Are Peanuts Bad for Me? Is Diet Soda Better than Regular Soda? Help.

Thank goodness you’re here!  I need to tell you something!

In light of some statements I have heard in the relatively recent past by the uninformed, the following are a few nutrition clarifications.  Enjoy!

Why peanuts aren't bad for you and diet soda isn't good for you

Myth: Peanuts are bad for you.

Fact:  Peanuts are not bad for you.

  • The thing is, peanuts have a higher ratio of omega-6 fatty acids (which are essential but pro-inflammatory) versus omega-3 fatty acids (also essential but anti-inflammatory).
  • However, an often overlooked factor is that the most abundant fat contained in peanuts is monounsaturated fat (aka MUFA), one of the healthiest types of fat we can consume. The nearly concrete evidence supporting the Mediterranean eating style points toward MUFA as the bomb.com when it comes to fat choices.
  • Furthermore, an average handful of peanuts has about 3 grams of fiber and packs a big huge punch of much-needed vitamins and minerals, especially magnesium and folate.
  • Including foods that are moderately high in healthy fats and fiber into your meal or snack routine helps you to stay satisfied on less food, which is a big win when it comes to trying to maintain a healthy weight (or to lose weight!).
  • Disclaimer:  if you’ve ever gotten constipated or bloated from eating peanuts, it is highly likely you a) ate way too many or b) aren’t drinking enough water or c) (less likely than the first two) have a food sensitivity.  Peanuts do not typically independently cause constipation.

 

Myth: Diet soda is much healthier than regular soda.

Fact: Diet soda and regular soda exert a negative impact on one’s health, it just happens in different ways.

  • I’m sure you’ve heard about the negative ramifications of added sugar intake (especially that from sugar-sweetened beverages (aka SSB), but replacing the soda with diet soda isn’t “better.”
  • People turn to diet soda to find a refreshing beverage that is supposed to be “guilt free” because diet soda contains zero calories and zero sugar.
  • What is important to realize is that more and more evidence in the literature supports that artificial sweeteners alter the bacteria in our gut (aka microbiota). We typically have a little good bacteria and a little bad bacteria in our guts.  However, countless studies have shown that the fake sugars completely alter one’s gut microbiota, which can create a trickle effect of problems.
  • Altered gut microbiota, aka “dysbiosis,” is linked to numerous health conditions including (but not limited to) insulin-resistance and/or diabetes, obesity, IBS, depression, etc.
  • Just because I’m saying diet soda isn’t the glorious creation you may have once thought it was doesn’t mean I’m elevating regular soda. It just means that I suggest you try to either avoid both of them or limit them to super-special occasions.  And no, every afternoon at 2:00 doesn’t count as a “special occasion.”  😉
  • The same rules apply to ANY artificially sweetened beverage: diet tea, those little neon drink-flavoring packets, etc.
  • Some truly “guilt free” beverages could include WATER, water with lemon or cucumber (or any fruit/vegetable you feel like throwing in there), plain tea of any kind, or plain black coffee (try to keep it to less than 3 cups/day).

 

Myth: My blood levels of calcium, magnesium, etc. are good and I don’t even eat healthy.  I must be getting all the nutrients I need nonetheless!  Go me!

Fact: You can have the appearance of “adequate” nutrition in your blood values during your annual exam with your provider even when you are at risk for insufficiency or deficiency of certain nutrients.

  • Your body is a marvelous creation, and can adapt to adversity pretty well. But let’s use calcium as an example, shall we?  Your body keeps the peace in terms of blood calcium homeostasis incredibly well; so well, in fact, that it will rob calcium from your bones to the point that they have holes in them if it means keeping your circulating calcium levels in tip-top condition.
  • In other words, serum calcium only captures about 1% of your body’s total calcium content. Because, among other jobs, calcium is critical for proper muscle contraction (especially for keeping your heart ticking properly!), your blood calcium will rarely ever be too low or too high in the absence of more serious health conditions.  Even if you don’t drink milk ever, your bloodstream will maintain a pretty solid calcium level because it has a nearly endless supply to rob from your bones.bone
  • If we wait until we actually can quantify a vitamin or mineral deficiency via a serum lab value, damage to our body has already begun to occur in some big ways.
  • In fact, serum levels of most vitamins or minerals are not independent indicators of overall nutrition status at all, but they do offer us insight as part of the whole health picture of an individual. Plus, if these labs are abnormal, they can indicate more severe health conditions that can often be treated.
  • It’s worth mentioning that while I am whole-heartedly a functional nutrition supporter and practitioner, beware of hokie tests that claim to do “muscle testing for nutrient deficiencies” or “hair testing.” These types of money-grubbing snake oil tests are absolutely, positively, not medically recognized measurements of nutritional status.  Not at all.  Not even a little bit.  They can have other interesting applications (mainly in the research world), but currently very few reliable biomarkers exist that can give us usable insight into nutrition status.
  • The good news is, that after decades upon decades of reputable, long-term research, we have the Dietary Reference Intakes to provide enough insight for us to consume adequate vitamins and minerals without trying to poke and prod people’s bones, blood, or tissues to determine if they’re getting enough of certain nutrients. Yay! Easier, huh?!
  • Additionally, the easy answer to getting enough of any nutrient would be to turn to supplementation. But supplementing certain nutrients, such as calcium, is not without risk.  If we inadvertently over-supplement with calcium, our body can start to deposit calcium in soft tissues throughout our body where calcium doesn’t belong.  One place this often happens is in our artery walls, which can be a contributor to heart disease.
  • I’m not saying that supplements are always off-limits, but consult a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) for individualized guidance on supplementation to ensure you’re doing it safely.  Or, better yet, try harder to get nutrients from FOOD!

 

Love ya, mean it.

xoxo – Casey

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