Every patient takes in nutrients in some form or another, and the nutritionists of HCA Healthcare are the unsung heroes helping them to navigate the appropriate dietary choices during their stay and after discharge. As experts in nutrition, they have information to benefit us all, especially the best and worst advice you can find in pop culture at the moment.

In today’s blog, our distinguished panel of nutritionists from HCA’s South Atlantic Division offer information on the dangers of not viewing your diet as a whole, dietary replacements to consider right away, probiotic benefits, and popular myths to debunk.

The worst news in nutrition today is…too much focus on a single finding, not overall nutrition

“Popular media inundates us with diet trends through news stories often taken from parts of a study without disclosing all the facts,” says Lauren Zimmerman, a registered and licensed dietician at Summerville Medical Center in Summerville, S.C.

“The stories often generalize findings for the public, and as a result, we see conflicting headlines such as “Butter is Back” and still other stories that demonize gluten and wheat. These stories lead us to become hyper-focused on one food or food group rather than viewing our diet as a whole.”

“If your only information was popular news media, you might conclude that merely adding coconut oil to coffee is all you need for a healthy diet!” says Zimmerman. “However, it is important we don’t lose sight of foods’ role to sustain life and how our overall diet affects our health.”

To help us with context and choices, here are some rules of thumb to cut through the noise and simplify decisions about the food we eat:

  • consume whole foods as closely to how they are found in nature as possible;
  • include a variety of plant based foods, lean protein and healthy fats; and
  • consider diet trends or quick fixes to weight loss with a critical eye and get your physician’s guidance before you do anything drastic.

The nutrition news you need to know now…replace saturated fats with plant based fats

Registered Dietician Amy Buchanan at Trident Medical Center in Charleston, S.C. reports that recent research further proves replacing saturated fats with plant based, healthy fats can reduce cholesterol and risk for heart disease by as much 30 percent – which is a similar reduction you would get by taking statins, medications that lower cholesterol.

  • Saturated fats increase our LDL, or bad cholesterol, which can clog our arteries, and are found in animal products such as dairy and meat products. They are also found in coconut and palm oils.
  • Unsaturated, plant-based fats are found in products like peanut, olive, canola, and safflower oils leading Buchanan to advise: “Next time you are cooking, try switching out butter for olive oil. This and other simple changes can lead to the replacement of saturated fats we don’t need with plant based fats that are much more conducive to our overall health.”

The nutrition news that’s not getting enough attention is…the importance of probiotics

Sarah McQuail, a registered/licensed dietician and certified nutrition support clinician at Trident Medical Center, tells us, “Probiotics are live bacteria that are good for your digestive system. Typically, we think of bacteria as being harmful to our bodies, but our bodies are full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics contain the good bacteria that help keep your gut healthy.”

  • In fact, probiotics have been shown to help relieve the symptoms of diarrheal illness and irritable bowel syndrome and can help prevent allergies and colds, etc.
  • Probiotics are found in many foods such as yogurts, kefir, kombucha (fermented beverage), and sauerkraut.
  • Probiotics can also be consumed via oral capsules and powders.

The nutrition myth that needs to be debunked today is…the need to cleanse

“Information circulating today suggests that your body needs a “cleanse” regularly, but our bodies already have a built-in detox system — our lungs, liver, kidneys and digestive tract all work together to eliminate toxins,” says McQuail.

She goes on to explain, “Detox diets deprive your body of essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients it needs to function and can lead to even more weight gain when you complete them.”

A better approach is to consistently provide your body the nutrients it needs through intake of a variety of whole foods and low saturated fats and let your body work as it should to do the necessary cleansing.

Thanks to Amy Buchanan, Jennifer Butt and Sarah McQuail, all registered and licensed dieticians at Trident Medical Center, and Lauren Zimmerman, a licensed dietician at Summerville Medical Center, for their contribution to this blog. Trident Medical Center and Summerville Medical Center are affiliates of HCA Healthcare.