De-bunking Nutrition Myths
Researchers at Texas A &M University recently tackled the most popular and thriving nutrition facts versus myths.
There is a never-ending new parade of yearly diets and trends ready to boost your health or help you to lose weight. The most popular selections light the internet literally on fire, and captivate millions of consumers looking for the next quick health or weight loss fix. Often times, the average person who buys into these plans will suspend intelligence, “because if everyone is doing it or a celebrity swears by it, it will for sure work for me too.”
True or False – A gluten free dessert is healthier than traditional desserts.
This is false. The only individuals who need to eat gluten free are individuals diagnosed with celiac disease, or individuals whose clinicians have documented a clear gluten allergy or problem. Putting that discussion aside, dessert is still dessert and should be enjoyed as an occasional treat. Truthfully, gluten free desserts are often higher in calories.
True or false – Choosing sugar free and fat free foods leads to loss of fat
This is false. Labels that advertise sugar free or fat free often lure you with a health halo message. A consumer will tend to think these foods are healthier or lower in calories. If you are eating more calories than you should, it won’t matter that you chose a sugar free or fat free food. It’s also important to recognize that if sugar is removed from a processed food, there is likely a big dose of fat, often unhealthy fat, to compensate and provide taste. The same is true when fat is either removed or not present to begin with (think red licorice) in a food. Red licorice will typically have a “fat free” claim on its label. Clearly that doesn’t make it a healthier food.
Levels of sugar or the amounts and types of fat should be considered when it comes to evaluating the nutrient status and health value of a food.
True or false – Shun all carbs because they make you fat
This is false. We all love carbs. The ones we usually choose to eat are typically highly processed, tasty foods, many of which are called comfort foods because they really satisfy and boost our mood (and unfortunately, our blood sugar levels). Carbs have gotten a bad rap because we consume them far too frequently, we tend to choose less healthy options, and yes, if we overeat the highly processed grains, we will pack on pounds, specifically fat pounds. On the other hand, we need carbs because they are our body’s main source of fuel. Your body stores readily available energy stores called glycogen, made when carbs are digested.
True or false – Eating at night means weight gain
This is false but needs some discussion. If you save up all your day’s calories for nighttime eating you will likely not gain weight, unless you overeat. The caveat is that your body’s metabolism works more efficiently during the daytime, and you also are more active during the daytime. So it’s more prudent to consume calories throughout the day, so you can literally burn it up using up as fuel. Experts also suggest that if you do skip breakfast or lunch, you are more likely to overeat at dinnertime and during evening hours, trying to satisfy the daytime gaps of food.
For most people who struggle with weight issues, consuming a balanced diet with three meals and one or two snacks will likely help with weight management. If you brush your teeth after dinner, it can also help to limit post-dinner eating.
True or false – Agave and other natural sugars are healthier
Not really. Though some studies seem to indicate that fructose in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is more addictive and may cause more weight gain or health problems, the science is just not conclusive yet. Health experts do agree that “sugar is sugar,” regardless of the source. All forms of sugar have calories, cultivate a sweet tooth when consumed regularly, and they all contribute to weight gain and tooth decay when consumed in excess.
Some quick comments on other diet trends: Fasting is NOT necessary to cleanse your body, and juicing does not have clear science to suggest that it’s healthier than eating a nutrient-rich balanced meal. If fact, when you drink rather than eat meals, you lose the sensation of chewing which offers satisfaction and also paces your consumption of a meal. Many energy bars are actually glorified candy bars filled with unnecessary levels of sugar and fat. Celebrities and the internet are not necessarily the best sources of diet and nutrition information.
Also check out: Starting a New Diet? Go Mediterranean