by: Sarah Schlichter
Top 8 Nutrition Myths We Often Hear
With the coming of a new year, people are more susceptible to fad and short term diets. I recommend seeing a Registered Dietitian if you have nutrition or health goals, as we are trained to follow the science of nutrition. Here are 8 popular myths I often hear in my practice:
- GLUTEN-FREE MEANS HEALTHIER.
Gluten is a protein found in several grains and additives. While marketers and companies have demonized it, there’s nothing about gluten that is inherently “unhealthy” or bad for you. There is no reason to avoid it unless you have celiac disease (about 1% of the population) or have been tested to be gluten intolerant, in which case it can be harmful for you and may impair digestion and nutrient absorption. Many of the products marked gluten-free actually have more fat, sugar or preservatives because manufacturers have to add something in to replace the gluten that they are taking out.
- CARBOHYDRATES ARE BAD, SO I SHOULDN’T EAT THINGS LIKE POTATOES OR BANANAS.
We need carbohydrates for energy. Our body can’t run without glucose (the building blocks of carbohydrates), just like cars can’t operate without gas. Glucose is the preferred fuel for our brains, and helps give our body the energy for our hearts to pump and our digestion to work. Plus, carbs are the primary foods full of B vitamins, fiber and other essential nutrients. When we don’t have enough carbohydrates in our diets, our body breaks down our muscles to use proteins for fuel.
- IF I EAT BELOW 1500 CALORIES, I WILL LOSE WEIGHT.
While you may lose weight initially, you run a much larger risk of damaging your metabolism and suffering from nutritional deficiencies. When we starve our bodies of essential nutrients, we increase our stress hormones. Undereating, or not providing our working bodies with enough food, will cause more harm than good and can have major implications in the long run.
- IF I SKIP BREAKFAST, I WILL LOSE WEIGHT.
Eating breakfast may have a protective effect on preventing and/or treating obesity and type 2 diabetes, and promoting overall health in young people. Furthermore, breakfast helps us start the day with sustained energy, helps us better manage our glucose throughout the day, and helps us distribute energy more evenly throughout the day. Even if you only have time for something small or a liquid smoothie, something is better than nothing!
- YOU HAVE TO EAT MEAT TO GET ENOUGH PROTEIN.
In this day, we have so many non-meat options that provide us with sufficient protein! Just to name a few: dairy, eggs, lentils, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, fish, tofu, tempeh, edamame, etc. Going meatless a few times a week can also have many health benefits. If you’re interested in incorporating more plant-based meals into your lifestyle, check out my blog below for some recipes.
- ORGANIC FOOD IS ALWAYS THE HEALTHIEST.
There are certain foods (see the “dirty dozen” list) you may want to purchase organic because these foods usually have the highest pesticide residue (think grape tomatoes, spinach, strawberries, apples, cucumbers). However, there is something to be said about buying local when you can, because you’re supporting and investing in your local economy and the food is fresher and more nutritious since there is less storage and transportation needed.
- EATING FAT MAKES YOU FAT.
I’m sure this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this one. Thanks to the low-fat craze in the 80’s and 90’s, people became scared of fat, and started eating more and more carbohydrates, namely highly processed carbohydrates and sugars. And now, nearly 1/3 adults are obese. There is a link there. The Mediterranean diet is consistently named one of the healthiest diets, and it’s one that promotes bountiful unsaturated fats. You need fats to digest certain nutrients (Vitamins A, D, E, K, to name a few), and unsaturated fatty acids have been shown to reduce cholesterol, especially when replacing saturated fat.
- EATING TOO LATE AT NIGHT LEADS TO WEIGHT GAIN.
Timing is not the determining factor of weight gain. It depends on what you’re eating and as always, the portion size. Consistently eating in excess of your calorie needs can lead to weight gain, no matter when you eat them. Calories are units of energy, no matter when they are consumed.
Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN, LDN
Sarah is the Registered Dietitian behind the blog, Bucket List Tummy (http://bucketlisttummy.com). On her blog, she discusses nutrition and shares healthy recipes. She is available for virtual nutrition consultations.