This post has been sitting in my draft box since late February. I was supposed to cover this topic on my Health & Fitness segment on NBC KARE 11 on March 2nd, but it got bumped out to the 19th, and then the video link got messed up on their website. I apologize there is no video to go with this as intended.
In honor of National Nutrition Month, here are some common myths around nutrition exposed for what they really are:
- REDUCING CALORIES IS ALL THAT MATTERS WHEN TRYING TO LOSE WEIGHT. The truth is that timing is also a factor. “Saving up” your calories throughout the day for only 1 or 2 meals puts the body into fat storage mode and breaks down muscle mass in order to use stored protein as an energy source. The bathroom scale may say you are losing weight, but some of it is muscle, which is responsible for metabolism. Spread out your total calorie intake for the day by eating small meals and snacks about every 3-4 hours.
- CARBS MAKE YOU FAT. In the early 90’s fat was the villain, now it’s carbohydrates. No one nutrient is more likely to be stored as fat. Excess intake of anything will be stored as fat on the body. Carbohydrates are a good supply of glucose your brain and body needs for energy and whole grain, high fiber, non-processed carbohydrates should compose about 65% of your diet.
- YOU SHOULD DO A CLEANSE. There is not much sound scientific evidence in support of cleansing (fasting or only drinking a concoction of some sort), and there are several negative side effects that can occur: missing out on essential nutrients, losing muscle mass, reduced energy and metabolism, and more. Your body does a good job of moving waste through the system by itself. If you want to do something similar to a cleanse without any negative side effects, eat only whole, natural, organic foods and increase your consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables and water.
- FOODS LABLED “NATURAL” ARE HEALTHIER. The use of the label “natural” means that nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been added – it doesn’t mean anything about the quality of the nutrients. 7UP advertises that it uses 100% natural flavors but includes high fructose corn syrup, which does not exist in nature and is derived chemically from corn. Partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) can also be listed as “natural” though they are only produced artificially. The “natural” label is often used as a marketing gimmick to make consumers think they are buying something healthy.
- EXERCISE ON AN EMPTY STOMACH TO LOSE WEIGHT. This one seems to make sense, but it’s not the way the body works. Any time there’s insufficient energy (glucose) in the blood stream to supply the body with energy, the preferred source of energy becomes protein from the muscles. A recent study was released that stated more fat was burned in a fasting state, but it was fat stored within the muscle fibers, not beneath the skin where most people are trying to reduce fat. Exercising on an empty stomach is also exercising with an empty gas tank, and the intensity of your workout will be diminished, which means you’ll be burning fewer calories overall.
- GOING GLUTEN FREE IS A GREAT WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT. There are people who have real gluten sensitivities who should not consume it, however “going gluten free” has simply become the latest trend. It’s not just about cutting out bread or wheat based grains as gluten is also found in many sauces, soups, salad dressings, spices, processed meats and even soy sauce. There’s little to no evidence that it leads to weight loss, it’s a very restrictive way of eating that’s difficult to sustain, and you may miss out on many important nutrients.
- EGGS ARE BAD FOR YOUR CHOLESTEROL. Eating too many eggs can negatively affect your cholesterol, but if you keep it to 4 or less each week you should be fine. A large egg contains approximately 186 mg of cholesterol. If you are healthy you should limit your total cholesterol intake to 300 mg daily. If you have cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or high cholesterol you should limit intake to 200 mg per day. The cholesterol is found in the yolk, so if you’re concerned eat only the egg whites.