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Nutrition Myths Uncovered: Part 2

APHE2-16-15In this article, I’m debunking more nutrition myths that I’ve come across in the media. The notoriously “unhealthy” fried foods and miraculous, life changing gluten-free diet…read ahead.

Fried Foods are Bad forYou

Fried foods have gotten a bad reputation with the discovery of trans fats and fast-food restaurants’ use of hydrogenated vegetable oils in their frying. Despite negative publicity, fried foods canstill be part of a healthy lifestyle. The key is moderation. Splurging once a week on a regular-sized serving of French fries from your favorite fast-food chain will not cause a heart attack nor sabotage weight loss goals. A regular-sized serving of fries clocks in at 340 calories and 16 grams of fat. This is no worse (and even better calorie-wise) than indulging in a piece of Grandma’s chocolate cake. The slice of cake can weigh in in at around 506 calories and 26 grams of fat!

Frying can be just as healthy as sautéing or roasting when prepared properly. Here’s how frying works: When food is exposed to hot oil the moisture in the food boils and is forced out into the oil. The moisture forced out of the food creates a barrier that prevents oil from being absorbed into food. The small amount of oil that is absorbed creates a crispy exterior crust. In order to keep too much oil from being absorbed into the food make sure to follow recipe instructions. For most foods, oil should be heated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Oil that is not hot enough will cause more of the oil to be absorbed into the food as it needs more time to cook.

Fried foods can be enjoyed without the guilt. Watch your portions and choose healthy sides to accompany them. A 2012 Spanish cohort study published inthe British Medical Journal found no correlation between the consumption of fried foods and risk of coronary heart disease. It is important to note that in Spain people tend to fry foods in unsaturated olive or sunflower oil. If fried foods are a regular indulgence, consider preparing them at home where you have control over how they are made. Make sure to use oils that are high in unsaturated fats and watch your cooking time!

Key Message: Fried foods can be part of a healthy diet. Remember to follow the philosophy of “everything in moderation.” 

Going Gluten Free Will Help You Lose Weight

Following a meal plan that excludes gluten—a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye—is not a magic key for weight loss. Gluten-free diets have traditionally been prescribed to treat celiac disease. According the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital, celiac disease affects every 1 in 133 people. It is an autoimmune response triggered by the presence of gluten. This leads to chronic inflammation of the intestines. Symptoms include abdominal pain, weight loss, diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting.

Increased awareness and treatment of celiac disease has created a public demand for gluten-free products. Companies have capitalized on the gluten-free fad and grown a multi-billion dollar industry. Sales of gluten-free foods are expected to top out at $16 billion in 2016 according to marketing research company, Mintel. 

Going gluten free has become all the rage with nutritionists and health experts claiming that it will cure a vast array of conditions from depression to obesity. “Gluten free” does not mean “healthier.” Gluten-free products on the grocery store shelves can be just as unhealthy—if not more—than traditional foods containing gluten. Manufacturers add fat and sugar to compensate for the absence of gluten, which creates the soft, desirable texture in baked goods. Pillsbury Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough has 20 more calories per cookie and 2 additional grams of fat than its traditional, gluten-laden cookie dough. 

Key Message: If you are looking to lose weight don’t buy into the fad diets such as going gluten free. Make healthy lifestyle choices that you can live with. Follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and you’ll be sure to drop pounds. Check out the USDA’s MyPlate website at for more information. 

Looking Ahead: Please stay posted for my final article that unravels more nutrition misinformation! I’ll tackle the myth surrounding high fructose corn syrup and fad diets.


EileenOMearaEileen O'Meara is a registered dietician from the great state of Wisconsin. She loves her cheese - in moderation!


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