There is no doubt about it: nutrition is complicated. The field is brimming with information and misinformation alike, and it can be hard to tell one from the other. This leaves many of us feeling confused about the best ways to feed, fuel, and take care of our bodies.
So if you want to get and stay healthy, what can you do? The first step is to get educated and learn to separate fact from fiction. Your doctor or a registered dietician can help you if you are looking for advice unique to your particular circumstances and body.
To help you get started, we’ve busted four of the biggest nutrition myths that you might still be believing.
Myth 1: Low-Fat or Fat-Free Means Healthy
The low-fat craze of the 1990s has a lot to answer for. This movement relied on the mistaken beliefs that reducing dietary fat was the key to permanent weight loss, the prevention of heart disease, and better overall health.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Certain fats, such as trans fats, can absolutely be harmful (though are usually nothing to worry about if enjoyed occasionally and in moderation.) Other fats, however–such as those found in nuts, avocados, and olive oil–are essential for good health.
It can be tempting to see a food labeled “low fat” in the grocery store and pick it up thinking it is healthy. However, when fat is removed from foods, it is often replaced with sugar or other additives to maintain the product’s texture and taste. These can be more harmful to your health than the fat would have been, and may have the same number of calories… or even more!
Myth 2: Carbohydrates Make You Gain Weight
Fat is not the only macronutrient that has been unfairly demonized. Trends such as the Atkins diet and, more recently, the Ketogenic diet have put carbohydrates in the firing line. However, just like fat, carbs are actually an essential nutrient and a vital part of a healthy diet.
The trick is to know which carbs to eat. Simple carbohydrates are digested more quickly and cause your blood sugar to spike more rapidly. They are found in foods such as raw sugar, soda, baked goods, candy, fruit juice, and many breakfast cereals. Complex carbs, on the other hand, are digested more slowly and release their energy over a longer period of time. Complex carbs are found in foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans.
There will almost certainly be a mix of simple and complex carbs in your diet. The key is to limit amounts of the former and maximize consumption of the latter. But eating carbs alone cannot make you gain weight–only a caloric surplus can do that.
Myth 3: Fruit is Bad For You Because of the Sugar
We all remember being told to eat our fruits and vegetables when we were children. However, in recent years, a myth has taken hold that fruit is actually unhealthy because it is high in sugar. This is completely untrue.
Fruit is a fantastic source of all kinds of essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. While it does also contain sugar, this is naturally occurring sugar which has a completely different nutritional profile to the added sugars found in soda, baked goods, and other “junk foods.”
It is always best to consume the whole fruit rather than drinking fruit juice. The fiber helps with satiety (a feeling of fullness and satisfaction), and whole fruits deliver a complete nutritional package that includes water, antioxidants, and health-promoting natural compounds called phytonutrients.
Myth 4: If You Have a Balanced Diet, You Don’t Need to Take Supplements
A balanced and well-rounded diet can provide the human body with most of the essential nutrients it needs. However, very few of us have a perfect diet in reality. Additionally, some important nutrients can be hard to get (or hard to get in large enough quantities) from food alone. Vitamin D, Omega-3 fatty acids, Magnesium, and Vitamin K are just some of the nutrients that many people find it difficult to get enough of.
For various reasons, including genetic factors, health conditions, or life stages (such as pregnancy), individuals may also have higher nutrient needs that are challenging to meet with diet alone. And vegetarians and vegans may be at an elevated risk of Vitamin B12, Zinc, and Iron deficiencies.
In addition, certain supplements can work alongside a balanced diet to better support good health and overall wellbeing.
If you think you may be deficient in any particular vitamin or mineral, see your doctor. And if you would like to boost your wellness and enhance your diet with carefully chosen and scientifically backed supplements, check out our extensive catalog.