First the good news: Just about everyone is interested in food and nutrition these days. While it's really great that what we eat is such a popular topic, it's also crucial that we get nutrition education from a credible source. Anyone who inspires healthy eating is awesome, but for your own diet and overall nutrition, it's best to only follow nutrition advice from a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) or registered dietitian (RD).
What Makes RDNs and RDs So Awesome?
If nutrition professionals were placed along a continuum, RDNs and RDs would be at the top of the chain. They are the nutrition experts. To become an RDN or RD, one must study the sciences as they pertain to food, diseases and the body. An RDN or RD has extensive background in the chemical makeup of food, the way each macro- and micronutrient works in the body, and how different diseases are both prevented and alleviated by proper nutrition. A nutritionist, on the other hand, is not a credentialed title. One does not need any specific education or certification exams to become one. Technically, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. A teacher once told me her cat could be called a nutritionist!
The specific and intensive nutrition knowledge held by an RDN or RD is one of the most important reasons to see one for your own health concerns. You can find plenty of people and websites willing to promote fad diets or health claims. Have you ever wondered why fads diets seem to come and go so quickly? The reason is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Each individual has very specific nutrition needs. In fact, if one specific food or diet was the magic answer for everyone, we would all have started doing it a long time ago.
I saw a client recently — let's call him Michael. As a well-educated and fit young adult in his 20s, Michael exercised regularly, researched nutrition information from various sources and ate what he believed to be a healthy diet. That diet consisted of many vegetables, some fruit, quite a bit of "bulletproof coffee" (coffee served with MCT oil and grass-fed butter), a lot of grass-fed beef and even more grass-fed butter. Despite being in seemingly excellent shape and of a healthy weight, Michael's cholesterol levels were almost scarily high. Given his serious efforts to eat what he thought were the healthiest foods, he had no idea why his cholesterol was so high.
In short, Michael's cholesterol was high from the excessive amount of saturated fat he was consuming. This type of unhealthy fat is commonly found in foods such as butter and fatty meats — both of which Michael was consuming in large quantities. In fact, in a 2,000-calorie daily diet, the 8 to 16 grams of saturated fat in one cup of bulletproof coffee is nearly as much saturated fat as the Dietary Guidelines recommend for an entire day. Despite the buzz around "grass-fed" beef and butter, these foods still contain high amounts of unhealthy saturated fat.
It's crucial to understand that no single food will have super powers to speed metabolism, or increase fat burn or promote weight loss. These concepts are often promoted to coincide with the latest trends. Yet, just because something is a trend, does not mean it is healthy. Before trying foods or diets you've seen online, consult an RDN or RD — a real food and nutrition expert — to get a trusted opinion and a customized, balanced and varied diet to best meet your own unique needs.
All sources that motivate health in general are great, but be careful following nutrition advice from those not credentialed to give it or trying fads that promote exorbitant claims. To find the best foods, diet and overall lifestyle plan that will help you meet your goals, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist.