There are some health recommendations we are actually doing wrong.
We live in a society where concerns over health are a priority for many people. However, despite this intense focus on optimal wellness, as a society, we are getting sicker and sicker.
Case in point: since 1980, worldwide obesity has doubled, and 39% of all those over 18 are now obese. If this wasn’t enough, a similar pattern emerges with diabetes; there has been more than a doubling of cases in men, and a 60% increase in women.
But have you ever wondered why this is the case? After all, most people do try to do enough exercise as well as follow the dietary recommendations. So, we are following what we’re told, but at the same time, our collective waistline is expanding. What more can we do?
Could the surprising answer be that we are following health recommendations that do more harm than good? After examining the science, I believe that to be the case.
So in this article, I’ll outline four things I think we’re doing wrong:
1. Avoiding or Restricting Saturated Fat
Perhaps you always trim the fat off your meat or make sure only to buy low-fat dairy products. This behavior certainly wouldn’t be surprising given that’s what many people do.
Despite a mass of recent science to the contrary, several public health organizations still preach that we need to avoid “artery-clogging” saturated fat.
Unfortunately, this causes problems for many people. Think about the traditional diet of your grandparent’s generation; it was likely full of meat, whole milk, cheese, and nuts. These are foods consumed for generations.
Take the saturated fat out of the diet and what happens? We still need to eat, so we replace the energy lost from fat with refined grains, starches, sugars and ‘low-fat’ supermarket products.
Rather worryingly, the fear of dietary fat is etched into many people’s minds now. I say ‘worryingly’ because the recent data shows that low-carbohydrate diets lead to significantly greater weight loss than low-fat diets do. At the same time, many people still believe fat makes you fat.
You can’t blame them because that’s what public health recommendations repeatedly told us.
What Can We Do About It?
First of all, don’t fear healthy fat.
Meat, fish, nuts, olives, and other naturally occurring fats won’t do harm. These foods are not only fat but also a collection of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Eating them does your body good.
However, not all fat is made the same. It’s better to avoid industrially manufactured fats such as trans fat, vegetable oils, and margarine, as they are associated with adverse health impacts.
2. Balance Calories In vs. Calories Out For Optimal Weight
Should someone wish to lose weight, many people try to restrict their calories — or burn more calories than they eat through exercise.
The problem is that, although one calorie is always one calorie in absolute terms of energy, all calories are metabolized very differently by the body. As an example, calories from sugar will not have the same effect as calories from a piece of fish.
This idea that we can eat what we want as long as we “burn the calories” is a myth that needs destroying.
Important to realize is that this kind of diet can succeed in the short-term with extreme caloric restriction. However, this type of diet is a painful daily struggle that isn’t sustainable in the long-term. Following health recommendations like this show why so many diets fail.
What Can we Do About It?
Counting calories, making yourself hungry and trying to run off what you eat just don’t work in the long-term.
Instead of that, take a step back and think about the kind of food you enjoy. Replace processed foods with whole food that increases satiety levels.
Emphasize smart replacements based on “real food” rather than heavily processed products.
Some smart swaps could include:
- Some berries and fresh cream instead of candy and cake.
- Rather than a bag of potato chips, eat a handful of your favorite nuts or dark chocolate.
- Hot food doesn’t have to be for just dinner. Replacing sugary breakfast cereal with eggs and steamed vegetables makes a much healthier choice.
If you are accustomed to the sweet taste of sugar, then this might be hard at first, but with time it becomes easier.
3. Take Medicine When You Get a Cold
As a society, we’ve been taught to go to the doctor whenever we are ill — or to make a trip to the pharmacy if we have any slight undesirable symptoms. It’s as though we have an over-reliance on medicine.
Let me clarify; medicine can be an excellent aid for recovering from illness or injury. The problem is that we are just using it far too much — even for minor colds.
Antibiotic use especially is becoming a big problem. The reason why is because we are overusing antibiotics to the point that allows the rapid development of drug-resistant super bacteria.
Additionally, rather than letting our immune system fight the infection, create antibodies, and become stronger, we are just fighting illnesses with drugs. In other words, we are not allowing our natural immune system to get stronger.
If it’s a serious illness, then a visit to your doctor is advised, but personally, I’m a big believer in using medicine as a last resort.
How Can We Do This?
We can do this by adopting the following recovery principles:
- Increasing our intake of nutrients and antioxidants: berries, green vegetables, eggs, dark chocolate, green tea, and cocoa are all great examples. Increasing foods rich in vitamin C is also a good idea. When most people hear vitamin C, they think of oranges! If you’re doing that too, then here’s a tip: yellow peppers have 3x the amount.
- Getting more rest: sleep helps restore and strengthen the immune system in addition to positively affecting the whole body.
4. Restrict Salt
Salt restriction is another fundamental problem that many people don’t realize. While it’s true that excessive salt can be bad for health, too little salt is equally as bad for your body.
However, we are always bombarded with health recommendations urging salt restriction. As a result, people often go too far and reach dangerously low sodium levels.
It’s a little-known fact that low sodium levels can cause a host of side effects including headaches, muscle spasms, and fatigue. Extremely low sodium levels may even result in coma or death. The real problem occurs when there are no symptoms, as a chronic low sodium level can do real damage over the long-term.
Dr. James Dinicolantonio, an internationally renowned cardiovascular researcher recently published a paper on this very issue.
As part of this, he argued that following salt restriction health recommendations may have adverse outcomes. Also, he added that dietary sugar is a far bigger cause of high blood pressure than salt is.
How Can We Optimize Our Salt Intake?
Basically, by not over-thinking it.
Liberally salt your food to taste, and then enjoy it. Providing you’re not eating large amounts of junk food, then it’s unlikely you’re consuming too much salt.
Overall, just be aware that sodium is an essential mineral for our body, and low amounts are just as harmful — if not more so — as excessive amounts are.
While a lot of advice is very useful and worth following, some health recommendations can actually be harmful to health.
But the thing is, if you truly want to optimize your health, you shouldn’t blindly follow anything you read — including this very article.
Take charge of your health and research these things for yourself. A simple google search of the research over the last few years will suffice.
After all, who else are you going to trust more than yourself?
Have you ever followed health recommendations that caused more harm than good? If so, what happened?
Author Bio: Michael Joseph is a nutrition educator who regularly writes at http://nutritionadvance.com. He believes in optimizing health through real food and a healthy lifestyle.