Nutrition is one of the most talked about subjects these days and I do not anticipate it slowing down anytime soon. Being a Registered Dietitian, it is worrisome to see every third person dishing out nutrition advice without any scientific evidence. Research in nutrition science has advanced so much yet there are still hundreds of nutrition myths that never seem to fade away.
Here are some common nutrition myths that have been debunked by research studies:
Yolks are bad because of its Cholesterol Content
A large egg contains about 185 mg of cholesterol and the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a limit of 300 mg per day which is basically two eggs before you exceed your limit. The confusion primarily arises from the assumption that when you eat more cholesterol (from eggs and other animal foods), your blood cholesterol increases. However, research has consistently and reliably shown that the dietary cholesterol (cholesterol from food you eat) has very little impact on how much cholesterol is in your blood. Besides that, egg yolks are a great source of essential nutrients such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, thiamine, B6, folate, and B12. Rather than avoiding eggs completely (for the fear of cholesterol), it is safe to make eggs part of your diet but you need to pay attention to the “trimmings” that come with your eggs such as cheese, sausages, home fries, and white toast.
Detox your Body via Juicing
We are equipped with organs such as the liver and the kidneys to naturally detox and remove waste from our system, so don’t fall for that expensive juice bottles right away. While a freshly pressed nutritious juice here and there can be beneficial for your health, it is still not a magic potion. Also, if you are skipping meals in lieu of juices, it can do more harm than good. You will most like get your recommended servings of fruits and veggies in the form of juices but our body needs carbohydrates (including fiber), protein, and fats in order to function optimally.
Gluten-free diet promotes Weight Loss
Unless you are truly diagnosed with Celiac disease or have confirmed gluten allergy/sensitivity, I request you to stop your obsession with this gluten free trend right now. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye and many processed foods including pasta, breads, cereals, donuts, and cookies. For people with Celiac disease and gluten allergy/sensitivity, the body’s immune response to gluten damages the small intestinal lining causing abdominal pain, bloating, nausea and diarrhea. It also prevents absorption of vitamins and minerals and promotes weight loss but for the rest of us, there’s absolutely no evidence that eating gluten-free foods will result in weight loss.
If you focus on eating more wholesome, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes and lean meats which are naturally gluten-free and lower in calories, weight loss can happen overtime. Also, remember that just because a product is labeled gluten-free, it does not mean its ‘healthy’ – read labels carefully and choose products that are nutrient dense rather than calorie dense, for example: apples vs. gluten free cookies. Even though they are both gluten free, their nutrient content is very different. There is really no harm in avoiding gluten in your diet but instead of singling out gluten, consume a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lean-protein and 100 percent whole grain. Bottom line: Weight loss is achieved when more calories are expended than you consume and not by just avoiding gluten.
Chocolate causes Acne
I personally fell for this for the longest time but now I am happy to report that there is little evidence that chocolate will cause acne. It is believed that a high-sugar/high-fat diet can increase sebum production and promote inflammatory responses in the body which can trigger acne. It could also be due to the fact that filling up on sugary foods and beverages may lead to less consumption of fruits and vegetables, which are packed with lots of antioxidants that are good for us.
One Must Not Eat After 6 pm
I am not even sure where this 6 pm theory came from but it boggles my mind when people say eating anything after 6 pm turns into fat. Our bodies use calories the same way regardless of the time of the day. It is more important to focus on what you eat rather than when you eat. Most of us are prone to late-night snacking (read: junk food) which adds up calories quickly but that calorie adds up even if its 6 am or 12 pm. Make sure you eat filling, wholesome dinners with protein, whole grains, and some fats to decrease late night hunger pangs. Most of us eat out of boredom so it is very important to recognize emotional hunger vs. physical hunger in order to channel your hunger signals correctly.
Eating Smaller Meals throughout the day Increases your Metabolism
Metabolism is a term used to describe how our body converts what you eat and drink into energy. There is no solid evidence that eating many small meals throughout the day will boost metabolism rather than three traditional meals. Instead of focusing on the number of meals, one should look into building muscles through weight lifting/strength training exercises for better metabolism because when you gain muscle, your resting metabolic rate (the number of calories your body burns at rest) does go up by little bit more when compared to fats.
Sea-Salt has Less Sodium Compared to Table Salt
Sea salt has its own place in the culinary world because of its course, crunchy texture and has a stronger flavor. But when it comes to sodium, there is really not much difference between table salt and sea salt. Compared to table salt, sea salt has little more trace minerals (which can be easily obtained through other foods) as it is less processed but that does not mean it is a healthier alternative to table salt. Generally, sea salts have larger crystal sizes than table salt, so they may have less sodium by volume (e.g., by teaspoon or tablespoon). A teaspoon of table salt has about 2,300 mg of sodium, but a teaspoon of sea salt will have less sodium because fewer crystals fit on the spoon.
Presoaking Potatoes in Water Removes it’s Starch
It’s an old folklore that I hear a lot from my diabetic patients. While presoaking potatoes can remove some of the starch (a type of carbohydrate) on the surface it is not significant enough to cause a change in overall carbohydrate content. As a diabetic, it is important to watch your total carbohydrate intake and exercise portion control when it comes to food.
High Protein Diet is Detrimental to Kidneys
One of the main biological roles of the kidney is to metabolize and excrete nitrogen byproducts from protein digestion. Many people believe that eating more protein will ‘strain’ the kidneys, but for healthy people, there is no evidence that eating a high-protein diet will damage their kidneys.
The misconception comes primarily from the fact that people with chronic kidney disease are suggested to eat low-protein diets because for those individuals whose kidneys aren’t working well, having high-protein intake can further compromise kidney function. According to the “International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism,” a maximum safe protein intake is 2.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or about 1.1 gram of protein per pound of body weight each day.
Coconut Oil is a Miracle Food
Coconut oil is the latest food-cure for everything from heart disease, HIV, to cancer and thyroid disease. Proponents for coconut oil boasts of its lauric acid content. This medium chain fatty acid is more readily used in the body for energy and has shown to have a strong antimicrobial and antifungal effects. Additionally, unrefined or less processed forms of coconut oil may contain polyphenols, substances containing antioxidant properties. However, based on the current research and recommendation from the American Heart Association (AHA) and the U.S. government’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines, coconut oil should be treated just like any other saturated fat and limited to 7%-10% of calories because it can increase the risk for heart disease. So until further research is done, I would suggest treating coconut oil like any other oil and use it in moderation.
I hope this has helped clear some of the common nutrition misconceptions that are floating around. The field of nutrition is always evolving so before following a certain fad or a trend, I highly recommend everyone to please get your information from a credible source and make decisions only after talking with your healthcare provider.