Talking Dietary Misconceptions
By Julieta Hernandez
By: Julieta Hernandez Photos by: Rachel Benavides
Dr. Desiree Purcell, functional nutritionist, works with patients on health consultations and dietary advice. Her beat is to examine the importance of eating for the mind, body, and spirit, and show people how to get the most benefit from their food.
“It really is important to know your body and understand that some fad diets may actually be dangerous to you or exacerbate symptoms that you already have, like depression, anger, or mood swings,” she says. “It’s important to know your diet and the psychology of the food that you’re eating.”
The Vegan Diet
“One of the biggest misconceptions of the vegan diet is that you’re not getting enough nutrients, you’re not getting enough protein, and you’re not getting enough of your B vitamins,” says Dr. Purcell. “There are many athletes who are champions that get their protein in other ways.”
For example, ounce for ounce, kale and broccoli have more protein than a firehouse steak. Many people have misconceptions about iron deficiency, micro and macronutrients, being unable to form muscle, and ending up weak. However, if the diet is done correctly, these things will not become issues. “The easiest way is to start to read labels to become motivated to understand what is in your food.”
Consulting with a practitioner is advised, as the body isn’t supposed to change overnight. Dr. Purcell advises those wanting to try a vegan diet to find replacements and explore their options before making the transition.
The Paleo Diet
In the Paleo diet, Dr. Purcell recommends getting to know your body. Yes, eating less pre-packaged and processed food is a positive step. However, the Paleolithic diet should not be centered on red meat and eggs, even if that’s the most authentic “caveman way”.
“This comes with really getting to know the diet, and making sure you aren’t cutting out any food groups as a whole,” Dr. Purcell recommends. Even when cutting a whole lot out, it’s still important to make sure you’re leaving in some essentials.
The Keto Diet
The Keto diet is familiar to Dr. Purcell as well as other dieticians. The idea of consuming low carbs and high fats, and whether or not this method will benefit your body in the long run is heavily dependent on the dieter’s unique epigenetics.
“What are good fats, and what are bad fats for your body?” Dr. Purcell asks. “I’d encourage blood work to be done for this to really be effective.”
While eliminating carbs, dieters should ask what would replace them. Staying aware of potassium, magnesium and sodium levels is crucial during a Keto run. Unbalancing your body during Ketosis can throw your entire system off if you aren’t careful!
According to Dr. Purcell, this is where the psychology of food comes into play. Fasting shouldn’t be a dietary whim. It’s important for the participant to have a reason and specific goal for fasting. If done properly, fasting can provide detoxification for your body, which in turn, will clear your mind and emotions.
Precaution must be taken with fasting, and it should not be done for longer periods of time than necessary. Learning how long and how often fasting will benefit you is advised before attempting to do so.
Staying hydrated is also vital to this process.
Raw Food Diet
Low in calories, high in fiber, and based in primarily whole-plant foods makes the raw food diet another strong detox choice. But as with any diet, Dr. Purcell recommends a steady base of knowledge before delving into this one.
“It can be a nutritionally inadequate and highly restrictive plan, if a person does not have the fresh food or monetary sources readily available,” she says.
There are also some superfoods that can’t be eaten raw, for example certain legumes and whole grains. Making sure you’re getting enough alternative protein and are well rounded in your raw food choices is important.
Any diet is not one size fits all, according to Dr. Purcell. All diets can be safe with proper consultation and preparation. The reasons behind your diet choices are bigger influencers than you might think. It’s essential to remember that thin does not equal healthy, and that not all fruits and vegetables are totally good for you. Also, not all foods that we consider unhealthy are actually that bad for you.
In dieting, knowledge is power. To meet your dietary goals in a realistic way, speaking with an expert like Dr. Purcell can set you on the right track tailored to your own body’s consumption style.