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4 Ways to Avoid Misleading Nutrition Claims

Exercise and Nutrition
Author name: Lee Health

You’re taking your personal health and nutrition decisions into your own hands. That’s great! But some of the nutrition information you’re getting from websites, social media, TV, advertisements and so on may not be so great for your health.

How do we tell fact from fiction about the latest nutrition hype when one study touts facts and another contradicts them? As you’re trying to empower yourself into healthier living, it may seem that you’re just getting confused.

You’re not the only one. What exactly constitutes healthy nutrition?

The following tips will help you make informed decisions about the foods you eat.

Read the label

We’ve all heard a company claim its product is healthier for us than it actually is.

Take fruit juices, for example. They’re convenient and healthy sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, right?

Not so fast. Read that product’s nutrition facts label. The label may reveal that fruit juice has more sugar and calories than a can of soda, another sugary beverage that’s harmful to our long-term health.

“Processed foods like fruit juices and sodas are linked to our nation’s rising rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes,” says Stacy Zell, RD, a dietitian certified in lifestyle medicine with Lee Health. “The more foods get processed from their natural states, the less nutritious they become. For example, apple juice is less nutritious than eating an apple because the juice mainly contains the sugar from the apple while leaving behind fiber and some micronutrients.”

Read the label to identify highly processed foods, Zell advises. 

“If the ingredient list contains items you wouldn’t usually find in your cupboards or if you feel like you need a biochemistry degree to pronounce the ingredient list, the product’s most likely highly processed,” she says. “Instead, maximize your nutrition by Including plenty of whole, plant-based food in your diet, such as fruits and vegetables.”

Ask the nutrition experts

A registered dietitian (RD) or a licensed dietitian (LD) has specialized degrees in dietetics, nutrition, public health, or related sciences from an accredited university.

Experts like Zell are trained to provide accurate, easily understood nutrition information. They can help us improve our nutrition I.Q. so we can be on the lookout for false quick-fix recommendations, so-called scientific breakthroughs and secret ingredients, and other misleading nutritional claims.

Recognize red flags

  • Recommendations that promise a quick fix.
  • Dire warnings of danger from a single product or regimen.
  • Claims that sound too good to be true.
  • Simplistic conclusions drawn from a complex study.
  • Recommendations based on a single study.
  • Dramatic statements that are refuted by reputable scientific organizations.
  • Lists of “good” and “bad” foods.
  • “Spinning” information from another product to match the producer’s claims.

Be skeptical

A dose of skepticism is always healthy. Remember that words used to describe research and studies don’t always mean that the science checks out.

  • Watch out for statements about research being “currently underway,” indicating that there is no current research.
  • Watch out for non-science based testimonials supporting the product, often from celebrities or highly satisfied customers.

Source: Colorado State University Extension (no. 9.350)