Nutrition knowledge is powerful, but the problem is that we hear a lot of nutrition myths every single day. The problem is that there are a lot of misinformed information all over the internet. We hear things from our buddies all the time about nutrition that isn’t necessarily true. In this article, I’ll break down the most common nutrition myths and why they are myths.
1. Fats are bad for me so low-fat diets are the way to go
Growing up, I’ve always heard from everyone that if you want to lose weight, you have to start going on a low-fat diet. The truth is that fat doesn’t make you fat. Overeating does. If you stay in a caloric surplus, a low-fat diet won’t make you lose weight.
Fats aren’t bad for you either. Our body needs fat and our brain is primarily made up of fats.
A study showed that fat isn’t bad for you. In the study:
Forty-six men (aged 30-50 y) with body mass index (in kg/m2) >29 and waist circumference >98 cm were randomly assigned to a very high-fat, low carbohydrate (VHFLC; 73% of energy fat and 10% of energy carbohydrate) or low-fat, high-carbohydrate (LFHC; 30% of energy fat and 53% of energy carbohydrate) diet for 12 wk. The diets were equal in energy (8750 kJ/d), protein (17% of energy), and food profile, emphasizing low-processed, lower-glycemic foods. Fat mass was quantified with computed tomography imaging.
The results? Recorded intake of carbohydrate and total and saturated fat in the LFHC and VHFLC groups were 51% and 11% of energy, 29% and 71% of energy, and 12% and 34% of energy, respectively, with no difference in protein and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Mean energy intake decreased by 22% and 14% in the LFHC and VHFLC groups. The diets similarly reduced waist circumference (11-13 cm), abdominal subcutaneous fat mass (1650-1850 cm3), visceral fat mass (1350-1650 cm3), and total body weight (11-12 kg). Both groups improved dyslipidemia, with reduced circulating triglycerides, but showed differential responses in total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (decreased in LFHC group only), and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (increased in VHFLC group only). The groups showed similar reductions in insulin, insulin C-peptide, glycated hemoglobin, and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance. Notably, improvements in circulating metabolic markers in the VHFLC group mainly were observed first after 8 weeks, in contrast to more acute and gradual effects in the LFHC group.
Consuming energy primarily as carbohydrate or fat for 3 mo did not differentially influence visceral fat and metabolic syndrome in a low-processed, lower-glycemic dietary context. Our data do not support the idea that dietary fat per se promotes ectopic adiposity and cardiometabolic syndrome in humans.
Related read: Top Risk of Low-Fat Diets
Dietary fat and stored adipose tissue (body fat) are two completely different chemical structures. Choosing the right types of fats can help keep your body full and satisfied for longer periods of times and does not automatically turn into body fat. The best types of fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated plant-based sources such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, and natural nut butters. Saturated fats likes those found in egg yolks aren’t the enemy, but I recommend limiting those compared to the plant based sources listed above. The research has shown that moderate amounts of fat in the diet is more beneficial for weight loss than low-fat diets. Combining healthy fats and a lean protein makes an excellent satiating meal combination. – Tony Stephan, RD
2. Carbs are evil
The craze with all the low-carb diets makes people believe that are carbs are bad for you and that carbs will make you fat. A little while back, we asked a good amount of RDs, PHDs, Nutritionist and much more about their opinion on whether or not carbs make you fat. We published the article here.
To understand if carbs make you fat, the first thing you need to understand is what happens to carbs when they are consumed.
After carbohydrates are eaten, they are broken down into smaller units of sugar (glucose, fructose, and galactose) in the stomach and small intestine. These small units are absorbed in the small intestine and then enter the bloodstream where they travel to the liver. Fructose and galactose are further converted to glucose in the liver. Glucose is the form of carbohydrate that is transported by the bloodstream to the various tissues and organs, including the brain, where it is used as energy throughout the body.
Now if you’re not actively using the glucose then it becomes stored in our liver as glycogen. This storage form is used by the body for energy when the body needs more glucose that is readily available in the bloodstream, for example after an intensive workout. This is why people reach for carbs for post workout meals.
The body does have limited storage capacity for glycogen, which is why if you aren’t actively moving and exercising, then you won’t be able to deplete your glycogen storage. This is where the excessive amount of carbs will be turned into stored fat.
FYI, the storage is roughly 2000 calories and keep in mind that the body uses energy even when you are sleeping or sitting still. Another thing to note is that carbohydrates will spare protein as an energy source in the body. This is an important factor for our exercise planning because when carbohydrate consumption is inadequate and protein is broken down, we lose our primary source of building blocks for muscle development.
This is why people like to have carbs pre and post workout in order to ensure that their protein is absorbed as much as possible for muscle gain, growth, and retention.
Our body does need carbs. Carb is an essential for the central nervous system. The brain primarily uses glucose as its energy source, and a lack of glucose can result in weakness, dizziness, and low blood sugar, or feeling weak in general.
So to conclude the process, carbs itself do not make you fat unless you consume an excessive amount of it.
Carbs, just like fat and protein, don’t make us fat when eaten in proper quantities. In fact our bodies, and especially our brain, prefer carbohydrates for energy. The modern diet, however, includes many processed carbs which don’t have a lot of fiber, so it can take larger amounts of, let’s say pasta, to fill you up. Try this: pull out a box of cereal and pour it into a bowl. Now get out a measuring cup and see how many servings you’ve poured. Many people easily eat two servings in a sitting. – Megan Casper RDN,MS – @nourishedbites
To learn more about macronutrients and how it plays an important role in our body’s composition, you should check The Macronutrient Book.
3. Gluten Free products are healthier than gluten products
False. Many gluten-free products actually contain more sugar and salt than the non-gluten varieties.Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Going gluten free provides benefits to those who cannot digest and absorb gluten but to the rest of us, choosing gluten free products probably won’t do you much good, especially if processed cookies and bread.
One of my close friend who works as a dietitian for a clinic told me that she would always never recommend gluten-free versions of food because it’s not natural for the body. It contains a lot of chemicals and it’s hard to know what’s really in it. Not all gluten-free products contain these, but here’s a list of stuff that might be included in gluten-free products that you should be aware of when looking at the labels.
- Artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame, acesulfame potassium and saccharin) are commonly found in diet and sugar-free foods like sodas, pudding and yogurt. These sweeteners have been linked to neurological disorders, seizures, migraines and more.
- Artificial dyes are found in candy, cereals, sports drinks, ice cream, fruit cocktails and many other packaged foods. These dyes have been linked to behavioral issues in children.
- Artificial flavors can be found in many packaged foods such as boxed rice or pasta meals, sodas, sports drinks, cereals, frozen waffles, yogurt and more. These ingredients have been linked with fatigue, headaches, allergies, cancer and other health issues.
- Preservatives such as BHT, BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone) can be found in cereals, potato chips, chewing gum, shortening and candy. They have been linked to neurological issues, behavioral problems and are believed to be carcinogenic.
- Mono- and di-gylcerides are found in peanut butter, ice cream, bakery products, chewing gum, shortening, whipped toppings, and margarine. They have been linked to birth defects and believed to be carcinogenic.
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG) can be found in can soup, frozen dinners, lunch meat, seasonings, snack foods and sauces. They are linked to headaches, fatigue, depression and obesity.
- Potassium bromate is commonly found in white flour, bread and rolls. This ingredient may seem benign but it’s been linked to cancer in animals.
- Refine sugars (such as high-fructose corn syrup) can be found in bread, candy, flavored yogurt, cereals, condiments, salad dressing and other packaged foods. It’s been linked to diabetes, obesity and mood disorders.
- Sodium nitrate is most commonly found in cured meat – such as deli meat, hot dogs, sausages, beef jerky and other processed meat. It can cause migraines and believed to be carcinogenic.
- Sulfur dioxide can be found in soft drinks, dried fruit (even those labeled as “healthy”) fruit juices, vinegar and some potato products. It’s been linked to bronchial issues and hypotension.
4. Having low cholesterol is the way to go..
Another one of the nutrition myths that we hear daily. Cholesterols cause heart attack etc…
Many people strive for and pride themselves on their low total cholesterol numbers. Research shows that low TC below 160 is associated with depression, suicidal ideation, anger, irritability, cognitive issues, and outbursts.
It is harmful to you to think that low cholesterol is good. Here is why:
· We need cholesterol for hormone productivity and for vitamin D production
· We need it to produce bile acids, to improve absorption of vitamins A, D, K, and E.
· Cholesterol is vital for immune function and for neurological function. It is needed to make brain cells.
· Low cholesterol is associated with increased cancer risk (those with TC of 160 or below as compared to that withTC of 200)
· You may have cholesterol clogging your arteries so you may think that reducing cholesterol and fat in your diet will help reduce your risk of heart disease. But your clogged arteries are caused by inflammation in the arterial wall and your body protects itself by packing cholesterol there. So, while cholesterol may be at the scene of the crime, cholesterol did not cause the crime!
· For people, over 60, high cholesterol is associated with better health and greater longevity.
The truth: Don’t just look at your HDL and LDL numbers. But even LDLnumbers can be misleading. More labs are breaking the LDL down. You can have high LDL but if it is the “good”kind, the large, fluffy LDL then this is a positive thing. But if you have more of the sticky, dense LDL this is not the case. This type of LDL is oxidized and contributes to systemic inflammation in your body.
If you want this type of testing, ask your doctor for a Vertical AutoProfile (VAP) test or the lipoprotein Particle Profile (LPP) test.
5. Eating before you sleep makes you fat
This is one of the most common nutrition myths. Growing up, my parents would always tell me to not eat before I sleep because then I will be like a pig and get fat. That is untrue. Your stomach doesn’t necessary have a clock, so it doesn’t know when it is 12am or 12pm.
At the end of the day, it is calorie in vs calorie out. Your body actually burns calories while you are asleep and works hard to recover from workouts while you’re sleeping. This is why rest is extremely important if you are looking to build muscle and lose weight.
What eating before you sleep can do is put on extra calories that you might not have done so if you weren’t going to eat.
Another reason why people get fat if they eat before they sleep is because people tend to think it is “the end of the day” so it’s time for a treat. They end up overeating on ice cream, candies, cookies, and other foods that are packed with sugar and calorie.
If say, your last meal is before you sleep and you haven’t eaten anything since morning, then it wouldn’t matter what you eat before you sleep. It is a myth that it makes you fat!
This is one of my favorite myths to de-bunk. There is absolutely nothing scientific behind this claim! Meal timing is irrelevant when it comes to human metabolism. There is not a physiological switch in your body that turns on past a certain hour of the day to shift all carbohydrates consumed into stored body fat. Eating carbs are OK at night, especially if you exercise in the evening! Your personal preference should always dictate meal timing and frequency. Where most people get into trouble is an overconsumption of excess calories at night time, thus putting themselves into a calorie surplus for the day. Some may argue that consuming carbs late at night turns to stored fat due to a perceived reduction in metabolic rate when you sleep. The reality is your metabolic rate does not differ much at night compared to during the day. Being in a caloric surplus causes weight gain, not eating carbs at night. -Tony Stephan, RD
6. Eating too much protein is bad for you and it can cause kidney damage
Again, this is one of the nutrition myths that I hear ALL the time. People always say that a high protein intake can “leach” calcium from bones and cause osteoporosis, or that protein can destroy your kidneys. Funny thing is that even my own personal doctor said the same thing…but more research shows that this is nothing more than another one of those nutrition myths.
It is commonly believed that a high protein intake can contribute to osteoporosis and calcium leaching problems. The theory is that the protein increases the acid load of your body, which then causes the body to take calcium out of the bones to neutralize the acid.
In one 9 week study, replacing carbohydrate with meat did not affect calcium excretion and improved some hormones known to promote bone health, like IGF-1.
Many people believe that high protein intake harms the bones, but another research shows that it is actually good for your bone health.
The conclusion from the study? Recent epidemiological, isotopic and meta-analysis studies suggest that dietary protein works synergistically with calcium to improve calcium retention and bone metabolism. The recommendation to intentionally restrict dietary protein to improve bone health is unwarranted, and potentially even dangerous to those individuals who consume inadequate protein.
High protein can cause kidney damage?
My own doctor told me this….and it is definitely one of the nutrition myths out there. The kidneys can actually filter unneeded substances and liquids out of the bloodstream, producing urine.
If you have kidney diseases of malfunction already, then a high protein diet can cause your kidneys to work extra hard which is why people believe that it can cause kidney damage, but this does not apply to people with healthy kidneys.
Bodybuilders and athletes eat a high protein diet with healthy kidneys and never have problems.
A study shows that an increase in dietary protein improves the blood glucose response in persons with type 2 diabetes.
As we always mention on NutritionHacks, you should eat everything in moderation, but having protein isn’t bad for you.
The kidney’s role in the body is to filter waste out of the blood for excretion. A high protein diet has never been linked in research to put extra stress on normal functioning kidneys. Your body is very resilient and adaptive. It can handle the extra protein one may consume. Consuming an adequate protein diet is very beneficial for weight loss and those engaged in a strength training protocol. What can put extra stress on your kidneys is alcohol consumption. If you are looking to give your kidneys a break then I would recommend limiting alcohol to three drinks or less per week. – Janice Vera RD
7. Avoid the egg yolk cause it’s high in cholesterols and fat.
Oh god, how often do we hear this? Personally, I believe that this is one of the nutrition myths that was created by bodybuilders who eat a ton of egg whites every single day. First of all, let’s go over the few reasons why bodybuilders eat a lot of egg whites.
- Egg whites are rather low in calories compared to whole eggs, therefore they’re able to eat a lot of it without going over their daily calorie limit.
- Egg whites also provide a good amount of protein for a number of calories that it provides.
- Bodybuilders are getting their fats from elsewhere, so they don’t want to go over their fat macros. Most bodybuilders consume healthy fat from almonds etc.
Egg yolks are full of important nutrients, especially ones from free-range chickens.
Egg yolks contain almost all the vitamins and minerals in the egg.
Vitamins and minerals don’t actually cover the whole range of good stuff found in eggs.
First of all, there are phospholipids. A phospholipid is a type of fat important for building cell membranes. There are a bunch of different types of phospholipids, and they’re found in several different foods, but eggs are one of the main sources in the typical American diet (unless you’re pounding down a lot of krill oil on the regular). A typical egg contains around 1.3 grams of phospholipids, and most of that is in the yolk. Egg phospholipids have benefits for…
Cardiovascular health – Egg phospholipids may affect cholesterol and inflammation levels in beneficial ways.
Metabolic health – One study found that phospholipids from egg yolks helped decrease blood pressure and improve vascular function.
Memory and cognitive function – Phospholipids may be protective against Alzheimer’s Disease, although it’s always worth mentioning that rat studies are not human studies and this is still pretty preliminary.
Egg yolks also have antioxidants – that’s what gives them such a bright yellow color. Vitamin E and selenium are included in eggs, but they also contain carotenoids, which give them their yellow color. The carotenoids in egg yolks are more bioavailable than the carotenoids in vegetables because they come packaged with fat.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, many people avoided eating whole eggs due to their high cholesterol content. However, this has been greatly disproven over the past several years. Whole eggs are one of the best proteins you can eat, containing all essential amino acids and are a good source of healthy fat. In fact, some studies have even revealed that eating up to 3 whole eggs a day can actually help increase High Density Lipoproteins (“good” cholesterol) and decrease Low Density Lipoproteins (“bad” cholesterol). Eggs are nutrient dense and low in calories, making them an excellent part of a healthy diet. – Gisela Bouvier, MBA, RDN, LDN
8. Fruits make you gain weight
Again another one of those nutrition myths. Eating fruits don’t make you gain weight, overeating does. Many people avoid fruit because they are concerned about fruit having “too much” sugar. Although fruit contains the sugar fructose, it is nearly impossible to eat so much that will cause weight gain. The benefits of fruit
Although fruit contains the sugar fructose, it is nearly impossible to eat so much that will cause weight gain. The benefits of fruit
The benefits of fruit include fiber, water, vitamins and minerals, and disease-fighting antioxidants. Choosing not to eat fruit means someone may be replacing their fruit option with another higher calorie food or processed food instead.
Besides its nutritional benefits, it is also very refreshing and is a great alternative to dessert as most fruits are sweet and can satisfy sweet cravings.
Fruits is actually an excellent alternative to dessert. In our other article – Why Asians are so skinny even though they eat so many carbs, we talked about how Asians love to eat fruits as dessert at the dinner table after their main course.
Eating fruits instead of dessert is a great way to cure your sweet tooth. Fruits are low in calories and as long as you eat everything in moderation, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Apart from impressive nutrients, fresh fruit is high in water and fiber, so it’s naturally occurring sugar is less concentrated than other sweet foods. For example, one cup of whole strawberries naturally contains about 7 grams of sugar, compared to about 13 grams in one tablespoon of maple syrup, 17 in a tablespoon of honey, 21 grams in 17 gummy bears, or 30 in a 12 ounce can of cola.
And even in fruits that pack more sweetness per bite, the sugar is bundled with valuable protective substances. Mango, for example, has been shown to prevent or stop the growth of breast and colon cancer cells.
If you’re active, consuming fruit pre-workout is a great way to fuel exercise and energize your cells.
One study, which compared bananas to a sports drink during intense cycling, found that in addition to providing antioxidants and nutrients not found in sports drinks, bananas triggered a greater shift in dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in movement and mood (some research also indicates that a low dopamine level may be tied to obesity).
9. Don’t do a whole food/plant-based diet because you won’t get enough protein
Protein is important and we need it. Protein is essential in any diet because it is what helps you build your muscles. It also helps with the recovery of muscles after a hard workout. Protein is one of the key macronutrients essential for a healthy immune, cellular and hormonal function. One gram of protein provides four calories which are similar to carbs. Without enough protein foods in your diet, you risk becoming deficient in certain amino acids. The result? You’ll experience trouble in building muscle mass, low concentration and memory, mood swings, unstable blood sugar levels and trouble maintaining or losing weight. A huge mistake that beginners run into when trying to lose weight is cutting out the proteins. This can still result in a weight loss, but what happens is that you’ll also be losing muscles which will end up making you look more flabby.
Without enough protein foods in your diet, you risk becoming deficient in certain amino acids. The result? You’ll experience trouble in building muscle mass, low concentration and memory, mood swings, unstable blood sugar levels and trouble maintaining or losing weight.
According to the USDA, the recommended daily intake of protein for adults who are at an average weight and activity level is:
56 grams per day for men
46 grams per day for women
That is the bare minimum of protein that you should have every day. Of course, this varies depending on the type of diet that you are going for and your final goals.
One nutrition myths state that if you’re going vegan, you can’t get enough protein. Most people aren’t aware of the fact that they are actually consuming a good amount of protein through their vegetables.
1 cup of broccoli: 5.7 g of protein
1 cup of asparagus: 5.4 g of protein
½ cup of peas: 3.5 g of protein
½ cup of spinach: 3 g of protein
Medium sized baked potato: 3 g of protein
½ cup of brussels sprouts: 2 g of protein
So if you’re eating a huge salad, chances are that you’re already getting a decent amount of protein.
This combined with beans, quinoa, oatmeal and all the other goodies will get you to the protein level that you need to hit.
Related read: How to get more nutritious protein in your diet
10. Let’s eat more frequent meals to lose weight
It is true that eating more frequent meals will raise your metabolism, but this does not mean that it will help you lose weight. In practice, evidence shows that, given an equal amount of daily calories, the number of meals largely makes no difference in fat loss. Moreover, some studies suggest that having smaller meals more often makes it harder to feel full, potentially leading to increased food intake.
Have you seen the people that practice intermittent fasting? Depending on the intermittent fasting protocol that you’re on, you could be only eating one big meal a day. With one big meal a day, they are still able to shed off weight and make inspiring transformations.
The reason why people say that eating small frequent meals every day will help you lose weight is because they are trying to control their portion size and spread it out across the day. With more frequent meals, they won’t feel nearly as hungry and won’t over consume.
This only works for certain people. The majority of the people out there actually end up overeating because they don’t feel full.
Looking to learn more about intermittent fasting and how it can help you shed fat, reverse chronic diseases, and promote better health? Check out our video course on intermittent fasting.
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