Since I started my master’s program in nutrition I’ve been the go to food person for my friends and family. I absolutely love when people pick my brain about health and I geek out on anything nutrition related. I usually get asked questions about weight loss, how to increase energy, or my opinion on certain diets. Aside from the usual, I’ve noticed a new question pop up more than before—what health information should I trust?
I created this post to address that question and help you. Because if my friends and family have questioned what to believe when it comes to health, I’m sure you have to!
SEARCH FOR RELIABLE INFORMATION ON THE INTERNET
There is an insanely overwhelming amount of information on the Internet regarding health and nutrition. How do you weed through what’s right? You go on one site and their talking about the amazing health benefits of coconut oil and then you go on another and you find the opposite! Unfortunately, there is always going to be contradicting information but I’m going to give you a few pieces of advice that will help you buffer the online noise.
Whenever I jump on the Internet my go to is the Google search bar. It’s an amazing creation but remember that the information on the Internet is not always true or evidence based! Evidence based research is the gold standard when it comes to searching for information online. The government and health professionals use research studies to draw information and thereafter make a conclusion surrounding a health/nutrition claim. The information you can find from reliable sources (i.e. government health websites) usually summarize evidence based research, which is featured on their website page.
Basically, when you’re searching for information online look for evidence based research! Going directly to an online source (i.e. PubMed) to find articles and drawing your own conclusion is the best way to decide if giving a new health habit a try is really worthwhile. When you read published research studies it puts you in charge of the context of the information. Because even sites that use scientific studies to support their claims, can fail mention the size of a study, length, funding, or potential bias, which would impact the reliability of the results.
If jumping on PubMed is something you could never see yourself doing then you need to pay attention to the source! Websites like .gov, .edu, and some. org sites are going to be your best bet when it comes to searching from health/nutrition information online. You might’ve noticed I left out .com sources (sorry not sorry!). There are tons of organizations and companies that have a .com domain. Even though a lot of them can seem pretty legit, if you can’t trace back where they sourced their information (some pages place a citation at the bottom of the page/article) than don’t consider it! As a nutrition student, I’ve learned the importance of obtaining information from reliable sources so I avoid .com sites altogether now.
The government always sources their information from evidence-based research. So when you can, look for .gov sites first. If you end up on an .edu (i.e. Cal Berkeley Nutrition) or .org (i.e. American Heart Association) site most will list the research study they used to source their information.
SEEK HELP FROM A PROFESSIONAL
If you have the opportunity to speak with nutrition professional I highly recommend it! But keep in mind, every nutrition professional is going to have their own opinion and take on nutrition information. Find out what their background and experience is by asking them or looking up their credentials/certifications on their website.
YOUR BODY IS THE BEST JUDGE
It’s always a good idea to get your information from reliable sources and professionals. But your body is really the BEST judge! For example, maybe you want to increase your energy in the morning and throughout your day so you do some research and find out that adding healthy sources of fat to your diet could help. Let’s say you talked with a nutrition professional that warned you too much fat is not a good thing but when you did your own research (from evidence based studies or books) you realized the benefits of fat far outweigh potential “harm”. Nonetheless, you decide to give it a try by adding at least two servings of healthy sources of fat to each meal like MCT oil, avocado, nuts, and nut butters. By the end of the first week you’re wondering why you didn’t give this a try sooner! You’ve eliminated brain fog, increased your mental clarity, and feel full longer. Because of the positive improvements you’ve noticed in your health, you’ve decided that adding more fat to your diet is good for you.
Our bodies were created to protect us from harm, especially with the foods we eat. If you stop and pay attention to how your body feels (i.e. energetic, sluggish, heavy, full) after eating a particular food, you can begin to make better health choices overall.
If there is one takeaway I’ve learned throughout my nutrition program and life in general, it’s that everyone is different. Because of our differences a personalized approach is needed. There is no such thing as one size fits all approach when it comes to nutrition. This doesn’t just apply to nutrition but also other elements of life like therapy, physical fitness, family life, a church community, relationships, etc.
STOP THE COMPARISON GAME
When we stop comparing ourselves to other people, accept that we are uniquely made, and embrace our differences, than we can start to figure out what is good for us! The best part about trying different health habits and foods is that you’ll see what works and what doesn’t– simply by how you feel.
Okay, so let me break it down for you! Here are 3 things you need to do when deciding to try a new health habit
- Search for information about the topic from reliable sources (i.e. evidence based research studies, books, or .gov websites)
- Speak with a professional to get their opinion
- Try it out yourself. Pay attention to how you body feels. If you notice positive improvements move forward and implement this new habit/food into your daily routine. If you notice negative side effects than don’t do it!