It’s hard to figure out what is healthy for you to eat when there are so many mixed messages in the news. As soon as you find out something is good for you, someone else tells you it’s bad for you Here are some common nutrition myths I hear, and the true answers behind them.
#1- All fats are bad and are bad for you.
We all need some fat in our diet, since dietary fat is an essential nutrient. It helps you to absorb certain vitamins, and it gives you energy. But when research came out decades ago that strongly supported the link between fat intake and heart disease, the grocery stores became flooded with fat-free and low-fat products. ** What we now know is that it’s not the fat we eat, buthe typf fat we choose to eat.** Saturated fat (which comes primarily from animal sources) and trans fat (which is found in many packaged products and baked goods) has been shown to increase your LDL (or "bad") cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that no more than seven percent of our daily calories should come from saturated fat, while less than one percent of our total calories should come from trans fat (which has also been shown to harm your HDL or "good" cholesterol). Replacing these fats in our diets with both mono- and poly-unsaturated fats can help to lower your LDL cholesterol. The AHA suggests that 25-35% of our total daily calories should come from these healthier fats. Good sources include avocadoes, olives, vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and fish. This is how the Mediterranean Diet gained popularity. People who consume this diet, which is high in mono- and poly-unsaturated fats have a low risk of heart disease. So it’s not the fat but the type of fat that’s important.
#2- Carbs make you gain weight.
There are many diets today that focus on low-carbohydrate eating for weight loss. Here are the facts: the calories from carbohydrates are digested more quickly than the calories from fat and protein. Therefore, people who eat a high-carbohydrate meal are often hungrier sooner than those who eat a meal with higher amounts of protein and/or fat. Research has shown that people who eat lower carbohydrate meals have greater success with short-term weight loss.** However**,** it’s not the carbs that are causing weight gain it’s the greater calorie consumption because of hunger.** So what’s the answer? A diet that is balanced with protein; healthy, high-fiber carbohydrates; and heart-healthy fat not only provides you with a feeling of fullness for longer, but makes you consume less calories overall.
#3- High-fructose corn syrup is worse than regular sugar.
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been around for decades, and is used in place of sugar in packaged products because it is cheaper and extends the shelf-life of foods. Most studies have shown that table sugar and HFCS are metabolized by the human body in the same way. HFCS became a hot topic a few years ago when a Princeton research study was published that showed that rats fed HFCS gained more weight than rats who were fed table sugar, despite eating the same amount of calories.
However, since then, other studies have shown no difference in weight gain in rats that have eaten both types of sugar. ** Most researchers agree that eating HFCS isn’t any different than consuming regular table sugar.** The bottom line is that Americans consume too much sugar in any form and this is what is contributing to overall weight gain from empty calories.
#4- Eating late makes you gain weight.I’m sure you’ve heard people say things like "everything you eat after 8 p.m. will turn to fat." In many cultures, it is customary to eat a large meal later at night and, historically, these people are not overweight because of it. So why is this a myth? Many Americans that eat late at night also eat more calories because they are sitting in front of the TV, snacking, and eating high-calorie foods. Bottom line: It’s not what time you eat, but how much you eat, no matter what time of day!****#5- All calories are created equal. We know that to lose weight, we need to burn more calories than we take in.** Our bodies need a balance of calories coming from fat, protein, and carbohydrates.** Recent research indicates that people who follow a diet that is very low in fat and high in carbohydrate may actually burn less calories than those who follow a diet with moderate amounts of fat, protein, and carbohydrate. It seems that the right balance for overall health and weight management is a diet that contains a moderate amount heart-healthy fats, lean protein, and low-glycemic carbohydrates.
Carmen Roberts, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., is a registered dietitian, receiving her undergraduate degree in dietetics from James Madison University and her master’s degree in health education and administration from Towson University. She is a certified specialist in adult weight management and teaches cooking classes. Carmen enjoys educating her clients about how nutrition affects the body and its role in overall health and wellness. She also loves volunteering, including as a Girl Scout troop leader.