One of my favorite lines of all times is “science is not opinion.” (I admit, I’m a science geek!) Certainly, health professionals need to interpret science and even form an opinion about it, but too often, the media, pseudo-experts, and well-meaning friends and neighbors share opinions about nutrition that aren’t rooted in actual science. It’s this kind of widespread sharing of inaccurate information that often leads to confusion, and to the common belief that nutrition science changes daily. It doesn’t. Get in a room full of dietitians and nutrition scientists and you’ll find they all agree on the foods that form the basis of a healthy diet, and that while some of those beliefs have evolved, most of them have held true for some time now. Since you may never find yourself in such a room, I’ve rallied the pros to bust some leading myths.
Myth #1: You should only shop the perimeter of the supermarket for healthy foods.
Truth: There are healthy foods throughout the supermarket. The center aisles are packed with frozen fruits and vegetables and heart-healthy grains. Though I already ate beans, peas and lentils weekly, I took the pulse pledge this year. Imagine trying to eat beans once a week without going into the center aisles?
Myth #2: “Your body needs a “cleanse” to remain healthy.”
Truth: I often hear people say “I ate so bad this weekend, I need to do a cleanse.” Your body is a natural cleansing vessel! We all have a built-in detox system which includes our lungs, liver, kidneys and digestive tract. Our natural detox system eliminates these toxins from our body daily. Consuming a variety of foods in moderation is your best bet when it comes to a healthful lifestyle.
Myth #3: Calories are calories.
Truth: I often hear people judge a food by its calories. Just as you don’t want to judge a book by its cover, you don’t want to judge a food by its calorie content. I tell all my clients to ditch the calorie counts because the truth is not all calories are created equal. 400 calories of a chocolate cake is not the same as 400 calories of a quinoa, tofu and veggie bowl. Rather than focusing on calories, I tell my clients to look at the big nutritional picture and ask does the food contain adequate protein and fiber – two key nutrients that will help keep them satisfied.
Myth #4: Eating fewer calories is better.
Truth: Food is our fuel, and calories give us the energy we need to walk, talk, think, breathe and thrive! Eating below our baseline metabolic needs actually slows metabolism.
Myth #5: You need to detox to get rid of toxins.
Truth: Our livers and kidneys do a great job of cleansing our bodies on a daily basis, and there is no need to do a detox. The detoxes and cleanses on the market don’t actually rid your body of toxins. Instead of doing a few day cleanse or juice diet, for lasting health benefits you should increase your fruit, vegetable, whole grain and water intake on a daily basis. By eating more whole foods and avoiding highly processed foods, you will help your body function at an optimum level
Myth #6: Eating after 6pm causes weight gain and may lead to obesity.
Truth: Unfortunately, it’s not the time of day we eat, but what we eat. Typically fewer fruits and vegetables are eaten late in the evening, so the excess calories that people may be consuming are from refined, processed products. These empty calories, along with inactivity, can cause extra weight gain and have nothing to do with time of day. If someone ate the same, empty calorie foods at 6pm, they too would gain weight! Focus on quality, nutrient dense food to fuel your body and you’ll be set, regardless of time of day!
Myth #7: Sugar is bad for you.
Truth: Sugar is not the enemy. In fact, some of the healthiest foods – fruit, vegetables and whole grains – are made up of sugar molecules. Every cell in our body uses a type of sugar called glucose for fuel, and our brain relies on it. The type of sugar is what matters most. Aim for more complex carbohydrates and cut down on simple carbs like white sugar, white grains, candy, soda and baked goods.
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