The Expert: Stephanie “Steph” Grasso, MS, RD
Stephanie “Steph” Grasso, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian at Novant Health UVA Health System Haymarket Medical Center and one of Tik Tok’s top nutrition influencers (@stephgrassodietitian). For more information on nutrition and weight-loss services at Novant Health UVA Health System, visit NovantHealthUVA.org/weightloss.
There’s a lot of conflicting information about nutrition that can make people feel confused about where to start. But, Stephanie “Steph” Grasso, MS, RD, says the easiest way to ensure you’re on the right track toward proper nutrition is to implement a balanced diet.
With 1.7 million followers on the popular video-sharing app Tik Tok, she has dedicated her entire account to debunking nutrition myths through proven research. Below, she reveals the top five most believed myths and why they need to be put to rest.
Myth #1: Carbs make you gain weight.
Carbohydrates (carbs) are the body’s main source of energy. Limiting carbs deprives your body of necessary fuel along with many nutrients needed to maintain good health.
There are two types of carbs: simple and complex.
Simple carbs, typically found in refined sugars, send immediate bursts of glucose into the bloodstream and can spike insulin levels.
Complex carbs, or “starchy foods” like rice or pasta, release a steady level of glucose into the bloodstream and are chock-full of necessary nutrients that are stripped from simple carbs during production. Grasso especially recommends whole grain starches for the high fiber content.
Myth #2: Restricting your diet is most effective for weight loss.
It’s common to think that you must cut out certain foods to meet your goal weight. However, if you restrict foods that you enjoy, your body tends to crave those more, increasing your risk of overindulging.
Grasso recommends adding nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods to each meal to help you feel more satisfied and less deprived.
Myth #3: Foods with high cholesterol are bad.
Grasso said that many people are confused about cholesterol and try to avoid it in foods. However, there are two types of cholesterol you should look out for:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol” contributes to plaque buildup in your arteries and increases your risk for heart disease. This is attributed to eating foods with high-saturated fat, like bacon, cheese and butter.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “dietary cholesterol” discourages plaque buildup and does not directly affect your blood cholesterol. This type is found in many nutrient dense foods, like eggs.
“Eggs get such a bad reputation because the egg yolk has a high level of cholesterol,” Grasso noted. “But, they have so many vitamins and nutrients that many people in the United States are deficient in, such as Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, protein and fiber. Foods with high-saturated fat are a much greater risk to the body than foods with high cholesterol.”
Myth #4: Certain foods burn fat.
Some foods are marketed as “fat burners” and contribute to weight loss. However, Grasso points out that there is no food that burns fat and you only lose weight in a caloric deficit.
A popular “fat-burning hack” is drinking apple cider vinegar shots first thing in the morning, but Grasso says this can do more harm than good, as the high acidity can erode your esophagus.
Myth #5: Fresh fruits and veggies are better than frozen.
Many assume that fresh produce has more nutrients than frozen varieties, but Grasso says from a nutritional standpoint, one isn’t better than the other. The only difference is when they are picked.
Because transportation in the United States can vary between three days to several weeks, fresh produce is picked before it’s ripe to allow time for it to fully ripen before it hits the shelves.
Frozen produce is generally picked at the peak of ripeness then washed, frozen and packaged, locking in the majority of the nutrients ahead of transport.
“What’s important is to pick the produce in the form you think you’ll eat it the most,” Grasso says.
“Two truths and a lie”
Dietitians and nutritionists are different.
Truth! Dietitians are board-certified with a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited program and must complete a one- to two-year internship. Nutritionists do not require a degree to practice in most states but can be helpful resources for those trying to lose weight or better understand nutrition concepts.
The “keto” diet is best for sustainable weight-loss.
Lie! The ketogenic diet restricts carbohydrates and forces the body into a state of ketosis, causing your blood to become very acidic. Many “keto” recipes are extremely high in saturated fat, increasing your risk of heart disease.
“Whole grain” must be the first word on the food’s nutrition label to be considered a whole-grain product.
Truth! This signifies the bran and germ are still intact, ensuring you get fiber, protein and antioxidants. “Refined” or “enriched” mean it’s been stripped of these key nutrients.