Today’s high-tech world provides endless ways to attain information about anything and everything, whether it’s from television, social media, or apps – or through more high-touch methods like family and friends. It’s easy to be misinformed of common myths which appear sound and credible at initial pass but actually are the contrary. This happens frequently in the fitness world. Health and wellness is a science and, oftentimes, science is ignored in lieu of quick fixes and too-good-to-be-true diet programs and exercise regimens. Sometimes, these myths are shared over and over, so much so that they become embedded in our brains. Here are examples of nutrition myths frequently misinterpreted as facts.
Eating smaller meals is multiple times a day is better than eating two-to-three meals per day.
There is actually no scientific evidence that eating smaller meals five-to-six times a day keeps your metabolism higher than it would be if only eating two-to-three times a day. Eating smaller meals has the same effect on total calories as eating three times a day. In fact, some studies show that eating during the day too often can actually be harmful to us, by increasing liver and abdominal fat.
Coffee is unhealthy and drinking it should be avoided.
For a while now, study after study reveals that coffee is not healthy – probably because of the caffeine it contains. What most people don’t know, however, is that coffee contains some really great health benefits. Research show coffee drinkers have a much lower risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Coffee drinkers are also less likely to develop depression and Type 2 Diabetes. Bottom line: There is anecdotal evidence that mornings are better with coffee.
All calories are created equal.
A calorie is not just a calorie. Different foods go through different metabolic pathways. For example, high-protein diets can increase the metabolic rate and significantly reduce appetite, where carbs can leave you hungry and less satisfied. Likewise, fructose calories are more likely to stimulate hunger and abdominal obesity compared to glucose calories. Bottom line: Depending on the food, the calories and nutrition it contains have different effects on the body.
Carbohydrates are bad.
There is so much information out there about low-carb diets. Two decades ago, the Atkins Diet (low carb, high protein) was all the rage. Then, new findings rejected the tenets of a high protein diet, but the damage was already done. Carbohydrates were viewed as evil, and people worked to keep them out of their diets. For athletes and active individuals, carbs are a necessity to fuel the body. But like calories, not all carbs are created equal. Carbs like refined sugars should be avoided or consumed in moderation. Then there are carbs like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, which are important to include in a well-balanced diet. Bottom line: Eat a well-balanced diet complete with whole foods.
Everyone should reduce their intake of sodium.
Ever heard of electrolytes? Believe it or not, sodium is one of the most important and crucial electrolytes our body needs. As long as you are at the recommended 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, your health is not at risk. Anything over 1,500 milligrams can actually increase cholesterol levels, so keep it in check, but, bottom line, don’t stress too much if you are hitting the right amount.
These are just a few of the many nutritional myths which have been debunked by science. There are hundreds of commonly known health “facts” which turned out to be false when put to the test. So next time you hear about a new, exciting nutritional claim, do some extra fact checking with credible sources, like Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health at www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource