Yesterday I was talking with a couple of friends about diets. Not in the "I-need-to-go-on-a-diet" way, rather in the "it's-important-to-eat-a-heathly-diet" way. In the world of marketing, specialty foods are big business. Organics, gluten-free, allergy-free, lactose-free...food is definitely not what it used to be. There is a lot of misinformation about diets out in the world. And there is a lot of misunderstanding of what a healthy diet is. Diet myths run amok. These are the big seven everyone should be aware of.
7 Never-ending Diet Myths
1 - Gluten Free Food Is Always Better
is gluten-free. That's it. If you have celiac disease, thank goodness for these foods because they probably make your life more convenient. If you're intolerant to gluten, or just don't eat gluten (like me), these foods can be the kiss of death. Why? Because a lot of people go out of their way to eat these foods thinking that they're healthier or have some sort of magical power to help them lose weight. They don't. A lot of gluten-free commercially processed foods contain oodles of sugar, plenty of other grains and a whole lotta empty calories that your body probably doesn't need.
I don't think gluten is particularly good. But I don't go out of my way to buy gluten-free processed foods. First of all, they're way too expensive. Second, there are plenty of other foods that are naturally gluten-free that don't come in a package. Vegetables, fruits, beans, meats, fish, dairy and other grains, like quinoa and rice are all gluten-free. Oh, and let's not forget about dark chocolate. These foods are also a lot cleaner than other packaged foods. My two cents: if you're going to go gluten-free, make it less processed.
If you find yourself committed to a gluten-free diet or have some reason that you can't eat gluten and want to know the best way to do that, here is a primer on how to do gluten-free healthy
2 - No Fat Is Healthier That More Fat
Not true. Healthy fats are, well...healthy. Your body functions a lot better when you get healthy fats in your diet regularly. Sometimes when people meet with me to review their diet, they say something like, "I ate a really healthy breakfast today. It was an egg white omelet with spinach." If they're not looking for advice, I just smile. If they're a client, I explain that yes, it's healthy, but it would have been healthier if the omelet were made with whole eggs.
In no way, shape or form do I encourage people to jump on the keto diet
bandwagon, but you can and should eat plenty of good fat. Just make sure you're not sitting down to a brick of cheddar or pint of Ben & Jerry's. But adding olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, eggs, nuts or other sources of healthy fat to your diet will only benefit you. Often times, these fats are metabolized very quickly. Unhealthy fats, like canola, corn or soybean oil are not good but often found in packaged foods. Avoid those. And this brings me to myth #3.
3 - All Fats Are the Same
The only thing all fats
have in common is that they're insoluble in water. The rest is different. Diet myths around the fats we should eat and should avoid are among the worst!
Trans fats are just plain bad and should be avoided altogether.
Saturated fats are not the enemy, but a little goes a long way. It's still good to eat some high-quality butter, eggs or coconut oil regularly.
Monounsaturated fats are universally accepted as healthy. So bring on the olive oil, nuts, avocado, and even sesame or sunflower oil.
Things start getting tricky with unsaturated fats. If any unsaturated fat is in the form of a processed vegetable oil, avoid it. These include:
- Soybean oil is also extremely processed, but more of a monounsaturated fat. Nonetheless, still, something to avoid.
The problems are that these unsaturated fats - which are found in most packaged foods - oxidize - or go bad very quickly. This is really hard on our bodies, especially our hearts. This is why these shelf-stable fats you see in the grocery store are always deodorized and bleached before they make it into your kitchen. Yuck! When this happens, those fats oxidize, or go rancid. When they go rancid and we eat them, they release free radicals into our body. Free radicals damage our body like rust damages a car...making us get sicker easier and look older faster.
4 - Calories In Calories Out
All calories are not created equal. The calories in calories out notion contributes to our unhealthy obsession with weight loss that places value on the number on the scale rather than the food on our plate.
If you're eating a diet made up of 2000 healthy calories that are full of nutrients (minerals, vitamins, fiber), you are going to totally turn your metabolism on, making it a really efficient fine-tuned machine. You'll naturally balance your hormones easier and burn unhealthy body fat faster. You don't even need to burn the calories off with exercise - that's how great eating healthy is!
If you're eating a diet made up of 2000 calories of dead food, lacking nutrients and probably higher in sugar and other junk, you're going to slow your body down, throw off your hormones and put weight on.
Eat clean. Not excessively. Move a little more and you'll be fine.
5 - Drinking Diet Soda Will Help Keep Weight Off
Hey! It's calorie-free, so I can drink as much as I want, right? No. No. And no.
This is just another example of how calorie-free foods can actually turn off your metabolism in such a way that they prevent you from losing weight. Studies have shown that people who regularly consume diet sodas have a larger waistline than those who don't. What's more, diet sodas tend to trigger cravings
for other foods that are sweet.
Diet sodas are also full of neurotoxins, like aspartame. I realize that getting people to quit drinking diet soda is a lot like getting people to quit smoking. You'll only see the benefits that come from quitting after you do it. Personally, I'm a big fan of club soda. If I really want more flavor in it, I might add a little fresh juice.
6 - All Organic Food Is Good for You
I'm not trying to trick you. Yes, all organic fruits, veggies, grains, dairy products, meats, etc., are better for you than their conventional or GMO counterpart
. Eating those types of organic foods is not a diet myth. They were grown or pastured in an environment that was loaded with nutrients and without herbicides, fungicides, etc., so their byproducts will possess the same qualities.
Here's the thing, nearly anything can be made to be organic. Brownies, cookies, cakes, processed juices, candy, etc., can all be made organic. And they taste great! Probably as great as their conventional counterparts. But we shouldn't make exceptions for those organics just because they're organics. And they're certainly not going to be truly good for you, especially if they're loaded with refined sugars and other junky carbohydrates.
Buy organic CLEAN foods. If processed foods are a treat and not something that is an integral part of your diet, it might not be worth the money. And it's probably not much healthier.
7 - I Should Eat As Much Fruit As Possible
I'm throwing a curveball for the last of the big diet myths. Fructose is fruit sugar. Yes, fruit is healthy, but it is possible to get too much of a good fruit. Our body only needs so much sugar - in any form.
Fructose gets metabolized by the liver, and if too much is eaten, the rest gets stored as triglyceride. I'm not suggesting that any refrain from eating fruit. A couple of servings a day is great. But it's not necessary to eat a pound of grapes in one sitting or finish off a large meal with a fruit salad. Eat fruit, but eat more vegetables.
What about you? Do you think there are any diet myths out there that have you pulling your hair out? Leave a comment below.
Traci is a nationally recognized health and fitness expert who has been featured on The TODAY Show and Dr. Oz. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and wellness coaching, as well as private training. Contact Traci here.