The 5 Most Common Health Myths Put to Rest
For as long as there have been urban legends, there have been health myths boggling our minds and adding confusion to the already confusing world of healthy eating.
With diet and exercise ranking as one of the top priorities for most men and women, success can be a challenge when you have different health myths rearing their heads in medical studies and news reports.
“Diet, health, and exercise can be scary enough,” says Christy Shatlock, one of the lead dietitians for bistroMD. “When you add in myths that predict doom and gloom if you eat certain foods or do certain things, getting healthy just gets more confusing, which leads to more frustration.”
To help you avoid the pitfalls of flinging yourself into despair over detrimental diet claims, Christy is putting to rest some of the biggest health myths out there, and giving you tips on what you need to know to avoid being tricked by the all of the misinformation.
5. You Crave Certain Foods Because Your Body Needs Them
Perhaps one of the most mistaken health myths out there today is that when you crave certain foods, it’s because your body needs them.
“This is definitely a myth,” says Christy. “Cravings are associated more with emotional feelings rather than with what your body actually needs. In fact, many times, cravings are caused by eating too much of the wrong foods. We develop a dependence on these foods, and when we change our eating habits to exclude them, we feel an emotional detachment. This is why so many people are unsuccessful at dieting.”
Rather than giving into the health myth craze of cravings, Christy recommends slowly incorporating some of the foods you neglect when you diet into your current weight loss plan.
“Effective diets will actually encourage you to designate a day where you eat some of the very foods you are excluding,” says Christy. “This is why bistroMD incorporates a 'My Night' into our 7 day meal plans. By doing this, you are actually encouraging your metabolism to readjust itself effectively, so it won’t take the nutrition in this unhealthy food and use it to supply your body with energy.”
The next time you get a food craving, just remember: it’s all in your head.
4. Eating Smaller Meals Throughout the Day is Better Than Eating Fewer, Larger Meals
“As long as your body is getting the proper amount of nutrients and calories to promote effective weight loss, is doesn't really matter if you eat larger meals, or smaller, mini-meals throughout the day,” says Christy. “Ideally, you need to make sure that all of your meals contain an essential balance of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats to stimulate your metabolism.”
If you choose to eat larger meals, and are worried about cravings during the day, eat snacks that contain protein in between each meal.
These snacks will provide your body with needed energy, and will also keep you feeling fuller for a longer period of time.
3. Eating Calories at Night is More Fattening Than Eating Calories During the Day
Surprisingly, part of this myth is true.
“There is a reason why many health experts say that you shouldn't eat right before you go to sleep,” says Christy. “During sleep, our bodies rest after supplying needed nutrients to the rest of our body all day, so digestion slows down. If you eat right before you go to sleep, your body will have a hard time distributing the nutrients from your food to the rest of the body, causing acid reflux, and heartburn. This slow-down in digestion also makes it easier for your body to turn this food into excess stored fat.”
The bottom line: know your bedtime, and eat your last meal at least three hours before you wander off into dreamland.
2. More Protein Means Larger Muscles
One health myth that has been prominent in modern society is that eating more protein builds larger muscles.
“People should realize that protein actually gets stored in muscle, but doesn't develop your muscles naturally on its own,” says Christy. “In order to get big muscles, you have to specifically perform muscle and strength-training exercises. High-protein foods, and protein supplements don't do this for you alone. It requires a lot of effort through exercise."
Protein’s role in a healthy metabolism should not be mistaken for building muscle. Protein is crucial in maintaining a healthy weight because our bodies don’t naturally store protein; we must get it from food.
“Even to function at a minimal level, our bodies first use available carbohydrates, then protein, and last turn to our fat stores for energy,” says Christy. “The very process of burning body fat requires the presence of protein and carbohydrates. If these nutrients are not included in your diet, your body will break down lean body tissue for the protein, and convert it into carbohydrates for energy. This even includes muscle tissue.”
So, while protein is essential for maintaining a stable weight, it won’t help your muscles get big on their own. Only specific exercises can do that.
1. Carbohydrates Make You Fat
Probably one of the biggest myths in the world of health and weight loss is that carbohydrates make you fat.
The important thing to remember when it comes to this myth is that there are two different types of carbohydrates. There are bad carbohydrates, and then there are good carbohydrates. The bad carbohydrates are the ones that can, and will, make you fat.
“Bad carbohydrates are found in foods that contain a ton of sugar, like pastries and cakes, and also foods like French fries, and cheeseburgers,” says Christy. “These are the foods that you should avoid, and these are carbohydrates that will cause you to gain weight.”
On the contrary, there are good carbohydrates that are healthy and that are essential for maintaining a successful weight.
“Good carbohydrates are actually needed to stimulate your metabolism to burn fat,” says Christy. “Good carbohydrates are also called complex carbohydrates, and they provide your body with needed energy.”
Complex carbohydrates don’t contain simple sugars, and provide your body with long-lasting energy. These “good” carbohydrates can be found in foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
“Although there are diets that say that you should not eat any carbohydrates, or only eat a very small amount, bistroMD recommends that people trying to lose or maintain weight should stick to carbohydrate consumption that makes up between 30-35% of their daily calorie intake," says Christy. "When carbohydrates are completely cut out of our diet, our bodies can go into a state of ketosis, which means that your body essentially thinks it is starving, and begins to take actions to produce a substitute for the glucose that is missing due to a lack of carbohydrate intake."
For this reason, healthy weight loss cannot be achieved without carbohydrate intake. Low carb diets, and those that suggest removing them altogether, are potentially damaging to your health and should be avoided at all costs. Similar weight loss results can be achieved using a more healthy and sustainable diet of balanced nutrition, such as bistroMD.
The next time you are faced with these nutrition myths, keep the truth in mind, and do your research before you buy into the hype.