It wasn’t too long ago that chain e-mails were a big thing. You would get one from your grandmother, and she got it from her friends, and they got it from theirs, so on and so forth. It would always be some story about this or that and at the end of it all, it was pretty obvious that it was all too outlandish to be real. It was just real enough to trick anyone who wasn’t thinking about it too hard and just happened to be reading (and forwarding) with their emotions.
Nowadays, we see it a lot on Facebook and across other social media platforms. It seems like no matter where we look, there's never a shortage of myths and rumors.
Even before the information age, there were plenty of myths around health and nutrition. Looking back, I’m sure we’d all be horrified at some older beliefs about health and food. Even today, there are some pretty strange ideas about nutrition that are still popular. You might even believe a few of them.
The truth is, a lot of nutrition myths are in the mainstream—and they’re doing a lot of damage to our health.
These are 6 myths, debunked.
Debunking 6 Mainstream Nutrition Myths Sabotaging Your Health
Myth #1 — Certain foods burn fat.
In an effort to lose weight, many diets suggest “fat burning” foods like cabbage, grapefruit, and cayenne pepper, among others. No foods do this. While foods might be able to have a subtle influence on metabolic rates, it’s not going to be significant enough, even over time, to have a real impact on weight loss. These diets that restrict your food intake to a select few foods just end up depriving your body of essential nutrients and calories. It’s not sustainable and it’s just not good for you!
Myth #2 — Athletes won’t get osteoporosis.
Here’s a big one. One big assumption people have about athletes is that they’re immune to things like osteoporosis and other bone maladies because they’re active. It’s not true. While being active can definitely help reduce your risk of certain diseases, it can’t eliminate it. Exercise alone doesn’t totally support bone health, either: we need a balance of exercise and adequate nutrition that involves support from calcium, magnesium, and vitamins D and K. Athletes have to ensure that they aren’t straining themselves by over-exercising, are maintaining proper caloric intake, and receiving proper nutrient intake.
Myth #3 — Eating fat is always bad.
This myth was big in the 80’s and 90’s and we’re still feeling the effects of it today. Low-fat versions of products are still popular and there are many people who are fearful of any fatty foods. Here’s the truth: fat isn’t all that bad for you, and all fats aren’t created equal. While it’s true that a high-fat, high-carb diet can cause weight gain, it’s been proven that a high-fat, low-carb diet can actually yield better weight loss results than a low-fat diet: even when calories are restricted.
Healthy fats, like those found in fish, avocados, and oils can be beneficial in our diets. In the right context, they can aid in weight loss. The truth is, eating fat doesn’t make us fat.
Myth #4 — A craving means you need the nutrients it would provide.
If this were true, wouldn’t we always want fruits and veggies? Isn’t it funny how we’re always craving ice cream and chips? The foods most densely packed with nutrients just aren’t the foods we crave. We usually crave foods because of hormone fluctuations or environmental factors, like sights and smells.
Cravings don’t mean much of anything except that we want it. Reach for a healthy snack first. If you still want something not-so-great, have a small portion. You don’t want to deprive yourself.
Myth #5 — Dark bread is automatically more nutritious.
This one surprised me. Did you know that companies dye white bread to make it look healthier? That the wheat bread that we think is healthier is actually just white bread in disguise? It’s true! I don’t know about you, but I felt totally duped when I found out.
When buying bread, always check the ingredients. “Enriched wheat flour” means white bread. You want that first ingredient to be some kind of 100% whole wheat or grain.
Myth #6 — All calories are created equal.
Most of us probably know this one isn’t true. Most of us likely have a daily calorie goal that we want to meet. Now, if we’re really doing calorie-counting, we’re also calculating our macros—proteins, fats, carbs, etc. We can even track sodium and sugars. We might have goals for those, too, because we know that calories aren’t created equal. Someone who eats 1,500 calories of fast food isn’t going to be in the same shape mentally or physically as someone who eats 1,500 calories of fresh veggies and protein.
Even then, different ratios of macros can affect us, too. Protein may increase metabolic rate. Cutting carbs can increase weight loss. High carb and high fat can increase weight. There are many different variations and combinations that can be helpful and harmful to an individual.
The body is incredibly complex—so by nature, so is nutrition!
What’s a nutrition myth that you had to unlearn?