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Busting the biggest nutrition myths

Busting the biggest nutrition myths


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Nutrition is an essential part of a healthy life, and something we should all have a good understanding of. However, thanks to the food world filling up with trends, fads, and stacks of misinformation, it’s become increasingly hard to find reliable nutrition information.

So, as we launch our beautiful new nutrition section, I’m going to break down nine of the most common myths and give you concrete nutrition information.

1. A gluten-free diet is healthier

In a word, no. It’s not. Unless you have a legitimate reason to be avoiding gluten – if you have coeliac disease, for example – there is no reason to remove gluten from your diet. Due to its presence in wheat, barley and rye, gluten is present in many carbohydrate-based foods, some of which can be unhealthy (think biscuits, cakes, pies, and pastries). This may be the reason it’s gained such a reputation, but gluten itself isn’t unhealthy. For more nutrition information on gluten, read our in-depth article on going gluten free.

2. No sugar has a place in my diet

Sugar is sugar and, ultimately, all sugar is broken down in our bodies into glucose, which our cells use for energy. However, the difference between that teaspoon of sugar you add to your tea and the natural sugar in a piece of fruit is the presence of vitamins and minerals.

The same can be said of lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products. Although it’s still a form of sugar, lactose comes with a healthy dose of the vitamins and minerals that dairy has to offer, such as calcium.

Honey, maple syrup, and agave syrup are all still natural forms of sugar – however, they are similar to refined sugar, in that their actual nutrient content is quite poor.

Stick to the rule that sugar should always be accompanied by as many nutrients as possible, and remember that added sugar should always be avoided.

3. Low fat = healthy

Contrary to deeply entrenched opinion, a low-fat diet is not a necessarily a healthy one. The important thing is not to cut out fat entirely, but to make sure that you’re eating the right kind. Unsaturated fats are the ones our bodies need and use. They have been associated with lower blood cholesterol, and are found in foods such as oils, nuts, seeds, avocado, and oily fish.

Low-fat products are only useful when they are helping you to reduce your intake of saturated fat, the type of fat associated with high cholesterol and heart disease risk. If you do choose these kind of products, make sure you read the nutrition information label to make sure they’re free from added sugar.

For more information, read up on saturated fat.

4. Eating carbs will make me fat

Negative. Apply the same theory here as you do with fat and focus on the type of carbohydrate you are eating, rather than cutting it out completely. Starchy carbohydrates come in two forms: refined and whole. The latter are the ones to go for – higher in fibre and full of other essential vitamins and minerals. In fact, far from making you gain weight, eating high-fibre foods will help to keep you feeling full, which means you are less likely to overeat.

We need starchy carbohydrates to give us energy, and they should make up one third of our diet. Instead of cutting them out, make some smart switches and cut down on the more unhealthy carbs, like highly refined flour products.

5. Fresh produce is healthier than frozen

On the contrary – frozen foods can sometimes be healthier than fresh! As fruits and vegetables ripen, their sugar content rises and their nutrient content deteriorates. Often, fruits and vegetables are frozen quickly after harvest, which prevents all of this, and actively preserves the nutrients.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are great and when eaten at their freshest and most nutritious, but using frozen instead will do you no harm. It can also be a super-easy and reliable way of getting more veg into your cooking. See below for Michela Chiappa’s handy tip for homemade “kale powder”, and read our freezer tips for more ideas.

6. Coconut oil is incredibly good for me

Sadly, coconut oil is a saturated fat – the type of fat associated with high cholesterol. Recent research has suggested, however, that the type of saturated fat present in coconut oil may be metabolised differently to other saturated fats, meaning it may not have the same adverse effect on blood cholesterol and general cardiovascular health. What is missed out by eating coconut oil, though, is the essential fatty acids found in unsaturated fats. These are the fats that help to keep our cholesterol healthy, as well as the fats that our bodies generally need, so while research is showing that the saturated fatty acids in coconut oil may not be as bad as we think, we may as well be eating the fat that we know is good for us!

Refer back to the article about saturated fat in point #1 for more nutrition information.

7. If I exercise, I need to take a protein shake or supplement

It’s true that if you are exercising you need protein. Our muscles need protein to grow and repair, and if you are undertaking exercise – particularly anything of high intensity – then you do need to make sure your protein intake is sufficient.

What is more important, though, is the timing of that protein intake, which should ideally be within an hour of exercising. Your body can only metabolise a certain amount of protein at a time, so overloading on the protein shakes is completely pointless. In the UK, most of us actually get more than enough protein through our regular diets. The goal should be to limit our protein intake to shortly after exercise so that our bodies can use it to help our muscles build and repair, rather than overdoing it on the protein shakes!

If, however, you do need to up your protein intake around intense exercise, don’t go for questionable powders – go homemade with this beautiful homemade protein shake recipe.

8. Snacking is bad

If understood properly, it’s also a myth that we shouldn’t snack. Eating little and often is actually much better than eating three huge meals every day. Snacking is a good way to achieve this, and also helps to prevent energy crashes between meals.

The key is what you are snacking on – and here you can utilise all that info about fats and sugars. If your 4pm-slump go-to is a slice of cake or a sugar-packed processed number then the health benefits of snacking will be lost on you. Choose wisely, and go for something dense in nutrients that will help to fill you up – think a handful of granola, a slice of apple and peanut butter, or a natural yoghurt with some fruit. For more ideas, read up on healthy snacking with the Happy Pear.

9. Vegetarian and vegan diets are healthier

A vegetarian or vegan diet being healthy completely depends on what vegetarian or vegan foods are being eaten. For example, a diet of ready-salted crisps would technically be vegan, and a diet of cheese and chocolate would technically be vegetarian, but neither could ever be called healthy!

Avoiding meat and dairy products means avoiding the saturated fat and adverse health effects that come with the over-consumption of fatty cuts of meat and high-fat dairy products. However, vegan and vegetarian diets are only healthier if you replace these foods with worthwhile alternatives. Replacing the meat and dairy in your diet with refined carbohydrates and sweets will not make the switch to vegetarianism or veganism a healthy one.

Something that is generally true of vegetarian and vegan diets, though, is that they’re very environmentally friendly, and a lot more sustainable than a meat-heavy diet. If you can get it right, or even stick to it for a day or two each week, then it really will make a difference – both for the planet and for you!

Read up on how to eat a healthy vegan or vegetarian diet for more ideas.


Busting the biggest nutrition myths

Nutrition is an essential part of a healthy life, and something we should all have a good understanding of. However, thanks to the food world filling up with trends, fads, and stacks of misinformation, it’s become increasingly hard to know what’s what.

So, as we launch our beautiful new nutrition section, I’m going to break down nine of the most common myths, so you don’t have to be confused any longer.


Myth #1: Superfoods are exotic and expensive.

This myth is one of my personal pet peeves. While I love learning about nutrient-packed foods from around the world, I want people to know that local, everyday foods are superfoods, too&mdashand are far less expensive! (Try these 7 everyday foods that are more super than trendy superfoods.)

Eating a diet that&rsquos high in processed foods but then adding in some goji berries and spirulina doesn&rsquot mean you have a healthy diet. You&rsquoll save money and be much healthier if you focus on eating more whole foods and &ldquoeveryday superfoods&rdquo like spinach, mushrooms, squash, blueberries, oranges and apples, lentils, whole grains and nuts. These familiar foods are packed with antioxidants and fiber and won&rsquot blow your budget like that small bag of acai powder will.

When a new exotic superfood comes on the market and becomes super popular, keep in mind that it&rsquos probably just a fad. There will never be one food that&rsquos better than all the others. Remember: Variety is key when it comes to eating well. Ask yourself if spending money on the superfood of the moment is the best way to enhance your health&hellip or if there are other parts of your diet that could use a tune-up.


3.Low fat = healthy

Contrary to deeply entrenched opinion, a low-fat diet is not necessarily a healthy one. The important thing is not to cut out fat entirely, but to make sure that you’re eating the right kind. Unsaturated fats are the ones our bodies need and use. They have been associated with lower blood cholesterol, and are found in foods such as oils, nuts, seeds, avocado, and oily fish.

Low-fat products are only useful when they are helping you to reduce your intake of saturated fat, the type of fat associated with high cholesterol and heart disease risk. If you do choose these kinds of products, make sure you read the nutrition information label to make sure they’re free from added sugar.

As it applies to food marketing, the term low fat” is synonymous with “loaded with salt and cheap carbohydrates.” For instance, look at Smucker’s Reduced Fat Peanut Butter. To replace the fat it skimmed out, Smucker’s added a fast-digesting carbohydrate called maltodextrin. That’s not going to help you lose weight. A 2008 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that over a 2-year span, people on low-carb diets lost 62 per cent more bodyweight than those trying to cut fat. (Plus, the fat in peanut butter is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat—you’d be better off eating more of it, not less!)


Winter is here, and that gets us thinking about our immune system, and what we need to do to boost it, so that it helps us avoid colds and flu, or at least recover from them more quickly.

The immune system is one of the most complex networks in the body that is still far from being completely understood by the world’s scientific community. As pieces of research are added to the picture, myths about the immune system arise in the gaps, and they are often acted upon as truths.

Registered Dietitian and spokesperson for ADSA (Association for Dietetics in South Africa), Linda Drummond helps us sort fact from the fiction:

MYTH # 1 – ‘All I need for a winter immune boost is a multi-vitamin or more Vitamin C’ – “This is probably the most common misconception – that nutritional supplements, or greater doses of one particular vitamin, can be an effective protective solution,” says Linda. “While Vitamin C does play an important immune-boosting role, research has shown that supplementing with Vitamin C does not actually help you to avoid developing colds and flu. Studies have found that in some, but not all cases, Vitamin C, as an isolated strategy, may help to reduce the duration of the illness, but not protect you from it. Nutritional supplements can play an important role in supporting improved health for vulnerable people, such as children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with health conditions that compromise their immunity. However, others should rather aim to get their daily intake of immune-boosting micronutrients from their food. Eating a variety of healthy foods every day, including lots of vegetables and fruits, wholegrains, dairy, meat, chicken or fish, beans and lentils, and plant fats provides not just Vitamin C, but also the other immune-boosting nutrients such as Vitamins A, D and the B’s, as well as trace elements such as zinc and selenium. You cannot expect that if you eat poorly, but take a supplement, your immune system will still be highly effective. What you eat, not what you supplement with, is what is most important to build your defences against winter germs. Supplements are not the antidote to unhealthy eating. They can help to fill in gaps in an otherwise healthy eating plan, and you should get your dietitian’s advice on this. However, we should all be clear that when it comes to what we consume and our immune systems and our health, there is simply no substitute that we know of at this time that beats the effectiveness of eating a variety of quality, minimally processed foods, which are mostly plant-based, every day. It is the way to go.”

MYTH # 2 ‘To improve my immunity in winter all I have to do is focus on the food I eat and the supplements I consume.’ “This is false,” says Linda. “While healthy eating is a vital immune boosting strategy, and nutritional supplementation may be necessary for you if you have a compromised immune system, it remains one critical aspect of having an effective immune system during the challenging winter months. But, it is a complex system and other factors are at play.

Scientific research has shown that:

  • Sufficient sleep is also important to support the immune system
  • Regular exercise is a powerful immune system booster
  • And, a positive mental and emotional state strengthens your resistance to disease.

What this means is that during winter, if we want to effectively develop our resistance to illnesses, we need to keep our focus on our whole body and our entire lifestyle, not only one part of it. We must get enough quality rest that is balanced by also getting daily physical exercise. We need to take regular action to manage stress, develop mindfulness and be in charge of our disruptive emotions. Sleepless nights days of inaction and stress that is off the charts for most of the time will batter our immune system as surely as nutrient poor food and other poor eating habits.”

The bottom-line is that you should boost your immune system this winter, and, based on real evidence, you can do that each day by:


Busting the Biggest Nutrition Myths

All carbohydrates are not created equal (it is a nutritional myth to think otherwise) and if you overdo the bad ones (the simple sugary carbohydrates found in sweets and junk food) then they will make you fatter than if you were to eat the equivalent calories of protein or god fats (think avocados, nuts and oily fish).

We believe that the most effective way to manage body fat levels is through dietary manipulation of insulin levels, and this is done by regulating carbohydrate intake.

Should I avoid eating fat at all costs?

Absolutely not, this is a very old, and very wrong nutritional myth. In nutrition we have such macronutrients as essential amino acids (protein) and essential fatty acids (fats of course!), but we don’t have essential carbohydrates. I leave it up to you to decide which of the three macronutrients should be cut first.

However, please heed one warning. Just as in the first answer we said that all carbohydrates are not created equal, so too are not all fats the same. Avoid like the plague any saturated and hydrogenated fats and instead go for those fats found in what for want of a better word we call “natural” foods such as red meat, eggs, nuts, oily fish and avocados.

Will late night snacking result in weight gain?

You don’t expect a yes or no answer to this supposed nutritional myth do you? If you eat junk at night, then of course it will make you fat, but that’s the same as if you eat junk at breakfast. The issue most people have with late night snacking is that they tend to go astray from their healthy eating habits once they are curled up on the sofa at home and watching their favourite soap opera or midweek movie.

There is no such thing as an enzyme with a timer on it that after dark preferentially stores nutrients as fat. All of us have a certain number of calories we can consume without gaining weight. If you happen to change your eating schedule and end up consuming a final meal or later in the evening without changing your calories or macro nutrient profile, you are in no danger of accumulating body fat as a result of that minor alteration. However, you should always spread your allotted number of calories throughout the day to prevent hunger and wild fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which can sap your energy levels and lead to weight gain through binge eating and increased insulin resistance(or you may think of it as carbohydrate intolerance caused by irregular blood sugar levels).

You talk about insulin a lot. Please tell me a bit more about what it does.

For an in-depth discussion of insulin and how to manipulate it to help you lose fat and build muscle, please contact us. We aim to dispell a few nutritional myths for you and help you transform your body!

In brief, when we consume carbohydrates they are predominantly converted into glucose and then used as energy. However, this glucose is only used as energy if it goes inside the muscle cell. When glucose levels rise in the bloodstream following the consumption of carbohydrates, the pancreas secretes insulin. Insulin then binds to receptors in the cell membranes which in turn send signals inside the cell to bring the glucose into the cell itself. Where this can all go wrong is when glucose stays outside the cell and is then converted to fat for storage.

Things can go awry in this way when the insulin receptor themselves fail to function optimally. Unfortunately, this is an increasingly common prevalence and has a significant role to play in today’s obesity epidemic. Poor diet and lifestyle choices cause the receptors to be shut down-simplistically they go into panic mode and cause both blood glucose (blood sugar) and insulin levels to stay elevated.

This spells metabolic disaster as insulin is a storage hormone. It’s perfectly acceptable, and sometimes highly productive for athletic/body composition purposes to elevate insulin if the muscle cells will take up glucose, but if that’s not possible, then the glucose will be converted to fat and be stored in adipose tissue. In short, screw up your insulin system and you will get fat. This is why so many of you can diet like crazy on the old macronutrient standard of high carbohydrates and low fat and that jelly belly never budges an inch!

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. With the right amount of educated effort it is possible to modulate the sensitivity of your insulin receptors and improve your body’s tolerance to carbohydrates.

Is it true that anyone attempting to lose fat and/or gain lean body mass should eat a high-protein diet or is this a nutritional myth?

If you are aiming to lose fat, you don’t need extra protein to directly assist the fat burning process, but you must do everything you can to save precious muscle tissue as you restrict calories. Too many dieters starve away their muscles and then hit a brick wall of frustration and yo-yo dieting. If I was tell you that 1lb of muscle tissue equates to an extra 50 calories a day onto your metabolism perhaps you will appreciate the imperative to maintain existing muscle mass, even if you are a middle aged housewife looking to lose 15lbs for your summer vacation.

As for those seeking to gain muscle mass, although many dietiticians will tell you that you only need 1gram of protein per 2 lbs of bodyweight, our experience simply tells us that is pure unadulterated rubbish! Bear in mind that we have helped put muscle on professional sportsmen across disciplines such as bodybuilding, American football, rugby, and athletics so we feel that we are eminently well qualified to hold forth on this subject. In fact, we follow the line of all the world’s top strength coaches, and recommend that hard training individuals seeking to maximise muscular gains should consume up to 2 (and in some special cases 3) grams of protein per 1lb of bodyweight! Done in the correct way and with the appropriate programme this can yield positively spectacular results. Some of our clients see quality weight gains of over 30lbs in 6 months!

Do protein drinks build muscle or is this a nutritional myth?

No, appropriate exercise and adequate nutrition build muscle. Protein drinks do make it a hell of a lot easier to consume a serious amount of protein though. We highly recommend them to all our clients whether their goals are fat loss or muscle building.

Should I try to cut all fat out of my diet?

No, never. This is a nutritional myth that not only stalls fat loss but is also bad for your health.

Dietary fat calories should never dip below 15 percent of total caloric intake. Dietary fat carries our necessary fat soluble vitamins & essential fatty acids.

Is dietary fat bad for you?

Some fats are extremely good for you and promote a myriad of healthful physiological and even psychological benefits! Look for Omega 3, 5 and 6, and never skimp on the minimum of 3 servings a week of oily fish.

Do high-fat diets assist in weight loss or is this a nutritional myth?

They can be of great assistance in fat loss for some individuals. A portion of the population appears to feel and function better on a higher-fat diet (above 30%) while pursuing weight loss. This is due to bio-individuality and the satiating power of fats for this group. Most people would not benefit from an excessively high-fat diet.

Do carbohydrates make you fat?

Of course not, this is a nutritional myth. Eating more than need makes you fat. However, the wrong carbohydrate and lifestyle choices can severely desensitise your body’s response to insulin and that means that a significant number of people do not tolerate carbohydrates well at all. See our Metabolic Rejuvenation Plan for ways to address this problem.

Does pasta make you fat?

No. Pasta is a carbohydrate. Excess calories make one fat. Unless you are insulin resistant.. (see above).

Is it true that eating carbohydrates, or any food at night, causes weight gain?

No this is another nutritional myth. If the daily caloric intake allows for fat loss or maintenance and is spread throughout a 24-hour period you should not gain weight. Excess calories make you fat.

However, not all calories are created equal and weight loss and high carbohydrate intake are not common bedfellows.

Explain why switching from a high-protein diet to a high-carbohydrate diet might cause me to feel bloated initially.

Each part of stored glucose (as glycogen) contains 2.7 parts water. With a high-protein diet, glycogen stores are consistently low and therefore water content is low, which decreases the cells’ efficiency. The bloated feeling will eventually normalize when the body recovers to a properly hydrated state. The gain is water in the muscle cells (good), not fat.

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      Busting the (Whole) Grain Myth

      The subject of a lot of negative press, whole grains have been a staple of the human diet for centuries.

      From the Aztecs and the Incas who ate amaranth and quinoa (a pseudograin), to rice in Asia and wheat and rye in Europe, whole grains have been with us a very long time.

      And yet today, whole grains emerge as an enormous nutritional controversy.

      Those opposed to whole grain believe it is the enemy, bad for our health and our waistlines. Whole grain proponents argue the exact opposite, believing this group of carbohydrates is a powerful health promoter.

      Let’s explore the truth about grains together.

      What Is a Grain?

      When we refer to grains, we normally talk about cereal grains, which are members of the grass family Poaceae.

      Here are some of the most common cereal grains: barley, brown rice, maize, millet, oat, rye, sorghum, spelt, and wheat.

      Also included in the definition are pseudocereal grains, which come from broadleaf plant families and include: amaranth, buckwheat, chia, and quinoa.

      And What Does ‘Whole Grain’ Mean?

      A whole grain is a grain in which all components of grain (the bran, the germ, and the endosperm) remain intact.

      Interestingly, a grain can be considered ‘whole’ even when ground into flour.

      Whole grain bread, whole grain cereal, and whole grain pasta are all examples of foods that contain ground whole grains. And while these foods are still good for you, eating the whole grains themselves will always be better.

      How to Read a ‘Whole Grains’ Label

      When it comes to evaluating whether or not a product contains whole grains, you need to read the label carefully. Here are a few guidelines:

      1. Make sure that whole grains (versus sugar!) are among the first few ingredients listed.
      2. Verify that there are at least 2-3 grams of fiber per serving.
      3. Ignore any ‘whole food stamp’ on the box (read the food label carefully instead!)
      4. Examine the ratio between grams of carbohydrates and grams of dietary fiber an ideal ratio will be 5:1 or less.
      5. Avoid products using words like these: enriched flour, white flour, enriched wheat flour, enriched bleached flour, and all-purpose flour.
      6. Look for the following words instead: whole, rolled, stone ground, sprouted, cracked. For example, whole grain flour, rolled oats, ground-on-stone whole-wheat flour, cracked wheat berries, and bulgur cracked

      Why Whole Grains Promote Health

      Current scientific evidence associates whole grains with these health benefits:

      • Treatment of Hypertension. The daily consumption of whole grains (as part of a healthful, plant-based diet) may be as powerful as high blood pressure medications in battling hypertension. While an analysis of randomized drug trials showed that blood pressure lowering medication reduces the risk of suffering a heart attack by 15 percent and stroke by 25 percent, another study reveals you might get similar results by eating three portions of whole grains a day!
      • Protection Against Arterial Plaque Build-up. A study measured the amount of plaque in the carotid arteries of 1000 people over five years. Those who ate whole grains had a slower progression of atherosclerotic disease.
      • Reduction in Risk of Premature Death. Using data from 45 studies, researchers calculated that eating 90 grams of whole grains per day reduced the risk of all-cause mortality by 17 percent. A second meta-analysis, which used the data from 14 studies (788,076 participants), showed that those who ate the most whole grains enjoyed a 16 percent reduced risk of all-cause mortality and an 18 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular-related mortality.

      The Three Pillars of the Whole Grain Debate

      The debate about whole grains rests on the following three claims:

      • Claim 1: Whole grains are bad for us because humans are not biologically adapted to eat them. Homo sapiens are 200,000+ years old while the agriculture that produces whole grains is much younger (10,000 years). According to those who are opposed to the consumption of grains, before agriculture came about, humans lived healthfully on a diet of fruits, vegetables, tubers and wild animals. Therefore, we should continue eating like our ancestors and forego whole grains altogether.
      • Claim 2: Whole grains are bad for us because they contain phytates, which bind to minerals (iron, zinc, manganese) and therefore ‘steal’ nutrients from our bodies.
      • Claim 3: Whole grains are bad for us because they make us fat. Whole grains contain carbohydrates, which the body turns into sugar and then stores as fat. We use grains to fatten livestock, and eating grains will do the exact same thing to you.

      Let’s counter these points one by one.

      Claim 1: Humans are not biologically adapted to eating grains.

      The hypothesis here is that we have only been eating grains for 10,000 years and, as a result, our bodies are incapable of processing grains.

      The premise of this pillar does not seem to be true. As a matter of fact, it appears that people who lived in what is now Mozambique may have eaten a diet based on sorghum as far back as 105,000 years ago, Neanderthals apparently consumed grains 44,000 years ago, and there is evidence to suggest that grains were consumed in Europe over 30,000 years ago.

      And even if we take this claim at face value, we must extend its logic to other foods. For example, chickens were first domesticated 10,000 years ago in China. Equally, the earliest evidence of domestication of turkeys by Native Americans date to 200 B.C. (far less than 10,000 years ago). Cattle were also domesticated between 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. For this argument to hold up, therefore, those opposed to eating grains should not be eating beef, chicken or turkey either.

      Claim 2: Grains are bad for you because of their phytate content.

      As we will see, the exact opposite is true.

      />One of the most fascinating bioactive food compounds around, phytates are naturally found in whole plant foods and are plentiful in whole grains.

      Phytates are considered an anti-nutrient because they bind to minerals (e.g. zinc, calcium, and magnesium) and prevent their absorption. However, when analyzed carefully, the ‘anti-nutrient’ effect of phytates seems only to appear when a large quantity of phytates are consumed in conjunction with a nutrient-poor diet. Also, cooking, boiling, fermenting, soaking or germinating whole grains will inactivate phytic acid and free minerals up for absorption by the body.

      The consumption of whole grains in recommended amounts seems to have no adverse effect on mineral status whatsoever.

      Far from being bad for you, phytic acid appears to be beneficial for our health.

      As a powerful antioxidant, phytic acid may reduce blood sugar, insulin, cholesterol, and triglycerides and thus it can be instrumental in reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

      Despite initial concerns that phytate consumption might lead to calcium deficiency and weakened bones, studies show that it may actually protect against osteoporosis.

      Finally, and most famously, phytates may protect our bodies against cancer.

      Quickly absorbed from the digestive tract, dietary phytates appear to be taken up by the body’s cancers cells and are shown to inhibit the growth of a variety of cancer cells – e.g. leukemia, colon, breast, cervical, prostate, liver, pancreatic, skin, and muscle.

      Even better, phytates seem to fight only cancerous cells, leaving the normal cells intact.

      Why are phytates so effective in battling cancer?

      Through a combination of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune-enhancing activities, phytates block the formation of new blood vessels that might feed the tumors and disrupt pre-formed capillary vessels.

      So, the claim that we should not eat whole grains because of their phytate content simply does not stand up phytates are a powerful health-promoting ally, not the enemy.

      Claim 3: Whole grains make you fat.

      This pillar is based on the idea that carbohydrates cause obesity because they elevate insulin levels and therefore increase fat storage.

      The logic behind this theory assumes that:

      1. Insulin plays a primary role in making us fat.
      2. Only carbohydrates elevate insulin levels.

      Let’s examine these claims together.

      For starters, research shows that body fat is regulated by the brain—not by fat tissue itself or an insulin-secreting pancreas.

      The primary role of insulin is to manage the concentrations of nutrients.

      When insulin suppresses fat burning, it is normally because there is an abundance of glucose. In other words, insulin ‘tells’ storage tissues to stop burning fat because carbohydrates are available as fuel.

      However, if you eat a diet high in fat (and low in carbohydrates), insulin ‘instructs’ your body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates, but it will not dip into your fat stores any more (or any less) than if your diet was based on carbohydrates. As long as the calories consumed are close to or in excess of what you need, fat storage will remain the same.

      Another problem is that the carbohydrate-insulin theory also presumes that carbohydrates have some unique relationship with insulin causing the latter to spike.

      However, when you examine the insulinogenic index (a measure of how much eating food increases insulin per unit calorie), you see that protein-rich foods like beef increase insulin secretion as much as carbohydrate-rich foods like pasta.

      In the end, 3 billion people on the planet live on grain-based diets with little or no obesity.

      Whole grains are low in calories (particularly when compared to animal foods), low in fat and high in satiating carbohydrates.

      While it is true that a few people are sensitive to some types of whole grains and should avoid them, for most of us whole grains are a health-promoting addition to our diet, especially when the diet is already based on the consumption of whole plant foods.

      Rosane Oliveira, DVM, PhD

      President & CEO, Plant-Based Life Foundation | Dr. Rosane Oliveira combines a lifelong passion for nutrition with 25 years of genetics research to create programs that help people develop healthy habits on their journey towards a more plant-based lifestyle. She is a Visiting Clinical Professor in Public Health Sciences and was the founding director of the first Integrative Medicine program at the UC Davis School of Medicine. She completed her postgraduate studies in Brazil and did her postdoctoral training in immunogenetics and functional genomics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


      Busting Diet Myths

      I’m going to tell you the biggest of all diet secrets! But before I do, please indulge me in a little mental recall exercise. First, get a pen and paper and then set a timer for 30 seconds. Once I count to 3 and say go, I want you to write down all of the diets you know or have heard of. Ready? 1, 2, 3, GO!

      How’d you do? Did you get at least 5? Nice work! Now, tell me what do those diets have in common? The most common answer I get is that they are “restrictive.” If you noticed this common theme, you get a bonus point. What most mainstream diets have in common is that they restrict you in some way they could be low-carb, low-fat, limitations to meal timing, restrictions around a specific food, etc. And this requirement of restriction is where these fad diets go wrong.

      But I totally get why we still buy into diets. The too good to be true “promises” that come along with these restrictive diets are enticing. “Lose inches fast,” “change your health in 3 days,” or “don’t eat after 8 pm and you’ll lose belly fat”—I know you have heard them. To help us find a better option, let me bust the 3 most common diet myths and “promises” I hear.

      • Don’t eat after 8 pm.
        No matter the time of day, nutrients are the same nutrients and calories are calories. Eating the same food at 6 pm versus 9 pm will have the same impact on your body. This myth started as a way to restrict that late-night snacking habit we can often fall into. When we snack at night, it isn’t the timing but actually the choices that our brain gravitates toward that tend to be less healthy. This is because we are 1) tired or 2) bored, and in these circumstances, we choose something fast and typically sweet or salty. These choices are typically high in processed sugar or fat. To avoid these choices, try these 3 things: 1) go to bed, 2) drink more water after dinner, and 3) shift your dinner a little later in the evening.
      • Carbs make you gain fat.
        Carbohydrates are absolutely essential for your body to do the awesome work it does every day. Carbs are actually the only nutrient that your brain can use as fuel when following a normal diet. So why do carbs get such a bad rap? Well that’s because it isn’t carbs that are unhealthy—it’s processed carbs that cause health concerns like weight gain. When we eat a whole grain carb, the fiber and the complex structure of the carb support an even blood sugar as we absorb those carbs, giving us essential fuel that we need. But when we eat processed carbs, our blood sugar spikes (this is negative for our cells and can lead to weight gain) and then our body overcorrects and we get low blood sugar (which can lead to low energy, food cravings, and overeating). To avoid this, I recommend that at least 75% of your carbs come from whole and unprocessed foods like vegetables, fruits, dairy, and whole grains.
      • Food labeled as “low-carb” or “low-fat” foods are always healthier.
        Low-carb or low-fat foods often have a lot of hidden ingredients to make them more tasty. So before making a low-carb or low-fat choice, be sure to review the nutrition label and ingredients list. Skip if you see any added simple sugars, unhealthy fats, or artificial ingredients.

      Too good to be true “promises”

      • Lose more than 2 lbs of fat in 1 week.
        I know this might be a hard truth, but any weight loss over 2 lbs in a week isn’t typically going to be fat loss. To lose 1 lb of fat, the average person needs to have about a 3,500-calorie deficit. So to lose over 2 lbs of fat requires a 7,000-calorie deficit, or 1,000 calories daily for 7 days. Instead of that weight loss being fat loss, weight loss over 2 lbs per week is your body shedding glycogen, water, or the food in your GI tract. These pounds will return once you end the “diet.” Instead, I recommend a sustainable nutrition plan and weight loss goals. With a reasonable calorie deficit and a nutrition plan that is based on whole foods, losing any amount of weight is possible over time and leads to a sustainable healthy lifestyle.
      • Skipping meals is an easy way to lose weight.
        This promise comes from the trend of intermittent fasting and the weight loss some people experience from it. The process of intermittent fasting isn’t just skipping meals. It is actually very involved and does require a lot of oversight since it has its risks. If you aren’t following a strict pattern, skipping meals actually leads to low energy and fatigue, which typically causes us to overeat and make less healthy choices in our next meal. Also, there is the risk of low blood pressure, whereby you can experience dizziness, foggy brain, or even fainting. Instead of skipping meals, try reducing the portions in one of your meals and make one healthier choice in another meal.
      • Eating (fill in a specific food) will help you (fill in the blank).
        There are many food-specific diets that have their day in the sun, but none of these is sustainable or the only reason that people, say, lose weight. No single food is the magic pill to being healthy. Instead, being healthy is about a whole lifestyle of choices. A variety of whole foods and a combination of nutrients will always serve your body the best.

      So what about that biggest diet secret I promised? Well, the secret that fad diet writers don’t want you to know is that these fad restrictive diets are actually associated with weight gain over time (1). That’s because they lead us down a pattern of short-term restriction followed by long-term overindulgence. Instead, a healthier nutrition plan is to strive for balance and moderation over time. It’s much more enjoyable as well.


      The top 21 nutrition myths of 2021

      This page is regularly updated, to include the most recently available clinical trial evidence.

      Each member of our research team is required to have no conflicts of interest, including with supplement manufacturers, food companies, and industry funders. The team includes nutrition researchers, registered dietitians, physicians, and pharmacists. We have a strict editorial process.

      This page features 134 references. All factual claims are followed by specifically-applicable references. Click here to see the full set of references for this page.

      Table of Contents:

      With all the information at our fingertips today, you&rsquod think that nutrition myths would have become less pervasive than in our grandparents&rsquo time.

      Unfortunately, the internet is rife with misinformation, and it can be really difficult to tell what&rsquos evidence-based without reading the original research yourself. Myths that were previously passed through word-of-mouth now spread like wildfire through social media, blogs, and even established media. Between a 24-hour news cycle, studies that are both long and difficult to read, and journalists scrambling for the latest viral hit, information often gets published without verification. And once we&rsquove assimilated a piece of information, we seldom think to challenge it &mdash we treat it as fact.

      As an educational organization that looks only at the evidence, we&rsquove taken the time to identify 21 nutrition myths that just won&rsquot die. At the end of each section, you&rsquoll find a link to pages that further explore the section&rsquos topic with extensive references.

      Myth 1: Protein is bad for you

      Carbs and fats often take the blame for various health issues, but the third macronutrient isn&rsquot always spared by the media. Protein has often been accused of harming bones and kidneys.

      Let&rsquos tackle those two claims one at a time.

      Bone loss

      More protein in the diet has been linked to more calcium in the urine. Two reasons have been suggested to explain this phenomenon:

      Your body draws from its calcium stores (in bones) to buffer the acid load caused by dietary protein. This has led researchers to suggest that higher protein intake could cause greater bone loss. [1]

      Most studies that looked at protein intake and calcium excretion list dairy products as a protein source, [2] so higher urinary calcium could simply be the result of higher calcium intake (i.e., more calcium in, more calcium out).

      Therefore, looking only at calcium excretion wasn&rsquot enough. Subsequent studies showed that dietary protein promotes dietary-calcium absorption [3] and that high protein intake &ldquopromotes bone growth and retards bone loss [whereas] low-protein diet is associated with higher risk of hip fractures.&rdquo [4]

      What happens is that when you ingest more protein, you absorb more of the calcium in your food, so less calcium ends up in your feces. Later, your body gets rid of the calcium it doesn&rsquot need, so more calcium ends up in your urine, but not as much as would have otherwise ended in your feces. [5] Therefore, an increase in protein intake leads to an overall decrease in calcium excretion, which points to an increase in calcium retention.

      All in all, current evidence suggests that protein actually has a neutral or even protective effect on bones. [5] [6]

      Kidney damage

      Other studies determined that high protein diets increased glomerular filtration rate (GFR), a marker for waste filtration in the kidneys. [7] It was argued that increased GFR was a sign that undue stress was put on the kidneys, [8] but later research has shown that kidney damage does not occur as a result of diets high in protein. [9] [10]

      In conclusion, randomized trials thus far have not shown that high-protein diets harm the bones or kidneys of otherwise healthy adults. [9]

      Related articles:

      Myth 2: Carbs are bad for you

      For decades, fat was the enemy, but today, there&rsquos a new scapegoat: carbs. Vilifying carbs and insulin seems to get more popular by the year.

      Many people believe that the popular glycemic index and the lesser-known insulin index [11] rank foods by their &ldquounhealthiness&rdquo. Yet the available research shows that low-glycemic diets, when compared to higher-glycemic diets, have either no effect or only modest beneficial effects on metabolic syndrome factors, [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] even in diabetics. [19] [20] [21] Furthermore, a low-glycemic diet doesn&rsquot always lead to better glycemic control than do other diet patterns. [22]

      Similarly, the carbohydrate-insulin model of obesity, which theorizes that obesity is caused by carbs and the insulin response they evoke, [23] is not well-supported by the evidence. [24] [25]

      In 2017, a meta-analysis of 32 controlled feeding studies was published. [26] Some of those studies were metabolic ward studies and some were free-living studies, but in each case, meals were supplied by the researchers, who wanted to ensure that each diet provided specific amounts of calories and nutrients (within each study, the diets were equal in calories and protein but not in fat and carbs).

      So what were the results? Low-fat diets resulted in greater fat loss (by an average of 16 grams per day) and greater energy expenditure (by an average of 26 calories per day). This would give low-fat diets a fat-loss advantage, though one &ldquoso small as to be physiologically meaningless&rdquo. [26]

      These results are consistent with those of long-term, free-living, randomized controlled trials designed to test a diet&rsquos real-world effectiveness (meaning that the participants were given instructions but left to prepare their own meals). Meta-analyses show that keto, low-carb, and higher-carb diets lead to similar weight loss. [27] [28]

      Eating less carbohydrate (especially processed carbs) can be helpful if it helps you eat healthier. But if cutting carbs makes you eat worse or feel worse, or if you can&rsquot stick with the diet, you should consider other options. If you wish to lose weight, what matters is not to replace fat by carbs or carbs by fat, but to end most days on a caloric deficit.

      Related articles:

      Myth 3: Fats are bad for you

      Eat fat, gain fat, right? For many decades, the traditional way to lose weight has been to subject oneself to a low-fat diet, yet current evidence suggests that, given the same caloric deficit and protein intake, low-fat and low-carb diets produce similar weight losses. [17] [26] [29] [27] [28]

      Moreover, while low-fat diets are not inherently unhealthy, shunning all fat from your diet can be dangerous because your body needs to consume at least some omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. As for saturated fat being the main driver of cardiovascular disease: yes, just another myth.

      At the end of the day, trans fat is the only kind of fat that has been shown to be categorically detrimental to health. [30] Naturally occurring trans fat and industrially produced trans fat seem to have a similar effect on blood lipids, [31] but you don&rsquot need to worry about the minute amounts of trans fat naturally occurring in whole foods (notably dairy products). [32] The trans fat you need to shun is a byproduct of partially hydrogenated oils: this type of trans fat was once a common ingredient of processed foods &mdash so common that trans fat consumption was linked to more than half a million coronary heart disease (CHD) deaths worldwide in 2010 alone. [33] [34]

      Industrially produced trans fat was banned in the US in 2015, and all products were supposed to be phased out by June 2018, but manufacturers received an extension until July 2019. [35] That means that a lot of products with this type of trans fat are still on the shelves today.

      And you might not even know it by looking at food labels, because the FDA used to allow for a product to be labeled as containing 0 grams of trans fat as long as a serving of the product had less than 0.5 grams. However, even today, the manufacturer usually gets to decide what a &ldquoserving&rdquo is, which means that, while a 5-gram serving (maybe a small treat the size of your thumbnail) may officially contain 0 grams of trans fat, 100 grams of the product may have 8 grams (if 5 grams of the product in fact contains 0.4 grams of trans fat).

      Related article:

      Myth 4: Egg yolks are bad for you

      If there&rsquos one thing the media is good at, it&rsquos scaring you away from perfectly healthy foods.

      Yes, foods high in cholesterol can increase LDL cholesterol in most people but to a fairly small extent on average. [36] Moreover, some of the micronutrients and other bioactive compounds in egg yolks could interfere with cholesterol absorption, and many studies have failed to find an increase in cholesterol in egg eaters. [37] [38] [39]

      More to the point, although a review of cohort studies (a type of observational studies) associated higher consumption of cholesterol or eggs with higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and all-cause mortality in a dose-response manner, [40] [41] clinical trials (a more rigorous type of study) found no association between eggs and CVD, [42] [43] [44] [45] [46] [47] except in some people who &ldquohyper-respond&rdquo to dietary cholesterol. [48] [49]

      Related article:

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      Myth 5: Red meat is bad for you

      Absolute statements are why we have so many nutrition myths. Cancer is particularly difficult to discuss in absolutes. After all, almost everything we eat has the potential to be involved in cancer development, [50] yet red meat has been fingered as a likely culprit.

      Some compounds &mdash such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), found in smoked meats &mdash have been found to damage the genome, and damaging the genome is the first step to potential cancer. Current evidence suggests that processed red meats, particularly those that are more charred during cooking, can pose a greater cancer risk for people with poor diets and lifestyles. [51] [52]

      But if you moderate your red meat intake, exercise regularly, eat your fruits and veggies, consume adequate fiber, don&rsquot smoke, and drink only in moderation, red meat&rsquos effect on cancer isn&rsquot something to worry too much about.

      There is some evidence that eating a lot of red meat or processed meat might increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and of various other cardiometabolic diseases, but that evidence is of lower quality. Still, if you want to be especially cautious, you can limit your intake to three servings per week (1 serving of beef = 3 oz = 85 grams).

      Related articles:

      Myth 6: Salt is bad for you

      Some myths contain a grain of truth. Studies have associated excess salt with hypertension (high blood pressure), [53] kidney damage, [54] and an increased risk of cognitive decline. [55] [56]

      However, salt (sodium) is an essential mineral its consumption is critical to your health. The problem occurs when you consume too much sodium and too little potassium.

      Another issue is the source of all that salt. The average North American eats an incredible amount of salty processed foods [57] &mdash which means that people who consume a lot of salt tend to consume a lot of foods that are generally unhealthy. That makes it hard to tease apart sodium&rsquos effects from overall dietary effects. Except for individuals with salt-sensitive hypertension, [58] the evidence in support of low sodium intakes is less conclusive than most people imagine. [59] [60] As it stands, both very high and very low intakes are associated with cardiovascular disease. [61]

      Myth 7: Bread is bad for you

      Bread has taken a beating over the past few years (especially white bread). The bread detractors generally make two arguments against its consumption:

      Bread contains lots of gluten, which is bad for you.

      Bread will not inherently make you fat, but it tends to be dense in calories and is therefore easy to overeat. And of course, most people eat bread with other high-calorie foods, such as butter, peanut butter, jam, or honey. This can lead to a caloric surplus and thus to weight gain over time. Moreover, while bread can be part of a healthful diet, a bread-centric diet can crowd out more nutrient-rich foods, notably fruits and vegetables.

      Also, some people choose to avoid bread entirely because of its gluten content. Gluten critics claim that any amount of gluten (a protein, ironically, and not a carb) is a danger to all. While &ldquoall&rdquo is an exaggeration, it is indeed possible to suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity. [62] [63] However, it is also possible for your wheat sensitivity [64] to be caused by other compounds, such as FODMAPS (short-chain carbohydrates known to promote intestinal distress by fermenting and producing gas), [65] [66] which are present in wheat, yes, but also in many other foods, such as legumes, apples, and milk (and other dairy products containing lactose).

      White bread vs. whole-wheat bread

      You may have heard that eating bread is all right as long as it&rsquos whole-wheat bread. While white bread (made from wheat flour) and whole-wheat bread provide a similar number of calories, whole-wheat bread has a lower glycemic index and insulin index, and so its consumption results in a lower insulin release. For that reason, and because of its higher fiber and micronutrient content, whole-wheat bread is claimed to be healthier than white bread.

      What the media frequently fails to mention is that the actual differences between white bread and whole-wheat bread are relatively small. Yes, whole-wheat bread has a higher fiber content &mdash but this content pales compared to that of many fruits and vegetables. You most definitely don&rsquot have to eat whole-wheat products to get enough fiber in your diet! And yes, white bread does lose more micronutrients during processing &mdash but those micronutrients are often reintroduced later (the bread is then called &ldquoenriched&rdquo).

      Related articles:

      Myth 8: HFCS is far worse than sugar

      High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a blend of glucose and fructose commonly used to sweeten food products.

      Early evidence led to the belief that fructose could cause fatty-liver disease, as well as insulin resistance and obesity. By extension, HFCS is frequently said to be unhealthy because it is high in fructose.

      The reality is that there isn&rsquot always more fructose in HFCS than in sugar. Liquid HFCS has a fructose content of 42&ndash55%. Sucrose, also known as table sugar, is 50% fructose. The difference (&minus8% to +5%) is too slight to matter.

      Related article:

      Myth 9: Dietary supplements are necessary

      This is a favored line of thinking among supplement companies and health gurus. One argument is that crops are becoming poorer in nutrients [67] due to intensive agriculture and increasing levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. [68] Another argument is that foods contain a mess of unknown compounds, in addition to known &ldquopoisons&rdquo such as the dreaded saturated fat, cholesterol, gluten, and FODMAPs.

      No wonder that more than one-third of Americans take a multivitamin/mineral. Better cover one&rsquos bases, or so the thinking goes. Alas, there is no evidence that taking a multi will increase your life expectancy. While it may support your health in some ways, by ensuring adequate intakes of underconsumed nutrients, it could hurt it in others, by making you overconsume some nutrients to the point where they may harm your health.

      Fact is, multis are seldom well formulated. Due to cost and space considerations (people willing to take one pill a day may balk at taking ten), multis are often rich in micronutrients abundant in a healthy diet and poor in others you are more likely to need. Try to focus on what you actually need by tweaking your diet and, in special cases, by supplementing with specific micronutrients &mdash such as vitamin B12 if you are vegan or a senior, or vitamin D if your bare skin seldom gets enough sun exposure.

      In fact, many foods you&rsquoll find at the supermarket are already fortified with the micronutrients you&rsquore most likely to lack. Milk, for instance, is frequently fortified with vitamin D, whereas salt is iodized, and enough foods are fortified with folic acid that you&rsquore as likely to get too much as not enough.

      In that light, it may be tempting to take the next step and live on meal replacements, with all the necessary nutrients added in and none of the aforementioned &ldquopoisons&rdquo. That could work &mdash if we actually knew the optimal intakes for all nutrients.

      We learn a little more each day, but there&rsquos still much we don&rsquot understand about food components and their interactions with different systems in our bodies, especially because those interactions can differ between individuals. So, until we reach a perfect understanding of the human body and its nutritional needs, you&rsquore safer eating a varied diet of little-processed foods than ingesting the same meal replacement day after day after day. And it&rsquoll taste better.

      Related articles:

      Myth 10: Food nutrients > supplemental nutrients

      How often have you heard the claim that natural, whole foods are always better than synthetic supplements? In general, the word &ldquonatural&rdquo has a positive connotation, whereas &ldquosynthetic&rdquo or &ldquochemical&rdquo has a negative one.

      The truth, of course, isn&rsquot so clear-cut. Some compounds are more effective in supplemental form. One example is the curcumin in turmeric. On its own, your body cannot absorb it well, but taken in liposomal form [69] or supplemented with piperine, a black pepper extract, the bioavailability of curcumin increases dramatically.

      The same goes for vitamins. For instance, phylloquinone (K1) is tightly bound to membranes in plants and thus is more bioavailable in supplemental form. [70] Likewise, folic acid (supplemental B9) is more bioavailable than folate (B9 naturally present in foods), although that may not always be a good thing.

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      Myth 11: Fresh is more nutritious

      Fresh produce has a natural appeal to many people. &ldquoFresh&rdquo just sounds better than &ldquocanned&rdquo or &ldquofrozen&rdquo, doesn&rsquot it? But just because a food is fresh doesn&rsquot necessarily mean it&rsquos more nutritious.

      Fresh produce is defined as anything that is &ldquopostharvest ripened&rdquo (if it ripens during transport) or &ldquovine-ripened&rdquo (if it is picked and sold ripe, at a farmer&rsquos fresh market or at a farmer&rsquos roadside fruit stand, for instance).

      Frozen produce is generally vine ripened before undergoing minimal processing prior to freezing. Most vegetables and some fruits are blanched in hot water for a few minutes prior to freezing to inactivate enzymes that may cause unfavorable changes in color, flavor, smell, and nutritional value. [71] While there are some differences between fresh and frozen for select nutrients in select fruits and vegetables, overall, the nutritional content is very similar. [72]

      Canned produce is usually vine ripened, like frozen produce, but it tends to undergo a lot more processing, several forms of which can break down some essential nutrients, such as nitrates, [73] almost entirely. However, one should remember that cooking is also a form of processing, and that different ways of cooking can affect the produce&rsquos nutrient content and bioavailability [74] more than its being fresh, frozen, or canned. An additional issue with canned produce, however, is that salt and sugar are often added as preservatives to vegetables and fruits respectively &mdash so look at the label.

      Related article:

      Myth 12: Foods labeled &ldquonatural&rdquo are healthier

      It is natural to think that foods labelled &ldquonatural&rdquo, &ldquoall natural&rdquo, or &ldquo100% natural&rdquo are healthier, but what do those labels actually mean?

      The answer isn&rsquot as simple as it should be. To begin with, we need to divide foods into two categories. In the first category, we have meat, and in the second, everything else.

      In the United States, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) must approve label claims for meat, including the &ldquonatural&rdquo, &ldquono hormones&rdquo and &ldquono antibiotics&rdquo claims. However, what the &ldquonatural&rdquo claim means is just that the product is no more than &ldquominimally processed&rdquo and does not contain any artificial ingredients (including chemical preservatives and artificial flavoring or coloring). It doesn&rsquot necessarily mean that the cow wasn&rsquot given antibiotics and hormones before it became a food product (such as milk or meat, though the USDA only concerns itself with the latter).

      Now, if hormones or antibiotics were given to a cow, they might be found in its meat, which would then contain artificial ingredients. But is the meat actually tested, or can it be labelled &ldquonatural&rdquo simply if nothing was added to it? (Which is to say, if nothing was added to the meat after the cow was killed and thus became beef.)

      Considering that (1) the &ldquono hormones&rdquo and &ldquono antibiotics&rdquo claims require special documentation and (2) the &ldquonatural&rdquo claim only covers product processing and ingredient addition, the answer seems to be that a piece of beef can be labelled &ldquonatural&rdquo even if the originating cow was given hormones or antibiotics.

      Other foods

      For foods other than meat, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) steps in. At present, however, the FDA does not have a formal definition for the &ldquonatural&rdquo label. (This may soon change though, as this label is currently undergoing a review process to determine if it should be better defined.)

      Meanwhile, the FDA considers &ldquonatural&rdquo any food to which nothing artificial or synthetic was added &ldquothat would not normally be expected to be there / in that food&rdquo. Yes, that&rsquos awfully vague. A little more precisely, the FDA states that a product without colorants (regardless of source) or synthetic substances (including artificial flavoring) can be labelled &ldquonatural&rdquo.

      Note that, for the FDA, the label &ldquonatural&rdquo doesn&rsquot reflect &ldquofood processing or manufacturing methods&rdquo or &ldquofood production methods, such as the use of genetic engineering or other forms of genetic modification, the use of pesticides, or the use of specific animal husbandry practices&rdquo.

      Myth 13: You should eat &ldquoclean&rdquo

      This statement is not so much a myth as a jumble of misconceptions. First of all, people seldom agree on what &ldquoeating clean&rdquo actually means. For some, it means shunning specific foods for religious or ethical reasons (animal products, for instance). For others, it means eating only fresh, raw, natural, organic foods. For others still, it means making sure that their fruits and veggies are free of pesticides. One common point of clean diets is their focus on exclusion: they tell you what clean eating is by telling you what not to eat.

      Only plant-based food

      Veganism can be considered a prime example of a clean diet, as it shuns all animal products both for ethical reasons and for better health. But although vegans and vegetarians do tend to be healthier on average, [75] this may be due to reasons unrelated to food. For instance, people who stick to a vegetarian diet are more likely to also stick to an exercise regimen and neither drink in excess nor smoke. [76] [77]

      As it stands, compared to people eating a varied omnivorous diet, vegans (and, to a lesser extent, vegetarians) are more likely to get suboptimal amounts of some nutrients, such as L-carnitine or vitamin B12. However, those nutrients can easily be supplemented &mdash nowadays, there are even plant-based options for EPA, DHA, and vitamin D3.

      Only raw food

      Some &ldquoclean eating&rdquo gurus recommend that you only eat your food raw, so as not to &ldquodenature&rdquo its nutrients. As an absolute, this rule is a myth. Raw milk can contain harmful bacteria. Raw eggs contain avidin, a protein that can bind biotin and thus lead to biotin deficiency if consumed frequently, [78] [79] and you&rsquoll digest more protein from cooked than raw eggs. [80] [81] Cooking can reduce the nitrate content of vegetables (bad) but also their oxalate content (good). You can&rsquot generalize.

      Only organic food

      &ldquoOrganic is better.&rdquo This statement is presented as self-evident, on the principle that &ldquonatural&rdquo is good, whereas &ldquosynthetic&rdquo is bad. So far, however, the few studies that have investigated the effect of organic food on clinical health outcomes have failed to consistently link organic foods (from plants or animals) to better health. [82] [83]

      It doesn&rsquot mean that organic foods and better health are definitely not linked, but the issue is complex, and in some cases, you&rsquoll be trading one health risk for another. For instance, a 2018 test of protein powders revealed that the organic ones had about half the amount of BPA (an industrial chemical) but twice the amount of heavy metals.

      One misconception is that no synthetic substance can be used to grow organic crops, whereas the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances makes some exceptions. Another misconception is that no pesticide can be used to grow organic crops. But while organic produce (notably fruit) less often has synthetic pesticide residue than conventional produce, [84] natural (organic) pesticides exist, are used to grow organic crops, and are not always better for the consumer or the environment. [85]

      Only pesticide-free produce

      Pesticide residues in food are a valid concern, though it should be noted that the Pesticide Data Program (PDP) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has consistently found that the vast majority of the food on the market contains either no detectable residues or residues below the tolerable limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

      When found, pesticide residues were similarly low in organic and conventional produce, but there is some evidence that even very low doses of pesticides might still elicit physiological effects. [86] These effects, whether beneficial, neutral, or harmful and from organic or conventional pesticides, are not well studied.

      So what is a consumer to do? The practical solution is quite simple: rinsing, peeling when possible, and cooking can reduce the amount of pesticide left on your produce, [87] [88] whether this produce is organic or not.

      Related article:

      Myth 14: You should &ldquodetox&rdquo regularly

      &ldquoDetox diets&rdquo are the ultimate manifestation of the &ldquoclean eating&rdquo obsession. Such diets commonly limit foods to plant-based juices, sometimes seasoned with a supplement. After a few days of that regimen, you&rsquore supposed to be cleansed of &hellip

      Well, detox-diet companies don&rsquot really know. A 2009 investigation of ten companies found they couldn&rsquot name a single &ldquotoxin&rdquo eliminated by any of their fifteen products &mdash let alone prove that their products worked. Strictly speaking, toxins are plant- or animal-based substances poisonous to humans. However, for many detox gurus, &ldquotoxins&rdquo also include heavy metals &hellip and everything synthetic, not just toxicants (man-made poisons, such as pollutants or pesticides), but also preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), etc.

      Alas, even when a substance really is noxious, a &ldquodetox diet&rdquo won&rsquot help. Acute toxicity is likely to be a medical emergency, whereas chronic toxicity can be handled better by a well-fed body &mdash not one weakened by a severely hypocaloric diet. Your liver, kidneys, lungs, and other organs work around the clock to remove harmful substances and excrete the waste products of metabolism. By reducing your intake of the nutrients that those organs need to perform these functions, a detox diet can hinder your body&rsquos natural detoxification process! If you wish to promote this process, your best bet is to load up with various foods that can help your organs to work optimally, [89] such as cruciferous and other fibrous veggies. [89] [90]

      Detox diets are not necessarily safe, either. Every now and then a case report emerges about potential risks, such as kidney damage from green smoothies [91] or liver failure from detox teas. [92]

      But if detox diets are more likely to harm than help, what explains their current popularity? One answer is quick weight loss. Deprive your body of carbs and you can exhaust its glycogen stores in as little as 24 hours. The resulting loss of several pounds can convince you that the diet had a positive effect. [93] When the diet ends and you resume your regular eating habits, however, the glycogen and associated water come rushing back in, and with them the pounds you&rsquod shed.

      So when people feel better from a detox diet, is it just a placebo effect? Not always. People on a detox diet might eat fewer calories yet more fruits and vegetables and thus more micronutrients. They may also stop consuming foods that don&rsquot agree with them (in other words, detox diets work as de facto elimination diets).

      Related articles:

      Myth 15: Eating often will boost your metabolism

      It&rsquos easy to trace this myth back to its origin. Digestion does raise your metabolism a little, so many people believe that eating less food more often keeps your metabolism elevated.

      However, the size of the meal matters, too: fewer but larger meals means fewer but larger spikes in metabolism. Moreover, some studies suggest that having smaller meals more often makes it harder to feel full, potentially leading to increased food intake. [94]

      More to the point, the evidence shows that, given an equal amount of daily calories, the number of meals makes no difference in fat loss. [95]

      Related article:

      Myth 16: You shouldn&rsquot skip breakfast

      &ldquoBreakfast is the most important meal of the day&rdquo is something we have all heard before from parents, doctors, health bloggers, and ad campaigns. But the health perks of consuming a regular breakfast have been overhyped.

      People on #TeamBreakfast mention observational studies showing that, on average, breakfast skippers have a higher BMI. [96] However, clinical trials have shown that personal preference is a critical factor. Some people will subconsciously compensate for all the calories they skipped at breakfast, while others won&rsquot feel cravings of the same magnitude. In one trial, women who didn&rsquot habitually eat breakfast were made to consume it, and they gained nearly 2 pounds over four weeks. [97] Individual responses do vary, so don&rsquot try to force yourself into an eating pattern that doesn&rsquot sit well with you or that you can&rsquot sustain &mdash it may end up backfiring.

      Another popular claim is that skipping breakfast can crash your metabolism. But studies in both lean and overweight individuals have shown that skipping breakfast does not inherently slow your resting metabolic rate (RMR). [98] [99]

      However, the &ldquodon&rsquot skip breakfast&rdquo mantra might hold true for people with impaired glucose regulation. [100]

      Related article:

      Are you tired of all the misinformation when it comes to nutrition?

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      Myth 17: To lose fat, don&rsquot eat before bed

      Some studies show a fat-loss advantage in early eaters, others in late eaters. Overall, early eaters seem to have a slight advantage &mdash nothing impressive. [101] [102] Trials, however, imperfectly reflect real life. In real life, there are two main reasons why eating at night might hinder fat loss, and both are linked to an increase in your daily caloric intake.

      The first reason is the simplest: if, instead of going directly to bed, we first indulge in a snack, then the calories from that snack are calories we might have done without.

      The second reason is that, when we get tired, we tend to eat to keep going, with a predilection for snack foods or tasty treats. So if we stay awake at night &mdash especially to work or study, but even just to watch TV &mdash we&rsquore more likely to eat, not out of hunger, but to help fight sleepiness.

      Related article:

      Myth 18: To lose fat, do cardio on an empty stomach

      Let&rsquos get one thing out of the way. If you exercise near maximal capacity (HIIT, sprints, heavy lifting, etc.), you should eat one or two hours before, or you&rsquore likely to underperform. Most people who choose to exercise on an empty stomach, however, opt for some moderate form of cardio (aerobic exercise), such as jogging, and in that case, performance and energy expenditure are about the same in the fed state and the fasted state.

      If you exercise in the fasted state, you&rsquoll burn more body fat, of course, but that won&rsquot make it easier for you to use body fat as fuel during the rest of the day (when you&rsquore fed). You&rsquoll also burn a tiny bit more muscle, but you&rsquoll grow it back faster afterward too &mdash it seems to balance out, as long as you get enough protein after your workout and over the whole day. Finally, cardio suppresses appetite less in the fasted state than in the fed state, but that doesn&rsquot translate into a significant difference in daily caloric intake.

      People with impaired glucose regulation may wish to avoid exercising on an empty stomach, and might want to avoid skipping breakfast even when they don&rsquot exercise. [100]

      Related article:

      Myth 19: You need protein right after your workout

      When you exercise, you damage your muscles, which your body then needs to repair, often making them more resilient (bigger) in the process. The raw material for this repair is the protein you ingest, and yes, after exercising, your muscles are more sensitive to the anabolic effect of protein, thus creating a (still controversial [103] [104] ) window of opportunity &mdash the &ldquoanabolic window&rdquo.

      &ldquoYou need protein right after your workout&rdquo may not be a myth so much as an exaggeration. What matters most is your daily protein intake, but ideally, you&rsquoll want a postworkout dose of protein in the range of your desirable minimum protein intake per meal (0.24&ndash0.60 grams per kilogram of body weight, so 0.11&ndash0.27 g/lb). If you&rsquove been exercising on an empty stomach, you&rsquoll be in a negative protein balance, so take this dose as soon as possible. Otherwise, try to take it within the next couple of hours &mdash the exact size of your &ldquoanabolic window&rdquo depends on how much protein you&rsquore still digesting.

      Related articles:

      Myth 20: Creatine will increase your testosterone but cause hair loss and kidney damage

      No, unlikely, and no. As one of the most widely used supplements, creatine has been subjected to a whole host of spurious claims. Let&rsquos tackle these three common ones.

      Testosterone increase

      Creatine helps you exercise harder by making it easier for your cells to regenerate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a source of energy. To this day, there is no strong evidence that creatine can raise testosterone levels.

      Three randomized controlled trials (RCTs), totalling 60 male participants, reported small yet statistically significant increases in either testosterone or dihydrotestosterone (DHT) from doses ranging from 5 to 25 grams of supplemental creatine. [105] [106] [107] However, ten other RCTs, with a total of 218 male participants, reported no effect on testosterone from doses ranging from 3 to 25 grams of supplemental creatine. [108] [109] [110] [105] [111] [112] [113] [114] [115] [116] [117] [109]

      People wishing to optimize their testosterone levels should focus on better-proven options. Suboptimal levels of sleep, exercise, calories, vitamin D, magnesium, and zinc can decrease testosterone production.

      Hair loss

      The idea that creatine might increase hair loss stems from a single RCT in which the participants (20 healthy young male rugby players) saw a small but statistically significant increase in DHT after supplementing with creatine for 21 days. [105] When DHT, a potent metabolite of testosterone, binds to DHT receptors on the hair follicles of the scalp, those follicles may shrink and stop producing hair. [118] [119]

      To date, this RCT is the only one to have tested creatine&rsquos effect on DHT. However, twelve others have tested creatine&rsquos effect on testosterone: two reported a small increase, [106] [107] but ten reported no effect. [108] [109] [110] [105] [111] [112] [113] [114] [115] [116] Of those twelve RCTs, five also tested creatine&rsquos effect on free testosterone, the form that gets converted into DHT, and all reported no effect (no statistically significant increase or decrease was detected). [108] [111] [113] [109] [115]

      Now, creatine could nonsignificantly increase free testosterone yet significantly increase DHT because a small percent increase in free testosterone, which can convert into DHT, could lead to a much greater percent increase in total DHT. So it&rsquos technically possible that creatine might have some effect on hair loss &mdash but current evidence and mechanistic data indicate it&rsquos quite unlikely.

      Kidney damage

      Blood levels of creatinine (a byproduct of energy production) are used as an indicator of kidney function, but elevated levels caused by supplemental creatine are not a sign that your kidneys underperform. [120] [121]

      No adverse effects on kidney function were found in &hellip

      People with healthy kidneys taking up to 10 grams of creatine per day. Short- and long-term trials are numerous and the results are consistent. [122] [123] [124] [125] [126] [127] [128] [129]

      People with healthy kidneys taking more than 10 grams of creatine per day. Long-term trials are few, however, so caution is warranted. [129]

      People with suboptimal kidney function taking up to 5 grams of creatine per day. Trials in this population are scarce, so caution is warranted. [130] [131] [132] [133]

      If you plan to have your creatinine levels tested, stop taking creatine at least 3 weeks before the test to avoid a false positive.

      Related articles:

      Myth 21: Negative calorie foods are the key to weight loss

      &lsquoNegative calorie&rsquo foods are the holy grail for weight loss &mdash foods that have fewer calories than your body uses to digest them. Imagine the weight loss you could achieve if you consumed a food that created a caloric deficit after you ingested it. Amazing!

      Sadly, these types of foods likely don't exist. Even celery, often cited as the ultimate negative calorie food, provides a small 2.24 kcal per 100 grams consumed. Yet foods that are typically thought of as &lsquonegative calorie&rsquo often possess some beneficial traits, such as being low in total calories and high in fiber and water content.

      These foods (celery, tomatoes, lettuce, etc.) are likely to be more filling, which could result in you eating less. So, their regular consumption may aid in weight loss.

      Related articles:

      Misinformation in the mainstream media

      You&rsquove likely heard most of these 21 myths repeated at one time or another &mdash by a friend, on a blog, or somewhere in the media. Misinformation is rampant and difficult to identify, and unfortunately spreads much faster than facts.

      And really, this is just the tip of the iceberg. You&rsquoll often see sensationalist headlines based on a study with unsurprising results. In mid-2017, for instance, the media went into a frenzy of similar headlines claiming that a review paper [134] showed that coconut oil was &ldquobad&rdquo for you of course, when we analyzed the studies, we found that coconut oil, like most other natural foods, has both benefits and downsides. Even the major, eight-million dollar study led by Christopher Gardner of Stanford University, which compared the weight-loss effects of low-fat and low-carb diets, [17] was misrepresented all over the media. (According to Dr. Gardner, Examine.com did the very best job in covering the study.)

      That&rsquos why we have an entire team poring over the research. And not just one or two studies, either &mdash but the entire body of evidence.

      Want more evidence-based information?

      This is what we do. We analyze research, make sense of it, and give it context. We&rsquore an educational organization that prides itself on avoiding clickbait or sensationalist headlines.

      Because we all want to be healthy, it&rsquos easy to fall for nutrition myths, fad diets, or the latest miracle supplement. That&rsquos why we created the Examine Membership &mdash the easiest way for you to stay up to date on the latest nutrition and supplement information, save time and money, and improve your health.


      What your dietitian wants you to know about diabetes

      There were 2.28 million cases of diabetes in South Africa in 2015 according to the International Diabetes Foundation and around 1.21 million people with undiagnosed diabetes. Considering these numbers it remains vitally important to continue educating South Africans about diabetes and to address the myths that are often associated with this lifestyle disease.

      Nasreen Jaffer, Registered Dietitian and ADSA (Association for Dietetics in South Africa) spokesperson has a special interest in diabetes. She debunks some of the myths surrounding diabetes and nutrition:

      People with diabetes have to follow a special diet or have to eat special diabetic foods.

      People with diabetes do not have to follow a ‘special’ diet. People with diabetes need to make the same healthy eating choices as everyone else. Healthy eating choices include vegetables and fruit whole grains fish, lean meats and poultry dairy products seeds, nuts, legumes and plant oils. Everyone needs to limit fatty red meats, processed meats, salt and foods high in salt, and foods and beverages with added sugar.

      There are foods that should be avoided completely.

      The answer, is ‘no’. Moderation is key, the minute you’ve banned a certain food entirely, you’re likely to start craving it intensely. Your health and weight are more affected by what you do daily than what you eat once or twice a week, so if you’re in the mood for a piece of cake once in a while, buy a small one and share. If you deprive yourself of something you’re craving, it’s just a matter of time until your binge on it and sabotage your motivation. However, crisps, chocolates, and sweets are high in saturated and trans fat, while sugar-sweetened beverages like soft drinks, iced tea and energy drinks contain a large amount of sugar, so these have to be limited.

      If I am diabetic, my diet is going to be more expensive.

      It is not necessary to buy expensive foods marketed to diabetics. Healthy eating can be economical, and is often cheaper than buying unhealthy treats. Buying seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables is cheaper than buying fruit juices and sugar-sweetened beverages. If you replace sweets, chocolates, crisps, puddings and cakes with fruits, yoghurt and salads as your snacks and desserts, you’ll find you will save money. Legumes, such as lentils and beans, are cheaper alternatives to red meat, while providing numerous health benefits.

      Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.

      Too much sugar does not necessarily cause diabetes, but because foods and drinks with added sugar are often energy-dense (high in kilojoules), consuming too much of these on a regular basis can lead to weight gain. This can put us at risk for type 2 diabetes. Sugar-sweetened beverages seem to have the strongest link to type 2 diabetes. ‘Sugar’ doesn’t only refer to the sugar added to tea and coffee, but also includes sugar and sweetened products added when cooking and at the table. Look out for hidden sugars in pre-prepared and processed foods, like some breakfast cereals, sweetened drinks, dairy products, sauces and sweet treats. People with diabetes should limit or avoid adding sugar as it can have a negative effect on blood sugar levels.

      People with diabetes cannot eat carbohydrates.

      No, this is not true. While all foods that contain carbohydrates will affect your blood sugar levels, people with diabetes can still eat carbohydrate foods. There are healthy types of carbohydrates that you do want to include in your eating plan, and the type or quality of carbohydrate foods is important. Therefore, for optimal blood glucose control it is important to control the quantity, and distribute carbohydrate foods equally throughout the day. For example, choose wholegrain or high-fibre carbohydrate foods as they don’t increase blood sugar as quickly as refined grains, and make sure that each meal is balanced, containing not only carbohydrate foods, but also protein or dairy, non-starchy vegetables or healthy fats.

      People with diabetes should restrict their fruit intake.

      Because fruit contains natural sugars, too much fruit can contribute to an increase in blood glucose levels. However, eating fruit also adds fibre, and essential vitamins and minerals to the diet, so while people with diabetes should not eat excessive amounts of fruit, fruit should not be completely eliminated. Portion control is important, and people with diabetes should choose whole fruit rather than fruit juice. It is recommended that you consult your dietitian to calculate the amount of fruit that you should include in your daily diet.

      If one of my parents has diabetes, there is nothing I can do about it – I will develop diabetes eventually.

      If you have a genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes, you have all the reason you need to embrace a healthy lifestyle. While genetics may contribute 30 to 40% to the development of any condition, including diabetes, environmental and lifestyle factors may have a 60 to 70% impact. If you maintain a healthy body weight, stick to a healthy eating plan, avoid tobacco use and keep physically active regularly, you have a very good chance of not developing diabetes.

      If I have diabetes, I can’t exercise.

      On the contrary, diabetes is a compelling reason to exercise regularly. The reason for this is that physical activity plays a very important role in lowering blood glucose levels. Exercise also predisposes your body cells to being more sensitive to insulin, and of course, it helps to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week, such as brisk walking, while doing some resistance or strength exercises at least twice a week. If you use insulin it is important to check your blood glucose levels before and after physical activity. If you get results below 6 mmol/l it is recommended that you lower your insulin dose or eat a healthy snack to prevent a hypoglycemic attack during or after exercise.

      Early diagnosis of diabetes is vitally important. This year the theme of World Diabetes Day is “Eyes on Diabetes”, focusing on the screening for type 2 diabetes to ensure early diagnosis and treatment, which can in turn reduce the risk of serious complications. The sooner that elevated blood glucose levels can be treated and returned to normal, the better. If you are diagnosed with either pre-diabetes or diabetes, you need to start moving towards a healthier lifestyle that focuses on regular physical activity, good nutrition and weight-loss if you are overweight or obese.

      Everyone over the age of 45 years should be screened for diabetes every 2 to 3 years, or earlier if you are overweight and have other risk factors for diabetes (such as a family history, high blood pressure or previous diabetes during pregnancy). If you haven’t yet been screened, visit a healthcare professional to find out if you are at risk.

      Should you experience any of the following symptoms contact your doctor as soon as possible – sudden weight loss, hunger, blurred vision, tiredness, excessive thirst and frequent urination.


      Six Diet and Nutrition Myths That Need to Die in 2019

      Haaaaaaaappy New Year! It’s 2019! I hope all of you have a happy, productive year.

      Everybody knows how much I love busting nutrition myths, and there were so many that popped up in 2018 that need to just GO AWAY! Unfortunately, diet and nutrition myths are like whack-a-mole: I bust one, and three more pop up out of nowhere. It’s infuriating because I know that people are wasting their time, effort, money, and sanity on these crazy fads and beliefs and I think it’s very unfair.

      I recently put out a call on my Abby Langer Nutrition Facebook page for nutrition myths that people want to see gone in 2019, and the response was fantastic! Thank you to everyone who took the time to leave me a comment (note: I’ve taken the thread down, but I’m always open to suggestions for blog post topics). It was interesting to see how many of the myths below came up multiple times on the thread apparently I’m not the only one who is sick of detoxes!!

      Here are the six biggest myths to say bye-bye to in 2019:

      Your liver needs cleansing.

      The liver has never been sexier than it is now with all of these newly-popular liver cleanses. And while it’s no doubt enjoying its newfound fame and attention, this workhorse organ of blood cleansing, blood cell-making, and bile production doesn’t need your help. Livers that are functioning normally – and if yours is not, trust me, you’ll know – don’t need cleansing or those expensive supplements that your naturopath swindled you into buying. There is zero validity in claims that we need to rid our livers or bodies of toxins, unless you’re legitimately poisoned. Please don’t waste your money on crap like celery juice, milk thistle, or any other things that supposedly cleanse or detox livers. All those things actually do is drain your wallet.

      As an aside, cleanses and detoxes have always been bullshit, so please stop believing in them.

      When someone has their MD or calls themselves a ‘doctor’, this means that they know a lot about nutrition.

      Dr. Oz. Dr. Gundry. Dr. WheatBelly (whatever his name is), and hundreds more. Chiropractors, naturopaths, and random PhDs. What do these people have in common?

      They can all describe themselves as doctors, and many give nutrition advice without any credible, thorough nutrition training.

      Anyone can talk about nutrition and diet, but that doesn’t mean you should be listening to them. In fact, MDs have created some of the most outrageous, pseudoscientific fad diets I’ve ever seen, and yet people believe these diets are legit because of the MD credential on the book cover. No! People! No! Don’t go there. ‘But he’s a New York Times bestselling author!’ people say to me. ‘So is Tori Spelling.’ Is always my reply.

      If you’re looking for credible nutrition information, it can be really hard to find amongst a forest of quacks that are dishing out advice to anyone who will listen (and buy).

      Here are some red flags to watch out for:

      Fear mongering – this includes describing any food as ‘toxic’, or suggesting that you have some sort of obscure ‘problem’ aka candida or adrenal fatigue – that their diet and advice can magically solve.

      A line of supplements and products to sell – healthy eating should never have to involve ‘lectin blockers’ or ‘fat burners’. If someone’s website is like one huge sales pitch and/or has a ton of affiliate links, run.

      A sob story that appeals to your emotions – it’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of a ‘fat to fit’ story, but remind yourself that this is one of the oldest marketing tools. A good life story can be captivating, but it doesn’t make someone qualified to counsel people on nutrition or to write nutrition books.

      A long ‘do not eat’ food list – if someone – your doctor, trainer, ‘nutritionist’, whoever – is telling you to avoid a long list of otherwise healthy foods, that’s not okay. They should have concrete evidence as to why you – and I mean, you personally – need to avoid these foods. Often found together: This flag and its good friend, fear mongering.

      No attention to the emotional, social, and financial aspect of dieting – I don’t care who a person is if they ignore the emotional, social, and financial aspects of the way they’re asking you to eat, then they’re not worthy of your time. What you eat affects your whole life, not just your food. If it’s a negative in the areas I mentioned, it won’t ever be sustainable.

      Twisted science or no science, only anecdotes – this is the calling card of every quack out there. I don’t care how many people it worked for, their opinions and testimonials don’t add up…TO SCIENCE.

      Big claims or claims that change daily – Every time Dr. Oz is on the cover of some magazine touting some idiotic new diet or ‘superfood’, his credibility diminishes. Don’t listen to people who are just in it to promote – and cash in on – the Next Big Thing. Also under this flag: guaranteed weight loss, with or without a ‘lose X pounds’ claim. Nobody can guarantee anything except for death and taxes. Period.

      On the flipside, some great sources for nutrition information (besides myself and other RDs, of course) are:

      examine.com – far and away my absolute favorite source!

      vox.com – Julia Belluz in particular writes the best nutrition articles I’ve literally ever read

      Diet vs Disease – this guy is an RD who’s really great at breaking down difficult nutrition topics.

      UVA Health System – the Gastroenterology Department here has incredible education materials for a handful of nutrition-related issues

      Take THAT, Dr. Wheatbelly!! I enjoyed every bite!

      You need a multivitamin.

      Multivitamins won’t ever take the place of nourishing food, and even if your diet has some gaps, it’s highly unlikely that you need to take one.

      There are some situations that call for multis, such as pregnancy and malnutrition. For most people not in those situations, a multi is probably not going to measurably improve your health or prevent disease (which is presumably why most people take them).

      If you’re deficient in any vitamins and minerals, my recommendation is to take those ones individually. Multivitamins rarely contain enough of each vitamin and mineral to make up for a true deficiency, and ingredient amounts as well as quality can vary. The more common deficiencies such as iron, B12, calcium, zinc, and vitamin D can all be tested for by your doctor and ameliorated with individual dosages of their supplemental forms.

      A doctor can test you for vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which is the best course of action if you believe you might not be getting what you need via your diet. Don’t just take vitamins and other supplements without knowing if you actually need them.

      I strongly discourage you from testing for ‘deficiencies’ via hair tests or any other alternative methods from non doctors, for obvious reasons.

      Beans and nightshades are toxic.

      It appears as though lectin is the new gluten. Thanks to The dud diet The Plant Paradox, there are a lot of people who believe that beans and nightshade vegetables are toxic, and are depriving themselves of these delicious, nutrient-rich foods for absolutely no reason.

      I’ve written a more comprehensive explanation here, but to make a long story short, legumes and nightshades are well-tolerated by most people. They are not toxic because of their anti-nutrients (phytates and lectins, in particular), and anyone telling you to cut these foods out of your diet, unless you have a legitimate intolerance to them, is speaking nonsense and needs to be ignored. That means you, Dave Asprey and Whole30. Quacks!

      Lectins and other ‘anti-nutrients’ are mostly denatured with cooking, and the ones we do get in food? We actually have antibodies that deal with them. While some people don’t tolerate these foods, telling everyone in the world to avoid them is irresponsible and frankly, ridiculous.

      Eat your chickpeas and tomatoes. Be happy.

      Don’t let anyone scare you away from a good chickpea curry.

      Some of you are undoubtedly going to message me and tell me that I’m wrong on this one, but I’m going to say it anyways: there is no evidence that GMOs cause cancer.

      Yes, I know about the animal studies. Yes, I think Monsanto and Bayer are evil. But my job isn’t to extrapolate badly-done animal studies onto humans or to let my personal feelings about a company override the actual science on something (or lack thereof).

      It would be irresponsible and unethical for me to recommend that you all drop conventionally-grown food and eat only organics to avoid GMOs. First, because there’s no science that proves that organic food is any more nutritious than conventional. Second, because there is no science that shows that GMOs are harmful to humans. Third, because many of you can’t afford an all-organic diet, and neither can I. Fourth, ethically I refuse to make people feel guilty or anxious about eating conventionally grown food without any good reason. We don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables to begin with…why give people more of a reason to eat even less of them?

      My stance on GMOs and cancer is echoed by the Canadian Cancer Society and the American Cancer Society. As far as the decision by some of the EU countries to ban GMOs, this is widely seen as hastily-made and unscientific.

      If you are concerned that GMOs may cause adverse health effects, you do have the choice to avoid GMOs by eating organic food. You can also eat more whole foods that are naturally non-GMO and avoid ultra-processed foods that contain GMO ingredients (corn syrup and soy are two big ones).

      The current GMO crops in North America include sugar beets, Arctic brand apples, soy, canola, potatoes, papaya, squash, certain tomatoes, and corn (although most GMO corn is converted to corn syrup or used as animal feed, which begs the question – if you’re trying to avoid GMOs, will you also buy organic meats?). All others are NOT GMO, so if you’re avoiding genetically modified foods, you can eat foods that aren’t on the above list.

      Also: organic foods use pesticides too…

      With all the diets out there and the way they’re marketed, you’d think that being thin is the best way to ensure that you’re healthy.

      Except no…it’s actually not. Body weight alone isn’t an accurate indicator of health, and someone who is slender may still be metabolically unhealthy, with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood sugars. Being overweight may be the result of an unhealthy lifestyle, but that in no way means that normal-weight people are excluded from having a crap diet and unhealthy habits.

      Regardless of your weight, inactivity and poor diet still raise your risk of heart and other diseases. And the huge factor that too many people still ignore – emotional health – can suffer regardless of a person’s weight. Someone who has unhealthily dieted down to a low weight can be far less metabolically and emotionally healthy than someone who is considered ‘overweight’ and is living their life well.

      My advice would be to shift your focus from the number on the scale, to your physical and emotional health.