Last week our workplace hosted Nutritionist Carla Hernandez from Wise Roots Nutrition to give a talk on debunking five common nutrition myths. In a category full of myths, fads, and trends, I was curious to learn something new from her about nutrition, and as a researcher I was just a bit curious to see how she made her case and what myths she chose to tackle.
The talk consisted of debunking a handful of commonly held nutrition myths. She began with a myth we’ve all heard people say, “Organic food is overrated.” Carla said it isn’t. In a nutshell, it has higher nutritional content across the board, reduces the toxic/chemical load, and if that wasn’t enough to convince us, by eating organic (and most often paying more), you’re contributing to sustainable healthy soil.
Another myth she debunked is “Whole wheat is an essential part of a balanced diet.” Instead of trying to disprove the decade old advice that whole wheat is important for digestion, etc., Carla began by bridging the generational gap and talking about how wheat is not the same as it was 50 years ago, and has since been genetically modified. She didn’t go into what exactly this means, but heads were nodding and it gave me yet another proof point behind my behavior of avoiding whole grains.
Once the stage was set, Carla went on to debunk myths including “Eating a lot of protein is bad for your kidneys,” “Egg yolks are bad for you because of cholesterol”, and “Fat makes you fat.” It turns out, protein and fat don’t hurt you or make you fat, but you may just need to avoid sugar and diversify your protein sources—possibly include some gelatin or bone broth in your diet, and definitely eat the egg yolk.
These days, people need much more convincing because of contradictory advice we hear. What makes something a myth? It’s a widely held but false belief or idea. It’s incredibly difficult to weed through the clutter of widely held advice to know who to trust, and to feel like you are making the right purchase decisions, and ultimately nutritional choices.
If a company is going to take a stab at debunking a myth and educating consumers, it’s important to do it right. It’s not enough to convince people to buy your product because it’s the latest and greatest. It’s important to arm them with clear proof points so that they stick with your brand or product. This isn’t always easy, for example, if you’re changing your core product drastically, how are you going to help consumers navigate that change without ignoring what your product used to be? If you’re adding or removing ingredients, how are you going to clearly state the benefit of those ingredients? And even more so, how are you going to not make consumers feel stupid for believing false advice, and how are you going to reaffirm the things they do know so that they feel capable and in control.
Behavior changes aren’t caused by telling people everything, but by feeding them bite-size, digestible bits of information that they can understand, and share. While I’m not sure I’ll be buying into the homemade bone broth craze anytime soon, I might start packing a variety of proteins into my diet, and I can give myself a pat on the back for eating the whole egg.