Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Don't Believe Everything You Read

You know the old phrase, "I read it, so it must be true." We all know that's usually not the case, particularly in the age of the Internet when anybody and everybody can print/say whatever they'd like with very little proof.

I've been amazed at some of the exercise and nutrition headlines I've read lately. The information in these articles has been really good, solid info, but the headlines which are meant to grab your attention have been very misleading. The problem with sensationalized attention-grabbing headlines is that often (in our busy lives) readers don't get much past the headline. So, they walk away with incorrect information.

One example was an Outside Magazine article I saw posted on Facebook several months ago regarding chocolate milk as a post-run refueling option. The Facebook headline read, "Screw Chocolate Milk." So, probably your first reaction to the headline (like mine) is, "Okay, what's wrong with chocolate milk?" right? Let's say you get past the headline and begin to read the article...you'll find this:

Three years ago, it seemed like every fitness rag was hyping chocolate milk as the optimal recovery drink. It’s been in the fridge all along! We didn’t even know! The drink’s 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein, experts said, best promotes muscle repair and rebuilds energy stores after a workout. However, for a large chunk of endurance athletes including 56-plus percent of road racing runners, says Stanford researcher and founder of Osmo Nutrition Stacy Sims, it may not be true.

Research shows that only about 50% of readers read past 150 words of an article. So, about half of the readers left this article thinking our beloved post-run chocolate milk is somehow bad. I can hear the rumors spreading like wildfire. "Did you know chocolate milk is bad for you?" Did you know you shouldn't drink chocolate milk after a run?"

Well, if you read a little further into the article, you discover that chocolate milk isn't bad at all. What the article is actually saying is that women's bodies are different physiologically than men. They actually need more protein post-workout than the recommended 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein. So, it's not chocolate milk. It's any 4:1 combination of carb/protein that a female runner is ingesting may not be enough. So, ladies, this is important to know. Drink your chocolate milk, but get some extra protein in along with it. Make a smoothie and add a dollop of peanut butter, eat some walnuts with your milk, add some protein powder. Problem solved. Not very sensational, huh?

Funny thing... in going back and trying to find the article, I had a hard time. Why? Well it was no longer using the header, "Screw Chocolate Milk." I'm thinking they received some flack. Go figure.

Anywho...why am I ranting on about sensationalized headlines? Because they misinform. Not only are there the ones like "Screw Chocolate Milk." that give a negative vibe to a perfectly good post run snack, there are ones that promote "healthy" foods which in fact are not. It's a double-edge sword.

Eating healthy is work. No wonder so many Americans opt not to. You have to do your homework when eating healthy and when you're trying hard to support your nutritional needs when marathon training.

The October 2014 issue of the Nutrition Action Health Letter contains a great feature article titled "Hijacked: How the Food Industry Converts Diet Advice into Profits." It's a great read and I definitely got past the first 150 words.

When the science world makes a discovery or publishes its latest healthy findings on nutrition, the food industry jumps on the good news trying to promote and sell its products. That in itself is not bad. Absolutely nothing wrong in touting the health benefits of your product. Problems pop up when companies begin altering their foods to "fit" the new health claims.

I'm sure you've noticed that "high fiber" or "rich in fiber" is all the buzz. From liquid meal drinks, to ice cream, to breads, to brownies you'll see these phrases plastered all over the packaging. Research has shown that fiber does all sorts of great things. For one thing, it helps you feel fuller, so you tend not to eat as much. It also helps prevent constipation, type 2 diabetes, and obesity, not to mention lowering the risk of heart disease.  So, if the Double Chocolate Fiber One cookies claim to have 5g of fiber and a large orange has only 4.4, well, it goes without saying, many will choose the cookie. Many of the commercials touting high fiber foods use the pitch that you're getting the fiber you need without sacrificing flavor. Others go on to promote how their fiber-rich foods will make you feel full which will keep you more satisfied and not each as much.

Problem? Well, the fiber in many of these food products is not the same fiber found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods. It's processed fiber...powders. Did you know that there are companies which create these powders to sell to other food companies to add to their foods? Milne Fruit Products creates fruit and vegetable powders that other companies add to their breakfast cereals, fruit pieces, bakery good, snack chips, smoothies, juices and other foods.

If you read the food labels of these "fiber-rich" foods, you'll more than likely find items such as inulin, oligofructose, soluble corn fiber, resistant wheat starch, or polydextrose. These are the processed fibers being added to the foods being touted as "fiber-rich." The Fiber One cookies contain soluble corn fiber and sugarcane fiber in its ingredients list.

Researchers have done studies on these foods and naturally high fiber foods and have discovered that eating foods naturally high in fiber such as oatmeal and fruit does help fill you up, but eating foods with added processed fiber does not. As the author of the Nutrition Action article states, "The bottom line: added processed fibers don't turn cookies, brownies, bars and shakes into beans, bran, berries, and broccoli. But they do turn little white powders into bigger profits."

It's not just solid foods that can be misleading. Blue Diamond's Vanilla Almond Breeze Milk has "All Natural" on the label. To me, when I read that, I envision some person squeezing the daylights out of poor little almonds to fill up each carton. Guess what. One cup of almond milk contains about 4 almonds. The rest is filtered water and (if you're not getting the unsweetened version) sugar. One cup of Blue Diamond Vanilla Almond Milk has 80 calories, 2.5g of fat. The same as 1% cow's milk. The almond milk, however, contains only 1g of protein vs. 8g in 1% milk. The almond milk has 13g sugar and 1% milk has 12g. The almond milk has 150mg of sodium and 180mg of potassium. 1% milk has only 130mg of sodium and a whopping 400mg of potassium. Now if you are allergic to cow's milk, then almond milk is a great alternative. My point is, almond milk is often touted as a healthier alternative to dairy milk. Not really the case.

Moral to the story? Read beyond the headlines and educate yourself on nutrition labels. Food companies are out to make a buck. You're out to make a healthy life.


René said...

Yes, the headlines are sometimes merely clickbait, and the homemade nut milks are much better than store-bought.

SD Mom said...

Agreed! But the number one rule of social media is to come up with something that will draw your reader in and not to the other GAZILLION articles that are out there! Love me some chocolate milk! :-)