How Do You Know Who To Trust?
Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, not to his own facts. When it comes to food and nutrition, here’s what you should consider when deciding who to trust.
Here’s a fact about facts: They’re not the same as opinion, and they’re not the same as someone’s personal experience. But lately, facts, opinion, and personal experience have gotten all mixed up. This worries me.
Dietitians are trained to look at the science when giving information or making recommendations. We’re trained to practice on evidence. Personal opinions and experience are different from evidence. My goal on this blog is to present you with the facts so that you can make your own decisions. Sometimes I share my opinion or things that have worked for me, but I try very hard to distinguish opinion and personal experience from evidence. Which reminds me of a popular quote: Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, not to his own facts.
I know that nutrition advice can ping-pong in a frustrating way. Sometimes, if it’s one small study that flies in the face of most everything else, you have to sit tight and see what develops. But sometimes you have to change your recommendations based on new evidence.
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I was scrolling through Facebook recently and came across a wellness blogger promoting the idea of avoiding a certain food she said was unhealthy. Something about her reasoning sounded “off” to me, so I checked her source, which was another wellness blogger. I researched her claims online and found an article from a major university debunking them. I should’ve kept scrolling, but I posted the article in the comments instead and asked her to consider it.
She responded by saying that she didn’t need a research study to tell her what she already knew–and that besides, that food made her feel sick when she ate it.
We MUST separate opinion and personal experience from evidence when talking about food and nutrition. A food might make you feel sick, but that’s simply one personal experience. I have an awful digestive reaction to coconut oil, but that doesn’t change how I talk about coconut oil to others (it just means you’ll never see a recipe on this blog that includes it–sorry!).
When reading about food and nutrition, I urge you to consider the source when deciding who to trust. If you spot a claim about a food being dangerous, toxic, or simply unhealthy, ask yourself:
- Is this person qualified to be making statements about certain foods being unhealthy or unsafe?
- Who are their sources?
- Are they citing actual evidence–like peer-reviewed research studies or position statements, reports, or guidelines from major health organizations–or sharing opinions and personal experience?
- Are they trying to sell you a “healthier” alternative? If so, they have a vested interested in scaring you away from one product and steering you toward another.
Dietitians are not the only ones who can give general advice on healthy eating (though if your nutrition concerns involve treating a disease or condition, PLEASE see a registered dietitian, a professional who is qualified to provide medical nutrition therapy). But there are too many people online dispensing information that is inaccurate and biased–and it’s causing a lot of confusion and fear. And that’s a fact.
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