Keeping up with healthy eating can be confusing, especially when information is constantly changing. First it's low-fat, then it's low-carb, and suddenly people are skipping meals altogether and guzzling down juice. If you're someone who is determined to eat well, you'll want to make sure you're not follow for these
common nutrition and weight-loss misconceptions that keep persisting. We're always learning about what's best for our body and our overall health, and certain advice is now just outdated, thanks to new studies.
"Many folks trust what their friends tell them and what they read on the Internet," says
Toby Amidor, MS, RD over email. "However that doesn’t mean that it is backed up by science. You may have had an experience with a food or diet that they attributed to weight gain or loss or to a health condition and choose to pinpoint that specific reason for the health condition and eliminated the food. As such, misconceptions continue to swirl and be strongly believed."
It can take some time to sift through the information, but luckily, I spoke to a number of nutritionists to help set the record straight. Here are 11 nutrition and weight loss misconceptions that just won't die.
Contrary to what you might think, carbs are not evil. "Carbohydrates fuel our bodies, and cutting them out leads to feeling tired, cranky, and weak which can trigger excess snacking and feeling deprived," says
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD over email. Instead of cutting out all carbs completely, focus on cutting out refined grains and replacing them with healthier options like whole grains and vegetables.
For years we were told to avoid fat, but it turns out that certain types of fats, like monounsaturated fats and certain saturated fats, can actually be good for you. "Fat provides many benefits, including giving us a feeling of fullness and helping us to eat less overall," says
Despina Hyde Gandhi, MS, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at NYU Langone, over email. "Be careful with trying to cut fat by choosing a low fat product. Often times when fat is taken out of a food, it is replaced with sugar, as is the case with reduced-fat peanut butter for example."
Although it's true that organic produce doesn't contain potentially harmful pesticides, that doesn't mean the organic label means any other food you are eating is healthier. "You can have totally organic junk food that’s made with organic sugar and organic white flour," says Ghandi. "I always caution people before grabbing that box of organic granola or organic cookies. Read the nutrition facts label to find out what is really in your food." Whether it's organic or not, sugar is still sugar and will have the same negative effects on your health.
Juicing Is Necessary To Cleanse The Body
Everyone's doing juice cleanses these days, but the truth is, they're not doing much for your body, and you don't need them to stay healthy. "Your body has its own cleansing functions," says Setnick. "You know they are working if you pee, poop, sweat, and exhale. In other words if your body wasn’t cleansing itself, you would know pretty quick, because you would get very, very sick and start to die. And if that happened, believe me, a weeklong juice fast would not help at all."
Eating At Night Causes Weight Gain
There's a popular misconception that eating after 8pm is bad for you, but it's not about the time of day you eat — it's about what you're eating, as people tend to eat unhealthier foods at night. As long as you're eating the right balance of food throughout the day, it doesn't matter when you eat it. "Eating appropriately throughout your waking hours does not cause weight gain just because some of those hours are at night," says
Jessica Setnick, MS, RD, CEDRD over email.
You Should Have One "Cheat Day"
Some people believe it's better to only cheat once a week and eat clean the rest of the time. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), this mindset is incorrect. "First of all, the concept of cheating is such a negative way to look upon food," says Setnick. "You should not eat in a way that you have to cheat. On top of that, it’s irrational. It’s like saying I will wear clothes six days a week and go naked on Wednesdays. You should make decisions about what to eat based on what you need, where you are, what you’re doing with your day, and what sounds good — not at random because of what day of the week it is."
You Should Only Eat Eggs A Few Times A Week
Good news brunch lovers: It's okay to eat those eggs. "Many folks still adhere to guidelines touted in the 1990s that recommended a maximum of three eggs per week," says Amidor. "However, the latest scientific research finds that one whole egg per day can fit into a healthy diet. This includes both the yolk and the whites, so you don't have to get that egg white omelet."
You Can "Outrun" Poor Nutrition With Cardio
Just because you ran five miles today doesn't mean you can eat whatever you want. "People often feel entitled to eat more post-cardiovascular activity," says Zuckerbrot. "Cardio also stimulates appetite, so people end up eating more sometimes than if they hadn’t worked out." Even if you work out, you still need to eat healthy. You should also incorporate strength training exercises, as they build lean muscle, which will boost metabolism and keep it going throughout the day without drastically increasing your appetite.
There's A Perfect Combination Of Nutrients
"Researchers have studied this concept, and individuals have made billions selling books based on this belief that if you follow a specific ratio of carbs, proteins, fats or combine this food with that one, you will more easily lose weight," says
Brenda Braslow, MS, RDN, LDN, CDE over email. However, there's no magic combo that get you fit. "A calorie deficit results in weight loss without regard to what you eat or the combination of nutrients or foods eaten," says Braslow. It's more important to focus on balanced meals with whole foods.
Meal Replacement Shakes Can Help You Slim Down
"There are hundreds of meal replacement shakes on the market, and they may help weight loss initially," says
Maria Zamarripa, MS, RD, CLT over email. "However, unless you plan on drinking these shakes for the rest of your life, it’s not a long-term weight loss solution. Establishing small and realistic nutrition goals over time is the best method to creating a lifelong change."
Agave Is Healthier Than Sugar
Agave was the "it" sweetener for a hot second, but it turns out that it's actually no better than regular sugar. "One tablespoon of agave has more calories than 1 tablespoon of regular table sugar," says Gandhi. "It also has more fructose than high fructose corn syrup." Instead, opt for stevia or
other more favorable sugar substitutes.