Nutrition Fact or Fiction?, by Charlyn Fargo


Ever wonder how many carbohydrates you should be eating? Or if a detox diet really works? Or how often to snack?

A Google search can give a variety of answers, but how do you know what the truth is? Make sure the site is reputable — ending in “.org” or from a registered dietitian. Here are answers you can trust.

Do carbs make you gain weight? Carbohydrates are often demonized as the weight-gain devil. They’re not. You just want to make sure you’re eating complex carbohydrates instead of simple carbs. Complex carbs are important for energy, brain function and even weight loss. Complex carbohydrates include whole grains, beans and vegetables, which are rich in fiber and make you feel full. Simple carbs are those high-sugar foods and processed grains, which lead to unsatisfying meals, causing us to overindulge later. Keep in mind any food you eat in excess will cause you to gain weight and eliminating any one of the major food groups is detrimental. You need all the macros — carbohydrates, fat and protein.

Is snacking throughout the day bad for my health? Not necessarily. Six smaller meals work for a lot of people. Snacking on nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein can help increase your intake of vitamins and minerals. A smart snack is one that is planned, consumed when true hunger strikes and helps bridge the gap between meals to ensure you don’t overeat later. Avoid chips, candy and sweets that have empty calories and added sugars that will make you feel sluggish later.

Can certain foods burn calories? Not really. Caffeine and spicy ingredients (which contain capsaicin) can increase metabolism, but not enough for significant calorie burn or weight loss. The best way to lose weight is to choose healthy foods in the right portions and exercise consistently.

Are fat-free or low-fat versions of foods healthier? When a product claims it contains low or no fat, be sure to look at the label for its sugar content. Sometimes, manufacturers replace fat with sugar to make it more palatable, because fat provides food with flavor. In addition, some fat in our salad dressings helps with absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).

Do detox diets rid the body of toxins? There is little evidence to support that detox or cleansing diets eliminate toxins. The body has its own detox system in place with the liver and kidneys, which act as a cleansing system to remove waste from the body.

Q and A

Q: Are smoothies beneficial for weight loss and overall health?

A: To have a healthy and safe weight loss, the goal is to maintain satiety (feeling full after eating) and prevent loss of muscle while maximizing fat loss. Satiety can be achieved by consuming proteins, high-fiber and high-volume foods. So, yes, smoothies can be a great way to increase satiety by boosting fiber intake and can be a wonderful substitution for highly processed carbohydrates. Just be sure to include protein (such as Greek yogurt or milk) and veggies (such as spinach or kale) as well as fresh or frozen fruit.


You can use your slow cooker to have oatmeal ready when you wake up. Steel-cut oats, which are complex carbohydrates, work best. Try this Overnight Maple-Raisin Oatmeal from Cooking Light.


Servings: 6 (serving size: 1 cup oatmeal and about 1/4 cup apples)

3 3/4 cups water

2 1/4 cups 1% milk

1 1/2 cups steel-cut oats

3/4 cup golden raisins (or dried cranberries)

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter

2 large apples, cut into 1/4-inch slices

Combine the water, milk, oats, raisins, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and salt in a heatproof glass bowl. Set bowl in a 6-quart slow cooker; add cold water to slow cooker, filling until water comes 3/4 of the way up outside of bowl. Cover slow cooker; cook on low 8 hours or until oats are thick and creamy. Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Stir oats; spoon into bowls. Top with apples.

Per serving: 370 calories; 10 grams protein; 75 grams carbohydrates; 6.5 grams fat; 12 milligrams cholesterol; 7 grams fiber; 211 milligrams sodium.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with SIU Med School in Springfield, Illinois. For comments or questions, contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: cgdsro at Pixabay


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