10 popular nutrition myths

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“A lie told often enough becomes the truth” – this is how many ideas got into our heads. This is how we find ourselves being so sure about a fact, until someone asks “How do you know?” and then we realize the answer is “Because everyone else says the same thing”. Without further chit-chat, here are some popular nutrition myths, that shouldn’t be taken as guidelines anymore:

Eating late1. You will gain more weight if you eat late at night

FALSE. In a general perspective, if you eat more calories than you are required you will gain weight. Of course, not all calories are the same (e.g. dietary fiber, which promotes digestion and even carries some of the calories out). But in the long run, gaining weight is related to how much you eat, not necessarily when you eat it.

The belief that you get fatter if you eat before bedtime, is because by that time most people have already ate breakfast, lunch and dinner (and God knows what else) and that late-night snack really spills the bucket.

2. If you quit smoking you’ll gain weight

FALSE. Quitting smoking is exactly what it is and nothing more. The weight gain is just for those people that choose to replace the satisfaction of getting nicotine from cigarettes to getting calories from food.

If you quit smoking and manage to raise your dopamine levels (previously raised by nicotine) from some other activity than eating (e.g.: physical activity) you will not gain any weight.

Butter3. Eating saturated fats increases bad cholesterol levels

FALSE. Yes it might be surprising, but more and more studies show there is no apparent connection between the risk of developing heart disease and consumption of saturated fat (1 , 2).

Another study shows that replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats lowered both HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, although it reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease. Also, the same study concluded that replacing saturated fats with refined carbohydrates can be detrimental to your health.

4. A protein-rich diet can damage your kidneys

FALSE. People that already have kidney disease can worsen their condition by eating to much protein. For healthy individuals, protein was shown to improve bone health and no link was found between protein consumption and kidney disease.

Honey vs sugar5. Honey is healthier than sugar

TRUE. Of course, sugar is known as “empty calories” and honey is a more nutritious choice. But keep in mind that honey is also highly caloric (about 300 kcal/100 gr) so you should eat it in moderation.

6. Herbal products are natural so this means they’re safe

FALSE. It’s true some of them, are quite harmless, but keep in mind an herb or a plant can contain hundreds or even thousands of chemical compounds (even if it’s natural) and some of them can interact with known drugs, pregnancy and medical conditions.

Don’t take natural products mindlessly. Seek advice from a doctor before you do, to make sure you won’t damage your health.

7. You need to eat more protein to build muscle

TRUE. But not without regular physical activity and sufficient calorie intake. Simply eating protein will not make muscles grow like magic. And eating too much of it will get stored as fat, just like eating too much carbs or fat.

Meersalz8. Sea salt is healthier than table salt

TRUE. Sea salt is usually less processed than table salt, thus is richer in minerals and other nutrients. Table salt is actually salt from underground deposits and it’s heavily processed leaving it with little or no mineral content. Although, both of type of salts have roughly equal amounts of sodium, so it doesn’t mean you can eat more sea salt, just because it has some extra minerals in it.

9. Diet soda will not get you fat so it’s safe for your health

FALSE. Studies show that consumption of artificial sweeteners (also found in diet soda) can lead to uncontrollable appetite and diet soda is also associated with increased risk of obesity.

10. Meat is bad for your health

FALSE. Even though nowadays red meat got a bad name and poultry and fish are widely advertised, studies show that meat consumption in moderate amounts does have several benefits. Meat is rich in vitamin B12 and adequate intake reduces the risk of age-related brain shrinkage. However, the processed meats, such as sausages and bacon that can increase the risk of developing heart disease.