March is Nutrition Month in Canada and this year the slogan is Take the fight out of food! Spot the problem. Get the facts. Seek support. In my opinion, taking the fight out of food starts with information and where do most of us find information nowadays? Yep! good, ole internet. The internet has made nutrition and health information vary accessible, most of it being valuable. It is also filled with misinformation from ‘experts’ giving health advice from what you should and not eat, to selling products. Many of us serious about living healthy to be easily misled if we don’t critically examine the information we read online. So how do we find reliable information on the internet?
Before you click, read and absorb, consider the following:
Who is responsible for the website? A trustworthy website should make it easy for you to learn who is responsible for information on the site. Websites from universities (.edu), government (.gov) or organizations (.org) are usually reliable. Blogs offer valuable information because many are written from a life experiences making it easier for many of us to relate to, just ensure that you can identify what qualifications the blog writer has so you know how much of the information you can actually trust.
What is the website’s purpose? This is usually found in the ‘About’ section and should not be difficult to find. Is the site providing information for general knowledge or trying to sell you something? Many legitimate sites sell health products or services so keep in mind that this may influence the accuracy of the health or nutrition information (many people are up-front about this on their posts if applicable).
How does the site manage interactions with visitors? There should be a way for you to contact the writer or site owner with feedback or questions, usually in the ‘Contact’ section. Expect a response within a reasonable amount of time, and if you are asked for personal details or payment before getting a response…em…just say OK BYE.
Where does the information come from? Is the information general knowledge or evidence-based (based on research results)? If the information you are reading is evidence-based, there should be sources referenced in the information. Take a look at some of the sources for credibility because anyone can write ‘according to research’ without actually looking at any research articles.
Peer-reviewed or scholarly research articles are good sources because they are evaluated by subject matter experts in the academic community. Opinions or testimonials from people who say they have tried a particular product or service are not evidence-based, should be clearly stated and taken as they are, just opinions.
Does the website make quick and easy solutions or claims about health information? If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Beware of claims that one treatment, product or regimen will cure a number of illnesses. Any information that promises quick results and attacks conventional science should raise a red flag.
Does the information found on the website cause fear? In case you are not aware of it, FEAR SELLS! Fear tactics sell products so if you go to a website to read up on navel oranges and minutes later you feel the need to diagnose yourself with some disease that only the product on that site can cure, please take a moment and breathe. If you are very concerned about your health, talk to your health care provider.
When it comes to health and nutrition, we can all agree that there are many ‘experts’ available at the click of a button. It may be challenging to know what’s reliable or not but once you get a hang of it using the tips above, in no time you’ll be able to smell hogwash from a mile away.
I hope this post proves helpful as you navigate your health journey. Feel free to send comments, feedback, and any questions you may have.
PS. I have partnered with other nutrition professionals to bring you tips and evidence-based nutritional information through a free virtual learning event at Nutrition Summit 2017. Be sure to sign up for access to webinars, videos, recipes, blog posts and more throughout the month of March 2017 – it’s all FREE.