Food & Nutrition Myths

There is a lot of nutrition information out there so we are clearing up some of the food & nutrition myths

How do YOU define a healthy lifestyle?

Myth: Carbohydrates cause weight gain.

Carbohydrates do not cause weight gain and neither does protein or fat. In fact, carbohydrates should comprise about 50% of that food that you eat and are necessary for all cells in the body to function, especially brain cells, which I consider to be extremely important! A low carbohydrate intake can cause depression since they are partially responsible for serotonin regulation. Also, if carbohydrates are restricted in the diet, it will likely lead to a binge of carbohydrates. Binging and overeating is the ONLY time that carbs, or any other food, will cause weight gain.

Myth: High protein diets build muscle.

High protein diets do not build muscle, and in some cases it could actually cause muscle breakdown. If the body is not getting enough glucose in the form of carbohydrates, then it will break down lean body mass (muscle) to form necessary glucose for the cells. High protein diets can also cause kidney damage, which can be permanent. And again, a diet low in carbs will set you up for a binge.

Myth: Processed foods are less nutritious than fresh foods.

Processed foods can be just as healthy, if not healthier than fresh foods. Frozen fruits and vegetables are processed at their peak of freshness when all of the vitamins and minerals are readily available. Fresh food is picked, shipped, stored, etc. all while the nutrients are gradually lost. During the processing of other foods, vitamins and minerals may be added to the final product. For example, breads and cereals are fortified with folate and iron, which would not otherwise be present in wheat. And don’t forget, all foods, whether fresh or processed, contain a combination of the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, fat, and protein.

Myth: Cholesterol is bad for you.

The term “cholesterol” is used to describe two different things. Dietary cholesterol is present in all animal based foods; however, research has shown that cholesterol in food does not affect cholesterol levels in the blood. Your body makes its own cholesterol, and the amount is based on numerous factors such as liver function and hormone levels. Eggs and red meat have a bad reputation, but the truth is all animal products, including fish, chicken, and pork, contain cholesterol as well. The good news is that none of these foods will affect your cholesterol level in your blood.

*Another word on egg yolks. Although they do have cholesterol and fat (which will not necessarily affect cholesterol or fat levels in the body), they are nutrient dense and have a lot more vitamins and minerals than egg whites, which typically receive all the praise. Yolks contain protein, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, Vitamins A, D, E, and K, essential fatty acids, Vitamins B6 and B12, as well as many others.

Myth: Eating after 6 pm (or 7 or 8pm) causes weight gain.

It does not matter what time of the day you eat, as long as you start when you are hungry and stop when you are full. Your body knows what it needs and when, so listen and give it what it asks for, no matter what time it is! Again, non-hunger eating is the only thing that will cause weight gain.

Myth: Dietary fats cause body fat.

Dietary fats have so many functions in the body that they can be used for without being stored. Fats are necessary for the absorption of Vitamins A, D, E, and K. They promote healthy hair, skin, and nails. Fats are a precursor for many hormones so they regulate mood and prevent depression. Also, fats slow digestion, which keeps you full for longer. Fat intake should be approximately 30% of total intake, which is about 70-80 grams of fat per day. Without fats, you would get hungry very soon after a meal or snack. Plus, fats add great taste.

Myth: Vegetarians are always healthier than omnivores.

Vegetarians can be healthy, but I would not say that they are always healthier than people who consume animal products. Vegetarians may become hungry very frequently because they are unable to easily combine macronutrients at meals and snacks. Also, without being diligent and preparing ahead of time, vegetarian diets might be low in iron, calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, zinc, and protein.

Myth: Salt should be limited in the diet.

Salt should only be limited in the diet if a person has been diagnosed with hypertension, and even then it is still necessary. Sodium plays many major roles in the body such as fluid retention, blood pressure maintenance, and within the nervous system, to name a few. If salt has been restricted and sodium is too low, it may be difficult to sweat enough to cool the body off properly. This could lead to heat exhaustion, or something even worse. Also, low sodium levels lead to low blood pressure, which can cause extreme dizziness or fainting.

Myth: Butter is more fattening than margarine.

Butter and margarine contain the same amount of fat. They both are made of 80% fat and 20% water by volume. Initially, margarine was created because people feared the saturated fat in butter, but now studies are showing that saturated fat is just like any other fat. They both provide your body with the same amount of energy per gram, so use whichever you prefer.

Myth: Sugar causes diabetes (and hyperactivity).

Sugar does NOT cause diabetes.

If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, then you should monitor your carbohydrate intake. But, if you do not have diabetes, sugar intake, no matter how much or how little, will not cause it. Along those lines, sugar does not cause hyperactivity in children (or adults). The only condition that sugar has been proven to cause is dental cavities.

Read more about Food Nutrition Myths & Other Nutrition Topics

Intuitive Eating

Hunger & Fullness

Biggest Loser , Healthy Fitness

Calorie Counting

Carb , Protein , Fat

Eating Right , Good Food Bad Food

Health At Every Size , Healthy Eating Habits

Hunger & Fullness , Portion Control

Healthy Eating Sample Plan , Healthy Eating , Healthy Eating Habits

Nutritionist & Counselor

Nutrition Counseling

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Jennifer Pereira MA, RD, LD, CSCS, LPC - WISE Therapist & Dietitian

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