There seems to be a lot of misinformation circling around in mainstream nutrition these days.
Here are 10 of the biggest lies, myths and misconceptions of mainstream nutrition in this article, and this is just the tip of the iceberg! As always, it is assumed that your diet is within reasonable limits, too much of anything is bad 🙂
1. Eggs Are Unhealthy – The first and foremost example is Eggs, which happens to contain a large amount of cholesterol and were therefore considered to increase the risk of heart disease. But recently it has been proven that the cholesterol in the diet doesn’t really raise the cholesterol in blood. In fact, eggs primarily raise the “good” cholesterol and are NOT associated with increased risk of heart disease. What we’re left with is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. They’re high in all sorts of nutrients along with unique antioxidants that protect our eyes. To top it all of, despite being a “high fat” food, eating eggs for breakfast is proven to cause significant weight loss compared to bagels for breakfast.
In short: Eggs do not cause heart disease and are among the most nutritious foods on the planet. Eggs for breakfast can help you lose weight.
2. Saturated Fat is Bad For You – A few decades ago it was surmised that the epidemic of heart disease was caused by eating too much fat, in particular saturated fat. This was based on highly flawed studies and political decisions that have now been proven to be completely wrong. A massive review article published in 2010 looked at 21 prospective epidemiological studies with a total of 347,747 subjects. The result: absolutely no association between saturated fat and heart disease. The idea that saturated fat raised the risk of heart disease was an unproven theory that somehow became conventional wisdom. Eating saturated fat raises the amount of HDL (the “good”) cholesterol in the blood and changes the LDL from small, dense LDL (very bad) to Large LDL, which is benign. Meat, coconut oil, cheese, butter… there is absolutely no reason to fear these foods.
In short: Newer studies have proven that saturated fat does not cause heart disease & that Natural foods that are high in saturated fat are good for you.
3. Eating a Lot of Protein is Bad For Your Bones and Kidneys – Many sources would have you believe that eating a diet that is high in protein causes osteoporosis and kidney disease. The reason for this comes from the fact that eating protein does increase the excretion of calcium from the bones, but only in the short term!
In the long term many studies show that a high protein diet actually has the opposite effect, and improvements are seen in bone health and a lowered risk of fractures. Several recent studies actually show there is no association with a high protein diet and kidney disease in healthy people.
In fact, eating a high protein diet can actually help the prevention of diabetes and high blood pressure, which are two of the main risk factors for kidney failure. In short, eating a high protein diet actually protects against osteoporosis and kidney failure.
In short: Eating a high protein diet is associated with improved bone health and a lower risk of fracture. High protein also lowers blood pressure and improves diabetes symptoms, which should lower the risk of kidney failure.
4. Low-Fat Foods Are Good For You -Yes, when fat has been removed from regular food it tastes pretty bad. No one would want to eat it. The food manufacturers know this and therefore they add other things to compensate for the lack of fat.
As mentioned earlier, usually these are sweeteners… sugar, high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Even though artificial sweeteners don’t have calories, the evidence does NOT suggest that they are better for you than sugar. In fact, many observational studies show a consistent, highly significant association with various diseases like obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, premature delivery and depression.
In short: Low-fat foods are usually highly processed products loaded with sugar, corn syrup or artificial sweeteners & are extremely unhealthy.
5. Carbs Should Be Your Biggest Source of Calories – The mainstream view is that everyone should eat a low-fat diet, with carbs being around 50-60% of total calories. This sort of diet contains a lot of grains and sugars, with very small amounts of fatty foods like meat and eggs.
This type of diet may work well for some people, especially those who are naturally lean. But for those who are obese, have the metabolic syndrome or diabetes, this amount of carbohydrates is downright dangerous. This has actually been studied extensively. A low-fat, high-carb diet has been compared to a low-carb, high-fat diet in multiple randomized controlled trials. The results are consistently in favor of low-carb, high-fat diets.
In short: The low-fat, high-carb diet is a miserable failure and has been proven repeatedly to be vastly inferior to lower-carb, higher-fat diets.
6. Whole grains are good for everyone – Of late human beings are basing their diets on grains even though the agricultural revolution has happened fairly recently in human evolutionary history and our genes have not changed that much. Grains are fairly low in nutrients compared to other real foods like vegetables & are also rich in a substance called phytic acid which binds essential minerals in the intestine and prevents them from being absorbed .
The most common grain in the western diet, by far, is wheat… and wheat can cause a host of health problems, both minor and serious. Modern wheat contains a large amount of a protein called gluten, but there is evidence that a significant portion of the population may be sensitive to it. Eating gluten can damage the intestinal lining, cause pain, bloating, stool inconsistency and tiredness.
Gluten consumption has also been associated with serious disorders of the brain like schizophrenia and cerebellar ataxia.
In short: Grains are relatively low in nutrients compared to other real foods like vegetables. The gluten grains in particular may lead to a variety of health problems.
7. Sugar is Unhealthy Because it Contains “Empty” Calories – It is commonly believed that sugar is bad for you because it contains empty calories. It’s true, sugar has a lot of calories with no essential nutrients. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Sugar, primarily because of its high fructose content, affects metabolism in a way that sets us up for rapid fat gain and metabolic disease. Fructose gets metabolized by the liver and turned into fat which is secreted into the blood as VLDL particles. This leads to elevated triglycerides and cholesterol.
It also causes resistance to the hormones insulin and leptin, which is a stepping stone towards obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
This is just to name a few. Sugar causes a relentless biochemical drive for humans to eat more and get fat. It is probably the single worst ingredient in the standard western diet.
In short: The harmful effects of sugar go way beyond empty calories. Sugar wreaks havoc on our metabolism and sets us up for weight gain and many serious diseases.
8. High Omega-6 Seed and Vegetable Oils Are Good For You – Polyunsaturated fats are considered healthy because some studies show that they lower your risk of heart disease. But there are many types of polyunsaturated fats and they are not all the same. Most importantly, we have both Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and lower your risk of many diseases related to inflammation. Humans actually need to get Omega-6s and Omega-3s in a certain ratio. If the ratio is too high in favor of Omega-6, it can cause problems. By far the biggest sources of Omega-6 in the modern diet are processed seed and vegetable oils like soybean, corn and sunflower oils. Throughout evolution, humans never had access to such an abundance of Omega-6 fats. It is unnatural for the human body.
Research that specifically looks at Omega-6 fatty acids instead of polyunsaturated fats in general shows that they actually increase the risk of heart disease. Eat your Omega-3s and consider supplementing with cod fish liver oil, but avoid the industrial seed and vegetable oils.
In short: Humans need to get Omega-6 and Omega-3 fats in a certain ratio. Eating excess Omega-6 from seed oils raises your risk of disease.
9. High Fat Foods Will Make You Fat – It seems kind of intuitive that eating fat would make you get fat. The stuff that is gathering under our skin and making us look soft and puffy is fat. So… eating fat should give our bodies even more of it. But it isn’t that simple. Despite fat having more calories per gram than carbohydrate or protein, high-fat diets do not make people fat. As with anything, this depends on the context. In fact, diets that are high in fat (and low in carbs) cause much greater fat loss than diets that are low in fat.
In short: A diet that is high in fat AND high in carbs will make you fat, but it’s NOT because of the fat.
10. You Should Eat Many Small Meals Throughout The Day – The idea that you should eat many small meals throughout the day in order to “keep metabolism high” is a persistent myth that doesn’t make any sense.
It is true that eating raises your metabolism slightly while you’re digesting the meal, but it’s the total amount of food that determines the energy used, NOT the number of meals.
Studies have been done to test this and have shown on numerous occasions that there is no real difference between eating 6 small meals or 3 larger meals. In fact, being in a fasted state from time to time can actually be good for us.
It is not natural for the human body to be constantly in the fed state. In nature, we used to fast from time to time and we didn’t eat nearly as often as we do today. When we don’t eat for a period of time our body performs a process called autophagy, which cleans waste from cells. It all comes down to choice… some people prefer to eat little and often which is fine, but if you are using it to aid weight loss then you might want to reconsider!
Several observational studies show a drastically increased risk of colon cancer (4th most common cause of cancer death), numbers going as high as a 90% increase for those who eat 4 meals per day compared to 2.
In short: There is no evidence that eating many small meals throughout the day is better than fewer, bigger meals. Not eating from time to time is good for you. Increased meal frequency is associated with colon cancer.
Let us know if you have more points to add to this list of lies, myths and misconceptions of mainstream nutrition 🙂