10 Nutrition Myths That Need to Be Debunked

Healthy Eating

Nutrition myths need to be addressed so we can eat the most healthy food.

Some nutrition myths can actually be quite harmful to those seeking to live a healthy lifestyle.

Nutrition is a big part of our life. Why wouldn’t it be? We generally eat food and drink three or more times a day. Naturally, people are curious and are going to want to know what they are putting into their bodies. This makes nutrition a good selling point for food companies in the media. However, the truth doesn’t always sell very well, and the food companies will use every opportunity available to be the next viral hit. In addition to possibly misinterpreted medical and scientific studies, a constant need for new news can bend and contort the truth about nutrition and spread the false information until it becomes an accepted truth. These are the ten biggest nutrition myths that need to be debunked.

Nutrition Myths – 1: Fresh Produce is Always Better Than Frozen Produce

This one is surprising. It would seem to make sense that fresh would always be better than frozen. However, consider this: when vegetables, fruit, and other produce are picked, they then have to be shipped to various grocery stores, processed there, and then put out for sale. And they often sit on the shelves for days before being purchased. During all that time, they are reacting to light, air, and other environmental conditions, and slowly leaching away some of the nutrients.

Frozen food being unhealthy is one of many nutrition myths.

Frozen produce, on the other hand, is frozen immediately after harvesting, which locks in most of the nutrients. Recent studies have shown that nutrient levels in frozen produce are comparable and sometimes higher than in fresh produce. Some nutritionists have even suggested that if you’re going for a fruit or vegetable that is out of season, head for the freezer aisle. You’ll save a little money, and chances are the frozen produce will have retained some additional nutrient value. Fresh is good, but frozen is also, well, good.

Nutrition Myths – 2: You Can Burn Certain Fat With Certain Exercises

You’ve probably had this happen – when checking out at the grocery store, you see a magazine with the face of a nice middle-aged man with graying hair. “Dr. Oz says these strange tips burn belly fat!” No matter what you are doing, you cannot burn one area of fat with a certain exercise. Scientific studies show that specific fat burning, or “spot-reduction,” appears to be a total myth. When you exercise, your fat cells release fat which travels through the blood. The fat then searches for cells that will burn it for energy. Fat could come from your face and end up in your legs. Certain exercises, like rebounding, will burn fat all over your body, but not specific fat.

Nutrition Myths – 3: Carbohydrates Are Bad

You’ve probably heard people talk about limiting carbohydrates, or going on a “low-carb” diet. However, the problem comes in when they lump all carbs together, and cut them all down, or out. There are, to break things down simply, “good” and “bad” carbs. The good ones are complex carbohydrates and are found in foods such as whole grains, legumes (beans, lentils, peas), and some vegetables like corn and pumpkin. These long-chain molecules take more time for your body to break down and put to use, which generally leads to a more even release of energy.

Nutrition myths surround carbohydrates.

The problem is with the “bad” or simple carbohydrates. These molecules can be broken down by the body much quicker, and if you’re not actively using that energy (you may have heard someone say they’re going to “carb-up” for an intense workout or strenuous physical activity, meaning they’re eating food packed with simple carbohydrates), those carbs get converted to fat and stored. And a lot of delicious foods are packed with simple carbohydrates. So, know your carbs, exercise, and practice portion control, especially when it comes to these simple carb foods: soda, candy, pastries, and other dessert items, white rice, white bread, white pasta, and potatoes.

Nutrition Myths – 4: Added Sugar Is Always Bad For Your Health

Many people will say that adding sugar to your recipes is bad for you. As an alternative, they will suggest “natural” sweeteners, such as honey, which is essentially a refined sugar. And your body processes all these sugars the same – as four calories per gram. Adding sugar isn’t bad, as long as it’s not too much. Health experts suggest that no more than 10 percent of the calories in your diet overall should come from sugar. So feel free to add a little sugar to that tart tomato-sauce, or dab a teaspoon of honey on your grapefruit. The problem comes in when way too much sugar is added, which is the case with most processed cookies, candies and other desert related items you find at the stores. Sugar used appropriately is not bad. It’s the large amounts of sugar that get you into trouble.

Nutrition Myths – 5: Eating Calories at Night is More Fattening

Don’t eat that! It’s too late! YOU’LL GET FAT! You’ve probably heard that late-night eating leads to getting fat. Well, probably not. According to the USDA, “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. ” And Dr. John Foyet, the director of the Behavioral Research Medicine Center at the Baylor College of Medicine says, “Calories are calories are calories, and it doesn’t matter what time you eat them. What matters are the total calories you take in.”

Nutrition myths like eating late is bad aren't always right.

Nutrition Myths – 6: Fat Is Bad For You

Let’s get things straight. Fat is a micro-nutrient. Fat on your body is stored sugar. They are different. Fat is found in many natural foods and it is all good for you. These different fats are actually required by your body to function correctly. So when you see “fat-free” stuff, know that you shouldn’t buy or eat it just because it doesn’t have fat. You actually need fat, and you’ll still get fat from eating too much of anything, even if it’s “fat-free.” Plus, most times, these food items are pumped full of man-made garbage (chemical, artificial sweeteners) to help it taste better after the fat is removed. The best thing is to understand the different kinds of fat and adopt a diet that allows you to have a balanced fat intake but in properly sized proportions.

Nutrition Myths – 7: Coffee Is A Drug And Should Be Avoided At All Costs

Nutrition myths about coffee are everywhere.

Many people see the caffeine in coffee and immediately brand it “unhealthy.” This is what we call “judging a beverage by its cover.” Coffee actually has a lot of good health benefits, including powerful antioxidants. Studies also suggest that coffee drinkers have a lower chance of getting Type 2 Diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Depression. Wow!

Nutrition Myths – 8: Organic Produce Is Grown Without The Use Of Pesticides

This one is just an outright lie. While it is true that foods that are not organic will have used pesticides, foods that are “organic” also use pesticides. The difference is that organic foods use organic pesticides (or “derived from natural sources and processed lightly if at all before use”), while non-organic foods use non-organic (or synthesized) pesticides. However, the organic pesticides are often weaker, so they generally have to use a lot more on the food. This is in part responsible for the high cost – that and the word “organic” on the packaging. If you want pesticide-free food, your best bet is to grow it yourself, or go to a local farmer’s market and talk to the farmers about how they grow the food.

Nutrition Myths – 9: Dairy is the Best For Healthy Bones

Ask most people what the best thing for bone health is, and they’ll say calcium. And most people will also tell you that dairy products like milk and cheese are the best source of calcium. So, you want strong bones? Chug that milk, and load up on the grilled cheese sandwiches! And calcium is important for bone health, and milk and dairy do have it.

Nutrition myths hold that dairy is the best source of calcium.

However, it isn’t the only component necessary for strong bones, and dairy isn’t the only, or even necessarily the best source for it. Dark and leafy greens, such as collard greens, mustard greens, kale, and bok choy contain calcium. They also contain vitamin K, another supporter of strong bone health. Magnesium, also very important for strong bones and not found in dairy, can be found in foods such as almonds, cashews, oatmeal, and potatoes. So if you’re interested in strong bones, don’t limit yourself to dairy. Milk and cheese are good calcium sources, but they aren’t the only ones, and a varied diet including dark leafy greens, nuts, oats, and other healthy foods will provide better support for your bones, and overall health.

Nutrition Myths – 10: You Should Eat Many Small Meals Throughout the Day

Many people believe that by eating several small meals throughout the day rather than the traditional three, they’re keeping off extra pounds. The usual reason they give is that eating several smaller keeps your metabolism high, and more active throughout the day, promoting the burning of more calories. And while it is technically true that your metabolism is activated more, it’s the total amount of food you eat that determines the energy your metabolism uses to digest the meal, not the number of meals.

Multiple studies have put this to the test and found that increased meal frequency has no effect on weight loss. In fact, one study even found that eating 6 meals a day led overweight and obese men to feel less full. It’s not natural for our bodies to exist in a constantly fed state, and periods of fasting are good for us. When we don’t eat for a while, our body engages a cellular process known as autophagy, which helps clean waste products out of the cells. Several observational studies have even shown a rise in colon cancer among people who eat meals more frequently.

Nutrition Myths – Final Thoughts

That concludes the top ten healthy eating and nutrition myths. Now that you feel better about eating a lot of things, be sure to keep in mind that you can still get fat and have a poor lifestyle by eating these things. The key to nutrition and healthy eating is to avoid heavy smoking and alcohol, and also avoid things that are factually bad for you. The most common tip in nutrition is actually 100% true: eating healthy is the best way to go.

Last modified: December 3, 2019

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