A scroll through your social media feed and group chats forwards will bring you across multiple guaranteed tips and tricks to use food as a cure for many ailments. Unfortunately, this digital era of fast content creation proves to be easy to perpetrate food and nutrition myths by unlicensed individuals. Furthermore, we are also passing down on non-scientifically backed advice generation upon generation. Unfortunately, almost all of us are guilty of not verifying the authenticity of such “advice” and passing them on forward.
We at HealthifyMe have taken upon us the task of debunking the 12 most common diet and nutrition myths believed by most.
12 Common Diet and Nutrition Myths
Myth 1: Detox Diets Lead To Weight Loss
One of the most common myths you must have come across is a detox diet to shed a few kilos off. In a nutshell, it means advice for crash dieting or juice-only diets for days.
Explanation: While such extreme diets seem to be working at first, they are neither sustainable nor permanent. The resulting weight loss is temporary. Long-term intake of such diets results in severe deficiencies in the range of vital nutrients required for the upkeep of your body. Prolonged detox diets lead to severe gut disturbances, acne breakouts, extreme hair fall, weakness and cravings due to the lack of essential macro and micronutrients in your body.
What to do instead: Any change in your diet with the purpose of weight loss should be balanced in terms of nutrients. It should meet your minimum calorie requirement for it to be worthwhile.
Myth 2: Say No To Favourite Foods
How many times have you said no to even the tiny piece of your favourite chocolate? Is it because people around you have guilt-tripped you? We are here to tell you that completely denying yourself treats is not the right way to go about weight loss.
Explanation: This one is more of lousy advice than a food myth. What is likely to happen if you strictly abstain from your favourite food? When you deny and do not indulge yourself, you ultimately give in to your cravings. As a result, abandon all efforts to maintain a healthy diet in the future. Also, remember that the emotional effect on your mind will further lead to the release of cortisone in your body. This stress hormone gets converted into body fat.
What should you do instead: The key here is being mindful and not overeating. Life is all about balance, so use your favourite foods as positive reinforcements. After all, what is the use of making significant lifestyle changes if they are counterproductive to your quality of living by the end of the day?
Myth 3: Magic Foods For Fat Loss
The internet is full of articles detailing unusual recipes. They claim that they can magically burn down your belly fat within a few days, regenerate your hair growth, or turn you into a celebrity lookalike.
Explanation: There is no scientific evidence of the existence of these “superfoods”. Suppose you do not accommodate additional measures in your life targeting the problem areas. In that case, the job remains half done, and no food or recipe will aid you to achieve your desired results.
What should you do instead: Along with a well-balanced diet, you need to maintain a regular sleeping pattern while taking care of your body’s overall physical and mental health. Only when your body is in complete harmony with itself will you be able to see any significant impact.
Myth 4: Say No To Egg Yolks
Another prominent food myth is that egg yolks are fattening, and you should avoid them.
Explanation: There has been a common misconception among people that all fats are bad for your health. Due to marketing gimmick, another myth propagated is that dietary cholesterol inflates blood cholesterol levels. In reality, it is your trans fat and high amount of saturated fat consumption that alleviate your heart conditions. On the other hand, Eggs can prove beneficial for your health due to their high protein and vitamin content.
What should you do instead: To ensure a healthy heart and glowing kin, include egg yolks as a part of your daily diet as they are a good source of Omega3 fatty acids, Vitamin A, D, E, K, along with folic acid. Just make sure you cook the egg thoroughly to avoid any bacterial infections.
Myth 5: Carbs Make You Fat
How often have you been advised to cut your carbs to get the desired weight? Unfortunately, the prevalent belief is that carbohydrates play the role of only making you gain weight.
Explanation: Carbohydrates, in truth, should make up for 50-60 % of your calorie intake in a well-balanced diet. As per nutrition and science, carbs are the primary source of sustenance. They provide your body with the required energy to carry on all bodily functions. In addition, they further help maintain good gut health, blood sugar levels, and muscle mass.
What should you do instead: Rather than removing carbs from your diets, you need to cut down on the hidden sugar content in foods you consume. These sugars are hidden not only in your beverages but also in savoury stuff, including deep-fried food. So instead, source your carbs in the right amount and quality from rotis, rice, pasta, dosas, and other fibre rich cereals.
Myth 6: Women Drinking Milk For Strong Bones
Women are urged in all stages of their lives to increase milk intake for one process or another, ranging from pregnancy to lactation and menopause. The myth of women needing milk for stronger bones is a result of another marketing gimmick.
Explanation: A leading study conducted by Harvard has proven no link between increased milk consumption and meeting women’s calcium requirements. It further states it does not prevent osteoporosis.
What should you do instead: Suppose you are lactose intolerant or just not a big fan of milk. In that case, you can meet your daily calcium requirements from other sources like ragi and soybean. In addition, green leafy vegetables like spinach, dill leaves and broccoli can be your alternate sources of calcium whenever your palette demands a break from dairy products.
Myth 7: People with diabetes Should Avoid Fruits
The first advice any diabetic person receives is to avoid fruits. Due to their sugar content, fruits have developed a bad name. They do not contribute to increasing a person’s blood sugar level.
Explanation: Most fruits have low glycemic index levels, indicating they do not cause any steep rise in your blood sugar. Fruits prove to be a good source of fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which help manage your blood sugar levels. Due to their health benefits, fruits aid against complications due to long-standing diabetes and even excess weight gain.
What should you do instead: Pay attention to the glycemic load or the portion of your fruit serving and the time of intake. Include 2 servings of fruit per day – one should be a perennial fruit such as an apple or banana and the other should be a seasonal fruit. While regulating the portion size—the time of eating fruits also matters. So enjoy the maximum nutritional benefit from your favourite fruits.
Myth 8: Eight Glasses Of Water A Day
Our body contains close to 70% water. However, it is an entirely false misconception that you need to drink two-three litres or about eight glasses of water daily to prevent dehydration.
Explanation: Water is indeed the wonder beverage for the body. It keeps in check the metabolism and hydration levels and manages overall body health. However, there is no science-backed definitive quantity of daily water intake.
What should you do instead: You be the judge. The best indicator of whether your body requires more water is your urine. Monitor the colour of your urine, which should ideally vary between light yellow to transparent. The lighter the colour, the more hydrated your body is. In case you are suffering from a cold or fever or have taken on a new prescription of multivitamins, then keep your water intake slightly above regular days.
Myth 9: Sugar Causes Diabetes
With a limited understanding of diseases and how the body functions, a common myth is that the direct consumption of sugar causes diabetes. It is quite a prevalent belief that eating sugar is the only reason people turn diabetic in the future.
Explanation: The World Health organisation responsible for setting up international dietary standards recommends an intake of up to 5 teaspoons of sugar every day. Though excess sugar has strong links with people developing diabetes, it isn’t the sole contributor to high blood sugar levels, as inferred by WHO’s guidelines. Diabetes can be genetically inherited or arise due to body weight, limited physical activity, or even an unbalanced diet.
What should you do instead: Choose your sugar sources wisely and avoid those food/ beverage items where sugar levels are beyond your control in adjustments. Being mindful and making wise food and lifestyle choices can help reduce your risk of getting diabetes.
Myth 10: No B12 Deficiency In Meat-Eaters
Eating a non-vegetarian rich diet fulfils the body’s requirement of Vitamin B12.
Explanation: Even though meat, fish and eggs are excellent sources of vitamin B-12, you could still be deficient in this particular vitamin despite rich sources of intake. The reason here is not the servings of your meat portion; instead, your body’s absorption capacity could be less. For most micro-nutrients, their absorption depends solely on good gut health. Unfortunately, alcohol consumption, excess antacids, an unbalanced diet, and stress contribute to poor gut health.
What should you do instead: It would be best if you boosted the pro-biotics (good bacteria present in your gut) for better absorption of Vitamin B12 and other micronutrients.
Myth 11: Eat Raw Foods
You need to eat raw foods to avoid the loss of nutrients during cooking.
Explanation: Okay, we’ll bite when needed. But we will enjoy wholesome and tasty food too. There is some truth from where this myth originates. Heat exposure to raw vegetables does impact some water-soluble vitamins negatively when you cook them. However, eating cooked foods is significantly better than raw food for better gut health. The cooking process releases some enzymes that break down fibres present in the food and improve the availability of micronutrients.
What should you do instead: Including vegetables in your diet is the most necessary part at the end of the day. Of course, you can choose to have different kinds of salads. But balance it out with cooked vegetables. That ensures better assimilation of all micronutrients and good functioning of your gut.
Myth 12: Choose Anything Brown
Be it rice, sugar or bread or eggs- brown foods are better than their white counterparts.
Explanation: This food myth made waves and was propagated heavily by self-proclaimed “Health Chefs”, and it continues to make rounds. Let’s debunk this myth one food at a time.
The colour of your bread is not the deciding factor of its nutritional value. For example, suppose the brown bread you buy contains refined flour, added food preservatives, and colouring. In that case, it is no more nutritionally superior to a loaf of white bread. While brown rice is higher in fibre than white rice, phytic acid hinders the absorption of micro-nutrients and causes multiple gut-related issues.
In terms of calories, white sugar, brown sugar, jaggery, honey, and coconut sugar are similar, with negligible differences in their nutritional value. The only difference between brown sugar and white sugar is the presence of molasses in the former, giving it a brownish appearance. The eggshells do not define nutritional value either; the colour difference is due to variants in the breed of the hen.
What should you do instead: Instead of colour, choose your bread and other baked goodies based on their ingredient lists? In rice, it is better to eat least polished with a side of vegetables, legumes and chicken to prevent gut-related complications and overeating. Overconsumption of brown sugar is not good either. It is not more nutritionally beneficial than the white variety. Portion control is the key to any successful diet plan.
With these myths debunked, the biggest takeaway for you is not to fall prey to unverified sources of food myths. Instead, always look for resources backed with a professional opinion and check the nutritional information available for the foods you consume. HealthifyMe, India’s leading app for healthy living, can be of immense help in debunking some of the food myths. So next time, do not fall prey to a catchy article with a headline claiming, “7-day detox diet to make you lose 10 kgs”.