There are about as many myths (or half-truths) about food because as you may very well know… there are fad diets.
With this never ending floor of misinformation, what is actually good or actually bad for us?
In this article, we are going to touch on several of the more popular food myths and set you straight with what we now know to be true. Knowledge is the key to making educated choices, but if you are not armed with correct knowledge you may be setting yourself up to be less successful that you hope to be.
#1: Eggs Raise Your Cholesterol
Eggs are a nutritional powerhouse, packed with nutrients like vitamin B12, vitamin D, folate, riboflavin, and protein.
Eggs do contain cholesterol, on average about 185mg per one large egg, which can be found in the yolk. Once deemed a villain to good health, eggs are now considered as a healthy addition to a balanced diet. For most people, dietary cholesterol appears to have a minimal impact on the level of bad cholesterol, or LDL.
Healthy individuals can consume up to 7 eggs per week without a significant impact on their cholesterol levels. The exceptions to this are people who already have a hard time controlling their LDL and in the diabetic population. For these populations, it is best to limit egg yolk consumption to 3 times a week.
The good news is that being mindful about your eggs may lead you to thinking about what you are eating alongside those eggs. Are you ordering up 2 eggs with sausage, wheat toast, and hash browns or are you eating 2 eggs with sliced tomato and avocado? What you eat with those eggs may be as impactful (or more so) as whether or not you eat eggs at all.
#2: Carbs are Bad for Your BMI
For a while now, the enemy of the day has been carbohydrates. No-carb fad diets have shouted at us how evil carbohydrates are to the body. Do you know that carbohydrates are in fact, a critical part of a balanced nutritional profile? Carbohydrates are necessary as they provide fuel to every cell in the body. The trick is to make sure you are eating the correct type and amount of carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose, which is a sugar that provides energy to the cells in the body. The energy carbohydrates provide can either be used immediately or stored. This cycle ensures that all of the cells of the body have a consistent supply of energy at the ready so that they can perform optimally.
This cycle relies on insulin to tell the body whether to have the cells absorb this energy (glucose/sugar) or store it for later.
The problem arises when we consume the wrong kind of carbohydrate, usually the highly processed, sugar-laden kinds of food.
This sends blood sugar levels soaring and after a lifetime of eating low quality carbs, the cells in the body stop responding to insulin. Extra sugar is left circulating in the blood stream, signaling the pancreas to release more insulin, which results in abnormally high levels of both sugar and insulin. This condition is called insulin resistance. Over time, if this is not corrected, the pancreas wears out and stops producing insulin completely.
This condition is known as type-2 diabetes. Here are some ways to know if you are pre-diabetic.
So how does that impact BMI? As obesity levels approach epidemic levels around the globe, this subject is getting enormous attention. What research has discovered is that carbohydrates in general are not to blame, but the quality and quality of the carbs that have a huge impact on BMI. Foods ranking high on the glycemic index will produce a rapid insulin response, which seems to trigger more storage of fat, which results in weight gain, and a whole cascade of negative health consequences.
#3: Eating at Night Makes You Fat
Spoiler alert: eating after 6pm does not mean your food somehow instantly turns into fat.
This myth is based on partial truth, but it was originally poised as a diet trick. While the body’s metabolism does slow down at night (while you are sleeping,) it does not shut down. Your body will continue to digest the food you eat, just a little slower. The energy obtained from that food will still either be used or stored, but it will be digested all the same.
If you are having unhealthy nighttime snacks or overeating before bedtime, cutting out this habit can show drastic improvement in your weight loss efforts. The best routine is to stop eating around 1-2 hours before bedtime to give your body a little head start in digestion. If you're hungry between dinner and bedtime, here are some great nighttime snacks to have.
#4: All Fats Make You Fat
This once popular myth created an entirely new industry of low or no-fat food products.
This myth has been the thorn in the side of nutritionists everywhere. The body cannot survive without fats. Fats are an essential component in helping the body absorb vital nutrients and assist in transmitting signals between nerve cells. Why the bad rap? It was more about the amount and quality of the fats that we were consuming. Eating a diet of highly processed foods loaded with bad fats are in part, what led us to the obesity epidemic of today.
While it may sound reasonable to lower your fat intake by choosing low or no-fat food products, in most cases, the manufacturers of these types of food substituted sugar, sodium, and preservatives so that the food would actually taste edible without fats. These make the food significantly less healthy! There are both good fats and bad fats that you should be aware of.
So what should you choose? Coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil are all great options for cooking oils. Grass fed, organic butter is delicious in moderation when you need it. Foods that contain the healthiest fats are nuts (such as almonds, walnuts, pecans), seeds (chia seed, flaxseed, hemp seed), wild caught salmon, avocados, and even dark chocolate.
Fats are an important part of shaping a healthy nutrition profile – so make sure you are including the healthy variety and eliminating all the junk!
#5: Kale Will Damage Your Thyroid
This is a newer myth that has begun popping up in certain circles. Kale is a known nutritional powerhouse – containing vitamin C, calcium, iron, fiber, antioxidants. It is also part of a class of foods that can cause the thyroid to enlarge, cause goiter, or thyroid cancer. This is simply not true.
Kale is part of a group of (really healthy) cruciferous vegetables such as arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and turnips.
All of these vegetables contain a chemical, thiocyanate, that can potentially interfere with iodine in the body. Iodine is an important component of thyroid health and is necessary for thyroid hormone production. For most people eating a normal amount of any of these vegetables will not result in any effects on the thyroid.
There is some speculation that some people who frequently juice using unusually large amounts of these vegetables (including kale) in their juicing recipes are getting a fast, concentrated amount of this disruptive substance called thiocyanate. In these extremely unusual circumstances what may result is an iodine deficiency or hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid).
While most people in the U.S. would not be affected here as they get enough iodine, this condition may be more likely in people with restricted diets (vegetarians, vegans, etc.) who may be low in iodine already. There is very limited data to support this, and it is likely that the individual would have to eat an excessive amount of these cruciferous vegetables for it to have a noticeable effect on the thyroid. It is likely that this very rare possibility is where the myths surrounding the dangers of kale originated.
For those of you who have learned to love the versatility and health benefits of kale, you SHOULD continue to enjoy it.
For those who have shielded away because you were concerned about what you’d heard, now you know that there is no good reason not to give this nutritional giant a try!
#6: Eating More Than 1000 Calories Daily Will Make You Fat
This strategy of eating only 1000 calories in order to lose or maintain weight does not work and is actually quite unhealthy.
Anyone who has tried this method for weight loss has probably initially lost some weight, only to get stuck at a plateau where the scale simply will not budge one pound further.
Did you know that there is a direct correlation between a calorie restricting diet and how poorly it will work?
Diets that leave you hungry at the end of the day are not effective. Not only are they not sustainable over long periods of time, but many people experience a rebound effect when they go back to eating a more normal amounts of calories.
The MOST important thing to consider is where your calories are coming from. Are they coming from fresh, nutritious, vegetables and fruits, lean meats, and healthy fats like nuts and seeds? By making sure you are ditching the junk and including the good stuff (organic where possible) the number of calories is far less significant.
Know The Truth
It sounds so simple… but things like moderation and finding the right foods to eat really can help you make healthy choices. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If it is not sustainable over the course of a lifetime, then you probably won’t have long term success. It is easy to get swayed by the hype and buzz that surrounds new diet fads and old outdated conventional “wisdom” but hopefully we have shed some light on these subjects so that you can focus your attention on the right things: become the best, healthiest version of yourself that you can…for the rest of your life.