Healthy dietary intake is important for the maintenance of general health and wellness, the prevention of chronic illness, the optimization of life expectancy, and the clinical management of virtually all disease states.
Dietary myths (i.e., concepts about nutrition that are poorly supported or contradicted by scientific evidence) may stand in the way of healthy dietary intake.
Below are some common diet and nutrition misconceptions proven as ‘myths’ by scientific research and studies.
- Myth: Avoid carbohydrates to lose weight
Fact: Carbohydrates are the preferred energy source of the body; this means that they are ‘burned’ for energy first. Weight loss during a diet low in carbohydrates can usually be attributed to the decreased caloric intake typical to these diets, rather than the decreased carbohydrate diet. Furthermore, the initial weight loss seen in these diets is caused by the body burning stored glycogen (carbohydrate) for energy, which releases water so the loss is only a water shift and not an actual weight loss. Ultimately, in order to lose weight, a low caloric, balanced and well-rounded diet including low GI carbohydrates, healthy fats, lean protein, and plenty of fruit and vegetables may be beneficial.
- Myth: Taking multi-vitamins is necessary for health benefits
Fact: In a balanced, western diet, supplementing with vitamins and minerals is generally not necessary; we gain adequate amounts of these through our diet!
Supplementing as a part of a healthy, well-nourished diet is unnecessary and costly, and may even be harmful (in high doses) to our health.
However, supplements do have a role to play for some groups of people. For instance, people with mal-absorption problems, such as diarrhoea, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis or pancreatitis, can benefit from supplements. Supplements should only be taken under the advice of a doctor or accredited dietician, and should never replace a balanced diet.
- Myth: All fats are bad
Fact: Fats are vital in a healthy diet; they aid in nutrient absorption, nerve transmission, maintenance of cell membranes and vitamin absorption. Some fats promote good health while others increase the risk for heart disease. Try to replace the bad fats (saturated and trans) with the good fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated), and keep to the recommended dietary intake levels.
- Myth: Skipping meals can help you lose weight
Fact: When you skip a meal, your body slows down your metabolism to compensate for the lack of food. Our bodies are smart and programmed for survival. Severely limiting calories can make your body think it’s entering a famine, and that it needs to do more with fewer calories. Your body adapts to the restricted caloric intake, and uses fewer calories to perform the same tasks. A better approach is to eat small, frequent meals and snacks to keep your blood sugar balanced.
- Myth: Wheat is a dietary no-no
Fact: The evidence says . . . Grain based foods, such as wheat, rye, barley and oats, provide many important nutrients for the body and can help manage body weight. Grains provide essential vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein and dietary fibre, all of which are important nutrients for a healthy diet. Eating whole grain foods help people stay fuller for longer, which is good news for
anyone wishing to lose or maintain weight. There is also strong evidence that eating foods made from whole grains is linked with a lower body weight, a smaller waist circumference and a reduced
risk of becoming overweight.
- Myth: A diet of green tea and chilli peppers will boost metabolism
Fact: No magic food will speed up metabolism. Some studies have shown that green tea and hot chillies temporarily boost metabolic rates, but the effect is minimal and does not surpass benefits from a healthy diet and regular exercise. The path to healthy weight loss is through portion control and a balanced diet filled with nutrient-rich food, not through a diet doused with green tea.
- Myth: Drinking while eating can cause weight gain
Fact: The theory behind this misconception is that digestive juices and enzymes will be diluted by the fluid, and as a consequence slow down the digestion and lead to excess body fat. However, there is no scientific evidence to back this up. In fact, evidence suggests that drinking water with your meal improves digestion and can help control portion control of food through feeling fuller.
Poached eggs with Dukkah on Rye