The field of nutrition is constantly evolving, with new research emerging daily. As we understand more about the relationship of food to human health and physical performance, some longstanding beliefs have been proven false. Yet these food myths persist, and they may be harming your health.
1. A Calorie is a Calorie
A calorie, or more correctly a kilocalorie, is a unit measurement of energy. It represents the amount of energy derived from a certain quantity of food. Calorie counting is one way to achieve energy balance by subtracting calories consumed from calories expended. However, not all food calories are created equal. Some foods have “empty” calories, meaning they provide energy but little else in terms of nutrients like vitamins, minerals and enzymes your body needs to stay healthy. Consuming empty calories can leave you depleted, and your body will quickly convert them to fat.
2. Grains are Essential
In the old Food Guide Pyramid of the 90’s, grains and other carbohydrate foods formed the base, with recommendations to consume 60 percent or more of your calories from carbohydrates. Our current obesity epidemic bears witness to the fallacy of that advice. Livestock are fed grains to fatten them up, and that applies to humans too. Grain based foods like flour, rice and corn should be eaten sparingly. Get your carbohydrates from fresh whole vegetables, and fruits in moderation.
3. Saturated Fat is Bad
Since the 1950s, naturally saturated fats have been demonized because they were thought to contribute to heart disease and arterial plaque, yet no concrete evidence has emerged to support those claims. In fact, the demonization of natural fat has led us to change our diets from protein-based to carbohydrate-based, and we know where that got us. The real demon, it turns out, is trans fat, derived when plant-based oils are artificially infused with hydrogen to make them solid at room temperature. Processed peanut butter, margarine and shortening are examples of hydrogenated fats. Trans fats are often hidden in processed foods, snack foods and baked goods. Nuts, seeds, coconut oil, egg yolks and avocados are all good sources of healthy saturated fat.
4. Low Fat Milk Does a Body Good
This may be a hard nut to swallow, but mounting evidence suggests that low fat dairy products are harmful to your health, and may contribute to obesity. Low fat milk is loaded with sugar, and most commercial brands contain antibiotics, pain killers, growth hormones and traces of other harmful pharmaceuticals fed routinely to dairy cows. Dairy milk is intended to feed baby cows, not humans. If you can’t give up dairy, mounting evidence suggests that full-fat milk is better for you. A 2016 study published in “Circulation” found the consumption of whole fat milk to reduce the risk of diabetes.
5. Margarine is Better than Butter
For decades, Americans have been slathering a goopy yellow substance from a plastic tub on their toast, thinking they were making a healthful choice. Now we know that margarine is loaded with trans fats and chemicals that are far more harmful than the naturally occurring saturated fat in butter. A 2015 study published in the “British Medical journal” revealed that saturated animal fat does not increase the risk of heart disease, but trans fat does. Choose European butter to avoid drugs and chemicals.
Ask Yourself This
Before buying into the latest nutrition fad, ask yourself a few questions: Is it a whole natural food, or has it been altered and processed? Does it provide nutritional value other than energy? Is it laden with chemicals or tainted with pharmaceuticals? Has the color or texture been altered to make it look more appealing? As much as possible, stick with whole organic food. Eat more plants, and if you eat meat or animal products, choose grass fed pasture raised animal sources.
Healthy nutrition goes hand-in-hand with physical fitness. As the saying goes, “You can’t out-train a bad diet.” Whether you want to learn the basics or keep up with the latest, W.I.T.S. has course offerings to meet your needs. Bite into the basics with Certified Personal Trainer or Lifestyle Fitness Coaching. Take a stab at Nutrition Concepts. Sink your teeth into Fundamentals of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. Dig into Pregnancy Fitness or Older Adult Fitness Foundations. Feed your brain with continuing education from any of our awesome CEC bundles!
References and Credits
de Souza, RJ et al. (2015). Intake of saturated and trans unsaturated fatty acids and risk of all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. British Medical Journal, 351.
Yakoob, MY et al. (2016). Circulating biomarkers of dairy fat and risk of incident diabetes mellitus among US men and women in two large prospective cohorts. Circulation, 133(17), 1645-1654.
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