It seems as though eating a healthy diet has become more and more complicated over the years.
With celebrities talking about their weight loss solutions, or experts claiming their diet is the way to go, we’re constantly bombarded with news about the latest trends. But these messages don’t always have our health in mind. And there is no one size fits all approaching to diets.
It seems that knowing what to eat, how much, how often, and whose advice to trust can be confusing.
If you have been following me or reading my blogs, then you’ll know I am all about balance, cooking from scratch using fresh ingredients, staying hydrated and adding movement and exercise into your life.
I get asked so many questions about what we should or should not eat, that I thought I would write this article: Six Common Nutrition Myths Debunked.
Nutrition Myth #1: All calories are created equal
Sorry to tell you, but they aren’t. This is because the body uses and stores calories differently depending on the nutrients in each food.
In order to understand why calories differ, let’s look at different nutrients and how the body handles them.
Calories in foods
You may have heard of foods being described in terms of ‘density.’ This refers to different nutrients having more or fewer calories packed into the same weight, making them higher or lower in calorie density.
Calories in food are grouped as fats, alcohol, carbohydrates, and proteins. Nutrition labels use these rules of thumb:
- 1 gram of fat has 9 calories.
- 1 gram of alcohol has 7 calories.
- 1 gram of protein has 4 calories.
- 1 gram of carbohydrate (sugars and starches) has 4 calories.
Therefore, when you take everything into consideration, eating 300 calories of chicken will not be the same as eating 300 calories of cake.
If you’re looking to improve your diet, simply counting calories is not a reliable way to do so.
Nutrition Myth #2: Carbs make you fat
Carbs have gotten a bad reputation over the years. In fact, many popular diets are based on the myth that carbs make us fat.
In reality, carbs aren’t the enemy, but there are different carbs you should know about.
Let’s look at carbohydrates so you can learn how to distinguish the good from the bad.
What are carbs?
Carbs, or carbohydrates, are one of three macronutrients. Fat and protein are the others. The primary function of macronutrients is to provide the body with energy.
Dietary carbohydrates can be split into three main categories:
- Sugars: Sweet, short-chain carbohydrates found in foods. Examples are glucose, fructose, galactose, and sucrose.
- Starches: Long chains of glucose molecules, which eventually get broken down into glucose in the digestive system.
- Fiber: Humans cannot digest fiber, although the bacteria in the digestive system can make use of some of them.
The problem with carbs occurs when we consume them in excess and we lead a sedentary lifestyle. When this happens, the body turns carbs into fat to store as a reserve energy source.
Not all carbs are created equal
Carbs are often referred to as ‘simple’ vs ‘complex,’ or ‘whole’ vs ‘refined.’
Whole carbs are generally considered healthy because they are unprocessed and contain the fiber found naturally in the food. They include vegetables, whole fruit, legumes, potatoes, and whole grains. Whole food sources of carbohydrates are also loaded with nutrients.
Refined carbs include sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices, pastries, white bread, white pasta, white rice, and others. These carbs are highly processed, meaning the natural fiber is removed.
Many refined carbs have been associated with health problems like obesity and type 2 diabetes. Refined carbohydrate foods are lacking in essential nutrients.
Carbs you should include in your diet
- Vegetables: All of them. It is best to eat a variety of vegetables every day.
- Whole fruits: eating the whole fruit means you get all the fiber as well as vitamins and minerals.
- Legumes: such as lentils, kidney beans, peas, chick peas.
- Nuts: such as almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, and peanuts.
- Seeds: Chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds.
- Whole grains: Choose grains that are truly whole, as in pure oats, quinoa, and brown rice.
Carbs to limit
- Sugary drinks like soda, fruit juices, squash.
- White bread: these are refined carbohydrates that are low in essential nutrients and bad for metabolic health, which applies to most commercially available bread.
- Pastries, cookies, and cakes: these are mostly high in sugar and refined wheat.
- Ice cream: most types of ice cream are very high in sugar, although there are exceptions.
- Candies and chocolates: If you’re going to eat chocolate, choose quality dark chocolate.
- French fries and potato chips: whole potatoes are healthy, but french fries and potato chips are not.
Nutrition Myth #3: Healthy food is more expensive
Okay, this one is a little tricky. I get it, if you are aiming to buy 100% organic, it will cost more. But it’s worth looking at how you shop.
Although some processed foods might seem cheaper, cooking from scratch does not have to be expensive. You may actually find there is not much difference.
Also, consider the cost to your health. Many of us don’t take this into account. If your gut is your second brain, then what we put into our bodies affects our brains, our energy and therefore our mindset and mood.
What we use to fuel our bodies determines how efficiently we burn energy. From feeling sluggish and fatigued all day to treating conditions associated with being overweight or even the lost wages of being sick.
NutritionMyth #4: Gluten-free is the way to go
Everyone seems to be turning gluten-free at the moment. The fact is, only one percent of the population has a genetic condition called celiac disease. People with this condition MUST avoid gluten at all costs.
The only way to determine a true gluten allergy is with medical testing.
While people with celiac disease need to ditch the gluten, it’s not necessary for the rest of us. If you suspect gluten is causing you discomfort, try an elimination diet.
Just know that gluten-free foods are not automatically healthier. In fact, gluten substitutes may actually increase calorie content and contribute to weight gain.
Nutrition Myth #5: Low-fat foods are better for you
When trying to watch our weight, the low-fat option may be tempting. We can still have our favourite treats, without extra calories. Or can we?
Unfortunately, your good intention may leave you worse off!
‘Low fat’ is often synonymous with ‘loaded with salt and cheap carbohydrates.’ Remember, a high intake of carbs will be stored in the body as fat. This will inevitably lead to weight gain despite your best intention to reduce your fat intake.
You’re better off getting the full-fat version and using less of it. Or better still, include healthy fats into your diet.
Nutrition Myth #6: Egg yolks raise your cholesterol
There has been much debate about eggs over the years, and the verdict is in: Eggs are healthy.
While it’s true that egg yolks contain dietary cholesterol, research has proven that dietary cholesterol has almost nothing to do with your blood cholesterol levels.
Eggs are one of the healthiest foods you can eat! One egg has only 75 calories but 7 grams of high-quality protein, along with iron, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids. The egg is noted as a powerhouse of disease-fighting nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin.
So, skip the egg-white-only breakfast and indulge in the yolk!
Six common nutrition myths busted!
I hope you have found this article on nutrition myths useful. If you are confused by what you should eat, you cannot go wrong with freshly prepared foods using a variety of fresh ingredients, including vegetables, fruits, good fats, whole grains and legumes.
Follow this rule and you can allow the occasional slice of cake or pizza.
And, if you want a bespoke health and nutrition plan to suit you then let’s talk.