Factual, trustworthy nutrition information can be hard to come by, especially in the internet age of misinformation and celebrity “nutrition experts”. As Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, we are often asked what information is accurate, where to find it and the ultimate question that starts with “Is it true that…?”. One day, carbs are bad and you and should avoid them at all costs, the following day you hear they are good and you need them as energy, but then you hear that fruit is bad because it has too much sugar! What is true? What can you believe? Let’s take a closer look.
Below are 5 common nutrition myths debunked:
Myth #1: Carbohydrates cause weight gain/ cut out carbohydrates to lose weight.
Carbohydrates are the main source of fuel for our bodies. Cutting out carbohydrates means cutting out our main energy source. We need 40-60% of our daily calories from carbohydrates and many foods are considered carbohydrates including fruits and vegetables. Eating excess carbohydrates, or eating more than your body’s energy requirements, can cause weight gain. It is important to learn portion sizes, moderation and balance to ensure you get enough energy and nutrients from all food groups. Something to consider is that when people lose weight by eating less carbs, much of it is going to be water weight, not actual body fat that is lost. So you will likely end up gaining it back as soon as you do introduce carbs again.
Myth #2: Don’t eat after 8pm or you will gain weight.
Calories are the same whether you eat them at night or during the day. Eating after 8pm does not change the way your body will process food, or automatically store night time calories as body fat. What matters is the amount of calories consumed daily and more importantly, over time. This myth may have stemmed from the observance that people can prevent weight gain by not eating past 8pm…but why? Well if we take a look at many of our lifestyles, its common to be sitting in front of the TV and snacking even though you just ate dinner/or you’re not actually hungry, or even mindlessly overeating. So we think that its important to look at all the factors that may influence weight gain, but remember that your body and metabolism does not shut down at 8pm each night – you are still using calories and energy even while you sleep (it takes energy to breathe, pump your heart, and snore, too)!
Myth #3: High Fructose corn syrup is worse than sugar.
High fructose corn syrup is 55% fructose and 45% glucose, and table sugar is 50% sucrose 50% glucose. There is a very small difference between the two chemically. Studies conducted on the effect of HFCS and sugar have shown similar spikes in blood levels of insulin, glucose, triglycerides, and satiety hormones. Moderation with all sugar is the key to making sure you are staying within the daily recommended intake.
Myth #4: Gluten is unhealthy for everyone.
There is no evidence that gluten itself causes adverse health effects or weight gain. The only people that need to follow a gluten-free diet are those diagnosed with celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which the body can not digest gluten found in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten can not be digested in those who have celiac disease and can cause damage to the small intestine. Unless you had been diagnosed with celiac disease or a sensitivity to gluten, you do not need to follow a gluten free diet. And whats more is that gluten-free foods tend to have a “health halo” meaning we as consumers think they are healthier than the gluten-containing food. The reality is that gluten-free junk food is still junk food. Even gluten-free products can still be highly processed and devoid of nutrients (like fiber or B vitamins) just as much as gluten-containing food products can be.
Myth #5: Fruit has too much sugar, especially bananas.
All fruit is made of natural sugars, as compared to other sweets that are made of processed and added sugars. When eating fruit, you get more than just fructose (fruit sugar): fruit is filled with fiber, vitamins and minerals that will be used and digested by the body. Yes, all fruit is different in terms of what it will provide for you nutritionally making sure to get variety is the key! A banana is portable, accessible and delicious, so if you have been avoiding fruit for fear that it is not a healthy food choice…eat the banana!
Its always important to consider the source of information when it comes to making changes to your diet and lifestyle. Even news stories and web pages can have biased research (ex. Coca Cola funding a study on soft drinks and shockingly he findings are in their favor) but as a general rule, websites with .edu or .org may be reputable sources. And ofcourse, we recommend meeting with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who can help determine whether information is accurate, but also relevant to you, your health, and your lifestyle. Schedule your initial appointment today.