You’d think it’d be easy to get good nutritional information these days. And while it is, there are still many prevalent nutrition myths you need to watch out for. Whether it’s supposedly how to boost your metabolism or keep your heart healthy, a surprising number of these supposed “good ideas” are simply just fallacies. Below are 7 diet myths you’ll want to avoid to stay healthy and maximize your workouts.
1: Eat Frequent Small Meals to Boost the Metabolism
It’s long been said that given the same caloric intake, eating several smaller meals is preferable to eating fewer larger meals. One of the most popular diet myths out there, the idea behind it is that eating more often keeps you digestive system running, therefore boosting your metabolism and burning more overall calories.
However, two different studies from the British Journal of Nutrition show that this is not the case. Eating more often may satiate someone who tends to get hungry faster, and therefore help prevent them from overeating. But as for total calories burned, there’s pretty much no difference between eating 2-3 meals per day and eating 5-6 meals per day.
2: Don’t Eat Egg Yolks If You Want a Healthy Heart
There are a number of diet myths surrounding heart health, and this is easily one of the most common. Egg yolks are high in cholesterol, therefore have been thought to be “bad” for you as high cholesterol can be a precursor to heart problems.
The truth is that the cholesterol in eggs is “good cholesterol”, which the Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care showed doesn’t affect the risk of developing heart disease. In fact, a review of 17 studies and almost 264,000 participants detailed at BMJ also showed that eating whole eggs didn’t lead to increased instances of heart disease in non-diabetics.
3: Saturated Fat Can Lead to Heart Attacks
In the same vein as eating egg yolks, the diet industry for decades has been proclaiming that eating too much saturated fat can lead to an unhealthy heart and even a heart attack. However, there’s simply just too much science that says this isn’t true.
The truth is that, like egg yolks, saturated fats raise “good cholesterol” (HDL) and can change LDL cholesterol from “small” to “large”, which according to studies in JAMA, the International Journal of Cardiology, and American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, all lead to a reduced risk of heart attack. Eating appropriate amounts of saturated fat isn’t only safe – it’s actually good for you.
4: Coffee is Bad For You
There isn’t quite as much bad information about coffee out there as there used to be, but there are still a number of misconceptions. Anti-coffee opinions usually take the stance that coffee contains caffeine, therefore should be avoided.
However, coffee has been shown by studies in Science Direct, the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and the Journal of Nutrition to have more antioxidants than fruits and vegetables combined. At the same time, coffee drinkers have been found to have less chance of contracting type 2 diabetes, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and even Alzheimer’s.
This doesn’t mean you can go nuts drinking as much as you want or that you shouldn’t monitor your caffeine intake. That said, coffee is actually one of the more subdued sources of caffeine (and stimulants in general) that you can consume when compared to energy drinks and the like. Just be smart about it and coffee can actually make you healthier.
5: Too Much Protein is Bad for the Kidneys
When the bodybuilding and fitness industries started promoting the use of a diets high in protein, much of the health and medical community responded unfavorably. Their backlash was, in part, because they said that consuming too much protein could cause undue strain to the kidneys.
Studies in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition, Nutrition and Metabolism, and the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism all show this isn’t true, though. They all say that not only are diets high in protein not harmful, but they’re completely safe.
Further, studies in the Journal of American Society of Nephrology and the Journal of the American College of Nutrition both support the idea that high protein diets lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and typically lead to weight loss. Both of these go a long way to helping you have healthier kidneys – not adversely affected ones.
6: All Calories Are the Same
It has become relatively popular to believe that “a calorie is a calorie”. This has been mainly from people who propagate that “calories in vs calories out” is the best way to manipulate one’s body weight. In other words, a caloric deficit is necessary to lose weight and a caloric surplus is necessary to gain weight.
While this is mostly true, that doesn’t mean all calories are the same. Calories from different types of food can be digested differently, take a shorter or longer time, and even have different effects on hormone levels (as stated by the Nutrition Journal and the British Journal of Nutrition).
As an example, all other things being equal (including caloric intake), a diet high in protein can increase calorie burning by as much as 100 calories per day. This is because protein tends to be more dense and requires more calories to get through the digestive process.
Speaking of protein being more dense, protein calories can actually lead to more weight loss. This is because protein tends to satiate you more, leaving you less hungry and in turn, eating less food overall. One Study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition actually found people lost an average of 11lbs over 12 weeks when they added protein calories to their diet. This is because the protein left them fuller, and on average, eating less – to the tune of 441 fewer calories per day.
7 “Low Fat” Versions of Food Are Healthier
Since the proliferation of bad information that all dietary fat is bad for you, food companies have gone above and beyond to create “low fat” and “no fat” versions of pretty much anything you can find on the shelf. Typical thinking then would be that these options are healthier as they don’t contain the fat.
This is one of the most harmful diet myths of modern times. Not only has it been shown that dietary fat can be very good for you, but these “low fat” and “no fat” foods are usually the exact opposite. Fat makes food taste good, and without it, you’re left with something almost nobody wants to eat.
To compensate for this, food companies load these supposedly healthy options with sugar. Taking in excessive amounts of sugar instead of dietary fat has been shown in the Current Opinion of Lipidology and the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology to be quite bad for you.
Diet myths have been around for decades. Unfortunately, they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. However, if you keep your eye out to the latest research and studies, you can find out the truth. You’ll learn that dietary fat can be good for you, and foods such as whole eggs should stay in your diet. When or how often you eat isn’t as important as what, just because something says it’s healthy doesn’t mean it is. In the end, just be sure to do your due diligence.