When it comes to figuring out what you should or shouldn’t eat, there’s conflicting information everywhere you turn. Figuring out which statements are true and which are nutrition myths can be difficult, but simple science can help. Here are the top 10 myths and the reasons why you shouldn’t believe them.
Myth #1 – Saturated Fat Should be Avoided at All Costs
The idea that you should avoid saturated fat came about in the 1950s, making it one of the oldest nutrition myths out there. As recently as 2002, the Food & Nutrition board claimed that “saturated fats are not required at any level in the diet.” However, science says that saturated fats (from both plants and animals) are important for building strong cell membranes and forming the hormones your body needs to function. Fats also carry fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K.
Myth #2 – You Shouldn’t Eat After Dark
The idea that your metabolism effectively shuts down during the nighttime hours is one of the most-believed nutrition myths. However, nutrition experts agree that the metabolism doesn’t simply stop while you sleep. Think of your body like its own supply-and-demand economy. If you do less at night, you should eat less because your body needs less fuel. If you work out in the evening, you should go ahead and have that after-dark meal to provide your body with the fuel it needs.
Myth #3 – Frozen Fruits and Vegetables aren’t as Nutritious as Fresh
These days, fresh produce is expensive in most parts of the world. Thus, people often turn to their grocers’ freezer aisles for their fruits and vegetables. You’ve probably heard that freezing produce kills some of the vitamins and nutrients, but this isn’t the case. Foods destined for the freezer are picked at the peak of freshness, which locks in nutrients. Fresh foods destined for the produce aisle are picked before they are ripe, which doesn’t give them the time they need to develop those nutrients and vitamins. In many cases, frozen fruits and vegetables may be more nutritious for these reasons.
Myth #4 – Eating Healthy is Too Expensive
Of all the nutrition myths you might hear, this one is the easiest to debunk. Water is one of the healthiest things you consume, and it comes right from the tap! Imagine the money you can save when you don’t buy soda or sugar-laden juice. Frozen vegetables are quite affordable, as are many frozen fruits, and you can find things like dry beans and whole-grain rice for just pennies per serving, too.
Myth #5 – You Can’t Build Muscle on Vegan/Vegetarian Diets
This is one is quite possibly one of the worst nutrition myths of all time. Proteins come in many different forms, and you can get plenty from plants. For example, beans, lentils, soy, nuts, seeds, and even nutritional yeast are awesome sources of protein. Vegans and vegetarians can build just as much muscle as omnivores. Many are actually more successful as they pay closer attention to their diets.
Myth #6 – Food Cravings are Caused by Nutrient Deficiencies
This is a wives’ tale with no scientific basis. Cravings occur due to restricted or boring diets, and in some cases, they may occur in people who have associated comfort with certain types of foods. If you’re craving ice cream, for example, it’s not because your body is deficient in calcium. It’s likely because you’ve associated ice cream with a sense of comfort, or because you’ve been avoiding sweets.
Myth #7 – You Shouldn’t Eat Fruit Because of the Sugar
When it comes to controlling your sugar intake, you don’t have to avoid fruit. The sugars that occur naturally in fruits are healthier than refined sugar, such as table sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Nutrition experts agree that the vitamins, minerals, and fiber provided by fruits like apples and oranges significantly outweighs any risk associated with the sugar they contain. The USDA recommends four servings of fruit per day, so as long as you stick to those guidelines, sugar content isn’t an issue.
Myth #8 – Everyone can Benefit from a Gluten-Free Diet
People who have celiac disease or a true gluten intolerance will undoubtedly feel better once they’ve cut the gluten out of their diets. However, unless you have a real medical problem that stems from your body’s inability to properly deal with gluten, cutting it from your diet isn’t going to make a difference in your health or how you feel.
Myth #9 – High Fructose Corn Syrup Is Worse than Sugar
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was originally designed to mimic table sugar, or sucrose. This means that whether your food is sweetened with granulated white sugar or corn syrup, you’re consuming the same number of calories. In fact, studies have confirmed that both have the exact same effect on your blood sugar, triglycerides, and even satiety levels, which means there’s virtually no difference between the two.
Myth #10 – You Can Eat as Much as You Want if it’s Healthy
The idea that you can eat what you want, when you want if it’s healthy is one of the most debated nutrition myths of them all. It’s actually pretty simple to debunk, too. All food contains calories, no matter what it is. Even if your diet consists of nothing but tofu, kale, and baby carrots, you can still consume more than your recommended daily allowance of calories, which will inevitably lead to weight gain. Remember to take all things in moderation – even healthy food.
Nutrition myths can make it difficult to decide what’s healthy and what should be avoided. The best way to know whether you’re eating a healthy diet is to eat a variety of foods in moderation. Eat three to four servings of vegetables and four servings of fruit per day, replace simple carbs with complex ones, don’t fret over fats, and avoid foods with added sugars. That’s really all there is to a healthy, balanced diet.