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What a year it’s been! If you follow health news, your head is probably spinning with hidden dangers and surprising benefits of many foods. It’s hard to keep track of it all.
Is butter terrible or healthy now? What about eggs? Should I toss out my coconut oil or put it in my coffee? Should I even be drinking coffee? And shouldn’t I be panicking about the weed killer in my cereal?
We hear about studies in real time as they’re published, not after enough evidence has been collected to make a recommendation. It’s like playing darts while someone reports on each throw, and sometimes they do it poorly.
If we can keep in mind that each time we hear about new research, it is adding a data point to the existing evidence, then we can see research making progress instead of going back and forth. We should also be honest with ourselves about how closely we’ve followed health news. Are we just seeing bad headlines, hearing soundbites, and sharing articles without reading them?
An important point that this article makes is:
“… in many areas of human health, we have already identified the big risk factors. These large risk factors are the old and familiar ones, like excessive smoking and drinking, or skipping daily fruits and vegetables.”
These risk factors aren’t news anymore, so we tend to hear more about smaller risks.
Try to relax a little over the holidays. Even when your aunt says organic fruits and vegetables are healthier than conventional, your uncle talks about improving his cholesterol by eating steak, or your cousin touts the newest diet, remember the big picture.
Sit back, enjoy some roasted winter vegetables, and pour a (5 ounce) glass of wine. After all, vegetables are good for you and one glass of wine is probably fine. You can even enjoy a bit of chocolate for dessert, but only if you really want it, because (you knew this was coming) chocolate isn’t actually a health food.
Meredith is a registered dietitian who teaches nutrition classes, offers one-on-one nutrition counseling, and develops education material. She is passionate about explaining nutrition research and helping people incorporate sustainable changes in their lives. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband, their two young children, and their middle-aged pets.
3000 New Bern Ave.
Raleigh, NC 27610