The world tosses a lot of “healthy diet” information at you every single day. In fact, scrolling through your social media feed can almost feel like you’re undergoing information whiplash, with influencers claiming one thing, a good friend claiming another, or a popular app insisting you must eat this or avoid that. We’re setting the dieting record straight today by bringing in the official big guns: educated, registered dietitians and nutritionists who study and preach healthy eating for a living. We asked them to call out some of the biggest “healthy eating” myths out there, so listen up.
MYTH 1: Drinking Juice is a Great Way to Get Your Daily Fruit & Veggies
Though pressed raw juices are a yummy treat and might be beneficial in small quantities, you shouldn’t rely on them to get your daily intake of fruits and veggies, says Brittany Modell, a registered dietician, certified nutritionist, and founder of her own nutrition counseling company.
“Juicing – which involves the process of extracting juice from fruits and vegetables – has been hailed as the miracle cure-all when it comes to weight loss, inflammation, cancer, and detoxification. Although the liquid contains many of the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients commonly found in fruits and vegetables, the healthy fiber is lost during extraction,” she explains. “Why is this a problem? Well, fiber, as we know, has been shown to reduce the risk for obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.”
She says to consider fiber as fuel for the gut, and to think twice before nixing it from your diet. Another issue, she adds, is that once the fiber is removed, you’re left with a lot of sugar which can spike your blood sugar levels. Reach for those whole fruits and veggies instead, and remember, fruit contains a lot of sugar, aka a carb, so consider opting for more vegetables rather than lots of fruit every day.
MYTH 2: Carbs Are Basically the Devil
Many fad diets completely prohibit (or seriously restrict) carb intake, but carbohydrates are important for your body if you want it to function well. In fact, they are your body’s preferred fuel source, explains Tony Castillo, a registered dietician and nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition.
“Typically, when you stop having carbs you can feel weak, tired, and a lack of energy all the time,” he says. Translation: you’re slumpy, grumpy, not near as likely to get to the gym, and your mental clarity is zapped. “Instead of overindulging in carbs or completely removing them from your diet, aim to have a fist-size of high fiber, low sugar carbs at all meals.”
Modell adds that, although skipping carbohydrates might bring about sudden weight loss – this is usually water loss – the pounds will quickly come back once you reintroduce carbohydrates again. However, consider opting for unprocessed carbs, which your body can break down more easily, like whole grains, brown rice, vegetables, and fruit (refined carbs have the nutrients and fiber removed, like white bread, pasta, cakes). Your body will thank you.
MYTH 3: You Should Never Ever Eat Fats – Or Else
Moderation is king when it comes to your diet, and fats are absolutely included. You shouldn’t over-indulge, of course, and processed fats aren’t going to do you any favors. However, you shouldn’t write off fats completely. Many fats are actually healthy for you and moderated consumption will improve your overall wellbeing.
“The body – and especially the brain – need fat to function properly. Good fats allow your body to properly absorb nutrients from foods,” explains Vanessa Spiller, a certified nutritionist and health coach for EMP180. “Prioritize consuming healthy fats, such as nuts, avocados, salmon, and olive oil. They will keep you full longer and will help to fuel your body and brain.”
Fats also do an excellent job reducing and preventing inflammation, maintaining healthy hormone levels, protecting your vital organs, and promoting cell growth.
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MYTH 4: Gluten-Free is the Way to Go
If you have a gluten allergy, celiac disease, or a notable sensitivity to gluten, removing gluten is the right thing to do. All other scenarios, though, should reconsider the self-imposed gluten ban.
“There is a lot of evidence that points to the fact that whole grains in the diet is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cancer,” notes Modell. “I also want to point out that most gluten-free products on the market have more ingredients and are often more processed with higher amounts of calories, fat, and sugar than their non-gluten free counterparts. Gluten-free diets can also cause weight gain instead of weight loss.”
If weight loss is your mission, you’re better off focusing on consuming complex, high fiber carbohydrates, such as beans, legumes, and whole grains instead of going gluten-free, Modell adds. If you’re experiencing a reaction to gluten, seek guidance from a registered dietician or your general doctor. It’s possible you’re not sensitive to all forms of gluten.
MYTH 5: Eating Healthy is Boring and Unsustainable
Girl, we are telling you this baloney is 100% false. Following a wonky elimination diet, restricting calories to the point of shaky hunger, fasting while your friends are enjoying happy hour, and trying to live in a state of ketosis… Those things are unsustainable. And you know what? They’ll get boring real quick, too. So, yes, while there can be some short term results seen from these kind of diets, maintaining them in the long term is not always necessarily good for your health.
“Healthy eating is all about your perspective,” says Spiller. “Eating healthy can be fun, so get creative! Spice up your meal planning – literally – with spices like turmeric and ginger, which can help digestion, circulation, and improve the look and feel of your skin.”
Load up your news feed with healthy food influencers and recipe developers that make eating well something to look forward to. Make a goal to try one new recipe a week. Pick up a new fruit the next time you go to the grocery store. Hit up that vegan restaurant in town with great reviews. And most importantly, focus on making sure you’re getting a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, and fiber – and have fun!