Anyone who has reached adulthood has seen a wide variety of diet fads come and go. One week it’s bad to eat carbs. The next week, it’s full-fat dairy products. Other articles say you should only eat between certain hours of the day. As a result, contradictory information abounds. How does one distinguish between nutrition myth and fact? Everywhere looms many inaccuracies about nutrition. So what is really good for you? Let’s begin by debunking a few blatantly popular myths so you can feel more confident regarding your own nutrition:

MYTH: Eating healthy is too expensive

It may take some planning and time in the kitchen, but eating healthy on a budget is possible. Some helpful hints include planning meals and snacks around sales and creating a shopping list. Stock up on seasonal vegetables and fruits as well as staples, such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, dried beans and lentils, especially when there is a sale. Consider purchasing frozen or canned fruits and vegetables as an alternative to fresh products. But check the ingredient list to avoid items with added sugars or salt.

MYTH: Everyone should follow a gluten-free diet

Unless you represent the 1-2% of the population that has celiac disease or gluten intolerance, avoiding gluten is either unnecessary or counterproductive. Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Whole-wheat products have great nutritional benefits, including essential B vitamins and fiber. Unfortunately, when manufacturers remove gluten, additional sugar, salt or refined starches often are added to make up the difference in flavor and texture. Sugar is sugar. Although unrefined sugar options may contain a small number of vitamins and minerals, the advantage is minimal. They are still considered added sugar and contribute to the recommended daily limit on added sugar in the diet.

MYTH: Full-fat products equal weight gain

The fat-free and low-fat diet trend is a thing of the past the 80s and 90s to be exact. Yet, some people are still scared of fat. This shouldn’t be the case, as fat has beneficial functions, like protecting our organs, maintaining cell membranes, promoting growth and development, and absorbing essential vitamins. But allt fats aren’t created equal. Choose heart-healthy unsaturated fats, such as olive and canola oil, nuts, nut butters, and avocados over those that are high in saturated and trans-fats, such as fatty meats and high-fat dairy products.

MYTH: Avoid carbs if you want to lose weight

The low-carb diet is a fad diet that has repeatedly appeared over the years. It provides carbohydrates fruit and whole grains included —with a false reputation. People who followed this diet have had success with weight loss, but anytime someone eliminates highly processed carbohydrates foods, such as chips, cookies, white bread and potatoes smothered in butter and gravy, they would be expected to have the same results. Any diet or eating program that eliminates an entire food group gets a red flag, as one is likely to miss out on vital nutrients.

MYTH: A detox diet will clean toxins out of the body

There’s little evidence that dietary cleanses do any of the things that are promised. The fact is you don’t need to purchase a product to cleanse your body. Your liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract do a good job of detoxing it every day. If you’re looking to rejuvenate your body, focus on eating more whole foods, drinking more water, and removing highly processed foods from your diet.

MYTH: You shouldn’t eat anything after 7 p.m.

While late-night snacking can lead to weight gain or prevent weight loss, it’s not because of the time on the clock. Instead, many of us reach for food in the evening for reasons other than physical hunger, whether it be a habit, boredom or craving. Be mindful about what and how much you eat more rather than when you eat.

MYTH: Certain foods, such as grapefruit, cayenne pepper or vinegar, can burn fat

Unfortunately, no foods burn fat, make you lose weight more quickly or increase your metabolism enough to affect weight loss. Diets that focus on single foods, like those mentioned above, are restrictive and lack nutrients the body needs. They’re also unsustainable, and any weight loss that may occur is a result of calorie restriction and will likely come back to haunt you once you discontinue.

MYTH: The best way to decrease your sodium intake is to stop using the salt shaker

The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends having no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. The average American consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day. Although an important step in the right direction, the problem isn’t as easy as taking the salt shaker off the table. Much of the excess sodium that Americans consume comes from the salts added to processed, ready-to-eat foods and restaurant meals. Extend your reach to limit the intake of processed foods and consume more fresh, home-cooked meals. We hope that in the future all restaurants will be required to list the sodium content in menu items in the same manner as many are required to list caloric contents.

MYTH: Low-fat or fat-free products are healthier choices

Many products labeled low-fat or fat-free contain added sugar or sodium to make up for the loss of flavor when fats are reduced. Moreover, fat helps with satiety making you feel fuller longer. Choosing a fat-free product to reduce calories can backfire, as you may find yourself snacking soon afterwards. If you want to eat healthy, always look at the nutrition facts labels when choosing among fat-free, low-fat and regular. Pay attention to sugar and sodium content. Choose whole foods versus processed, and make sure you are drinking enough water. In general, fats derived from vegetable sources such as avocados, nuts and seeds, peanut and seed butter, soybeans, vegetable shortening, etc. are the better choices.




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