There are many myths surrounding nutrition - what foods are healthy, what foods aren’t - but the simple truth is that all nutrients are good in their own way. In this article we’ll debunk common nutrition myths, including the perceived dangers of salt, carbs, and cholesterol. We’ll also discuss common myths about dieting and why not all diets work the same for everyone.
Common Nutritional and Diet Myths
Nutrition Myth: Fat is bad
This is easily the most common nutrition myth we hear. Let’s set the record straight: fat is not bad. There are many healthy fats that make up a necessary part of your diet.
There are two main types of healthy fats, which are called monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. These fats are found in common foods and oils, such as:
- Nuts (walnuts, Brazilian nuts, peanuts, almonds)
- Canola oil
- Olive oil
- Safflower oil
- Peanut oil and peanut butter
- Sesame oil
For a deeper dive into fats, read our article Demystifying Fat: Should Fat Be Part of Your Diet?.
Nutrition Myth: Carbs are bad
Another common diet myth is that carbs are bad. In fact, we have an entire article on why carbs should be a part of your diet. Carbohydrates are one of the body’s main sources of energy. The body converts carbs into blood glucose, which is used for fast-acting energy. Any excess carbohydrates are stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen, where it can later be used when our glucose levels are low.
Examples of healthy carbs include:
- Fresh or frozen fruits
- Fresh or frozen vegetables
- Milk and yogurt
- Sweet potatoes
- Whole grains and oats
Nutrition Myth: Cholesterol is bad
The word cholesterol is often associated with cardiovascular diseases and heart attacks, giving it a bad reputation. However, the truth is that cholesterol is an essential nutrient for development. Our bodies use cholesterol to build cells and it naturally occurs in two places: the foods we eat and in our own bodies. Yes, we produce cholesterol!
There are three types of cholesterol; some cholesterol is healthy and other cholesterol is unhealthy. It’s important to understand the difference between good and bad cholesterol.
Bad cholesterol joins with fats and builds up along your artery walls, reducing blood flow. These types of cholesterol are known factors in heart attacks:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
- Very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL)
Good cholesterol is responsible for breaking down and removing LDL and VLDL cholesterol. This cholesterol helps prevent heart attacks:
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL)
Nutrition Myth: Red meat is bad
Unless you have specific dietary restrictions, red meat is a great source of protein. When cooked properly, red meat can be a staple of a healthy diet. The main concern with red meat consumption is the amount of cholesterol (as mentioned above). We know that bad cholesterols (LDL and VLDL) are harmful when combined with fats. When eating foods known to have high levels of cholesterol, we recommend making sure you don’t also consume large amounts of fat with that meal.
Tips for healthier red meat:
- Boil, roast, or bake red meat - avoid pan frying
- Use a rack so the fat can drain
- Cut off any fat before cooking the meat
- Use cooking oils that are low in saturated fat
- Avoid basting meat in fat drippings, butter, or other fatty oils
- Smaller, high calorie meals
Diet Myth: Skinny = Healthy
This is one of the worst diet myths we’ve come across. In reality, the term skinny itself has a negative connotation. When most people think of someone skinny, they assume that’s the ideal picture of health. However, it’s quite the opposite.
The word skinny means lacking sufficient bulk, very thin, or emaciated. These definitions don’t promote health. In fact, they promote malnutrition, weakness, and the inability to maintain healthy body weight. A healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) for an adult is considered between 18.5 and 24.9. Anything below 18.5 is underweight and unhealthy. Therefore, you do need to have some weight/size on your frame in order to be considered healthy by a registered physician.
“Healthy implies full strength and vigor as well as freedom from signs of disease.” - Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
Instead of promoting skinniness, promote healthiness!
Diet Myth: If a diet helped my friend lose weight, it’ll also help me lose weight
Much like clothing, there truly is no one-size-fits-all diet. What works for one person’s body may be completely different for another. This is the reason most fad diets crash and burn, with only a few successors showing results.
Each body has specific nutritional requirements, which is why dieting does not work the same for everyone. Yes, there is a chance both you and your friend have similar nutritional needs, but you will benefit more from creating a personalized nutrition plan.
There are some diets that promote healthy weight loss through lifestyle changes. These include the Paleo Diet and the Mediterranean Diet. They follow the principle that whole foods hold more nutrients than processed foods, and require a strict lifestyle change. They are not diets that help you lose weight overnight and they might not work for everyone.
We recommend taking a nutritional DNA test to create a personalized nutrition plan. This is the best way to lose weight in a healthy way, while still getting the nutrients your body needs.
Diet Myth: Dieting = Healthy
The concept of dieting is not healthy. When we think of dieting, we imagine reduced caloric intake, limiting certain foods, and cutting key macronutrients like carbohydrates. While these fast-acting diets may show immediate results, they don’t promote whole-body health and in some cases may be dangerous. Healthy diets include all the key macro- and micro-nutrients, and won’t require you to skip meals.
Dieting might not be healthy, but tailoring your diet to a personalized nutrition plan is! Following a nutrition plan that’s made for your body is the best way to ensure you get all the proper nutrition. A balanced diet made specifically for your DNA is the best diet.
For more information on dieting, eating healthy, and maintaining whole-body health and wellness, read more from our blog.