Nutritionists Reveal the Worst Food Myths That Drive Them Crazy
Are the things you think you know about nutrition really just harmful food myths? The wrong claims about food could actually harm your health and make you miserable. Is red meat really cancerous? Does eating too much sugar really give you diabetes? Is gluten really evil?
Here are the myths nutritionists really wish you’d let go of.
Myth No. 1: Diets don’t work
- Diets work, if you’re approaching them with the right attitude.
Many popular diets do not work for most people, especially long-term. That does not mean there isn’t a diet out there that will work for you. Healthy eating is mostly about attitude. If you’ve tried a diet that failed, it’s possible you weren’t doing it for the right reasons.
Next: These foods do not make you fat.
Myth No. 2: You should never eat high-fat foods
- Fact: Good fats keep your heart and brain healthy.
Not all fats are bad fats. Foods such as fish and nuts contain “healthy” fats, which are actually good for your body and your brain. In fact, eating more of these types of foods might even be able to lower your risk of dementia.
Next: Stop blaming this for your heart troubles.
Myth No. 3: Saturated fat will give you heart disease
- Fact: Saturated fat can be part of anyone’s diet.
Don’t believe this or other heart disease myths. It’s not easy to completely eliminate saturated fats from your diet, even if it’s to decrease your heart disease risk. Saturated fat is not the only risk factor, and instead of trying to cut it out, try eating more healthy fats along with it.
Next: Think you can’t afford it? Think again.
Myth No. 4: Healthy foods are too expensive for most people
- Fact: Healthy food is more affordable than you think.
Affordable food isn’t equally accessible everywhere. But cheap, healthy foods do exist, if you can get to them. Fruits and vegetables, both fresh and canned, many grains, and even meats are much more affordable than you might realize.
Next: This is not a diet that will solve all your problems.
Myth No. 5: Gluten makes you gain weight
- Fact: Gluten can irritate some people’s digestive systems, but it’s not a monster.
Some people need to go gluten-free, whether they have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. Some people choose to give it up because they think it’s healthier. There isn’t any scientific evidence that supports this. Chances are, if you’re gaining weight, gluten isn’t your most pressing dietary concern.
Next: Don’t try this diet unless you know what you’re doing.
Myth No. 6: You have to take protein supplements on a vegetarian diet
- Fact: You can eat enough protein without eating meat.
There are plenty of plant foods that contain protein, even vegetables. Taking meat out of the equation doesn’t automatically mean you have to add supplements to your diet. Try incorporating a variety of foods into your meals and snacks before supplementing, unless your doctor or dietitian tells you otherwise.
Next: Are these foods really ruining your weight loss goals?
Myth No. 7: Grains make you gain weight
- Fact: Whether or not grains cause weight gain might depend on the type.
Pasta, bread, and cereal have become the nemeses of weight loss. That’s because many of these foods come processed and packaged using unhealthy ingredients. True whole grain foods, like brown rice, whole grain toast, quinoa, and more, can all be part of a healthy diet if you choose them wisely.
Next: Worried about your cholesterol? You might still be able to eat this food.
Myth No. 8: Eggs are bad for your cholesterol
- Fact: Foods high in cholesterol don’t necessarily raise the cholesterol in your blood.
If you’re at risk for developing high cholesterol, or your levels are already high, there are some foods you should stay away from. But foods such as eggs, which contain high levels of cholesterol, don’t actually influence the amount of cholesterol in your blood all that much.
Next: This food isn’t as bad for you as some people say.
Myth No. 9: Red meat gives you cancer
- Fact: Unless you eat hot dogs all day, every day, you’ll probably be fine.
Eating the occasional hamburger or steak probably won’t hurt you. The benefits of meat far outweigh the very small risks that come with eating it. You can consume a variety of meats and other protein foods to stay healthy and lower your cancer risk.
Next: Don’t ban this food until you get to know it.
Myth No. 10: Fruit has too much sugar
- Fact: Your body needs sugar to stay alive.
The sugars found in foods such as fruits aren’t put there by humans. Unlike the sugars in your favorite doughnuts, these sugars are good for you. Fruits also contain fiber and other nutrients your body will appreciate.
Next: Here’s another sugar myth that needs to end.
Myth No. 11: Eating too much sugar will give you diabetes
- Fact: It’s a lot more complicated than just sugar.
It makes sense that high blood sugar, as seen in many with type 2 diabetes, results from eating a lot of sugar. In reality, a number of factors, including high calorie intake and an unfortunate combination of genes, might contribute more than just sugar alone.
Next: It’s OK if you tried this diet and it didn’t work.
Myth No. 12: You can’t lose weight if you don’t cut carbs
Fact: You can eat carbs and still lose weight.
Low-carb diets work for some people — but they aren’t the only way to lose weight. If you tried cutting carbs and it didn’t work for you, don’t get discouraged. Many carb-containing foods, like beans, are also high in fiber. Fiber keeps your digestive system healthy and can help you lose weight.
Next: This isn’t how biology works.
Myth No. 13: Juice cleanses remove toxins from your body
- Only your liver and kidneys can do that.
Detox teas and fruit juices won’t “cleanse” your body of harmful toxins. Your body has specially built-in systems for taking toxins out of your blood and expelling them — specifically, your liver and kidneys, and sometimes your sweat. You don’t need juice to promote waste disposal.
Next: This is actually a healthy snack everyone should be eating.
Myth No. 14: Nuts are just as unhealthy as junk food
- Some high-calorie foods are like that for a reason.
You’ve probably been told to stay away from foods high in calories. Technically, nuts do fall under this umbrella — half a cup of pecans can cost you almost 400 calories, for example. But nuts are also an excellent source of healthy fats, protein, and fiber. You can eat them as a snack — just not a whole container in one sitting.
Next: What does this word on food labels actually mean?
Myth No. 15: ‘Natural’ foods are healthier
- This word really doesn’t mean anything if you see it on a food label.
Food manufacturers have a lot of freedom when it comes to deciding what goes on their products’ labels. They purposely use words like “natural” to convince you they’re healthier — even when they aren’t. Some natural orange juices, for example, are mostly just sugar.
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