There is so much misinformation in the field of nutrition that it is hard to know what to believe. The media is rife with conflicting messages. Food industries spend millions on lobbying and advertising, making less-than-accurate claims about health and nutrition. Hopefully, the following will debunk some of the most common nutrition myths that you think may be true.
1. Saturated Fat Clogs Your Arteries And Causes Heart Disease
A few decades ago, due to highly flawed observational studies conducted in the 1960s and 70s on saturated fat and heart disease, and political ploy orchestrated by the vegetable oil industry to promote its own products, “saturated fat became a harmful fat that causes heart disease”.
At long last, a massive review article published in 2010 looked at 21 epidemiological studies with a total of 347,747 subjects over 5-23 years concluded that there is absolutely no association between saturated fat and heart disease. In fact, research shows that saturated fat raises HDL (the good) cholesterol and changes LDL (so-called bad) cholesterol from small and dense (which is really bad) to large LDL (which is benign).
Unfortunately, conventional wisdom is still going along with the outdated and misguided fallacy that saturated fat is bad for you.
The truth is that saturated fats are essential for your body. They make up at least 50 percent of your cell membranes and are the building blocks for a variety of hormones and hormone-like substances. They are important for your bones as well as the immune system.
However, remember that saturated fat from feedlot animals also contains antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals that are in their feed. Saturated fat from unhealthy animals is not good for you. Therefore, always go with saturated fat from grass-fed and organically-raised animals, or alternatively, use coconut oil.
2. High Cholesterol Foods Are Bad For You
Among all the high cholesterol foods, eggs are probably the most demonized as the yolk contains a large amount of cholesterol. Are you one of those who only eat the whites and throw away the yolk?
Numerous studies have confirmed that consumption of high cholesterol foods, such as whole eggs, has no effect on the overall blood cholesterol level nor does it increase the risk of heart disease. Cholesterol is essential to all functions in the body, especially your hormones and nerve tissues. If you think cholesterol is the enemy, think again. Without cholesterol, you would probably die.
Egg yolks are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin that offer powerful prevention against age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness. Eggs also contain high quality proteins, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Therefore, do not be afraid of high cholesterol foods, such as eggs, liver, butter, cheese, caviar, shrimp, calamari, oysters, clams, and mussels as long as they come from grass-fed and organically-raised animals or clean, pristine waters.
3. Low-Fat Foods Are Better For Health
Since the 1980s, there has been a boom in fat-free and low-fat foods such as those found in desserts, cookies, and dairy products. How do you think the food manufacturers manage to take the fat out and still produce palatable foods so that they don’t taste like cardboard?
The trick is to add sugar and additives to compensate for the lack of taste and texture that fat naturally provides. Usually the sugar is in the form of refined cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose. Artificial sweeteners may not have calories but they are worse than sugar. Studies have consistently associated their use with obesity and metabolic syndrome.
In reality, fat-free and low-fat foods are not healthier. They are usually highly processed food products loaded with sugar and additives. Besides, these foods give you less satisfaction, so you end up eating more.
4. High Fat Foods Will Make You Fat
Most people have the misconception that eating fat translates to fat in your belly or thighs. Despite fat having more calories per gram than carbohydrates or protein, having more fat in your diet does not necessarily make you fat. So what really makes you fat?
The true culprit is sugar. What researchers found is that when people eat less fat, they tend to eat more starch or sugar instead. Excess carbohydrates are converted by the liver into fat and stored as fat. That is why a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates causes triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood which raises heart disease risk) to go up, good cholesterol (HDL) to go down, creates damaging small, dense LDL, and causes pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome.
Studies show that 75 percent of people who end up in the emergency room with a heart attack have normal overall cholesterol levels. What they do have is pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
Eating a diet with good quality fats and protein may help prevent and even reverse diabetes and pre-diabetes, while eating excess sugar and refined carbohydrates causes weight gain and increases your risk of developing diabetes.
5. Vegetable Oils Are Healthy
Many people perceive vegetable oils as healthy. Maybe it is because it has the word “vegetable” in it. The media promotes vegetable oils saying they are high in unsaturated fats. If saturated fats are bad, then unsaturated must be good, right?
Most vegetable oils are highly processed oils like corn oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, and sunflower oil. Even though they are not really derived from vegetables, they are commonly referred to as vegetable oils.
These oils contain huge amounts of biologically active and fragile fats called omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. This is where things go very wrong.
First, the method used by manufacturers to process these oils involves high heat and chemicals, which damages the delicate omega-6 fatty acids. By the time you buy the oil from your grocery store, it is already rancid. (Many even contain trans fat.) Rancid oil is toxic to the body and is associated with multiple diseases.
Second, many vegetable and seed oils are genetically engineered (GE). GE crops are often saturated with the toxic herbicide and pesticide called glyphosate (Roundup). More than 90% of U.S. canola oil is GE.
Third, even though the body needs some omega-6 fatty acids from the diet, too much of it causes chronic, systemic inflammation in the body unless it is balanced off by even more omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. In other words, omega-6s are pro-inflammatory and omega-3s are anti-inflammatory. The more omega-6s you have, the more omega-3s you need to control the inflammation.
Simply put, a diet that is high in omega-6s but low in omega-3s is a recipe for disaster, this is what people eating a Standard American Diet gets. SAD! Avoid using vegetable oils for cooking, use coconut oil, grass-fed butter or ghee, or olive oil instead. Check the ingredients of everything you buy, make sure it does not use any vegetable oils. It is a lot more common than you think.
[Note: Some healthier brands claim that their vegetable oils are “cold pressed” which is much less damaging. However, they still have the problem of excess omega-6s if consumed on a regular basis.]
6. You Should Eat Many Small Meals Throughout The Day
The concept that one should eat many small meals throughout the day to rev up metabolism for weight loss is unsound. Controlled studies found that there is no real weight loss advantage to eating six meals versus three meals a day.
In fact, it may not be natural for the human body to be constantly in a fed state. Back in the hunter-gatherer days, humans used to fast from time to time and did not eat nearly as often as in modern times.
By grazing around the clock, you are actually preventing your body from burning fat. When you are constantly eating, you keep releasing insulin which puts your body into its storage phase. The goal is to have your body use its energy stores for sustenance and burn more fat. This can only be achieved when you are fasting, not when you are eating every 2-3 hours.
7. Grains Are A Necessary Part Of Your Diet
The idea that humans should be basing their diet on grains is flawed. In actuality, the agricultural revolution did not take place until around 12,000 B.C., which is considered fairly recent in the 200,000-year history of Homo sapiens evolution. Our genes have not changed that much after all, so it does not make sense that grains should now become an essential part of human diet.
The U.S. dietary guidelines recommend getting up to 65% of your calories from carbohydrates. You may be surprised to learn that grains, no matter whether they are refined, whole, sprouted, or fermented, are fairly low in nutrients compared to other real foods like grass-fed meats, fruits, and vegetables.
Grains are carbohydrate dense. Unless you are physically active, eating too much grains can easily lead to extra inches on your hips. They can also trigger a blood sugar and insulin response that leave you hungry an hour after a meal or cravings for sugar. Nearly 26 million children and adults in the U.S. have diabetes or pre-diabetes. If the present trend continues, as many as 1 in 3 Americans will have diabetes in 2050.
Grains contain anti-nutrients like phytic acid that prevent the body from absorbing minerals like calcium, iron, and zinc, and enzyme inhibitors that inhibit the ability of enzymes to aid in digestion. Although soaking the grains do neutralize some of the anti-nutrients, they cannot be completely removed.
Certain grains such as wheat, rye, and barley contain the gluten protein which many people do not have the enzymes to digest. Many diseases have now been linked to gluten intolerance, including Celiac disease, Addison’s disease, asthma, autoimmune thyroid disease, dental enamel defects, epilepsy, liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, autism, and schizophrenia.
Therefore, if you have digestive problems or suffer from some of the diseases mentioned here, consider grains being the possible cause of your problem. Substitute grains with leafy vegetables, starchy vegetables (such as carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash), or a small amount of fruits. Otherwise, if you are healthy, it is all right to eat some grains but do not make grains the main part of your diet.
8. Eat More Fish… Avoid Red Meat
Do you have the notion that eating fish is a better option over a piece of steak when it comes to health? This may or may not be a good idea, depending on where the fish and the meat come from.
There is a world of difference between different types of fish, whether they are big or small, wild, or farm-raised. There is no doubt that fish is a healthy protein and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, but most ocean fish is now contaminated with mercury, and the bigger the fish, the more mercury it contains. Farmed fish, on the other hand, may not contain mercury but due to overcrowded growing conditions, they are usually fed with high doses of antibiotics and pesticides to keep them alive.
If you want to eat fish, you need to be very selective. Among the safest are wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, herrings, anchovies, wild shrimp, and calamari.
Tuna (Bigeye, Ahi, Yellowfin, and canned tuna), mackerel (King, Spanish, Gulf), swordfish, shark, barracuda, grouper, jacks, bluefish, marlin, sea bass (Chilean), tilefish, and orange roughy have some of the highest levels of mercury.
Avoid farmed seafood including Atlantic salmon, tilapia, catfish, cod, and shrimp.
Red meat remains one of the most controversial foods in the field of nutrition. Despite the fact that humans have been eating it throughout evolution, many believe that it is harmful. Well, they are both right and wrong. Not all meat is created equal.
Today’s meat is vastly different from the meat our early ancestors ate. Back in the day, animals roamed free and ate grass, insects, or whatever was natural for them. Today, the animals were born and raised in a factory, fed a grain-based diet, and pumped full of antibiotics, hormones, and drugs to make them grow faster. Then, they make processed meats (such as deli meats, sausages, and bacon) out of these feedlot animal meats by adding more artificial chemicals to them.
To sum up, if you want to eat red meat, make the distinction between factory-farmed, processed meats and grass-fed, organic meats. Not only does grass-fed meats not contain any of the disgusting chemicals, they are also higher in omega-3s, vitamin A, vitamin E, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), all of which are beneficial to your health.
9. Dairy Products Are Essential For Strong Bones
If you are drinking milk or eating dairy products to get enough calcium for your bones, think twice. Contrary to popular belief, eating dairy products has never been shown to reduce fracture risk. Countries with the lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption (like those in Africa and Asia) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis. Why? Because you need more than calcium to build strong bones. You also need vitamins D and K2, magnesium, and a host of other trace minerals.
Therefore, know that you can get your calcium from other foods instead. These include dark green leafy vegetables, sesame tahini, sea vegetables, bone broth, as well as canned sardines and salmon with the bones.
Another problem with dairy is that 75% of the world population do not have the enzymes to digest dairy products. As a result, they contribute to more health issues, such as digestive problems, allergies, skin problems, and chronic constipation.
However, if you are one of those who can tolerate dairy and enjoy its taste, consider using organic dairy products from grass-fed cows. You should avoid dairy products that come from conventionally-raised animals as their products contain antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals.
Raw, organic, grass-fed dairy is always your first choice as it has not been homogenized and pasteurized, and contains live beneficial enzymes. Its fermented products like unsweetened yogurt and kefir are also good.
10. Soy Is A Health Food
The meteoric rise of soy as a health food is another example of how brilliant marketing can fool millions. Unfermented soy products are not healthy, regardless of your age or gender. The only healthy type of soy food is the fermented kind and preferably organic, such as tempeh, miso, natto, and soy sauce.
Thousands of studies have linked unfermented soy to various health problems.
- More than 90 percent of American soy crops are GE, which means they are heavily sprayed with the toxic Roundup herbicide and pesticide.
- Soy may cause severe and potentially fatal food allergies in some children and adults.
- Unfermented soy contains phytoestrogens that mimic and sometimes block the hormone estrogen.
- It contains phytic acid, which blocks the body’s absorption of minerals, such as iron and calcium.
- It contains enzyme inhibitors, which hinder protein digestion.
- It contains hemagglutinn, which promotes blood clots. People with heart disease should always avoid eating soy.
- It contains goitrogens that impair the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. People with low thyroid should stay away from soy.
- It is linked to premature puberty and other developmental problems in babies, children, and adolescents.
Avoid all unfermented soy products including tofu, edamame, soybean oil, soy milk, soy formula, soy burgers, soy protein isolate, textured vegetable protein, soy cheese, and soy desserts.