Health and wellness industries are full of extremism and I’ve noticed that many people also tend to gravitate towards “black and white” thinking. I understand that it is becoming nearly impossible to know what’s true anymore as everyday starts with a new contradicting health message. Therefore in today’s post I’ve decided to bust some of my favorite myths surrounding nutrition.
MYTH 1: CARBOHYDRATES MAKE YOU FAT
No, they don’t. Carbohydrates are essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. They are a valuable energy source and it helps to fuel activities like exercise (which also burns extra calories). Cutting carbs in an effort to lose weight might leave you feeling miserable and chances are you will lack the energy required to maintain healthy activity levels. Glucose, which is what carbs break down into, is what our brains use to function. So by day seven of your “no carb diet” that workout that you used to do so well may seem quite a hard task to tackle. Cutting back on carbs may work, but usually only for a short while. To maintain weight loss that you get from cutting carbs it will require a permanent commitment. Do you want to cut out bread and pasta for the rest of your life?
So, as long as you don’t overindulge on carbohydrates at the expense of other macronutrients, they will be fine. What you can do is to opt for healthier, high-fibre carbohydrate foods. Choose chickpeas, lentils, black rice, rolled or steel cut oats – all of which are great slow-burning carbohydrates (i.e. releases energy slower).
MYTH 2: JUICE DETOXES HELP YOU LOOSE WEIGTH
It simply doesn’t. Instead, detoxes screw your relationship with food, make you feel deprived and most definitely don’t work in the long term. The weight that you may be loosing on a juice detox most often is water weight, which you regain in “seconds” once you stop your detox.
Other health risks of detox diets relate to severe energy restriction and nutritional inadequacy, as extreme fasting can lead to protein and vitamin deficiencies, electrolyte imbalance, lactic acidosis, and even death. Detox dieters are also at risk of overdosing on supplements, laxatives, diuretics or even water.
Start making healthier choices daily and you won’t need any detox whatsoever. Our bodies are meant to detox itself. It’s called the liver and the kidneys, folks.
MYTH 3: YOU SHOULDN’T EAT AFTER 6 PM
By telling yourself that you cannot eat after a certain time you will most likely create fear around food and a sense that you cannot be trusted with food. Our bodies do not store more calories just because it is later in a day. However, ideally you should aim to have your last meal around 2-3 hours before you are going to bed to avoid indigestion. If you workout or come back from work later at night and you truly are hungry, eating isn’t problematic. What may be problematic is if you are snacking on foods high in sugar and fats out of boredom and subsequently eating too many calories over the course of the day.
MYTH 4: FRUIT IS THE DEVIL
Fruit is natures candy and it is much better to eat an apple than to eat snickers. Fearing fruit simply means that you are less likely to turn to a piece of fruit (which would be ideal) when you get sweet cravings, instead looking for an “everything free”, most likely highly processed, snack bar, which is certainly not healthier than a piece of fruit. Many people are not even meeting the basic recommendation to eat 1-2 portions of fruit each day. So the problem might not be that we eat too much fruit, but that we don’t eat enough.
Note: When I talk about fruit, I am not talking about fruit juice, because it is different. My opinion on fruit juice is that it’s a nice occasional treat, not more. Why? Fruit juice is a more concentrated form of fruit sugar in comparison to fresh fruit, which is quickly absorbed by the body, leading to a spike in blood sugar and excess calories. Also, real, fresh fruit has way more fiber (in particular insoluble fibre which is great for digestion) than juice, which helps you feel full for longer.
MYTH 5: ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS HELP YOU LOSE WEIGTH
When I am talking about artificial sweeteners, I’m also referring to products such as diet sodas, sugar-free gum, and most energy drinks. There is conflicting research surrounding the health benefits of artificial sweeteners. However, recent research seems to suggest that artificial sweeteners may increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Other concerns include that artificial sweeteners make your body confused and may affect its ability to gauge how many calories are being consumed. Apparently, the human brain responds to sweetness with signals to eat more as you don’t recognise when you are full or satisfied. This may cause us to crave more sweet foods, which could easily add up to excess calories.
Let me know if there are any nutrition myths you think need busting!