Many people are living according to nutritional diets that reflect great intentions and motivation to improve their health, but are from misguided sources. It’s time to forget these popular myths and become acquainted with modern evidence-based research and dietary advice. Here are 10 popular myths that it’s time to stop buying into!
1. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day
While there is still sound evidence that breakfast helps children perform better at school, for the rest of us, the argument is fading. Reviews of studies that hyped breakfast as the most important meal of the day are not as strong as we thought with many former studies funded by those who profited most from our traditional breakfast habits. Better advice being offered by nutritionists is to eat when you’re hungry and change your focus to the quality of the meal rather than its timing.
2. Coffee is Unhealthy
Coffee has long been considered unhealthy, mainly because of caffeine. However, most studies show that coffee has powerful health benefits, such as it being the largest source of antioxidants in the Western diet, outranking both fruits and vegetables combined! It also lowers type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression risk, and some studies even show it increases longevity.
3. Eat Several, Small Meals Throughout the Day
The myth that eating many, small meals throughout the day increases the amount of calories burned. However studies show that 2-3 meals a day has the same effect on total calories burned as eating 5-6 (or more) smaller meals. The only thing it may do is prevent excessive hunger. Moreover, a recent study shows that frequent meals may increase the accumulation of unhealthy belly and liver fat.
4. Less Salt Reduces Heart Attacks & Strokes
Despite sound scientific proof, the salt myth is still alive and kicking. While less salt can lower blood pressure, it has no effect on heart attacks, stroked or death (except exceptions as in salt-sensitive hypertensives). However, public advice that everyone should lower their salt intake (and eat tasteless food) is not evidence-based.
5. Raw Food Provides All Nutrients
There are many devotees following the raw movement revolution, however, as nutritionist Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, R.D. points out, “raw is not always the best way to achieve bioavailability and disease-fighting capability from food. In fact, several foods are better absorbed when steamed (like broccoli), or cooked (like tomatoes).” While going raw is important, sometimes heat is beneficial for compounds to prosper.
6. Eating Fat Makes You Fat
Fat is the substance under our skin that making us look soft and puffy. However, the belief that eating more makes you fatter is contextual. Diets high in fat AND carbs (even when counting calories) can make you fat, but it’s not because of the fat — high fat/low carb diets lead to greater weight loss than low-fat diets.
7. Coconut Oil is a Miracle Food
Many people have touted the health benefits of coconut oil and as many love it. However, a lack of controlled human studies lags behind the enthusiasm. While coconut oil does not need to be entirely avoided, heaping it on everything may not help you live to 100. Strong studies show the benefits of olive oil, seeds, nuts, and fatty fish, so less glamorized fats also deserve their place in the sun.
8. Tons of Protein = Weight Loss
Many people try losing weight by eating nothing but chicken, beef, and piles of whey protein (even in tablet form). Whey protein includes amino acids, which are absorbed quickly, this diet excludes necessary moderate amounts of fat, protein, and carb sources (just at a lower intake). In fact, the animal-heavy approach may pose bigger problems (increased mortality and cancer risk). Experts also question the sustainability of high protein diets. Protein may increase the feeling of fullness, but one study claims that hunger is better controlled from protein sources such as peas and beans.
9. Weight Loss is about Exercise, Willpower, & Eating Less
It is a myth that weight gain is caused by some sort of moral failure. Also, that calories are a big “no”! The body being a highly complex biological system with many hormones and brain centers that regulate when, what and how much we eat, makes this myth inaccurate. Genetics, hormones and all sorts of external factors (like eating junk food) have a huge effect.
10. Detox or Cleanse At Least Once a Month
Spending a small fortune on miracle cleanses does not replace our innate detoxification organ —the liver. To function optimally and detoxify as it should, the liver requires a healthy weight, nutrient-dense foods, and the avoidance of sugar. If you treat the liver right, it will detoxify!
There are tonnes of other myths out there (avoid egg yolks; wheat is a health food; saturated fats and full-fat dairy products are bad for the heart; protein raises the acidity of the blood and seeps calcium from the bones leading to osteoporosis; all calories are created equal; eating red meat raises the risk of several diseases; etc.), so before adopting a “popular” dietary lifestyle, check the research and know the facts!