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Nutrition fact or fiction?

Avoid eating eggs. Load up on protein to gain muscle. Drink eight glasses of water each day.

We get a lot of nutrition advice from friends, family, social media influencers and health professionals. With so much information out there, much of it conflicting, it’s easy to become confused and unsure of what to eat.

Chances are you’re familiar with at least a few of the nutrition claims below. But before you overhaul your diet based on what you hear, keep reading to separate nutrition fact from fiction.


Avoid egg yolks, they’re bad for your heart

The debate over eggs revolves around their high cholesterol content (185 mg per one large egg yolk). Consuming too much cholesterol has long been thought to raise LDL (bad) blood cholesterol, an established risk factor for heart attack and stroke.

Until recently.

In 2015, the U.S. government removed the 300-milligram daily limit of dietary cholesterol from its Dietary Guidelines for Americans, stating cholesterol is no longer a “nutrient of concern for overconsumption”. The consensus: cholesterol in food has little effect on the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream.

Yet earlier this year a review of six studies with follow-up periods spanning up to 31 years concluded that, among 29,615 healthy adults, eating too many eggs and too much dietary cholesterol significantly increased the risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death.

Like most nutrition studies, this one was not without limitations.  But according to an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study’s large dataset and rigorous methodology make a strong case that eggs and dietary cholesterol influences the risk of cardiovascular disease.

While the overall relationship between dietary cholesterol and cardiovascular disease was modest, the results suggested that the risk may be greater for people who consume eggs and cholesterol substantially above average intakes. (Average intakes were defined as 285 mg of cholesterol per day and 2 eggs a week.)

Bottom line: It’s not necessary to stop eating whole eggs which are packed with nutrition.  In fact, 42 per cent of the protein in eggs is found in the yolk.  But if you eat a lot of egg yolks (two or more a day), I recommend that you cut back.


Eat a lot more protein to build muscle

If you strength train, you might be tempted to crank up your protein intake. Makes sense since protein-rich foods like meat, eggs and tofu supply amino acids, the building blocks used to repair and build muscles after exercise.

But there’s no need to pile on the protein. According to a 2018 McMaster University review of 49 studies involving men and women, young and old, there is a limit to how much protein your muscles can use.

The sweet spot for adding muscle and building strength when resistance training: 1.6 g of protein per kg of body weight per day. Consuming more protein didn’t offer additional muscle benefits.

For a 180-pound (82 kg) male, that’s 130 g of protein a day – equivalent to eating 10 ounces of fish, chicken or lean meat, 1 cup of Greek yogurt, 1 scoop of protein powder and 2 cups of vegetables each day.

Bottom line: Consume 20 to 30 g of protein after a strength workout and divide the rest evenly over three meals.


Avoid sugar – including fruit

The naturally-occurring sugar (fructose) in fruit comes packaged with fibre, vitamin, minerals, antioxidants and protective phytochemicals. That’s very different than refined sugar that’s added to processed foods.

A healthy diet that includes fruit has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cataract, macular degeneration and type 2 diabetes.

For many people, fruit isn’t a regular part of their diet. So, instead of giving clients strategies to cut down on fruit, I usually give them tips to eat more of it.

Include at least two fruit servings in your diet each day to increase your intake of fibre, vitamin C, folate, potassium and disease-fighting flavonoids. Do limit added sugars and refined (white) starchy foods.


Drink eight glasses of water each day

Yes, water is an essential nutrient.  Your body needs it to regulate its temperature, transport nutrients to cells, keep your skin moist and cushion your joints.

And you must replace the water your body loses every day. The average adult loses roughly 2.5 litres of water each day just by breathing, sweating, and excreting wastes. Exercise, hot temperatures and humidity cause your body to lose even more.

According to the U.S. based Institute of Medicine, men need to drink 13 cups (3 litres) of water each day; women require 9 cups (2.2 litres).

But here’s the thing: all beverages – excluding alcoholic beverages – count towards your daily water requirements. Water, milk, non-dairy beverages, fruit juice, even coffee and tea help keep you hydrated.

So you can relax with the water bottle. You don’t need to drink eight glasses of water on top of everything else you drink.


Cleanse your body by drinking lemon water

It’s claimed that the morning ritual of drinking lemon water helps to detox our body, among many other beneficial things.

Advocates contend that drinking lemon water increases the activity of detoxification enzymes in the liver and, in so doing, helps flush toxins out of the body. One of the liver’s important tasks is to neutralize and toxic substances ingested through food, absorbed through our skin and inhaled from the environment and eliminate them from our body.

But there’s simply no evidence that drinking a glass of lemon water each morning enables your liver to step up its game.

That doesn’t mean, though, that staring your morning with a glass of it isn’t a good practice to adopt. Doing so can get you into the habit of drinking more water during the day, something that many of us need to do.


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