In today’s age of television infomercials, the internet and social media, people can easily get confused when it comes to health and fitness, causing common nutrition myths to circulate. Everywhere you turn, so called “experts” are telling you to work out this way or eat that way. And as long as people continually search for that elusive magic short-cut to their dream body, we’re going to continue to be bombarded with information–much of which isn’t the truth. Today I want to tackle a few common nutrition myths that are still in circulation and clear up some of the confusion so you can finally eat with confidence.
Myth: Saturated Fat Is Bad For You. For as long as I can remember, we’ve been told that saturated fats will cause heart disease and raise cholesterol. This belief is even incorporated into many modern dietary guidelines.
- The Truth: Recent studies show that saturated fat has NO link to increased risk for heart disease or stroke. In fact, saturated fats can even raise HDL, the “good” cholesterol–making them one of the good fats for the body. Trans fats, on the other hand, are bad for you and have been linked to raising the risk of heart disease dramatically through insulin resistance and metabolic problems.
Myth: A Calorie Is A Calorie. Many people will tell you that “calories are calories” and it doesn’t matter where your body gets them from. This myth is essentially saying that as long as you control your calorie intake, it doesn’t matter what you eat.
- The Truth: Not all calories are created equal. Different kinds of food can directly affect calorie and fat burning, and different foods also have an effect on the brain centers and hormones that regulate your appetite. For example, a high protein diet can significantly reduce appetite and even raise your metabolic rate. One study even indicates that a high protein diet can help you eat fewer calories.
Myth: You Should Eat Several Small Meals Throughout The Day. This is a big one that is still out there as many fitness and nutrition “experts” will tell you that eating several smaller meals throughout the day will keep your metabolism high and, in turn, help you lose weight.
- The Truth: While eating frequent, small meals may help curb your appetite, it has no effect on the amount of calories you burn. On the contrary, one study showed that there may be a correlation between frequent meals and increased liver and abdominal fat.
Myth: Eating Fat Makes You Fat. This one has been around for years and is the driver behind the “fat free” food craze. Fat is the stuff under your skin that makes you look soft, so it only seems logical that eating fat would give you more of it.
- The Truth: The truth of this one depends on the context. Diets that are high in processed carbs and fat can make you fat, but it’s not the fat’s fault. In reality, diets that are high in fat but low in processed carbs consistently lead to better weight loss than low-fat diets. So, when looking at full-fat vs low-fat foods, make sure you’re also checking the carb and calorie counts.
Myth: Cut All Carbs From Your Diet If You Want To Lose Weight. Much like the “fats make you fat” craze above, carbs have more recently been labeled as “evil” and something you must avoid in order to get that desired lean body.
- The Truth: Carbohydrates are what fuel the body and allow you to get through those all-important high intensity training sessions, but many non-pros seem to think that cutting carbs completely from their diet is the only way to lose weight. The key is the type of carbs you eat. Instead of eating empty carbs – such as sugars, white breads and pastas, the focus should be on whole-grain carbs such as brown rice, vegetables and fruits to not only help provide fuel, but also to assure you’re getting enough fiber in your diet.
In closing, always be sure to do your homework when it comes to fitness and nutrition and don’t be quick to jump on the latest bandwagon. Nutrition can be a confusing piece of the health puzzle, but seek out the truth behind the latest craze.
Ken Grall a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength & Conditioning Association, as well as a Youth Fitness Specialist (YFS) through the International Youth Conditioning Association. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.