3 healthy eating claims that aren’t quite true
There’s a lot of advice floating around about which diets are considered healthy, with many proponents of one diet speaking negatively about others. Registered dietitian with Prisma Health HeartLife Cardiac Rehabilitation Tara Ross set the record straight on common healthy eating claims – clean eating, gluten-free diets and fat-free diets.
Is clean eating healthier?
“Clean eating is sort of a catchphrase that originated about 15 years ago,” Ross explained. The concept is somewhat loose, but basically center around eating foods that have minimal processing or few ingredients, sometimes eating organic or eating more fresh foods or raw foods.
“While I encourage all those things,” Ross added, “I don’t like the label ‘clean.’ It implies if you’re not eating those types of foods then you’re eating dirty, which can feel restrictive.”
Instead, she recommended focusing on eating fewer processed foods or more minimally processed foods. “I work with a lot of patients who need to eat healthier, and I don’t want them to feel like they can’t eat produce just because it’s not fresh or organic,” Ross said. “There’s nothing wrong with frozen veggies.”
Is gluten free healthier for your diet?
It depends. If you have celiac disease or a non-celiac gluten sensitivity, yes, it’s healthier for you to avoid gluten. If you just feel better avoiding gluten, that’s fine too. But not all gluten-free products are particularly healthy.
Gluten is a protein in wheat that provides texture and flavor. “It gives a really nice mouthfeel, which is why a lot of gluten-free products don’t taste great,” Ross said.
She said a healthier approach is to avoid highly processed food and refined carbohydrates, such as white flour and added sugars.
If you suspect you might have either celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, talk it over with your doctor.
Should all fat be avoided?
“It would be kind of impossible to do that, but no,” Ross said. There are some fats that are considered essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6, which are largely in plant foods, such as nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil and oily fish.
“We actually need some of those fats in our diet! They’re essential for a reason,” Ross said. Essential fatty acids help improve the structure of the cell membrane, which is good for heart and brain health.
The sources of those healthy fats may also contain some saturated fat, which you do want to limit or avoid, especially if you have heart disease. Saturated fats are found in animal-based products such as meat, butter, cheese and eggs, as well as tropical plants such as coconut and palm.
“One fat that absolutely needs to be avoided is trans-fat, which is most notably found in margarine and shortening,” Ross said. “Switching to something like oil or even butter would be a better alternative.”
What’s the best way to eat healthier?
“Make small changes,” said Ross. “Ask yourself what’s one way you could eat a little bit better? It could be incorporating leafy greens into your diet or drinking an extra eight ounces of water. You’ll actually see better results from that long term than you will from trying to do anything too drastic.”
Find a cardiologist you trust
We make it easier to get the care your heart needs, with cardiologists located near you.Learn More