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As a registered dietitian, I receive countless questions daily about foods, supplements, weight loss, and more. With the amount of people giving advice that isn’t credible or evidence-based online, it’s no wonder that people get confused on what to believe.

Even among the information that is credible, nutrition will never be a 100-percent absolute for all people. Still, there are a lot of basic questions I get that do have a straight-forward answer. Just remember that everyone’s situation is unique.

1. ‘What foods are bad?’

Everyone wants to think of “good nutrition” as a quick fix that is matter of fact. In reality, there are a lot of grey areas.

The concept of “good food” and “bad food” is one of those areas. There really aren’t any “bad” foods, as the word implies morality, which food cannot hold. Further, a person’s morality cannot be determined by the food that they eat.

Obviously, there are foods that are healthier than others, and there are foods you should eat more often than others. That idea can exist without calling food “good” or “bad.” For example, eating a cinnamon roll provides little nutrition beyond a lot of refined carbs and fat, so you probably shouldn’t have one every single day.

Eating sweets like that regularly can increase your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes. However, associating that food with being “bad” implies that you can absolutely never eat them or else something bad will happen to you. This isn’t true. These foods are okay to include in moderation, not excess.

If you have a specific condition like chronic kidney disease or heart failure and need to be more mindful of your intake, the way you moderate your diet and the types of foods you choose to include will vary. The same goes for if you have an allergy or medical restriction for a digestive disorder such as Crohn’s disease.

Healthy and unhealthy food
Healthy and unhealthy foods (© M.studio – stock.adobe.com)

2. ‘What are the best supplements to take?’

I never like this question. Nobody will need to take the same supplements because everybody is different. You can’t just look at someone and answer that question without knowing anything else about them.

As a dietitian, I always encourage people to get as much nutrition from a varied diet with high-quality protein, fats, fiber-rich grains, fruits, and vegetables. However, the reality is that most people don’t. Even if they do, there is still a risk of being deficient in certain nutrients because of modern lifestyles, including a lack of sunlight, too much stress, and other factors. As such, there are two supplements that many people would likely benefit from: Vitamin D and magnesium.

Around one billion people around the world are deficient in vitamin D. This is mainly due to lack of sunlight and/or improper utilization of vitamin D by the body. Vitamin D is critical for immune health, bone support, and emotional regulation. If you think you are deficient in vitamin D, be sure to ask your doctor for a blood test before taking supplements.

Around 75 percent of Americans don’t get enough magnesium in their diets. Currently, there is no widely used blood test to determine magnesium deficiency, so it is measured by dietary intake as of now.

Magnesium is critical for hundreds of reactions and has thousands of binding sites in the body. It supports heart, brain, liver, kidney, and thyroid health. For almost anything your body does, magnesium is involved in that process.

The most magnesium-rich foods are dark chocolate, avocado, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and whole grains. However, research has shown that changes in soil quality has reduced available magnesium content in food. Magnesium supplementation could be a convenient way to ensure you get adequate amounts each day. Be sure to speak with your healthcare professional before taking this, or anything else.

Multivitamin concept: vitamin on a man
(Photo by Fida Olga on Shutterstock)

3. ‘How do I lose weight?’

Again, this is another question that dietitians don’t usually like. It is difficult to know the type of advice to give if you are not a direct patient or client of the practitioner. The best that can be done is providing general advice.

Your habits, lifestyle, and overall barriers to losing weight are unique to you. General guidance for weight loss involves leading a healthy lifestyle that follows the basic principles of good nutrition. Drink more water, eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, get adequate sleep, exercise several days per week, and try to reduce stress within your means.

Weight loss: woman measuring her waist size
Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

Bottom Line

There’s no guidebook that will work for everyone, but there are general ideas that will work for most people. Whenever I get questions from people, I always try to drive that idea home. At the same time, the big health takeaways are:

  • Moralizing food is not usually conducive to building a healthy relationship with food or achieving sustainable health goals.
  • Vitamin D and magnesium are two supplements that many would benefit from.
  • Weight loss is individualized but also achievable for most by following basic health principles.

As always, nutrition guidance for your personal situation should be discussed with your dietitian and/or doctor.

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About Shyla Cadogan, RD

Shyla Cadogan is a DMV-Based acute care Registered Dietitian. She holds specialized interests in integrative nutrition and communicating nutrition concepts in a nuanced, approachable way.

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