Myth #1: Protein is bad for you.
Protein has often been accused of harming bones and kidneys. Indeed, early studies showed that more protein in the diet was linked to more calcium in the urine, thus causing researchers to jump to an erroneous conclusion. Subsequent studies have shown that dietary protein promotes dietary calcium absorption and retards bones loss (whereas) a low protein diet is associated with a higher risk of hip fractures. Other studies determined that high protein diets increased glomerular filtration rate (GFR), a market for waste filtration in the kidneys, but later research has shown that kidney damage does not occur as a result of diets high in protein.
The Bottom Line: Protein, even in large amounts, isn’t harmful to your bones or kidneys, (unless you suffer from a pre-existing condition.
Myth #2: Carbs are bad for you.
Many people believe that the popular glycemic index and lesser know insulin rank foods by their unhealthiness. Yet the available research shows that low-glycemic diets when compared to higher-glycemic diets, have either no effect or only modest beneficial effects on metabolic syndrome factors, even in diabetes. Furthermore, a low-glycemic diet doesn’t always lead to better glycemic control than do other diet patterns. Eating fewer carbohydrates especially processed carbs can be helpful if it helps you eat healthier. But if not eating carbs makes you eat worse or feel worse or if you can’t stick with the diet, you should consider other options. If you want to lose weight what matters is not to replace far with carbs or carbs with fat but to consume fewer calories than you burn on a daily basis.
The Bottom Line: As long as you do not ever indulge, there is nothing inherently harmful about carbohydrates.
Myth #3: Fats are bad for you.
For decades, the traditional way to lose weight has been to follow a low-fat diet, yet current evidence suggests that, given the same caloric deficit & protein intake, low-fat & Low-carb diets produce similar weight loss. Moreover, while low-fat diets are not inherently unhealthy, shunning all fat from your diet can be dangerous because your body needs to consume at least some Omega 3 & Omega 6 fatty acids. As for saturated fat being the main driver of cardiovascular disease: yes, just another myth. We need cholesterol to be healthy & our bodies produce far more of it than we will ever eat. Trans fat is the only kind of fat that has been shown to be categorically unhealthy. Trans fat is a byproduct of partially hydrogenated oils, this type of trans fat was once a common ingredient of processed foods – so common that trans fat consumption was linked to more than half a million coronary heart disease (CHD) deaths, worldwide, in 2010 alone.
The Bottom Line: If you stay in a caloric surplus, a lower-fat diet won’t make you lose weight. You need some Omega 3 & Omega 6 fatty acids, & saturated fat won’t give you a heart attack (but too much trans fat may).
Myth #4: Egg yolks are bad for you.
Eggs have gotten a bum rap. “Yes, food high in cholesterol can increase LDL cholesterol, but only to a very small percent in most people. Moreover, some of the micronutrients & other bioactive compounds in egg yolk could interfere with cholesterol absorption & many studies have failed to find an increase in cholesterol in egg eaters. More to the point, although a review of cohort studies (a type of observational study) associated higher consumption of cholesterol or eggs with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) & all-cause mortality in a dose-response manner, clinical trials (a more rigorous type of study) found no association between eggs & CVD, except in a few “hyper-responders” to dietary cholesterol.
The Bottom Line: Eggs are a great source of protein, fats, and other nutrients. Their association with high cholesterol & cardiovascular disease has been severely overblown.
Myth #5: Red meat is bad for you.
The common refrain: red meat causes cancer. Absolute statements are the reason why we have so many nutritional myths. Cancer is particularly difficult to discuss in absolutes. After all, almost everything we eat has the potential to be involved in cancer development, yet red meat has been fingered as a likely culprit. Some compounds – such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), found in smoked meat – have been found to damage the genome, & damaging the genome is the 1st step to potential cancer. Current evidence suggests that processed meats, particularly those that are more charred during cooking, can pose a greater cancer risk for people with poor diets & lifestyles. But, if you moderate your red meat intake, exercise, eat your fruits & veggies, consume adequate fiber, don’t smoke, & drink only in moderation, red meat’s effect on cancer isn’t something to worry too much about. There is some evidence that eating a lot of red meat or processed meat might increase the risk of type 2 diabetes & various other cardiometabolic diseases, but that evidence is of lower quality.
Bottom line: Fears about red meat causing cancer are vastly exaggerated. Making healthy lifestyle choices is more important overall than micromanaging your intake of red meat. Still, if you plan to eat less red meat, start with cutting out the kind that has been cured, smoked, or highly processed.
Myth #6: Salt is bad for you.
Some myths contain a grain of truth. Studies have associated excess salt with hypertension (high blood pressure), kidney damage, and an increased risk of cognitive decline. However, salt (sodium) is an essential mineral, its consumption is critical to your health. The problem occurs when you consume too much sodium and too little potassium. Another issue is the source of all that salt. The average North American eats an incredible amount of salty processed foods – which means that people who consume a lot of salt tend to consume a lot of foods that are generally unhealthy. That makes it hard to tease apart sodium’s effects from overall dietary effects. Except for individuals with salt-sensitive hypertension, the evidence in support of low sodium intake is less conclusive than most people imagine. As it stands, both very high and very low intakes are associated with cardiovascular disease. The Bottom Line: Salt reduction is important for people with salt-sensitive hypertension, and excessive salt intake is associated with harm. But a drastic decrease in salt intake has not shown uniform benefit in clinical trials. Most people will benefit more from a diet of mostly unprocessed foods than the micromanaging of their salt intake.
Myth #7: Bread is bad for you.
Bread has taken a beating over the past few years (especially white bread). The bread detractors generally make two arguments against its consumption.
- Bread will make you fat.
- Bread contains gluten, which is bad for you.
Bread will not inherently make you fat, but it tends to be tense in calories & is therefore easy to overeat. Additionally, most people eat bread with other high-calorie foods, such as butter, jam, or honey. This can lead to a caloric surplus and weight gain over time. Moreover, while bread can be part of a healthful diet, a bread-centric diet can crowd out more nutrient-rich foods, notably fruits & vegetables.
Also, some people choose to avoid bread entirely because of its gluten content. Gluten critics claim that any amount of gluten is a danger to all. While “all” is an exaggeration, it is indeed possible to suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity. However, it is also possible for your wheat sensitivity to be caused by other compounds, such as FOOD MAPS, (short-chain carbohydrates are known to promote intestinal distress by fermenting and producing gas, which is present in wheat, yes, but also in many other foods, like legumes, apples, & milk.
The Bottom Line: Although some people are sensitive to wheat, the gluten content isn’t necessarily to blame, & other foods may also be implicated. Bread will not inherently cause weight gain unless consumed in excess.”
Myth #8: HFCS is far worse than sugar.
“High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a blend of glucose and fructose commonly used to sweeten food products. Early evidence led to the belief that fructose could cause fatty liver disease, as well as insulin resistance and obesity. By extension, HFCS is frequently said to be unhealthy because it is high in fructose. The reality is that isn’t always more fructose in HFCS than in sugar. Liquid HFCS has a fructose content of 42-55%. Sucrose, also known as table sugar, is 50% fructose. The difference is too slight to matter.
The Bottom Line: HFCS and table sugar are very similar from a health perspective. Although HFCS may sometimes contain more fructose, the difference is negligible.” Both sugar and HFCS should be limited in a healthy diet.
Myth #9: Dietary Supplements Are Necessary.
Supplement companies say that crops are becoming poorer in nutrients due to intensive agriculture and increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Another argument is that foods contain “poisons” such as saturated fat, cholesterol, gluten & FODMAPS.
No wonder that more than one-third of Americans take a multivitamin/mineral. But, there is no evidence that taking a multi will increase your life expectancy. While it may support your health in some ways, it could hurt in others, by making you overconsume some nutrients to the point where they may harm your health. Fact is, multis are seldom well formulated. Due to cost & space considerations, multis are often rich in micronutrients abundant in a healthy diet & poor in others you are more likely to need. Try to focus on what you actually need by tweaking your diet &, if necessary, by supplementing with specific micronutrients. There’s still much we don’t understand about food components & their interactions with different systems in our bodies, especially because those interactions can differ between individuals. So, until we reach a perfect understanding of the human body & its nutritional needs, you’re safer eating a varied diet of little processed foods than ingesting the same meal replacement day after day.
The Bottom Line: Supplements should complement a healthy diet – not replace it.
Myth #10: Food Nutrients > Supplemental Nutrients
How often have you heard the claim that natural, whole foods are always better than synthetic supplements? In general, the word “natural” has a positive connotation, whereas “synthetic” or “chemical” has a negative one.
The truth, of course, isn’t so clear-cut. Some compounds are more effective in supplemental form. One example is the curcumin in turmeric. On its own, your body cannot absorb it well, but taken in liposomal form or supplemented with piperine, a black pepper extract, the bioavailability of curcumin increases dramatically.
The same goes for vitamins. For instance, phylloquinone is tightly bound to membranes in plants and thus is more bioavailable in supplemental form. Likewise, folic acid (supplemental B9) is more bioavailable than folate (B9 is naturally present in foods), although that may not always be a good thing.
The Bottom Line: With regard notably to vitamins, foods are not always superior to supplements.
Myth #11: Fresh is more nutritious.
Just because a food is fresh doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more nutritious. Fresh produce is defined as anything that is “postharvest ripened” (if it ripens during transportation) or “vine-ripened” (if it is picked & sold ripe). Frozen produce is generally vine-ripened before undergoing minimal processing prior to freezing. Most vegetables & some fruits are blanched in hot water for a few minutes prior to freezing to inactivate enzymes that may cause unfavorable changes. While there are some differences between fresh & frozen, overall the nutritional content is very similar.
Canned produce is usually vine-ripened, but tends to undergo a lot more processing, which can break down some essential nutrients. However, remember that cooking is also a form of processing & those different ways of cooking can affect the produce’s nutrient content & bioavailability more than it’s being fresh, frozen, or canned. An additional issue with canned produce is that salt & sugar are often added as preservatives – so look at the label).
The Bottom Line: There’s little difference between fresh & frozen produce. Canned produce tends to undergo a lot more processing, but remember that cooking is a form of processing too. Overall, fresh & frozen produce might be more nutritious than canned produce, but eating enough whole-food fruits & vegetables is more important than how they were processed.
Myth #12: Foods labeled “natural” are healthier
Foods are divided into two main categories, meat & everything else.
The US Dept. of Agriculture must approve label claims for
meat. However, what the “natural” claim means is that the product is no more than “minimally processed” & does not contain any artificial ingredients. It doesn’t mean that the cow wasn’t given antibiotics & hormones, which might be found in its meat.
Considering that (1) the “no hormones” & “no antibiotics” claims require special documentation & (2) the “natural” claim only covers product processing & ingredient addition, it seems that a piece of beef can be labeled “natural” even if the originating cow was given hormones or antibiotics.
For foods, other than meat, the Food & Drug Administration steps in. At present the FDA does not have a definition for the “natural” label. In the meantime, they consider “natural” any food to which nothing artificial or synthetic was added. More precisely, the FDA says that a product without colorants or synthetic substances can be labeled “natural”.
Note that, the label “natural” doesn’t reflect food processing or manufacturing methods or food production methods, such as genetic engineering or modification, the use of pesticides, or the use of specific animal husbandry methods.
The Bottom Line: Overall, the term ‘natural’ isn’t tightly controlled & doesn’t guarantee the product is healthy.
Myth #13: Always eat clean
People seldom agree on what eating clean means. The one common focus is what not to eat.
Only plant-based foods
Vegan & vegetarian diets are prime examples of clean eating. But, although vegans & vegetarians do tend to be healthier, this may be due to reasons unrelated to food. For instance, people who stick to these diets are more likely to stick to an exercise regime & neither drink in excess or smoke.
Only raw foods
Some diet gurus recommend that you only eat raw food, so as not to “denature” its nutrients. As an absolute, this rule is a myth. Cooking can reduce the nitrate content of vegetables (bad) but also their oxalate content (good). You can’t generalize.
Only organic food
Few studies have linked organic food to better health. Furthermore, there are many misconceptions concerning the use of allowed pesticides & other synthetic substances.
Only pesticide-free produce
Pesticide residue in food is a valid concern, though it should be noted that the vast majority of foods (conventional & organic) contain either no detectable residues or residues below currently accepted limits. So what should you do? The practical solution is simple: rinsing, peeling & cooking can reduce the amount of pesticide left on your produce, whether organic or not.
The bottom line: Gurus don’t agree on which foods are clean & which are not. Stick to the basics. Favor whole foods & peel or wash all your vegetables & fruits.
Myth #14: You need to detox often
Detox diets are supposed to cleanse the body. But, of what? A 2009 investigation of 10 detox companies couldn’t name a single toxin eliminated by any of their products. Toxins are plant or animal-based substances poisonous to humans. Some gurus additionally include heavy metals & everything synthetic to this definition.
Alas, even when a substance is noxious a detox diet won’t help. Your liver, kidneys, lungs & other organs work around the clock to remove harmful substances & excrete the waste products of metabolism. By reducing your intake of the nutrients that these organs need to perform their functions a detox diet can do more harm than good. So why are they currently so popular? One answer is quick weight loss. Unfortunately, when the diet ends & you resume your regular eating habits the pounds you shed come rushing back.
The Bottom Line: Focus on sustainable health habits. Ample protein, leafy greens & foods gull of vitamins & miners are much better for you & your liver detoxication pathways.
Myth #15: You shouldn’t skip breakfast
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is something we have heard before from parents, doctors, health bloggers, and ad campaigns. But the health perks of consuming a regular breakfast have been overhyped.
People on #TeamBreakfast mention observational studies showing that, on average, breakfast skippers have a higher BMI. However, clinical trials have shown that personal preference is a critical factor. Some people will subconsciously compensate for all the calories they skipped at breakfast while others won’t feel cravings of the same magnitude. In one trial, women who didn’t habitually eat breakfast were made to consume it, & they gained nearly 2 pounds over 4 weeks. Individual responses do vary, so don’t try to force yourself into an eating pattern that doesn’t sit well with you or that you can’t sustain.
Another popular claim is that skipping breakfast can crash your metabolism. But studies in both lean & overweight individuals have shown that skipping breakfast does not inherently slow your resting metabolism.”
However, the “don’t skip breakfast” mantra might hold true for people with impaired glucose regulation.
The Bottom Line: You don’t need to eat breakfast to be healthy or lose weight. You should base your breakfast consumption on your preference & personal goals.
Myth #16: Eating often will boost your metabolism
It’s easy to trace this myth back to its origin. Digestion does raise your metabolism a little, so many people believe that eating less food more often keeps your metabolism elevated.
However, the size of the meal matters, too: fewer but larger meals mean fewer but larger spikes in metabolism. Moreover, some studies suggest that having a smaller meal more often makes it harder to feel full, potentially leading to increased food intake.
More to the point, the evidence shows that, given an equal amount of daily calories, the number of meals makes no difference in fat loss.
The Bottom Line: Digestion does slightly increase your metabolic rate, but the frequency of your meals will have less effect on your weight than their total caloric content at the end of the day.
Myth #17: To lose fat don’t eat before going to bed
Some studies show a fat-loss advantage in early eaters, others in late eaters. Overall, early eaters seem to have a slight advantage – nothing impressive. Trials, however, imperfectly reflect real life. In real life, there are two main reasons why eating at night might hinder fat loss, and both are linked to an increase in your daily caloric intake.
The first reason is the simplest: if instead of going directly to bed, we first indulge in a snack, then the calories from that snack are calories we might have done without.
The second reason is that when we get tired we tend to keep going, with a predilection for snack foods or tasty treats. So, if we stay awake at night – especially to work or study, but even just to watch tv – we’re more likely to eat, not out of hunger, but to help fight sleepiness.
The Bottom Line: Eating late won’t make you gain weight unless it drives you to eat more. Resisting tasty, high-calorie snacks can also be harder after a long day.
Food Myths That Can Effect Your Health
Let’s get one thing straight. If you exercise near maximal capacity (HIIT sprints, heavy lifting, etc.) you should eat one or two hours before, or you’re likely to underperform. Most people who choose to exercise on an empty stomach opt for some moderate form of cardio, such as jogging, & in that case, performance & energy expenditure is about the same in the fed & unfed state.
If you exercise in the fasted state, you’ll burn more body fat, but that won’t help you use more calories the rest of the day (when you’re fed). You’ll also lose a little more muscle, but you’ll grow it back faster afterward too – as long as you get enough protein after your workout & throughout the day. Finally, cardio suppresses appetite less in the fasted state than the unfasted state, but that doesn’t translate into a significant difference in daily caloric intake.
People with impaired glucose regulation may wish to avoid exercising on an empty stomach and might want to avoid skipping breakfast even when they don’t exercise.
The Bottom line: There’s very little difference between cardio in the fed or fasted state with regard to fat loss, muscle preservation, daily caloric intake, or metabolic rate. Therefore, what really matters is you. Some people feel lighter & energized when they do cardio on an empty stomach, while others feel lightheaded & sluggish, Fed or fasted: pick whichever makes you feel better.
Myth #19: You need protein right after your workout
When you exercise you tear down muscle tissue, which your body then needs to rebuild, often making them larger in the process. The raw materials for this repair are the protein you ingest, and yes, after exercising, your muscles are more sensitive to the anabolic effect of protein, thus creating a (still controversial) window of opportunity – the “anabolic window”.
“You need protein right after your workout” may not be a myth so much as an exaggeration. What matters most is your daily protein intake, but ideally, you’ll want a post-workout dose of protein in the range of your desirable minimum protein intake per meal (0.24-0.60 grams per kilogram of body weight, so 0.11-0.27 g/lb). If you’ve been exercising on an empty stomach, you’ll be in a negative protein balance, so take this dose as soon as possible. Otherwise, try to take it within the next couple of hours – the exact size of your “anabolic window” depends on how much protein you’re still digesting.
The Bottom Line: Unless you’ve been exercising on an empty stomach, you don’t need protein immediately after your workout, but you might benefit from 0.24-0.60 grams per kilogram of body weight (0.11-0.27 g/lb) within the next couple of hours. What matters most, however, is how much protein you get over the course of the day.
Myth #20: Negative calorie foods are the key to weight loss
Negative calorie foods are the holy grail for weight loss – foods that have fewer calories than your body uses to digest them, imagine the weight loss you could achieve if you consumed food that caused a caloric deficit after you ingested it. Amazing!
Sadly, these types of foods likely don’t exist. Even celery often cited as the ultimate negative calorie food provides a small 2.24 Kcal per 100 grams consumed. Yet foods that are typically thought of as “negative calories” often possess some beneficial traits, such as being low in total calories and high in fiber and water content.
These foods (celery, tomatoes, lettuce, etc.) are likely to be more filling, which could result in eating less. So, their regular consumption may aid in weight loss.
The Bottom Line: There is no evidence that food can possess negative calories, thereby directly contributing to weight loss. But foods typically categorized as negative calorie items tend to be high in water and fiber, so their consumption may lead to weight loss because you consume less food overall.