Everyone has their own opinions about nutrition and health. Many of these, however, are fads or ideas they read online somewhere or heard from someone else. This can lead to false generalizations and claims that can make one become obsessive about the foods they’re eating or avoiding. While there is a lot more to it, here are 5 common myths about nutrition that I love to debunk!
1. Healthy foods means I can eat more of it
While I wish this one was true, unfortunately it’s probably the furthest from the truth. Your body is like a scale. You take in calories and you expend calories. An average person of about 70 kilograms with an active lifestyle needs about 2,000 calories per day. A good rule of thumb is to calculate 30 calories per kilogram of body weight. If you want to lose or gain weight you will have to adjust the amount of calories. One pound (453g) is about 3500 calories, so eating 500 extra calories per day every week will, in theory, make you gain a pound a week! This can add up throughout the months or years without even realizing it. So, while eating a bunch of healthy nutritious foods, like bananas (which are high in sugar) or avocados (which are high in fat) is great, remember that the calories still count!
2. Starving myself will make me lose weight
Sometimes we skip a meal, whether it be accidental or intentional, which is perfectly okay. Our bodies are designed for this. We store unused energy, called glycogen, to sustain us throughout the day and night while we aren’t eating. However, when we frequently skip meals our bodies will take the food you do eat and store it into fat, a long term storage, since it doesn’t know when it will get its next meal. Frequently skipping meals will slow your metabolism and can ultimately make you gain weight. Eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day will increase your metabolism and maintain your energy.
3. Skinny = healthy
Unfortunately, today’s media has distorted our image of an ideal body physique. Skinny models and celebrities have made us think the thinner the sexier. For some this is probably the most difficult theory to unlearn. Eating healthy foods regularly and staying active is in my opinion the sexiest. A scale can’t determine if you’re at nutritional risk. Remember that muscle weighs more than fat? Try exercising regularly with a combination of cardio and resistance training without obsessing over it. There are many ways to throw in more activity in your day, for example taking the stairs instead of elevator or taking your dog on a daily walk after dinner.
4. Vegetarians don’t get enough protein
Vegetarian diets are very common throughout the world. They can be in fact, quiet healthy, since you substitute a meat protein for a vegetable. Vegetables contain a lot of nutrients and fibre which is great for heart disease prevention. However, protein is also an essential nutrient that needs to be carefully monitored in vegetarians, and more importantly for vegans. While it needs to be considered, it’s not impossible! Legumes, whole grains, eggs and diary products are a great source of protein for vegetarians (also for meat-eaters). So how much protein do you need per day? While it differs per individual a good rule of thumb is to calculate 0.8 grams for every kilogram of body weight. However, it doesn’t end there. You have dispensable (non-essential) and indispensable (essential) amino acids. This means there there are certain types of proteins that your body can’t make on its own and the only way to get it is with diet. A protein that contain the 9 essential amino acids is called a complete protein. Animal products are complete proteins and vegetarian proteins are incomplete, however, combining a legume and grain (for example beans and rice) can become a complete protein. For vegans, there is much more to it, since you are missing essential nutrients from animal products. These nutrients, such as vitamin B12 and iron, need to be supplemented and checked regularly by blood tests. So, vegetarians can absolutely get enough protein in their diets if they keep up with it. Also, just because you’re a meat eater doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a vegan or vegetarian meal once in a while.
5. There is one good diet that works for everyone
This is my favourite myth to debunk. Often you see a new book, or a celebrity claiming ¨This is the best way to lose weight.¨ Or a friend suggesting a diet that you’ve got to try. There are so many different diets out there, whether its low-carb, low-fat, gluten-free, sugar-free, cleanses, etc. The list goes on and on. So which one is the best? The truth is there is not a single magic miracle diet that works for everyone. Everyone is different and has different preferences. The best diet for you is one that you can adhere to the longest. So if you love bread, maybe a low-carb diet isn’t best for you, because you won’t be able to sustain it for long. Try something that works best for you, because in the end losing weight is about restricting your calories. Also, moderation is key. Anything in excess isn’t healthy, but that also doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself from enjoying life and enjoying your glass of wine with a piece of cheese now and again. Life is short!