Busting The 5 Biggest Nutrition Myths

I’m feeling bloated, so I must have a problem with gluten.
The Truth: Not all bloating is caused by problems with gluten. With coeliac disease – a permanent intolerance to gluten – not all sufferers experience bloating. It has been suggested that only 40 per cent of adults with coeliac disease have any abdominal symptoms (and about five per cent have no symptoms).

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.

It is not the absence of gluten which makes for a healthier diet but rather the foods that are included. Because a gluten-free diet excludes many refined, processed foods, it can be very healthy – it often includes more fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, fresh meat, fish, chicken and legumes, all of which are nutrient-rich foods. But a gluten-free diet can also be low in fibre, and some gluten-free products have a high glycaemic index, meaning they are rapidly metabolised and don’t leave us feeling satisfied for very long.

Another risk for the gluten-free eater is a lack of whole grains. These are a good source of B vitamins, and a gluten-free diet can be low in B vitamins if the gluten-free grains used are not carefully chosen.

2. No sugar has a place in my diet

Of course, having too much sugar will lead to problems like weight gain and long term health problems. But, glucose is essential to our body.

This idea that sugar is inherently bad for you is a myth “. We all need sugar; that’s the basic block of what runs our bodies. It’s necessary to survive.

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.

That said, eliminating all sugar from your diet would be almost impossible. Fruit, potatoes, and other starchy foods all have high glycemic indexes, so you’d have to eliminate all of them before your sugar intake was whittled down to nothing. 

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.

Cutting back on added sugar doesn’t mean you have to ignore your sweet tooth altogether. But when it comes calling, it’s best to have smarter choices.

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 termlow 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!)

4. Eating carbs will make me fat

First, the Atkins diet claimed to be the solution to weight loss and health.

Now its younger cousin, the keto diet, is implying that you just weren’t restricting carbohydrates quite enough for it to work properly.

Can we stop demonizing carbohydrates already?

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.

I’m not going to talk about this for very long, because there are hundreds of articles on the internet giving you lists of carbohydrates that you “should” and “shouldn’t” eat, pitting them off against each other like some sort of gladiatorial fight to the death.

It is calories, not carbs, that really matter in terms of fat loss, whichever dietary strategy helps you achieve this is the right one for you whether that’s low carb, high carb or somewhere in between.

We have a problem in the scientific community, and that problem is identity.

“Low carb” has become part of one’s identity, with the rise of “low carb doctors” and “low carb dietitians.”

Despite all the available evidence falsifying the carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis of obesity, many are unwilling to let go of their dogma and genuinely explore the evidence and their identity.

5. 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.

You don’t need a protein supplement “unless you are a frail, elderly person with limited food intake.” Supplements are purely for convenience. There’s nothing in a drink made from a supplement that is superior to regular food.

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 general, most of us can 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 the combination of natural protein sources.

If your workouts consist of hopping on the elliptical trainer for 30 to 60 minutes every other day, you’ll probably do just fine eating a balanced diet that consists of healthy meals and snacks. For the average gym-goer, eating a few hours after a workout should be fine.

Practically speaking, if you eat sufficient protein at every regular meal, you are going to get in all of the protein you need around your workouts, Schoenfeld says. No extra post-workout shakes required.

“If your workout does warrant a recovery meal, eat a healthy meal, not a supplement”.

By Priyanshi Bhatnagar

Published by Priyanshi Bhatnagar, Founder of Detoxpri

Hi, I'm Priyanshi! As a Holistic Nutritionist and as a leading voice in mindful nutrition, my purpose is to teach you how to take care of yourself using simple sustainable mindful eating and living practices so you feel empowered, balanced, and at ease. In my teachings, you'll learn both the science of nutrition and the art of healthy eating so you design a way of to eat for healthy mind, body & soul that's unique to you. At detoxpri, the meaning of good health is a combination of nutrition and fitness, which are essential to your well-being.

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