You might think that as time goes on, there would be fewer myths about this topic to address.
It has been possible to identify, through a long time study, the 18 main nutrition myths that just won’t die.
Myth 1. Carbohydrates are bad for you.
For decades, fat was the enemy; Today, there is a new scapegoat: carbohydrates . And generalizing about carbohydrates and insulin seems to get more popular every year.
In fact, many people mistakenly believe that the popular glycemic index (along with the lesser-known insulin index) classifies foods by how dangerous they are. However, low glycemic index diets have not shown an advantage in rigorous clinical trials.
Insulin has gotten a bad rap and its effects are widely misunderstood.
Preliminary evidence suggests that carbohydrates may make your body less sensitive to insulin, the hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels.
This may be true in diabetics and insulin resistant people who eat too much carbohydrates, but not in healthy people on a healthy diet.
The development of insulin resistance is multifactorial; excess fat, physical inactivity, poor sleep, and genetics all play a role.
That said, there’s no denying that modern society makes eating carbs a breeze – processed carbs are often delicious and rarely filling, despite being high in calories.
Cutting carbs (especially processed carbs) can be a viable fat loss decision, if it helps you eat less.
But if cutting carbs makes you feel sick and always hungry, you should consider other options. If you want to lose weight, what matters is not replacing fat with carbohydrates or carbohydrates with fat, but ending most days with a calorie deficit.
The truth: As long as you don’t overdo it, there is nothing inherently harmful about carbohydrates.
Myth 2. Fats are bad for you.
For many decades, the traditional way to lose weight has been to eat a low-fat diet. But as the studies pile up, ancient wisdom must sometimes give way.
Today, we know that just like eating cholesterol isn’t likely to raise your cholesterol levels, eating fat doesn’t make you fat.
Far from being healthy, avoiding all fat in your diet can be dangerous, as your body needs to consume at least some omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. As far as saturated fat is the main driver of cardiovascular disease – yes, just another myth.
At the end of the day, trans fat is the only type of fat that has been shown to be categorically unhealthy; a little won’t kill you, but avoid it when you can.
The truth: if you run into excess calories, a low-fat diet will not make you lose weight. You need some omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and saturated fat won’t give you a heart attack (but it may be too much trans fat).
Myth 3. Protein is bad for you.
Carbohydrates and fats are often to blame for various health problems, but the third macronutrient is not always respected by the media. Protein has often been accused of causing damage to bones and kidneys.
We are going to address those two statements one at a time. A preliminary study reported that protein consumption was linked to increased urinary calcium, which was thought to come from the bones, for that reason, protein was linked to a risk of bone loss.
Later studies, however, determined that urinary calcium was a poor predictor of bone mass, and that the protein actually had a protective or neutral effect on bones.
Another early study determined that high-protein diets increase glomerular filtration rate (GFR), a marker for waste filtration in the kidneys.
It was argued that the increased GFR was a sign that excessive stress was being placed on the kidneys, but subsequent research has shown that kidney damage does not occur as a result of high-protein diets.
In conclusion, randomized trials so far have not shown that high-protein diets have harmful effects.
The truth: Protein, even in large amounts, is not harmful to your bones or kidneys (unless you have a pre-existing condition).
Myth 4. Egg yolks are bad for you.
If there’s one thing media is good at, it’s keeping you away from perfectly healthy foods.
Eggs have been demonized because their nutrient-packed yolks contain high levels of cholesterol.
However, for most people, eating foods high in cholesterol is not closely related to an increase in blood cholesterol levels.
More specifically, in clinical trials, no association was found between eggs and cardiovascular disease, except perhaps in some people with specific pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes or hyperglycemia.
The truth: Eggs are a great source of protein, fat, and other nutrients. Its association with high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease has been severely exaggerated.
Myth 5. Red meat is bad for you.
The common refrain : Red meat causes cancer.
Absolute statements are the reason we have so many myths about nutrition. Cancer is particularly difficult to discuss in absolute terms. After all, almost everything we eat has the potential to be involved in the development of cancer.
For example, antioxidants can promote and hinder cancer growth, but the effect is often too small to realize.
Some compounds, such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), found in smoked meats, have been found to damage the genome, which is the first step to possible cancer.
Current evidence suggests that red meat may pose a cancer risk for people with poor diets and lifestyle choices.
But if you exercise regularly, eat vegetables, and don’t smoke, the effect of red meat on cancer is not something to worry too much about.
The Truth: Fears about cancer-causing red meat are greatly exaggerated. Making healthy lifestyle choices (for example, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and not smoking) is more important than micromangeting your red meat intake.
Still, if you plan to cut back on red meat, start with meat that has been over-cured, smoked, or processed.
Myth 6. Salt is bad for you.
Most myths grow out of a gain from the truth. Studies have associated excess salt with hypertension (high blood pressure), kidney damage, and an increased risk of cognitive decline.
But salt (sodium) is an essential mineral; its consumption is critical to your health. The problem is when you consume too much.
Another problem is the source of all that salt. The average person eats an incredible amount of processed and salty foods, which means that people who eat a lot of salt tend to eat a lot of foods that are generally unhealthy.
That makes it difficult to separate the effects of sodium from the overall effects of the diet. Except for people with salt-sensitive hypertension, the evidence supporting low sodium intakes is much weaker than most people might imagine.
As it stands, very high and very low intakes are associated with cardiovascular disease.
The truth: Reducing salt is important for people with salt-sensitive hypertension, and excess salt intake is associated with damage. But drastically reducing your salt intake hasn’t shown much benefit in clinical trials.
Most people will benefit more from a diet of mostly unprocessed foods than from managing their salt intake.
Myth 7. Bread is bad for you.
Bread has taken a beating in recent years (especially white bread). Detractors of bread generally make two arguments against its consumption:
- Bread will make you fat.
- Bread contains a lot of gluten, which is bad for you.
Bread won’t inherently make you fat, but it tends to be calorie dense and therefore easy to overeat. And, of course, most people will eat bread with other high-calorie foods, such as butter, peanut butter, jelly, or honey.
This can lead to caloric surplus and therefore weight gain over time. Also, although bread can be part of a healthy diet, a diet focused on bread can displace more nutrient-dense foods, especially fruits and vegetables.
Also, some people choose to avoid bread altogether due to its gluten content.
Critics of gluten claim that any amount of gluten – a protein, ironically, not a carbohydrate – is a danger to everyone. While “everything” is an exaggeration, it is in fact possible to suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
However, it’s also possible that your sensitivity to wheat is caused by other compounds, such as FODMAPS (short-chain carbohydrates known to promote intestinal distress by fermenting and producing gas).
White bread vs. whole wheat bread
You may have heard that eating bread is fine as long as it is whole wheat bread.
While white bread (made from wheat flour) and whole wheat bread provide a similar amount of calories, whole wheat bread has a lower glycemic index and insulin index, so consuming them results in less insulin release .
For that reason, and due to its higher fiber and micronutrient content, whole wheat bread is said to be healthier than white bread.
What the media often doesn’t mention is that the actual differences between white bread and whole wheat bread are relatively small. Yes, whole wheat bread has a higher fiber content, but this content pales in comparison to many fruits and vegetables.
You definitely don’t have to eat whole wheat products to get enough fiber in your diet! And yes, white bread loses more micronutrients during processing, but those micronutrients are often reintroduced later (the bread is called ‘fortified’).
The truth: While some people are sensitive to wheat, gluten content isn’t necessarily a culprit, and other foods may be involved as well.
Bread will not make you fat unless its consumption places it in a caloric surplus. Although whole wheat bread is said to be much healthier than white bread, they are not that different and do not contain high levels of fiber or micronutrients.
Myth 8. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) Is Much Worse Than Sugar
Glucose, the sugar in your blood, is your body’s preferred source of energy. Fructose, another sugar, can also be used for energy by converting it to lactate and glucose in the liver.
The first tests led to the belief that fructose could cause fatty liver disease, as well as insulin resistance and obesity. By extension, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is said to be unhealthy as it is high in fructose.
The reality is that there is not 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 (-8% to + 5%) is too slight to matter.
The truth: HFCS and table sugar are very similar from a health perspective. Although HFCS can sometimes contain more fructose, the difference is negligible.
Myth 9. Fresh foods are more nutritious than frozen.
Fresh produce has a natural appeal to many people. It just sounds better than “canned” or “frozen” fruits and vegetables. But just because a food is “fresh” does not necessarily mean that it is more nutritious.
Fresh produce is defined as anything that is either ‘post-harvest ripened’ (if ripe during transport) or ‘plant ripened’ (if ripened and sold: at a farm’s fresh market or in a farmer’s fruit stand, for example).
Frozen products are generally matured in the plant before undergoing minimal processing prior to freezing.
Most vegetables and some fruits are blanched in hot water for a few minutes before freezing to inactivate enzymes that can cause unfavorable changes in color, odor, taste, and nutritional value.
While there are some differences between fresh and frozen in selecting nutrients in select fruits and vegetables, they generally have very similar nutritional content.
The truth: While there may be some nutrient differences between fresh and frozen produce, the overall differences are small. Choose the one that best suits your taste, budget and lifestyle.
Myth 10. Food is always superior to supplements.
How often have you heard the claim that whole foods are always better than supplements? It has been repeated so many times that the word “natural” has a positive connotation, while “synthetic” or “chemical” has a negative connotation.
The truth, of course, is not so clear. Some compounds are more effective in supplemental form. An example is the curcumin in turmeric.
On its own, your body cannot absorb it well; But taken in liposomal form or supplemented with piperine, an extract of black pepper, curcumin sees its bioavailability increase dramatically.
The same goes for vitamins.
For example, phylloquinone (K 1) is strongly bound to membranes in plants and is therefore more bioavailable in supplement form.
Similarly, folic acid (supplemental B 9) is more bioavailable than folate (B 9 naturally present in food), although that’s not always a good thing.
Many supplemental vitamins come in natural and synthetic forms. This makes them accessible to more people. For example, if vitamin B 12 could not be synthesized, it would be excessively expensive and not suitable for vegans.
The truth: When it comes to vitamins, food is not always superior to supplements.
Myth 11. Dietary supplements are necessary
This is a line of thinking favored by supplement companies and health gurus.
One argument is that intensive agriculture has led to the depletion of the soil, so that natural foods (vegetables and grains and the animals that eat them) do not provide enough vitamins and minerals.
Another argument is that food is a mess of unknown compounds, as well as known “poisons” like the dreaded saturated fats, cholesterol, gluten, and FODMAPs. And to top it all, following a low carb or low fat or high protein diet with just food is a daily challenge.
FODMAPs are short-chain fermentable carbohydrates that are very common, especially in foods of plant origin, such as wheat, barley, and rye.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence that taking a multivitamin increases your life expectancy, and while it may support your health in some way, it could harm it in others.
The fact is, multis are rarely well conceived.
Due to cost and space considerations (people willing to take one pill a day may refuse to take ten), multivitamins are often high in micronutrients that are abundant in a healthy diet and poor in others that you are more likely to need.
You are generally best served by concentrating on what you really need, such as vitamin B 12 if you are vegan or higher, or vitamin D if you rarely see the sun.
In fact, many foods that you will find in the supermarket are already fortified with the micronutrients that you are most likely to lack.
Milk, for example, is often fortified with vitamin D, while salt is iodized, and enough foods are fortified with folic acid that you may not be consuming too much.
In that light, many of our foods are already fortified with vitamins and minerals; So it’s tempting to take the next step and live off meal replacements, with all the necessary nutrients added and none of the aforementioned “poisons.”
That could work, if we really knew “all the necessary nutrients.” We learn a little more every day, but there is still much that we do not understand about the components of food and their interactions with different systems in our bodies (and with different people).
Therefore, until we come to a perfect understanding of the human body and its nutritional needs, you will be safer eating a varied diet of low-processed foods than eating the same meal replacements day after day. And it will taste better.
The truth: supplements have their uses. You can benefit from supplementation of specific vitamins or minerals, and a protein powder can make it easier to increase your daily protein intake. But supplements should supplement a healthy diet, not replace it.
Myth 12. You should eat “clean food”
This claim is not so much a myth as a mixture of misconceptions. First, people rarely agree on what “clean” really means.
For some, it means avoiding all that is not “natural.” For others, it means avoiding all “risky foods,” even at the cost of living with meal replacements and other supplements. A common point of clean diets is their focus on exclusion: they tell you what it is to eat healthy by telling you what not to eat.
Veganism can be considered a prototypical healthy or clean diet, as it rejects all meat products for ethical reasons and for better health. But although vegans and vegetarians live longer, this can be influenced by reasons that are not related to food.
For example, people who follow a vegetarian diet are more likely to follow an exercise regimen, practice relaxation exercises (meditation, yoga, others), and not drink excessively or smoke.
In fact, compared to people who eat a varied omnivorous diet, vegans (and, to a lesser extent, vegetarians) are more likely to get less than the optimal amount of some nutrients, such as L-carnitine or vitamin B 12.
However, these nutrients can be easily supplemented; today, there are even plant-based options for EPA, DHA, and vitamin D 3.
But animal products are not the only “unclean” foods for clean-diet proselytizers. You can’t just “eat your veggies,” you have to make sure they’re organic.
This is presented as self-evident, on the principle that “natural” is good, while “synthetic” is bad; however, research so far has failed to link organic foods, plants, or animals to better health.
It doesn’t mean that a link can’t exist, but the organic versus conventional debate is complex and can change with both the foods under scrutiny and the people who eat them.
A misconception is that no pesticide can be used to grow organic produce, while natural pesticides do exist, they are used to grow organic produce and are not always better for the consumer or the environment.
Pesticide residues in food are a valid concern, although it should be noted that the vast majority of foods on the market have been found to contain residues below the tolerable limits set by environmental organisms.
Also, rinsing, peeling when possible, and cooking can reduce the amount of pesticide left in food.
Some “clean food” gurus recommend that you only eat your food raw, so as not to “denature” its nutrients. As an absolute, this rule is litter.
Raw milk can contain harmful bacteria. Raw eggs contain avidin, a protein that can bind to biotin and therefore lead to biotin deficiency.
Cooking can reduce the nitrate content of vegetables (bad) but also their oxalate content (good). You cannot generalize.
It is easy to see how one can push the obsession with “clean food” too far, even to orthorexia.
It doesn’t mean that all meals are created equal, and you should certainly prefer whole foods to processed foods, most of which are nutrient-poor, high in calories, and easy to overeat, but you need not fear that Organic vegetables will drastically shorten their shelf life.
The truth: “eating clean” is hard to define, as the gurus don’t even agree which foods are clean and which are not. Stick to the basics.
Choose whole foods (but don’t feel like a small amount of processed foods will kill you), eat organic if you want and you can afford it, peel or wash all your veggies and fruits, and avoid becoming overly stressed about what you eat as stress can shorten your lifespan.
Myth 13. You should “detox” regularly.
“Detox diets” are the ultimate manifestation of the “clean food” obsession. Such diets generally limit foods to plant-based juices, sometimes flavored with a supplement. After a few days of such a regimen, you are supposed to be cleansed.
But cleaned of what? Good question. A 2009 investigation of 10 companies found that they could not name the “toxins” that any of their 15 products were targeting, much less prove that their products worked.
Strictly speaking, toxins are plant or animal substances that are poisonous to humans.
However, for many detox gurus, “toxins” also include heavy metals and everything synthetic: not just poisons (artificial poisons, such as pollutants or pesticides), but also preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, etc. .
Unfortunately, even when a substance is really harmful, a “detox diet” will not help.
Acute toxicity would likely constitute a medical emergency, while chronic toxicity is best managed with a well-nourished body, not one weakened by a severely hypocaloric diet.
The liver, kidneys, lungs and other organs work day and night to eliminate harmful substances and excrete the waste products of metabolism; Detoxes can make your job harder! Detox diets aren’t necessarily safe, either.
Every now and then, a case report pops up on potential risks, such as kidney damage from green smoothies or liver failure from detox tea.
But if “detox diets” are more likely to harm than help, what explains their current popularity? One answer is rapid weight loss. Deprive your body of carbohydrates and you can deplete your glycogen stores in as little as 24 hours.
The resulting loss of several pounds may convince you that the diet had a positive effect. However, when you finish the diet and resume your normal eating habits, the glycogen and associated water come back in and, with them, the pounds you lost.
The truth: Focus on sustainable health habits, like eating nutritious food every day.
Ample amounts of protein, green leafy vegetables, and foods packed with vitamins and minerals are not simply tastier than anything a “detox diet” can offer, they are also much better for you (and your liver detox pathways). , ironically).
A detox diet can make you feel better, but that is generally due to increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, not because any form of detoxification is taking place.
Myth 14. Eat more often to increase your metabolism
It is easy to trace this myth back to its origin. Digestion increases your metabolism a bit, so eating less food more often should keep your metabolism elevated. In theory.
In practice, the evidence shows that, given an equal number of calories per day, the number of meals largely makes no difference in fat loss.
Furthermore, some studies suggest that having smaller meals more often makes it harder to feel full, which can lead to more food intake.
Your metabolism can fluctuate based on the size of the meal, so fewer larger meals means a greater increase in metabolism. Over the course of a day or a week, with the same number of calories, the number of meals does not seem to matter; everything evens out.
The truth : digestion slightly increases your metabolic rate, but the frequency of meals has less of an effect than the total caloric content of the food you eat.
Myth 15. You need to eat breakfast.
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is something we’ve all heard before from parents, health bloggers, doctors, and ad campaigns. But the health advantage of eating a regular breakfast has been overrated.
Observational studies have been reported showing higher BMI in breakfast patterns. However, clinical trials have indicated that personal preferences are a critical factor.
Some people will subconsciously make up for all the calories they skipped at breakfast, while others won’t crave to the same extent.
In one trial, women who did not regularly eat breakfast were made to consume it; they gained almost 2 pounds over a 4 week period.
Individual responses vary, so don’t try to force yourself into an eating pattern that doesn’t sit well with you or that you can’t bear; it may end up failing.
Another popular claim is that skipping breakfast can affect your metabolism. But studies in lean and overweight individuals have shown that skipping breakfast is not inherent in their resting metabolic rate (RMR).
One area where the “don’t skip breakfast” mantra may be true is in people with impaired glucose regulation. These people may want to play it safe and avoid skipping breakfast to achieve better daily glucose management.
The truth: you don’t need to eat breakfast to be healthy or lose weight. You should base your breakfast consumption on your personal preferences and goals. Feel free to experiment to see if you want to make breakfast a habit.
Myth 16. To lose fat, don’t eat before bed.
Some studies show a fat loss advantage in early eaters, others in late eaters. In general, early eaters seem to have a slight advantage, nothing impressive.
The essays, however, imperfectly reflect real life. In real life, there are two main reasons why eating at night can hinder fat loss, both of which are related to an increase in your daily caloric intake.
The first reason is the simplest: if, instead of going straight to bed, we have a snack first, then the calories in that snack are calories that we could have dispensed with.
The second reason is that when we get tired, we tend to eat to keep going, with a predilection for tasty snacks or treats.
Therefore, if we stay awake at night, especially to work or study, and even to watch television, we are more likely to eat, not out of hunger, but to combat drowsiness.
The truth: eating late will not make you fat, unless it leads you to eat more. It can also be harder to resist tasty, high-calorie snacks after a long day.
Myth 17. To lose fat, do cardio on an empty stomach.
Let’s get one thing out of the way. If you exercise near maximum capacity (sprints, HIIT, heavy lifting and others), eat first, or you are more likely to underperform.
Most people who choose to exercise on an empty stomach, however, opt for a more moderate form of “cardio” (aerobic exercise), such as jogging.
During cardiovascular exercise, fasting performance and energy expenditure are approximately the same as in the fed state.
On an empty stomach, you will burn more body fat, but that won’t make it easy for you to use body fat for fuel for the rest of the day (when fed).
It will burn a bit more muscle too, but it will grow back faster too, it seems to balance itself out (as long as you get enough protein).
Finally, cardio suppresses appetite less in the fasted state than in the fed state, but that does not translate into a significant difference in daily caloric intake.
The truth: There is very little difference between fasting cardio or eating status, whether it be with regard to fat loss, muscle preservation, daily calorie intake, or metabolic rate. What really matters, then, is you.
Some people feel lighter and more energetic when doing cardio on an empty stomach, while others feel dizzy and sluggish. Eating or fasting state: choose what makes you feel better.
Myth 18. You need protein right after your workout.
When you exercise, you damage your muscles, which your body needs to repair, often making them stronger (bigger) in the process.
The raw material for this repair is the protein you ingest, however the existence of an “anabolic window” after training for this ingestion remains a controversial issue in the literature.
“You need protein immediately after your workout” may not be so much a myth as an exaggeration. Consuming 20-40g of protein within two hours of your workout may be ideal, but it is not necessary.
What matters most is your daily protein intake. To maximize muscle repairs, aim for 1.4-2.2 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day (0.64-1.00 g / lb / day).
The truth: You don’t need protein immediately after your workout, but you can benefit from 20-40g within the next two hours (and before bed). However, what matters most is how much protein you get throughout the day.
This is information that experts have discovered through years of research. Evidence-based study.