Diet Myths Debunked
The Gluten-Free Diet
Confession: I always thought I had the perfect diet -- after all, I'm a nutritionist. My meals were low in fat and salt, and loaded with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. I was doing everything right. Except...I wasn't. Two years ago, after dozens of unexplained dizzy spells, my doctor informed me that my low-sodium meals plus a heavy workout schedule were driving my already low blood pressure down even further. Shocked, I followed my MD's orders and made friends with the salt shaker. Within a day or two, the dizzy spells disappeared, which just goes to show that even experts can make mistakes when it comes to good nutrition. "Any diet can be big trouble if it's taken to the extreme," says Andrea N. Giancoli, RD, a Los Angeles-based spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
Is your so-called smart diet actually a problem? Before you take another bite, see what a huge difference the right plan can make.The Gluten-Free Diet
The Myth: It's no-carb, so you'll lose weight!
The Truth: Gluten-free is not a no-carb plan, and it shouldn't be used as a weight-loss strategy, says Tricia Thompson, RD, author of The Gluten-Free Nutrition Guide. The diet is designed for people with celiac disease, an autoimmune digestive disorder that causes intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley products. There are major health dangers in going gluten-free: By skipping fortified breads and cereals, you're missing out on folate, which can lead to an increase in the amino acid homocysteine, raising your risk of a heart attack by as much as 200 percent. Pregnant women who don't get enough folate double their risk of preterm delivery -- and their babies have a 50 to 70 percent greater likelihood of developing certain birth defects. Replacing wheat products with gluten-free versions doesn't help much: A study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that only 5 percent of the 58 gluten-free breads, cereals, and pastas studied were fortified with folic acid, the synthetic form of folate.
The Fix: Aim to get 400 micrograms (600, if you're pregnant) of folate a day. Choose healthy carbs, such as whole-grain breads and cereals that are fortified with B vitamins and that have plenty of fiber to keep you feeling full. If, like 1 in 133 Americans, you suffer from celiac disease, eat folate-rich leafy greens and gluten-free fortified foods and juices, and take a daily multivitamin. Also, try naturally gluten-free whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, and amaranth.
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