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13 Common Nutrition and Weight Management Myths Debunked

Many of us have tried different diets and methods to lose or gain weight at some point in our lives. Likewise, most of us have heard commonly believed “facts” about dieting, nutrition, and weight management. But have you ever wondered if all the things you hear about weight management are true? In today’s article Dr. Scott Kahan, Director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness, will comment on those myths to help you sort through what you’ve heard. Spoiler: Not all the myths are false. Some of them are partly true.
A woman on a diet eats broccoli

Myth 1. You should avoid carbs if you want to lose weight. 

The reasoning behind the myth: Carbs are turned into glucose – the body’s sugar — once they're digested, which makes many people believe that they must be avoided during weight-loss diets

The truth: According to Dr. Kahan, this is a myth in most cases. Many studies have evaluated low carbohydrate diets and compared them with several other diets: high carbohydrate diets, low fat diets, Mediterranean diets, and many other dietary patterns. 

On average, there is no difference in the amount of weight that people lose between different diet types. 

It’s not necessary to avoid carbs in order to lose weight. Some people may find it easier and preferable to minimize their carbohydrates intake in order to lose weight. And that’s okay if it works for them. But it’s not an absolute requirement for everyone and it’s important to pay attention to your body and to what feels right to you. 

Myth 2. All low-fat foods are good for weight loss. 

The reasoning behind the myth: “Low-fat” or “fat-free” are terms that are frequently used to advertise foods that can supposedly help you lose weight. But are they healthy?

The truth: This is another myth. Fat is not the enemy. There are many low-fat foods that are very healthy but there are also many low-fat foods that are not healthy at all! For example, there are many snack foods that are processed to take out the fat, but they have a lot of sugar that is put in after the fat is taken out. And those foods are not generally very healthy and should be minimized. 

Myth 3. Eating after a certain hour will make you gain weight. 

The reasoning behind the myth: Since we usually go to bed fairly soon after dinner — and therefore, spend less energy — it's commonly believed that meals that you eat late at night will make you gain weight. 

The truth: This is also a myth. With the studies done, looking at the time when people eat, in general, it doesn’t impact their weight. 

I do think that for most people not eating too late at night is a good strategy. Because when you are going to sleep, you don’t need too much energy for sleeping. Instead, I would rather have the energy that you can get from food during the day in order to fuel my day. 

However, there is no consistent scientific evidence saying that eating late is so bad for you. And certainly, there is no magic hour that changes when you can eat. 

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Myth 4. Fasting is an effective and healthy way to lose weight. 

The reasoning behind the myth: Fasting has gained popularity as a weight management method in recent years. People believe that since you spend long stretches of time without sustenance, you'll be able to lose more weight. 

The truth: Fasting has been used for many centuries for different reasons. And it’s very popular right now as a recommendation for weight loss

Although sometimes it can be helpful, I don’t recommend fasting in order to lose weight. Partly because it’s unsustainable. When you do some type of a weight loss plan and don’t realistically continue it over time, then it’s likely – even if you lose weight – that weight will come back.

It’s interesting that there are many studies looking at fasting in the real world. For example, during Ramadan when people fast all day long for months, they don’t seem to lose weight. 

I would say that it’s almost a myth that fasting is an effective and healthy way to lose weight. Although, it can be used sometimes in productive ways, most people won’t achieve any weight loss.

Myth 5. You need to eat numerous, small meals throughout the day. 

A small meal

The reasoning behind the myth: In addition to keeping you full, a lot of people believe that eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day can help improve your metabolism

The truth: This statement depends on the person. Some people do very well by eating multiple small meals throughout the day in order not to get very hungry and overeat. That can be very helpful for them. However, for other people that’s not helpful. Eating more they end up with their blood sugar increased and they don’t feel comfortable when they have to eat frequently throughout the day

Some people may eat only two or three meals per day rather than multiple small meals. Both are fine and it depends on what is a good fit for you. 

This myth isn’t an entire myth. For some people it’s useful, for some not. But it’s not hard truth for everyone. 

Myth 6. Egg yolks can raise your cholesterol levels, which is very bad.

The reasoning behind the myth: Egg yolks are a high-fat food that's rich in cholesterol. For a long time, it was widely believed that this dietary cholesterol intake could raise the cholesterol in your blood, too. 

The truth: In most people, the cholesterol that we eat, whether from egg yolks or other foods, has minimum effect on the cholesterol levels in the body.

Eggs are a good example of healthy food. And for most people eating eggs can be a part of a very healthy diet and will not raise your cholesterol levels. 

However, there are people that are very sensitive to dietary cholesterol and they will have their blood cholesterol levels go up when they include cholesterol in the diet. 

For these people it’s important to limit the amount of dietary cholesterol including egg yolks. But it’s a very small number of people, while in the majority there is little or no risk of increased cholesterol from eating egg yolks. 

Myth 7. You must avoid eating high-fat foods to lose weight. 

The reasoning behind the myth: High-fat foods are also high-calorie foods. For that reason, many people avoid all kinds of fats — even the healthy ones — during a weight loss diet. This goes along with the myth that claims that in order to lose weight, you need to eat less food. 

The truth: In each gram of fat there are nine calories compared with only four calories in each gram of protein and four calories in each gram of carbohydrate. 

For this reason, because fat is richer in calories than carbohydrate or protein, it is usually helpful to moderate the amount of fat that we eat. 

However, fat is also more filling than other nutrients. And often if people eat some fat, it helps them to stop eating a little bit sooner and, therefore, moderate the total amount of food that they eat. 

I would say, that for people who enjoy having some more fat in their diet and as part of the overall healthy dietary intake, it is perfectly okay to have a moderate amount of fat and high-fat foods in the diet as long as they do it as part of reasonable overall healthy diet. 

Myth 8. Red meat is bad for your health. 

A woman cooking red meat

The reasoning behind the myth: Several studies stated that red meat raises the risk for several diseases, including certain types of cancer. However, these studies tend to include both lean and processed meats in the same category, but in reality, different types of meat have many different nutritional characteristics. 

The truth: In general, for several reasons, red meat has some health risks. There is more saturated fat in red meat, more calories. Therefore, it’s important to moderate the amount of red meat that we eat. 

However, I don’t believe that you have to avoid red meat entirely. It’s important to moderate it in our diets, but not to avoid completely.

Myth 9. You need to eat less if you want to lose weight. 

The reasoning behind the myth: Instead of focusing on eating an adequate amount of food and replacing unhealthy eating habits with healthy ones, many of us have believed that we need to drastically reduce our food intake if we want to manage our weight. 

The truth: Unfortunately, many people interpret the recommendations to moderate the amount of food that they eat to lose weight by undereating, which is not at all healthy. 

In most people, a small amount of decreased intake can be very helpful for weight management. And in many cases simply by substituting some of the foods that you eat for healthier foods, you can eat the same volume of foods and still be able to lose weight because the food you eat is healthy and has fewer calories within them. 

Therefore, it’s very important that we pay attention to the foods that we eat but drastically reducing the amount we eat is neither sustainable nor healthy and should be avoided. 

Myth 10. Eating a healthy diet is too expensive. 

The reasoning behind the myth: It's true that many healthy diets include ingredients that are very expensive. We've all heard about exotic berries and fruits from far away lands that are supposed to have many health benefits and help you lose weight quickly. 

The truth: Unfortunately, there is a lot of truth in this statement. 

Very often, unhealthy and high-calorie foods tend to be much cheaper, and healthier foods tend to be much expensive. 

It’s not impossible to eat a healthy diet that is also inexpensive but it’s challenging due to the way our food system is set up. It takes more knowledge, more time and effort to manage the budget while also managing healthy eating.

Myth 11. A thin person is a healthy person. 

The reasoning behind the myth: It's commonly believed that if you're lean, that automatically means you're unhealthy. 

The truth: That’s absolutely a myth! Thin people can be healthy. They exercise, they eat well, they work very hard. And as a result, they are able to keep fit. 

However, many other thin people are not healthy. Some of them are used to doing unhealthy things in order to maintain thinness. They smoke cigarettes in order to lower their appetite. They may eat in disorder ways in order to lose weight. And those things are not healthy at all. 

Furthermore, there are many people that per genetics reasons are thin, but they don’t exercise, and they don’t eat healthy and they may have other unhealthy lifestyle patterns. 

Therefore, despite being thin, they are not healthy at all. 

Myth 12. It's impossible to consume enough protein if you're vegetarian or vegan. 

The reasoning behind the myth: The most commonly consumed sources of protein come from animals. Red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy are all excellent sources of animal protein, which has created the belief that vegans or vegetarians simply can't get enough protein in their diets. 

The truth: That’s a myth. You can certainly consume protein as a vegetarian or vegan. There are many healthy vegetarian foods that offer protein such as soya and nuts, beans, eggs. You can consume them as part of vegetarian diet. 

It can be more challenging to consume enough protein as a vegetarian or vegan because your diet is more limited but it’s certainly a myth that it’s impossible. 

Myth 13. You should drink about 2 litres of water every day. 

A woman drinking water

The reasoning behind the myth: Almost everyone has heard the recommendation to drink 6-8 glasses of water per day. The idea is that water helps to flush toxins out of your body. But is there really a magic number of 2 litres that will help us stay hydrated and health?

The truth: Water is healthy and it’s very valuable for managing weight and having a lot of energy. But there is nothing scientific about the number of litres. 

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