NDSU Extension - Morton County


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May 20, 2019 Beware of Nutrition Fads

Vanessa Hoines, Extension Agent/Family and Community Wellness

Dates to Remember:

May 28               4-H District Communication Arts, 12:30 pm-5:00 pm


Beware of Nutrition Fads

The world of nutrition is ever-changing, with new research and dietary trends constantly emerging. Keeping track of new trends in foods and diets can be overwhelming, especially when deciding whether health claims are accurate.

 Trends in Fat Consumption

This article breaks down a handful of trends regarding fat consumption by filtering through what is fact and what is fiction.

Food Trends


Ghee is a form of highly clarified butter traditionally used in Indian and Pakistani cultures. In recent years, ghee has gained attraction as a more healthful substitute for butter.

But is it actually more healthful? Because ghee is produced by cooking butter and removing lactose sugar and casein proteins, it shares a similar nutrient profile to regular butter.

Both foods are considered high in saturated fat and should be consumed in moderation. The only potential benefit of choosing ghee instead of butter is that ghee may be a decent butter substitute for individuals who are sensitive to lactose.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has been praised as a healthful food item in recent years, with claims that it can improve immune function, aid digestive health, help you shed abdominal fat and reduce hunger. But are these claims true?

Coconut oil contains a higher percentage of saturated fat than butter and lard. Because saturated fat has been linked to health problems, why is coconut oil praised as healthful?

The difference may lie in the fact that lauric acid, a medium chain triglyceride, is the main saturated fat in coconut oil. Some research has linked lauric acid to an increase in the “good” HDL cholesterol. However, it appears the “bad” LDL cholesterol also is raised.

Coconut oil also contains phytochemicals with antioxidant properties. However, when coconut oil is refined, the antioxidant properties are limited. Experts say that even when using the minimally processed extra-virgin coconut oil, the negative effects of saturated fat outweigh any beneficial effects of antioxidants.

The takeaway: As with any new trend, cure-all foods simply do not exist. Remain aware of the lack of scientific evidence to support the health claims associated with ghee and coconut oil. Additionally, like anything high in saturated fats, ghee and coconut oil should be used in moderation.

Diet Trends - Ketogenic Diet

Despite its recent surge in popularity, the ketogenic diet is far from new. The use of this diet dates back to the 1920s and has been an alternative treatment to drug-resistant epilepsy, especially in children. Through the years, the keto diet has crossed into the world of weight loss, and its presence only seems to be growing.

In use for weight loss, the ketogenic diet is characterized by restricting carbohydrate intake to about 20 to 50 grams per day. Carbohydrates break down into glucose, which is the body’s preferred use of energy.

When you severely restrict dietary carbohydrates, the body begins breaking down fat molecules into ketone bodies for energy, placing the body in a state of ketosis. This process often results in weight loss.

Due to extreme carbohydrate restriction, the keto diet is high in protein and fat. Following such a restriction could encourage people to consume too much protein, processed meats and foods that contain poor-quality fats.

Additionally, fruits and certain vegetables that provide good sources of carbohydrates often are limited in the keto diet. For example, a large banana contains about 30 grams of carbohydrates, so even eating two bananas exceeds the daily keto carb limit. 

The takeaway: Although the ketogenic diet has been used to treat epilepsy, its use for effective, long-term weight loss remains questionable. Little scientific evidence is available to support its long-term effects on the body. Additionally, strict carbohydrate restriction is difficult to adhere to and likely will eliminate good dietary sources of carbs.

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