Eating healthy can seem challenging, especially with the abundance of sometimes conflicting information about what’s good for you and what’s not. In fact, healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated if you are armed with the right information. To help you decipher what’s true, Chatelaine spoke with registered dietitian and biochemist Maryam Naslafkih, a partner of Danone Canada, to break down a few common myths and misconceptions surrounding nutrition.
Myth #1: You should avoid flavoured yogurts
Plain and flavoured yogurts can both be part of a healthy diet. “Yogurt, in general, is a nutritious food that contains several key nutrients that play an important role in our health, including calcium, riboflavin, vitamin B12, zinc, potassium, phosphorus and selenium,” says Maryam.
Just like plain yogurts, flavoured yogurts contain naturally occurring sugars (lactose), but they also contain added sugars in variable amounts. “Scientific evidence suggests that people who eat yogurt—no matter if it’s plain or flavoured—tend to have a lower risk of weight gain and type 2 diabetes,” she adds. So even though most flavoured yogurts contain added sugars, this does not automatically discount yogurt’s nutritional value. For Canadians looking to monitor their sugar intake, reading the food labels of yogurt brands can help inform their decision and choose a product that fits their goals.
“There are more indulgent yogurts and more everyday yogurts. All of them can serve a different purpose in one’s diet,” Maryam affirms. A yogurt with higher amounts of fat and added sugars can be more indulgent, creamy and satisfying for dessert while still providing key nutrients. A yogurt with probiotics helps support gut health. Greek yogurt contains more protein, which may help you feel fuller. Pairing yogurt with other nutritious foods, like oats, nuts, seeds and fruit, can also improve your nutrient intakes.
Myth #2: Carbs are bad
Carbohydrates play an important role in our diets. “It’s important to include some form of carbohydrates every day as they act as the main source of energy used by our bodies,” explains Maryam.
Carbohydrates occur naturally in nutritious foods such as grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and dairy. Whole grains are high in dietary fibre and B vitamins, and certain types of fibre may help in reducing blood cholesterol and may improve regularity. Fruits and vegetables are packed with fibres, vitamins and minerals, while legumes are versatile plant-based protein and fibre sources. Milk and yogurt contain lactose, a naturally occurring carbohydrate, and can also be a source of several bone-health nutrients such as complete protein, calcium and vitamin D.
But carbohydrate foods are not created equal. “Carbohydrate-rich foods such as baked goods, candies and chocolate do not provide many essential nutrients and should therefore be limited,” the dietitian emphasizes. “It’s all about quality versus quantity.”
Myth #3: Snacking is unhealthy
“Everyone has different eating patterns that work best for their lifestyle and appetite, so it’s important to listen to your hunger cues and eat when you’re hungry,” says Maryam. “Some people prefer three larger meals with small snacks, while others feel better eating smaller, more frequent meals.”
The key is to choose nutritious snacks that will keep your body fuelled to function optimally between meals. Maryam suggests pairing proteins and carbohydrates, such as cheese with grapes, Greek yogurt with fruit, hummus with vegetables and crackers, or even mixed nuts with popcorn.
Myth #4: People with lactose intolerance should completely avoid dairy
“Most people with lactose intolerance can still manage a certain amount of lactose without digestive discomfort,” Maryam says. For example, they can usually tolerate yogurt because of the live cultures that can improve lactose digestion, as well as aged cheeses that contain little to no lactose. There are also lactose-free dairy products and plant-based alternatives fortified with nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D.
When it comes to healthy eating, making more room for vegetables, fruits, whole grains and plant-based protein foods on our plates, and trying to include sources of calcium, like dairy and fortified plant-based beverages at all meals and some snacks, are good ways to maintain your health. As dietitian Maryam confirms, “Canadians can also enjoy foods with naturally occurring sugars and small amounts of added sugars as part of a healthy diet, especially when it’s found in nutritious foods like whole-grain cereals and yogurt.” Further to this, Dr. Alison Duncan, a professor at the University of Guelph and a member of the Canadian Nutrition Society, asserts: “Everyone should also make sure that they are seeking reliable sources of nutrition information.”
To learn more about Danone products, visit danone.ca.
The Canadian Nutrition Society supported the development of this article by fact-checking to ensure its content is based on evidence. Maryam Naslafkih can be found online at maryamnasnutrition.com or on Instagram at @maryamnas_nutrition.