Mainstream nutrition is full of nonsense. Despite all of the advancements in nutrition science, some myths just don’t die. It’s time to separate the fact from the fiction. Here are 20 nutrition myths and their truths that have been uncovered.
Myth #1: Eating late at night will make you fat.
Calories are calories, no matter what time of day they’re eaten. What you eat, and how much, is more important than the time you eat it.
Myth #2: Egg yolks can contribute to heart disease because they are high in cholesterol.
Despite the fact that egg yolks are high in cholesterol, they do not raise blood cholesterol or increase heart disease risk for the majority of people.
Myth #3: Eating fish is the only way to get heart-healthy omega-3 fats.
There are three omega-3 fatty acids that are important for optimal health. EPA and DHA come strictly from fish. The third omega-3 acid, ALA, can be found in plant based omega-3 sources such as walnuts, flaxseed and soybeans.
Myth #4: Salt should be restricted to help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
While reducing salt intake will show minimal improvements in lowering blood pressure, it does not reduce the risk of heart attacks or strokes.
Myth #5: The healthiest diet is low-fat/high-carb.
A plentiful amount of studies indicate that the low-fat, high-carb diets have no long term effect on body weight.
Myth #6: Saturated fat increases the risk of heart attacks.
Many recent studies have shown that saturated fat is not linked to an increased risk of heart disease and attacks. As with everything, keeping things in perspective is best. For most people, eating reasonable amounts of saturated fat is perfectly safe.
Myth #7: Eating fat makes you fat.
Statistically it’s been proven that high-fat, low-carb diets consistently lead to more weight loss than low-fat diets. Many food products labeled low-fat often contain higher levels of sugar, and even more calories than their regular counterparts. More calories and more sugar can easily turn into more weight gain.
Myth #8: Full-fat dairy products raise the risk of heart disease and obesity.
High-fat dairy products are high in saturated fat, as well as calories. This fact creates an assumption that they contribute to heart disease and obesity. However, studies show that full-fat dairy is actually linked to a reduced risk of obesity. It is also connected to reduced heart disease if the dairy is coming from farms with grass-fed cows.
Myth #9: All calories are created equal.
No myth can be further from the truth. Different foods and macronutrients go through different metabolic pathways. Every food has different effects on hunger, hormones and health. Some foods increase the metabolic rate or help reduce appetite. Foods high in sugar calories leave you wanting more.
Myth #10: Eating red meat is “dangerous.”
The important factor in eating red meat is paying attention to if you are eating processed or unprocessed meat. Studies have shown that unprocessed red meat is not related to increased heart disease or type 2 diabetes. Processed red meat is the meat to avoid.
Myth #11: Craving certain foods means your body is in need of the nutrients they provide.
There are no prominent studies to support the idea of cravings being linked to lacking nutrients in your body. People have cravings for all kinds of reasons, many of them being biological signals like a growling stomach or environmental cues like smells or advertisements.
Myth #12: All herbal products are safe.
Just because something comes from our natural environment does not mean it is safe for our bodies to consume. Many herbal products are not regulated. That said, different brands, or even batches, may have fluctuating levels of purity and concentration. Without standardization, they may not be as safe as you think.
Myth #13: Gluten-free diets are only for those diagnosed with Celiac disease.
Studies have shown that many people can benefit from a gluten-free diet. However, it’s best to stick to the foods that are naturally gluten-free, rather than gluten-free “products.”
Myth #14: Saturated fats and trans fats should both be avoided.
The two fats often get lumped together and labeled as “bad” fats. The fact of the matter is that the evil fat is the trans fat, as it is connected with insulin resistance and raising the risk of heart disease. Saturated fats do not have any lasting negative affects.
Myth #15: It’s best to eat frequent, small meals over the course of the day.
This myth claims that eating many small meals throughout the day will help keep the metabolism working on high speed. However, studies have shown that it is not so, and in turn often leads to an increased accumulation of unhealthy belly and liver fat over time.
Myth #16: Whole wheat is a health food.
This may have been true when wheat was actually wheat. But the game changed in the 1960s when genetic tampering on the grain became popular. The “new” wheat is notably less nutritious than the older varieties.
Myth #17: Refined seed and vegetable oils are healthy.
Refined seeds and oils are processed foods. Any time you replace real foods with fake, processed foods, there is a negative outcome.
Myth #18: Dark breads are more nutritious than white breads.
You can’t judge a bread by its color. Some darker breads have caramel or coloring added, so you’re just getting a colored white bread. It’s important to read labels and choose breads with the first ingredient listed as whole wheat, barley or oats.
Myth #19: Everyone should drink 8 glasses of water a day.
There is no real need to measure your water intake. Under normal conditions, be guided by your thirst as to how much you need to drink. During and after intense exercise is an appropriate time to drink according to a schedule. Otherwise, drink to your thirst.
Myth#20: Loosing weight is all about willpower, eating less and exercising.
Many people regularly assume that weight control is all about will power and calories in versus calories out. While attitude, proper diet and regular exercise definitely have a lasting impact on our weight, the idea of weight gain being a moral failure is simply false. Regardless of how well you take care of yourself, genetics, hormones and many other external factors contribute greatly.
Please contact our nutrition staff for more information on the above topics, or nutrition needs specific to you. Everyone is different and requires a different diet to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.Schedule a Nutrition Consultation
By Rita Larsen, RD, CD; Elite Sports Clubs Nutrition Educator & Diet Counselor