Are you confused when it comes to diet culture? We’re told to eat this, eat that and then don’t eat this or that… The world of nutrition and food is a minefield but we’ve got the book to debunk all the myths. Registered dieticians and qualified nutritionists Rosie Saunt and Helen West are the founders of The Rooted Project, set up to translate the latest research direct to your plate and make evidence-based nutrition accessible and engaging.
“We originally became professionally acquainted as dieticians on Twitter, but a few years ago we met in person in Bali where I was living at the time and Rosie was visiting on holiday. We realised pretty quickly that we had a lot in common and that we both had similar views about the industry and how we could help people to pick through all the confusing and conflicting nutrition information presented to the public.“
With different avenues and qualifications in the health and wellness industry, the overall quality of nutrition courses can vary considerably.
Rosie and Helen’s motivation for becoming dieticians were pretty similar: “we both wanted to study a nutrition course which was grounded in science and also one which gave us clinical nutrition skills to be able to work with people who have complex nutritional needs.
The Registered Dietitian qualification not only provides this knowledge and skill base but is a standardised and regulated profession which is why only people who complete certain courses that meet certain training standards can call themselves an RD. It’s not an easy route, but it’s one we are both glad we took.”
Something that clearly surfaces when looking at the events, is that they set very specific criteria for the speakers picked for The Rooted Project: “We look for leaders in a nutrition field who have a combination of high academic achievements and experience in the area we are bringing to the public.”
The same approach is taken when it comes to topics, as they really want to tap into trends and misconceptions: “we take suggestions from people, look for trends in the food industry and also topics which are particularly confusing and where there appears to be recurring misinformation.”
In order to make such topics more approachable, they love explaining nutrition topics in the form of infographics: “this is a really helpful tool for the public to use alongside reading books and articles. What would be extremely complex in the form of words and graphs can be translated into a simple message very powerfully.”
Today, evidence-based information and a more responsible approach to nutrition is a very hot topic, however, back in 2015 Rosie and Helen noticed a gap in the industry “for credible, evidence-based advice from qualified people. When I returned to the UK in 2015, Rosie pitched the idea of The Rooted Project to me and so it was born!”
In Is Butter a Carb?, they explore everything from the danger of anecdotal evidence and unsubstantiated ‘facts’ about food to the real science behind the nutrients we consume every day. They explain why there’s nothing to be feared from fat or carbs, or – for the vast majority of us – the much-maligned gluten, as well as probing the murky depths of the diet industry to explore the latest links between diet culture and weight stigma. They take a deep-dive into gut health, look at the emerging science of the connection between food and mood and examine differences between allergies and intolerances.
Evidence-based, body positive and practical, Is Butter a Carb? is the modern must-have nutrition book for everybody interested in food, health and pop science.
Who is this book for?
Is Butter a Carb? is a modern nutrition book for everybody interested in food, health and pop science. It’s both a reference guide and a narrative, debunking the myths that dominate the food and wellness industry.
It basically offers an overview of where the science currently stands, as well as the tools and knowledge you need to pick through the nonsense and take control of your own health. It’s evidence-based, body-positive and practical!
What’s the story behind the name?
It’s quite an iconic quote from the film Mean Girls. Our literary agent Emma actually came up with it. The moment she brought it up as an option, we knew it was the one.
What is one of the best anecdotes from the book you can share with us?
Lots of companies are making money by selling IgG intolerance testing kits which claim to diagnose food intolerances via a sample of your blood. However, these tests are based on bad science. All an IgG test can do, it tells you that your body has been exposed to that food recently, not that you’re intolerant to it!
Where do you think people get most confused when it comes to topics such as gut, allergies and gluten, for example?
Gluten is the obvious one for us. People firstly have a fundamental misunderstanding of what it actually is (it’s a protein, not a grain in itself). And its perceived harm often comes from the spread of misinformation via people’s personal stories. They cut out gluten and might feel better. But was it cutting out the gluten that really helped? Or was it cutting out the foods that gluten happens to be contained in – such as biscuits, cakes and pastries – that has made this difference? Although people with coeliac disease must avoid gluten, there is no strong evidence at all that gluten is harmful to healthy people.
The biggest myth that has been busted by science?
Detoxing! It’s is one of the cornerstones of wellness, claiming to help our bodies efficiently rid themselves of unwanted (and unnamed) toxins via juicing, diets, teas and cleanses.
It’s a huge, lucrative industry. Although some animal studies have shown that a few foods might help support our bodies natural detoxification pathways, there are currently no rigorous human trials that support the idea of an effective detox diet or any products that are known to make your body’s natural detoxifying pathways work better than they currently do.
It’s appealing as it’s a quick fix (rather than the more time-consuming process of lifestyle changes, drink more water, eat more vegetables, get more sleep, etc).
There is so much talk about diet culture at the moment, why do you think is that?
We think people are starting to become more aware of the harms of the pressures to look a certain way. As well as realising that for most people, diets don’t work in the long term and there’s a difference between eating for health and eating for aesthetics.
It might also be tied in with people’s interests in gender issues and feminism – if you’re dieting and constantly tied up thinking about food, you’re obviously wasting precious time and resources worrying about that, rather than things which could help you achieve your potential. Diets are seen by some as a tool to keep women small and in their place.
If your readers could get only one thing from the book, what would that be?
To think critically! Watch out for red flags such as anything being promoted as a magical solution to a problem, or someone using their body as evidence that something works or is healthy. Empower yourself with the tools to pick through the sea of nutrition information, instead of the gurus!