5 Nutrition Myths Debunked
Nutrition myths drive me nuts. I used to think that finding the blabber mouth who started these myths might help clear the confusion, but I’ve realized that some people are too ingrained with what they think is the truth. Many believe these myths so much that some of them resort to near shouting at the mention that these things weren’t true.
There’s no need for shouting though. We can clear these myths up with some basic science and sound reasoning.
1. Fat makes you fat
Lots of things can make you gain weight, but fat isn’t one of them. Shockingly, it may be a lack of fat in the diet that may be responsible for weight gain and the onset of heart disease. Fats are needed in the diet to help keep our hormones in check as well as being the foundation for our cells. Ingestion of fats means a healthy outer layer of your cell. This helps your metabolism because nutrients can now flow in and out of the cell, resulting in a healthy turnover of nutrients. Think of fats like that one month here in Michigan where our freeways don’t have any construction and you can actually get to work on time.
Research continues to examine if fat is bad. Studies have been released in attempts to repair its reputation. A study of low fat diets compared to high fat diets show that the low fat diets actually increased bad cholesterol as well as triglycerides in subjects (1). Usually fat by itself is not the problem but rather eating too much of one kind of fat can be trouble. When I analyze the diets of my clients, many rely on just one kind (like a client using olive oil as their only fat) when your body needs a balance between saturated and unsaturated fats.
2. Saturated fat is evil
Saturated fat needs to be a villain in the next James Bond film. For decades now it’s been the scapegoat for our current heart disease pandemic. However, you need to be a world class spy in order to sift through all the information about saturated fat and its effect on our health.
Saturated fat needs someone to stand in its corner. The switch over in the last few decades to vegetable oils over saturated fats may be to blame for some of our problems. Saturated fats are highly stable, meaning that if you cook with them, they won’t change their chemical structure. Vegetable oils on the other hand can actually be damaging to your body when exposed to heat. Exposing these oils to heat can transform them into a trans fat, which is a type of fat you want to eliminate completely from your diet.
Completely eliminating saturated fats from your diet can result in problems with hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and DHEA.
Similar to our discussion on fat, combining poor quality saturated fats with refined carbohydrates can lead to cardiovascular issues (2). Your saturated fat choices need to be high quality foods – think organic and pasture raised meats.
3. Meat is bad and “weighs you down”
I used to perform metabolic testing in a private training center. Towards the end of my career there I performed several tests on bodybuilders. Part of the test required that I review their nutritional intake. In a nutshell, the diets were some of the most boring I have ever seen: chicken breast, fish, chicken breast, fish…you get it.
These poor bodybuilders were under the impression that meat was bad for them. Imagine eliminating all the great cuts of beef, lamb, buffalo, and even pork from your diet – pretty bland. I don’t blame clients for bailing on boring diets because of the meat myth out there.
The issue with meat is one of a quality stance: you’ll only be as healthy as the animal. Eating meat that’s been exposed to chemicals and hormones along with being treated inhumanely can lead you to being sick and lethargic. However, pasture raised meats are high in quality protein along with fatty acids that can actually help you lose weight. If the animal was healthy, you’ll be healthy.
Lastly, American’s suffer from a pretty colorless diet. A lack of vegetables and fruits in the diet is harming our digestive system much more than meat is. The best thing to add to a steak is a healthy portion of colorful vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower.
4. Fish is the best protein
I’m not a huge fish eater, but that’s more of a personal preference in taste and texture of food than anything else. I definitely wouldn’t say that you should remove fish altogether because the health benefits are tremendous. However, it shouldn’t be your top protein choice. The fishing industry’s regulations are taken about as serious as Zach Morris studying for a final (of Saved By the Bell!)
This is because the ocean is a cesspool for toxic activity. Companies constantly get busted for dumping toxins in our water, and this damages the aquatic environment. Fish are loaded with mercury, and the bigger the fish, the more potential there is for toxicity. As a rule of thumb, I would limit fish intake to no more than three times a week.
5. Carbohydrates should make up most of your diet
In Dr. Roger J Wiliams Biochemical Individuality, Dr. Williams explains that each one of us has unique needs and reactions to food, exercise, and lifestyle. Every person needs an individualized approach based on their current state along with their goals. Some may need a low carb intake while others can tolerate a higher intake. However, very few of us will be very productive and functional with constant carbohydrate dumpings throughout the day. This is especially true because most people don’t get enough protein and fat in their diets to go along with their carbohydrate intake.
The issue is one of controlling your blood sugar. Frequent spikes in your blood sugar throughout the day can cause hormonal issues and weight gain. To make it more confusing, not all carbohydrates are created equal. In a study combining low and high glycemic carbohydrates (meaning how much the carb affects your blood sugar), those who ate low glycemic carbs had a greater reduction in their HbA1c levels (a measure used to diagnose diabetes) (3). Most of us are simply not active enough to follow the recommendations that carbohydrates should make up 60% of our diet.
Wrapping it Up
I wish I could tell you that every session at UEFP is a kick butt workout worthy of a montage in a Rocky movie. However, sometimes I have to spend time sitting down with clients and giving them the attention that they need to try and destroy some of these nutrition myths. I certainly don’t blame the client but rather the industry. My job is to sift through all this stuff and tell you what is fact and what is fiction.
1. Dansinger, M.L.,et al. ”Comparison of the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone Diets for Weight Loss and Heart Disease Risk Reduction. A Randomized Trial.” .(2005) Journal of the American Medical Association 293:43-53.
2. Siri-Tarino, P.W., Sun, Q., et al. “Saturated Fat, Carbohydrate, and Cardiovascular Disease” (2010) American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 91; 502-509
3. Jenkins, D.J., Kendall, C.W., McKeown-Eyssen, G., et al. “Effect of a Low Glycemic Index or a High Cereal Fiber Diet on Type 2 Diabetics.” (2008) Journal of the American Medical Association 2742:2753
Originally written: August 12, 2014