feed off of the mucus. Wow, that is appealing. The same post also claimed that a meat based diet is acid and cancer cells thrive in an acidic environment. It also leaves you with the equally appealing visual when it states that meat is hard to digest and this undigested meat rots in your colon.
The person who wrote this lovely little piece of creative writing claims to have information from John Hopkins. I can only assume this is a gentleman named John Hopkins who must have a vivid (if not gross) imagination. It cannot possibly be tied in any way to any validated, peer reviewed research by a credible university or hospital. Oh and this person also advocates avoiding tap water because of the heavy metals and distilled water because it is acidic.
This is not an isolated piece of misinformation; Facebook and Twitter are very good at spreading bad ideas. I have seen posts linking food consumption to all kinds of maladies and diseases with absolutely no credible facts to back up their claims.  Unfortunately that does not stop the authors from making their wild accusations and even more unfortunately it does not stop well-meaning people from believing them.
Don’t get me wrong I am no nutritionist, but I do think I have a good grasp on nutrition. In fact, at times maybe I have too good of a grasp of nutrition. I certainly fall in the category of do as I say and not as I do when it comes to eating. I am as guilty of not eating a healthy diet as anyone, but I understand where I go wrong.  I do understand the fundamentals of proper nutrition and it is not all that complicated.
The grains, vegetables, fruits and meat we grow are healthy in their most basic forms. This is regardless of whether they are local, organic, natural, anti-biotic free, conventional or gmo, almost all food ingredients in their purest forms are healthy. We are the ones who make our food unhealthy. We process it, put additives in it, sugar it, salt it, fry it and adulterate our food to death (literally).
Probably the best rule of thumb, when it comes to food, is that the more processed the food item, the unhealthier it is.  I know, we are all busy and cooking takes time so it is easier to grab fast food, snacks from a vending machine or something down the isle of the nearest mini-mart. Believe me, I am the worst example of reaching for fast foods, but I realize I am wrong and I blame myself and not the ingredients.
While we are on the subject of eating, it is also important point out that too much of anything is not good. We live in a world of super-sized portions and little balance. Again, this is a problem that is very familiar to me. I tend to find something I like and eat too much of it. I patronize places with large portions. Balance and moderation are good themes to live by.
Too often I see “experts” blame the food with wild claims that cannot be proven by any credible, unbiased research. Often these “experts” have other agendas. We all want to blame something and too often it is too easy to blame food, farmers and others than really examining our own lifestyles, diets and taking responsibility for our own actions.
Just remember as you browse through the minefield of social media that hidden among the bloopers, cute kid footage and other entertainment is some really bad information. Before you spread bad and false information, please take the time to research the source and cast a critical eye on wild claims.  Remember, there really is nothing more uncommon than common sense especially in the realm of social media nutritional advice.

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