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Nutrition Myths and Facts

In this era of nutrition interest and daily emergence of weight loss products and weight loss protocols, we are bombarded of many nutrition related popular misconceptions and myths. Here are some of the most common diet and nutrition myths and their corresponding real facts.

Myth: Certain foods, like grapefruit, celery, or cabbage soup, can burn fat and make you lose weight. Fact: NO food can burn fat. These foods are very low in calories with almost zero fat content. In addition, some of those foods may contain caffeine which might speed up the metabolism (the way your body uses energy or calories) for a short time, but they do not cause weight loss, nor do they cause loss in fat mass.

Myth: Natural or herbal weight-loss products are safe and effective.
Fact: “Natural” or “Herbal” does not always mean safe, especially in health related products. These products are not usually scientifically tested to prove their safety and efficacy. So far there are no FDA regulations on these products to control their claims and commercialization. One example of an unsafe “Natural” weight loss product is ephedra now banned by the U.S. Government. Ephedra have caused serious health problems and even death.

Myth: Low-fat or fat-free means no calories. You can eat more foods if they are low fat or fat free.
Fact: Low fat or fat free does not mean calorie free. A low-fat or fat-free food is OFTEN lower in calories than the same size portion of the full-fat product. But many processed low-fat or fat-free foods have just as many calories as the full-fat version of the same food—or even MORE calories. Usually, when the fat is taken out, sugar and other carbohydrates are added in to keep the taste. This brings the low-fat version to usually the same caloric content as the regular full fat version. When shopping, make sure you read nutrition labels of the regular versus the low-fat product and compare the calories per serving size. Remember that weight comes down to calories, not fat!

Myth: Skipping meals is a good way to lose weight.
Fact: One popular approach used to lose weight is skipping a meal, usually breakfast. Many people think that by skipping a meal, they eat less food and therefore lose weight. Studies show that people who skip breakfast and eat fewer times during the day tend to be heavier than people who eat a healthy breakfast and eat four or five times a day. This is partly due to the fact that when skipping a meal, you feel hungrier and tend to overeat at the next meal and pay less attention to your satiety cues. Often times, skipping a meal results in an increase in total caloric intake than just eating more frequently throughout the day. A better approach is to eat smaller frequent healthy meals and snacks to keep blood sugar balanced.

Myth: Eating after 8 p.m. causes weight gain.
Fact: It does not matter what time of day you eat. It is what and how much you eat and how much physical activity you do during the whole day that determines whether you gain, lose, or maintain your weight. No matter when you eat, your body will store extra calories as fat.

Myth: Sugar Causes Diabetes
Fact: The most common nutrition myth is probably the misconception that sugar causes diabetes. If you have diabetes, you do need to watch your sugar and carbohydrate intake, to properly manage your blood sugar level. However, if you do not have diabetes, sugar intake will not cause diabetes. So far, a diet high in calories, being overweight and an inactive lifestyle are the main risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.

Myth: All Fats are bad
Fact: Fat are an essential part of the diet, the USDA recommends that around 30% of total daily caloric intake comes from fat (with less than 10% coming from saturated fatty acids). Fats help nutrient absorption, nerve transmission and maintain cell membrane integrity just to name a few functions. However, when consumed in excessive amounts, fats contribute to weight gain, heart disease and certain types of cancers. Also, one must keep in mind that fats differ in their effect on the body. Some fats promote our health positively while some increase our risk for heart disease. The key is to replace bad fats (saturated fats and trans fats) with good fats (monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats) in our diet.

Myth: Brown Sugar is better than White Sugar
Fact: The brown sugar sold at the stores is actually white granulated sugar with added molasses. Yes, brown sugar contains minute amounts of minerals. But unless you eat a gigantic portion of brown sugar everyday – the mineral content difference between brown sugar and white sugar is absolutely insignificant. The idea that brown and white sugar have big differences is another common nutrition myth.

Myth: Margarine has fewer calories than butter.
Fact: Regular stick margarine and stick butter contain the same number of calories: about 36 per teaspoon.

Myth: High-protein/low-carbohydrate diets are a healthy way to lose weight.
Fact: The concept of high protein/low carbohydrates diets comes from the assumption that starches (carbohydrates) are fattening. This is a nutrition myth because starchy foods (bread, rice, pasta, cereals, beans, fruits, and some vegetables) are low in fat and calories. They become high in fat and calories when eaten in large portion sizes or when covered with high-fat toppings like butter, sour cream, or mayonnaise. In addition, the long-term health effects of a high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet are unknown. But getting most of the daily calories from high-protein foods like meat, eggs, and cheese is not a balanced eating plan. These foods are usually increase fat consumption especially saturated fats. which may raise heart disease risk. Also this kind of diet contains too few fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which may lead to constipation due to lack of dietary fiber, and vitamins and minerals deficiencies. A well- balanced diet is still the best option for weight loss.

Myth: “Going vegetarian” means you are sure to lose weight and be healthier.
Fact: Research shows that people who follow a vegetarian eating plan, on average, eat fewer calories and less fat than non-vegetarians. They also tend to have lower body weights relative to their heights than nonvegetarians. Choosing a vegetarian eating plan with a low fat content may be helpful for weight loss. But vegetarians—like nonvegetarians—can make food choices that contribute to weight gain, like eating large amounts of high-fat, high-calorie foods or foods with little or no nutritional value. The term vegetarian is not synonymous with health. Healthy nutrition comes down to choosing nutritious foods within the recommended amounts and limiting foods high in fat, sugar and calories. These facts hold true for those people who choose to include animal products into their diets as well as those who do not!

Common nutrition myth related to adolescents and children taken from The Yale Guide to Children’s Nutrition

  • Myth: Potato chips count as a vegetable in the Food Guide Pyramid.
    Fact: While potatoes are found in the vegetable group, potato chips are not. Potato chips are extremely high in fat and should, therefore, only be eaten occasionally.
  • Myth: “Starve a fever; feed a cold,” or is it “feed a fever; starve a cold”?
    Fact: Neither! Fevers and colds both require adequate nutrition. While children may not have an appetite for many foods when they are sick, it is still important to frequently encourage food and fluid intake.
  • Myth: Chocolate and fried foods cause acne.
    Fact: Research has not shown a connection between the consumption of chocolate and/or high fat food intake and the appearance of acne. Acne is primarily associated with hormonal changes in adolescence.
  • Myth: Fish is brain food.
    Fact: Fish provides many excellent nutrients and is an excellent food choice. However, it does not have any special effects on brain development or learning.
  • Myth: Sugar causes hyperactivity.
    Fact: Sugar has not been shown to cause hyperactivity. A modest intake of sugar is acceptable in the context of a balanced, nutritious diet.

This entry was posted on Friday, March 16th, 2007 and is filed under News and Tips.