These days there is an incredible amount of information available on what to eat for health, fitness and weight loss.
Unfortunately, a good deal of it is distorted, biased, or simply untrue.
Often, the scientists conducting studies on a given food product, or supplement, are employed by the very company which produces the product — how can they possibly be impartial?
At other times, studies are completed in a very short period of time, or are improperly carried out, producing misleading results.
This is why you need to be so careful where you get your health information from, and make sure you always examine claims with a critical eye.
Nutritional Myths To Be Aware Of
Here are some of the most common nutrition myths which you’re likely to come across.
1. Energy drinks are healthy
Despite the vitamins, amino acids, and other compounds which energy drinks contain, the fact remains that huge amounts of sugar, artificial sweeteners, and caffeine make them a very dubious choice.
Furthermore, the rush they produce can quickly lead to a sharp crash in blood sugar, and energy levels afterwards, making you feel even worse than you did before.
2. Diet soda helps you lose weight
Despite the fact that diet soda’s don’t contain any sugar, they have actually been shown to increase the desire to eat sugary foods.
In fact, some studies suggest diet soda drinkers are actually more likely to be overweight.
Some studies suggest that when our taste buds sense sweetness, the body expects a calorie load to accompany it. When that doesn’t happen, it may cause us to overeat because we crave the energy rush our body was expecting. (Source – Cheryl Forberg R.D.)
Another suggestion is that artificial sweeteners dull the taste buds, which means you eat more high-flavor, high-calorie foods to satisfy those cravings.
So, stick to water and unsweetened teas, particularly if you want to lose weight.
3. “Natural” foods are healthier for you
The truth is, there is no serious regulation of these claims.
Just about any food manufacturer can use the word natural on their food label, making you think a particular food is healthier for you than something else.
As a general rule, try to choose foods that are close to their natural state, i.e. fresh fruit and veg, raw, unsalted nuts, plain meats, etc… basically foods that haven’t been processed to death.
When choosing packaged foods, go for those that have a short ingredients list, and also foods that contain real ingredients, rather than a list of chemical additives.
4. Chocolate is bad for you
Too much of anything can be bad for us, but a little dark chocolate now and then, is actually healthy.
It contains compounds called flavonoids, which can improve circulation, raise HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol), and stimulate the release of those feel-good endorphins.
The key, though, is to stick with dark chocolate most of the time, which has a higher cocoa content (60% plus), rather than milk or white chocolate, which tend to be little more than sugar and fat.
5. Low fat foods are better for you
Unfortunately, this is a myth that will probably be around for some time yet.
For the most part, I stay clear of “low fat” foods. My reasoning?
Well, I’ve come to believe, like I mentioned above, that foods are better consumed in their natural state, or at least as close to it as possible.
So, when I pick up a tub of margarine, for example, to read the contents list, what do I find? A list of ingredients I cannot pronounce, let alone understand what they are there for. That can’t be a healthy choice, can it?
My personal preference is a very small amount of butter — but, that’s a story for another day!
The truth is that food manufacturers make up for the taste deficiency, which comes from removing the fat in foods, by filling them with sugar and other unnatural additives.
I’d rather take my chances, and eat a little less of a higher fat food, which is closer to its natural form, rather than some lab produced food product.
6. Eating at night leads to weight gain
Truthfully, calories are calories. If you eat more than you burn, you’ll gain weight.
A more likely conclusion is that those calories eaten at night tend to come from junk food, with a very low nutrition profile.
Try to plan all of your snacks and meals, and then stick with your plan, rather than allowing yourself the luxury of random choice in the evenings, when the resolution to eat better is often weaker.
7. Fasting helps clear toxins from your body
Your body does a fine job of clearing toxins on its own.
The liver, kidneys and spleen are designed to help remove harmful substances from our system.
There is actually no credible evidence that fasting helps the body do its job any better than it would otherwise.
Instead, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, drink lots of water and green tea, take some exercise, and get a few good nights of sleep in a row.
Try to get into the habit of questioning any nutritional claims you hear. Also, keep in mind that the healthiest foods are likely to be the ones that are the least processed.
What’s the biggest nutrition myth you’ve ever heard?