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Debunking the Most Common Nutrition Myths

Fitday Editor

Don't get caught up in these untruths!

1. Avoid carbohydrates to lose weight.

Carbohydrates have consistently gotten a bad rap in the media. However, as long as you don't overindulge and exclude other food grounds, starches and carbohydrates are not inherently harmful. Too many carbohydrates can lead to weight gain. But so can too much protein or fat. Your body does need carbohydrates so as long as you're consuming the right amounts and types, you don't have to go cold-turkey on the starches to have successful weight loss.

2. All fats are bad.

Fats, like carbohydrates and protein, are essential in the diet. They aid in nutrient absorption, nerve transmission and the maintenance of cell membranes. Fats are essential, but not all fats are created equal. Some, like omega-3s, possess extraordinary health benefits. Others, like trans-fat, should be limited due to their atherosclerotic risk factors. When consumed in excessive amounts, any type of fat can contribute to weight gain. So again, the key is moderation, not necessarily a strict avoidance.

3. Skipping meals can help you lose weight.

When you skip a meal, your body compensates for the lack of energy intake by slowing down your metabolism. Repeatedly skipping meals means that the food you do eventually eat is not burned as effectively. In addition, it is very common to overeat the next time a meal rolls around, causing a greater total caloric intake.

4. Eating many smaller meals throughout the day will "fuel your metabolism."

It has been claimed that eating frequent, smaller meals throughout the day will help keep your metabolism high. However, studies have shown that eating three meals per day has the same effect on total calories burned as eating 5-6 (or more) smaller meals. Eating frequently may have benefits for some people (such as preventing excessive hunger and binging), but claims that it impacts the amount of calories we burn is incorrect.

5. Eggs and egg yolks should be avoided because they will elevate cholesterol.

If there is one thing the media is excellent at, it is demonizing perfectly innocent foods. Eggs have become ostracized for their yolks, which are packed full of nutrients, but are also high in cholesterol. However, the research shows that unless you have a pre-existing condition, dietary cholesterol (like that found in eggs), doesn't greatly affect the amount of cholesterol circulating in your blood stream.

6. Organic foods are more nutritious than conventional.

There are many benefits to buying organic: supporting sustainable farming and the work of small farmers, the lower levels of pesticide residues, etc. Some also find that organic produce is tastier than conventional. However, nutritionally, you are getting the same thing no matter what form your produce takes. Your first priority should be to get a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet.

7. Healthy food is expensive.

Food cost is an important issue for many, and rightly so. For many, buying fresh and healthy foods is bypassed for the "cheaper," more convenient processed foods. However, you can still make healthy choices on a budget. When it comes to produce, fruits and vegetables that are in season are going to be cheaper than those out of season. Frozen produce also tends to cost much less and is just as nutritious for you. Buying things like whole grains, flours and meat in bulk will also help you save. With a little planning you can create healthy, tasty and inexpensive meals!

8. Certain Foods Help You Lose Weight Quickly

Unfortunately, there is no food or drink that can burn fat or make you lose weight more quickly. Weight loss diets that emphasize a single food, like grapefruit or cabbage soup, are restrictive and lack the nutrients needed for good health. Repeatedly eating the same food is monotonous and can lead to you eating less of it over time. But this kind of caloric restriction doesn't create healthy habits that you can stick with and does not provide a means for long-term weight loss.


Sarah Dreifke is a freelance writer based in DeKalb, IL with a passion for nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease. She holds a Bachelor of Science in both Dietetics and Life Sciences Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she is working towards a combined Master's Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics as well as a dietetic internship at Northern Illinois University.

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