Popular diet myths debunked
As a new year begins, thousands will flock to the internet in search of ways to boost a healthy lifestyle. Many popular diet facts and trends are circulated so often in the media that it’s hard to know which tips to trust and which ones should be tossed. Underneath popular opinion and platitudes, the truth about eating healthy may surprise you. A Texas A&M Health Science Center registered dietician separates myths from fact when it comes to your diet.
Gluten-free desserts are healthier
“Gluten-free desserts are not healthier than ‘normal’ desserts,” said Lisa Mallonee, a registered dietician with the Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry. “In fact, gluten substitutes may actually increase calorie content and contribute to weight gain. With that being said, gluten-free food is great to consume by those diagnosed with celiac disease or who are gluten-intolerant—but gluten-free desserts should be eaten in moderation and with a balanced diet.”
Sugar free and fat free foods lead to fat-free bodies
When the words ‘sugar free’ or ‘fat free’ are splashed across a box of chocolate it’s probably easy to feel less guilty about eating the entire box in one sitting. “Fat free and sugar free do not mean foods are calorie free,” Mallonee said. “It doesn’t matter what type of food you are eating, if you are consuming more calories than you’re expending, you will gain weight.”
While browsing fat free or sugar free treats it’s essential to be a conscious label reader. In fact, the fat content in many of these ‘sugar free’ items can be extremely high. Similar to gluten-free desserts, when nutrients like fat are removed from food, artificial ingredients may be added back to the food to account for taste. This filler may lead to more calories.
Carbs make you fat
Carbs alone do not cause weight gain—instead, it’s the type of carbs we choose to consume that lead to more fat cells in the body. “We need carbs because they are the body’s main source of fuel,” Mallonee said. “The real problem with carbohydrates lies in the American diet rich in refined carbs and processed foods. Binging on these carbohydrates will contribute to weight gain.”
Mallonee recommends eating a balanced diet higher in complex carbs and lower in simple or processed carbs. “The average American needs to be consuming more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and less processed foods, refined carbohydrates and white flour products,” she said.
Healthy food is more expensive
“Indeed, eating fresh may cost more than loading up your shopping cart with processed foods or fast food from restaurant value menus, but, in the big picture, it will likely cost you more in medical bills to maintain an unhealthy lifestyle,” Mallonee said. “You have to look at the long-term health impact.”
According to Mallonee, it is possible to eat clean at an economical price. “When it comes to fruits and vegetables my word of reason is to always buy in-season. We all have favorites but when we buy them year-round when they’re not in season we will see a price increase. You should always vary your palate—don’t be afraid to try the eggplant or cauliflower when it’s in season over broccoli or asparagus,” she said.
You’ll gain weight if you eat late at night
‘Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a pauper.’ Have you ever heard this saying?
Mallonee said it doesn’t matter what time you’re eating as much as what you are eating. “This is more about portion control and how you’re expending calories,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what time of day you eat as long as you are eating a balanced diet, consuming foods in moderation and burning off more calories than you consume.”
Fasting is important to cleanse the body
Mallonee stressed she doesn’t recommend fasting unless it’s for religious purposes. “We already have a built in cleansing system: our kidneys and liver,” she said. “Simply fasting to ‘cleanse’ where you don’t eat for a certain number of days can be dangerous. I recommend consulting a physician prior to any extreme diet that encourages fasting for an extended period of time”
“Having a diet that’s fiber-rich is what moves toxins out of your body naturally,” she added. “The more fiber you consume the more it’s able to move food and the related toxins out of the body. Unfortunately, most Americans have a refined diet that is too low in fiber. This is what allows toxins to thrive inside our bodies. [pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”It’s important to know we all have cells with the potential to turn into cancer cells. The way we fuel our body determines if these are transformed into cancer cells or are terminated.” [/pullquote]
Energy bars are good for weight loss
Our busy lives often don’t allow for adequate meal preparation and many Americans turn to energy bars as a quick and easy meal replacement. Mallonee stressed that while energy bars are convenient, they need to be consumed along with a balanced diet and we should be wary of their ingredients.
“Most of the time I refer to energy bars as glorified candy bars,” she said. “They can be extremely high in fat and sugar content. While they may be a good way for athletes to consume extra calories, I wouldn’t recommend them for a person trying to boost fat loss.”
You can’t always trust the internet
The internet is an excellent resource for diet tips and healthy living, but it can be untrustworthy. It’s always best to talk to your health care provider or a registered dietician to get the most up-to-date and factual nutrition advice.