There are plenty of dieting myths floating around and we have put together our top ten. Most, at some point have had a little substance from a questionable study carried out in yester-year, when our understanding and technology was slightly less advanced. Quite often, once big brand marketing departments get hold of an idea they run with it and it becomes an ingrained belief that we assume to be an absolute truth.
Take butter, for example. In the early 80’s, a recommendation was released that advised the British public to consume less saturated fat. There was an assumed correlation between saturated fat and an increased risk of heart disease because the average diet in the UK at the time consisted of as much as 1/5th fatty meats, cream and butter.
This led food makers to produce low-fat versions of foods like margarine and low-fat milk and so the belief became ingrained into our nutritional thinking. However, at the time, no solid trial was actually carried out to substantiate the theory and it has been our belief for the last 30 years. Only now have trials and studies been carried out that argue to the contrary; butter isn’t bad! See British Medical Journal
Myth 1 – Don’t Eat After 8pm
This myth could be one of my favourites. The idea is that food you consume during the day has time to get used up, whereas late night calories will just sit in your system and turn to fat.
Unfortunately, as romantically logical as this sounds, it is not the case. Calories can’t tell the time and your body digests calories in the same way morning, noon and night. Obviously there are fewer calories required if you eat then spend your evening on the couch watching Crocodile Dundee but your body will still be burning fuel throughout the night and into the next day when you are up and active again.
However, be aware of what you eat late at night when your feet are up. Instead of grabbing ice cream, lollies or popcorn, go for fruit or nuts if you need to nibble.
Myth 2 – Coffee is Unhealthy so Should Be Avoided
This myth is a true antonym. The idea that coffee is bad for you is a belief held by some - you know, the “I don’t do caffeine” kind - but in fact, the complete opposite is true. Coffee and caffeine actually boast health boosting benefits.
Caffeine can boost mental performance ny helping you to concentrate, enhance athletic performance and even reduce the risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Coffee has a whole host of benefits too. Being one of the most potent sources of antioxidants in the western diet means it can lower your risk of diabetes, help protect the liver from disease, help fight depression and help you live longer. “Where’s the coffee shop?”
Myth 3 – Eating Fat Makes You Fat
This myth uses very basic logic to help convince us this is the truth. If you pour water into a glass, the glass is going to have water in it. It does not take a brain surgeon to work that out but all fat is not the same and the dietary fat you consume is very unlikely to end up as body fat.
Fat is a structurally integral part of every single cell membrane in the body. Alot of the good dietary fats you consume will be used in cell production as well as being used as an energy source and to absorb fat soluble vitamins and protein. Most excess body fat actually comes from over eating carbs. Carbs are the go to fuel and provides your body with the main source of energy. When there is excess carbohydrate intake in your diet, your body saves this valuable fuel by converting it into fat and storing it for future use. It has been proven that a diet high in fat but low in carbs will increase weight loss, versus a low-fat diet.
Myth 4 – A High Protein Diet Increases Strain on Your Kidneys
This particular myth is one that actually has some substance. The idea comes from a study performed to measure the effects of protein on people with established kidney disease. Researchers found that people with a pre-existing condition had a higher strain on the kidney function from their role in protein synthesis.
In a healthy person, the kidneys perform their normal role of filtering the waste products from protein synthesis with no trouble at all, so a diet high in protein will have no adverse effect on your kidneys. Numerous studies, even in athletes with a high protein intake, show that high protein diets are perfectly safe and can even lower blood pressure and help fight diabetes.
Myth 5 – Full Fat Dairy Products are Bad for You
This idea comes from a study back in the 80’s that found a correlation between nations with high rates of heart disease also having diets high in saturated fats found in meat and full-fat dairy. While the correlation was identified, there was no causation. Even though the study was flawed and did not follow with a trial, this belief was adopted and has been ingrained for the last 30 years.
Recent studies have found there to be no proof to this theory and have actually proved otherwise. Natural fats found in dairy products like butter and full-fat milk bring a whole host of benefits including lowering the risk of heart disease, increasing protein synthesis, increasing calcium absorption and improving brain health.
Myth 6 – Carbohydrates are all Bad
A common misconception that has come back to the forefront of dieting trends is that removing carbs altogether from your diet is the best way to lose weight. While cutting back on simple high GI carbs often found in ‘bad’ foods like white bread, cookies and pasta will have a positive effect on fat loss, removing carbs from your diet all together will actually have a negative effect!
Carbs make up the majority of the body’s main fuel source and assist in a whole host of other functions like mental cognition, nutrient absorption and digestion. Removing all carbs completely will leave you feeling tired and foggy. The best way to lose fat would be to reduce those simple carbs and have more complex, low GI carbs found in vegetables, brown bread and oats. Don't demonise the carbs!
Myth 7 – Calorie Counting is the Best Way to Lose Weight
Creating a calorie deficit, spending more than you put in, is a good way to lose weight as your body will have to find the required fuel from the stores in the body and that will come from fat or muscle. While this idea works it doesn’t make for a healthy, sustainable diet on its own.
The idea that ‘all calories are created equal’ just is not true. Different foods go through different metabolic pathways and have direct effects on fat burning. A diet high in protein for example can actually increase the metabolic rate by 80 to 100 calories per day.
Calories are just one level of a holistic dietary approach and in fact more importantly are the macronutrients you consume. Ensuring the food you eat is balanced and you are consuming the correct amount of fats, proteins and carbs while maintaining an active lifestyle will ensure your goals or not only achievable but also sustainable.
Myth 8 – Reduced Fat Foods are a Healthier Option
Reduced or low-fat foods are often perceived as a healthy option and are marketed to the ‘health food’ consumer. The supermarkets are literally flooded with low-fat products that are often branded as the better option, however reducing the natural fat content in food usually makes the food taste horrible!
To counteract this, the manufacturers add a whole load of sugar to enhance the flavour which makes these ‘healthier alternatives’ much more damaging to health when compared with the fat that is naturally present in foods. Low-fat doesn’t mean it’s better for you, make sure you read the label!
Myth 9 – Red Meat Increases the Risk of Heart Disease
This myth feels like it has been around forever. We are constantly warned about the ‘dangers’ of eating red meat. While it is true that some studies have shown negative effects when large amounts of processed red meat are consumed, they were usually putting processed and unprocessed meat in the same category.
The largest studies involving over 1 million people have shown that unprocessed red meat is NOT linked to an increased risk of heart disease or diabetes. Red meat is not bad for you, just make an effort to buy unprocessed meat and don’t overcook it as eating too much burnt meat can be harmful.
Myth 10 – Spending Hours on the Treadmill Is the Best Way to Lose Fat
This one is a little more exercise centric but the adage ‘you can’t out train a bad diet’ rings true. Many of us believe the best way to shake that stubborn belly fat is to trudge away for hours on the treadmill or glide day in day out on the cross trainer. While these epic long distance almost-marathons will make you lose weight, it won’t just be the fat that your body burns you will also strip away muscle to be used as fuel too.
The problem with this is muscle depletion actually slows the metabolic rate which ultimately slows your fat loss! Not only that, having muscle mass will actually increase the amount of calories your body burns during the day. The best way to burn fat, while retaining muscle, is to engage in a high intensity training program, looking at methods like HIIT and Tabata.
These short burst exercises mean you won’t tap into your muscles for fuel as you aren’t straining for long periods of time.
Moderation is of course the key with any diet, over doing it with any food group is likely to put unnecessary strain on your body. A balanced diet with a variety of food groups will always be the healthiest choice for you and leading an active lifestyle will provide an astonishing amount of additional health benefits.
This was our top ten dieting myths but there are plenty more out there so be sure to do some of your own research from trustworthy sources if you have any doubts.
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