10 nutrition myths debunked

Posted by Allie Wergin, R.D.N.
March 29, 2016

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Much information exists regarding nutrition. But the problem is a lot of that information is inaccurate. Let’s debunk a few common myths so you can feel more confident about your food choices.

  1. Eating healthy is too expensive. It may take some planning and time in the kitchen, but eating healthy on a budget is possible. Some helpful hints include:
    • Shop sales, and clip coupons
    • Stick to your grocery list
    • Don’t go to the store hungry
    • Stock up on staples — such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, dried beans and lentils, and frozen vegetables — when on sale
    • Look high and low for better deals as many expensive items are placed at eye level
    • Avoid pre-washed, pre-cut, individual servings of produce as they are often more expensive
  2. Everyone should follow a gluten-free diet. Unless you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, there’s no reason to avoid gluten, which is the protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Wheat and products made from other whole grains have great nutritional benefits, including essential B vitamins and fiber. Going gluten-free has been a recent diet trend. However, gluten-free-related weight loss is most likely a result of a very restrictive diet and no longer eating high-calorie junk foods.
  3. Skipping meals can help you lose weight. When you skip a meal, your metabolism slows down, so the food you eventually eat isn’t burned as efficiently. In addition to feeling sluggish, by the time the next meal comes around, it’s common to overeat due to a ravenous type of hunger. Your best bet is to eat consistent, healthy meals and/or snacks throughout the day.
  4. Eating fat will make you fat. The fat-free and low-fat diet trend is a thing of the past (80s and 90s, to be exact). Yet, some individuals are still scared of fat. This shouldn’t be the case as fat has beneficial functions like protecting our organs, maintaining cell membranes, promoting growth and development, and absorbing essential vitamins. Be aware that fats aren’t created equal. Choose heart-healthy unsaturated fats, such as olive and canola oil, nuts, nut butters and avocados over those that are high in saturated and trans fats, including fatty meats and high-fat dairy products.
  5. Avoid carbs if you want to lose weight. The low-carb diet was a trend in the 90s and 2000s. It gives carbohydrates — fruit and whole grains included — a bad reputation. Individuals who followed this diet had success with weight loss, but, then again, anytime anyone eliminates highly processed carbohydrates foods, such as chips, cookies, white bread and potatoes smothered in butter and gravy, would be expected to have the same results. Any diet or eating program that eliminates an entire food group gets a red flag from me as one is likely to miss out on vital nutrients.
  6. A detox diet will clean toxins out the body. There’s very little evidence that dietary cleanses do any of the things they promise. The fact is we don’t need to cleanse our bodies. Our liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract do a good job of detoxing it every day. If you’re looking to rejuvenate your body, focus on eating more whole foods, drinking water and removing highly processed foods from your diet.
  7. You shouldn’t eat anything after 7 p.m. — not even a grape. While late-night snacking can lead to weight gain or prevent weight loss, it’s not because of the time on the clock. Instead, it’s about how much you’re eating. Choosing high fat, high calorie comfort foods as a before-bed snack is common. This often leads to mindless eating and consuming excess calories. 
  8. Certain foods, such as grapefruit, cayenne pepper or vinegar, can burn fat. Sorry, no foods burn fat, make you lose weight more quickly or increase your metabolism enough to have an effect on weight loss. Diets that focus on single foods, like those mentioned above, are very restrictive and lack nutrients the body needs. They’re also unsustainable, and any weight loss that may occur is a result of calorie restriction and will likely come back once you discontinue.
  9. The best way to decrease your sodium intake is to stop using the salt shaker. The 2015 dietary guidelines for Americans recommend having no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. The average American consumes 3,440 milligrams of sodium per day. The problem isn’t as easy as taking the salt shaker off the table. Much of the excess sodium that Americans consume from their diet comes from the salts added to processed, ready-to-eat foods and restaurant meals. Limit the processed foods and enjoy more fresh, home cooked meals.
  10. Low-fat or fat-free products are healthier choices. Many products labeled low-fat or fat-free contain added sugar or sodium to help make up for the loss of flavor when removing or reducing fat. In addition, fat helps with satiety — making you feel fuller longer. Choosing a fat-free product to reduce calories can backfire as you may find yourself snacking soon after. Always look at the nutrition label when choosing between fat-free, low-fat and regular. And pay attention to sugar and sodium content.

Allie Wergin is a registered dietitian nutritionist at Mayo Clinic Health System in New Prague and Le Sueur.

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Comments (1)

I am a Pritikin disciple, and certainly agree with each of your 10 points. Anexcellent article

BARRY SHEALES - 03/31/2016

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