10 Dietary Myths- How Many Do You Believe?

10 Dietary Myths- How Many Do You Believe?


Myth 1:Carbs and Gluten are bad for you and will make you fat

Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap thanks to a number of popular fad diets and books that propagate the adverse effects of carbohydrates on insulin resulting in weight/fat gain. I have to admit, books like Good Calorie, Bad Calorie are very convincing.

Fortunately, despite what the media would have you believe, carbohydrates and the “insulin fairy” are not to blame for our obesity epidemic.

De novo lipogenesis (The enzymatic pathway for converting dietary carbohydrate into fat) occurs only when carbohydrate energy intake exceeds total energy expenditure (i.e. You are eating too much)

Gluten is found in many grains (e.g. wheat, rye, kamut, spelt) and is primarily a problem for those with Celiac disease. Some researchers have discovered that gluten intolerance exists in people who don’t have celiac disease. Other studies have suggested that compounds falling under the category of FODMAPs may be a greater issue, especially for those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.   

The Bottom Line: As long as you keep your energy intake in balance with your activity, starches are not inherently harmful. Periodizing your intake of starchy food based on the type and timing of your exercise is a good way to approach this macronutrient. My preference is to focus on getting carbohydrates from vegetables and fruits and reserve grains and legumes for when I am exercising hard (almost daily) or to compliment a meal.

If you think you may be gluten sensitive, try a FODMAPs approach first.
Myth 2: Eggs  are bad for you

Eggs have been demonized because they contain high levels of cholesterol and saturated fat.

Eating foods high in cholesterol doesn’t translate to increased cholesterol in your blood, unless you have a genetic predisposition.

Eggs are an excellent source of protein, fats, and other nutrients.

The Bottom Line: Eggs are a great source of protein, fats, and other nutrients. Recommendations to limit their consumption based on their connection to heart disease and elevated cholesterol are outdated and unsubstantiated.


Myth 3: Red meat causes cancer

Almost everything we eat has the potential to cause cancer, however, it is compounds like polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), found in smoked, cured and processed meats, that have been found to damage genes and initiate cancer.

Other potentially toxic toxic compounds related to meats are AGEs (Advanced Glycolation End Products). AGEs damage cells and can be a factor in aging and in the development or worsening of many degenerative diseases, such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, chronic renal failure, and Alzheimer’s disease.  

Red meat is particularly prone to AGE formation through cooking methods that use high temperatures to brown or char foods, such as grilling, roasting, and broiling,

Current evidence suggests that red meat can pose a cancer risk for people with poor dietary and lifestyle choices (e.g. smoking and being sedentary).

If you don’t smoke, have a consistent exercise schedule, eat a plant based diet and source meat that is local, pasture raised and grass fed, there is no need to fear red meat. In addition, red meat is a great source of protein, iron and other nutrients.

The bottom line: The generalizations about red meat causing cancer are exaggerated. Eliminating other risks of cancer, like smoking, and practicing healthy lifestyle choices (e.g. following a whole foods, plant based, unprocessed diet and exercising) will render the risks of red meat negligible. Also, cook your meat slowly and take care not to burn it.*~hmac=e738a001929d1c18a09114786dddece54b86de4b7385b79383c19a18a01f4008


Myth 4: Saturated fat is bad for you

Saturation is a biochemical classification of fats that refers to how many double bonds in a fatty acid chain are ‘saturated’ with hydrogen atoms.

Saturated fat is not inherently bad for you, however, one should pay attention to  food quality, i.e. pasture raised, grass fed vs caged and factory farmed animals.

In addition, the demonization of saturated fats has led to the overconsumption of the so-called “heart healthy” polyunsaturated omega 6 fats (e.g. vegetable seed oils), which have been shown to increase inflammation and chronic diseases when they are out of balance with omega 3 fats, as is the case in the Western Diet.

The bottom Line:  Saturated fat itself will not lead to heart disease or cardiovascular disease. In fact, diet low in saturated fat diets may lead to decreased testosterone production. My preference for fats is a balance of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated in the forms of: grass fed butter, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado, raw nuts and seeds.


Myth 5: Salt causes high blood pressure and should be avoided

People with salt-sensitive hypertension (SSH) should avoid salt because it raises their blood pressure. For others, however, the evidence suggests that obesity and factors such as lack of fruits and vegetables or high alcohol consumption, are associated with elevated blood pressure.


The Bottom Line: Salt intake isn’t associated with high blood pressure, except for people with SSH. The Standard American Diet (S A D) contains double the recommended intake of sodium and while excessive sodium (along with other imbalances seen in the Western Diet) may not raise blood pressure, it is associated with other health issues.


Myth 6: Whole grain bread is better for you than white

Whole grain bread is claimed to be more nutritious than white bread because it is higher in fiber and micronutrients and has a lower glycemic index, so results in lower insulin release after a meal.

While this is true, the actual differences between white and whole wheat bread are relatively small and the nutrient profile (fiber and micronutrients) does not compared to whole foods such as fruits and vegetables.

In addition, while many micronutrients are removed during the processing of white bread, it is often later fortified with additional nutrients.

One major difference between whole wheat and white bread is the phytic acid content in whole wheat. This has pros and cons.

Phytic acid binds to dietary minerals like iron and zinc, which can slightly reduce their absorption in the body, however it also has a protective and anti-inflammatory effect on the colon.

It’s possible to overcome the anti-nutrient effects of phytic acid in our foods while still getting the benefits, though storage and preparation, e.g. heating, fermenting and sprouting.

Both whole wheat and white bread provide a similar number of calories.

The Bottom Line: Whole wheat and white breads are convenience foods that are not that different nutritionally. Stick to unrefined whole foods like vegetables and fruits which are more nutrient and fiber dense and are a better use of your calorie allotment, especially  if you are trying to lose weight. Besides grains, phytates can be found in seeds and legumes. These are healthy foods, particularly when sprouted or fermented.


Myth 7: Too much protein can cause bone and kidney damage

Too much protein has been purported to cause kidney damage and osteoporosis. These claims are based on some early studies, one showing that protein consumption was linked to increased urinary calcium, which was thought to lead to reduced bone mass over time and another outdated study which determined that high protein diets increased glomerular filtration rate, a marker for waste filtration in the kidneys.

Subsequently studies, have found that urinary calcium is a poor measure for bone mass, and that protein actually has a protective effect or no effect on bone and that kidney damage does not occur as a result of a diet high in protein.


The Bottom Line: Protein, even in large amounts, isn’t harmful to your bones or your kidneys. In addition, protein aids in satiation, is essential for building muscle and has the greatest thermic effect of the macronutrients. Some studies have shown that increasing protein while on a low calorie diet can spare muscle.


Myth 8: Eating small meals throughout the day is better for your metabolism

The process of digestion does raise your metabolism slightly, but not sustainably. There is no evidence that the the number of meals you eat makes much of a metabolic difference. In addition, there are some studies that suggest that having smaller meals more often makes it harder to feel full, potentially leading to increased food intake.


The Bottom Line: Although the digestive process increases one’s metabolism, the effect is negligible when compared to the actual caloric content of the food consumed. In addition, there is likely a tendency to consume more calories when small, frequent meals are consumed.


 Myth 9- Eating late at night can lead to weight gain

Essentially, excessive calories cause weight gain no matter when you eat them. The problem with late night snacking is that in general, the choices are typically not as healthy. What would you rather have, a bowl of ice cream or broccoli?


The bottom Line: Eating too many calories, regardless of the time of day, can lead to weight gain.


 Myth 10: Diet soda is better for weight loss

Many people turn to “diet” soda in order to consume noncaloric (artificially) sweetened beverages as part of a weight loss strategy.

Artificial sweeteners have more intense flavor than real sugar, so can dull our senses to naturally sweet foods like fruit.  In addition these sugar substitutes have been shown to have the same effect on your body as sugar, i.e. trigger insulin.

Researchers from the University of Texas found that over the course of about a decade, diet soda drinkers had a 70% greater increase in waist circumference compared with non-drinkers. In addition, participants who drank  two or more sodas a day experienced a 500% greater increase.;jsessionid=A377D2CAD157B7A48103519AF1F7C4EA.f04t01


Consumption of diet soda daily has been associated with a significantly greater risks of developing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.


The bottom Line: Diet sodas adversely affect weight, can stimulate insulin release similar to sugar sweetened beverages and have a number of well documented adverse health effects, such as metabolic syndrome.


Additional References


About the Author

Dr. Geoff LecovinNaturopathic Physician/Chiropractor/Acupuncturist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist/Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist/Certified Sports Nutritionist/View all posts by Dr. Geoff Lecovin