Over the last decade or so, health and fitness has become a major topic of discussion. After porn, it’s the most broached content category on the internet. There are tons of claims being made and ‘facts’ being posted in the areas of health and fitness, and we eat them up like a sugar-toothed child devours candy.We’ve become an extremely health conscious society. Everyone wants to get that ideal figure they’ve always wanted and contribute to fighting the “obesity epidemic”. Unfortunately, we’ve also become a complacent herd of cattle that’ll believe anything we hear from a semi-reputable source as fact.There is a metric shit ton of health ‘facts’ out there that most people believe whole-heartedly without ever doing any background research for themselves to find out if the ‘facts’ they’re being told are really true. To try and make the world a more educated place, and hopefully make some people realize why they’re not getting the health results they crave, I’ve compiled a list of fifteen commonly held health facts that are just plain wrong.But I don’t expect you to just take my word for it. For each fact discussed, I’ve referenced scientific studies that support my position!
Without any further ado, let’s dive in.
1. Carbs are fat.
Carbohydrates aren’t fattening. I really don’t know how else that can be put. All those people spouting nonsense about carbs being the source of all fat are just wrong.
Carbs are used by your body as an energy source, and yes they’re used to store energy as well, but they don’t simply turn into fat after being consumed. It’s the over consumption of calories, the actual units of energy your body uses throughout the day, that turns into fat. Instead of disposing of excess calories, your body stores them in fat cells for a rainy day. Those fat cells use carbs to create themselves, but they aren’t made entirely out of carbs. (JL, 2013)
No, this doesn’t mean you should go on some high-carb binge. Carbs are essentially empty calories. You can live without them.
“But the low-carb fad diet I’m on is working for me!” That’s because the fad diet you’re on, like many other fad diets that seem to work as they may claim, is actually causing you to make better nutritional choices in other areas you aren’t even aware of. Which accounts for all the other people on the same diet who aren’t seeing any results whatsoever. There’s more to fat loss and gain than the simple consumption of carbs. (JM, 2013)
2. Fats make you fat.
This is laughably outrageous. I swear some people believe you gain fat simply by eating it! Nothing that’s meant to be eaten is absorbed without being broken down and digested. It just doesn’t work that way people.
The right kinds of fats are good for you. What are the right kinds of fats? Essential fats such as unsaturated fats and Omega-3 fats, and good saturated fats. (T, 2013)
Here are a few tips to follow to ensure you eat the right kinds of fat:
- Eat foods with lean sources of protein, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Avoid frozen meals and other packaged/processed foods.
- Use olive oil and canola oil in place of vegetable and other kinds of oils you usually use.
Follow those tips and you’ll already be well on your way to a healthy diet.
3. Meat is bad for you.
The whole “meat is murder” debate aside – which, as a carnivorous mammal, I find quite absurd – a lot of people are going vegetarian or vegan because they’ve heard all of these outrageous tales about how bad meat is for your cardiovascular health. These claims have been wildly overstated!
First of all, meat is your best source of protein and vitamin B12, which is used to replenish red blood cells that are constantly dying throughout the day. Studies have found that focusing a fourth of your caloric intake on protein can help you lose more weight than a diet that’s low in protein. (PJ, 2013)
What about all those cardiovascular rumors you’ve heard about? A meta-study done by Harvard found that all dangerous cardiovascular findings about meat were only found among processed meat studies. Unprocessed meat doesn’t come with any cardiovascular risks! So you can essentially eat all the unprocessed meat you want.
4. Eating at night is more fattening.
Calories are calories. There’s been this giant emphasis on metabolism recently that has people thinking they can turn their bodies into fat burning machines at all hours of the day, and that’s simply not true.
Does your body’s metabolism slow down a bit at night? Yes, but it’s not because of the time change. Your metabolism slows down because you slow down. Eating a thousand calories at night is just as fattening as eating a thousand calories in the morning. If you sit on your ass or lay down afterwards, you’re not going to burn it off.
If you want to eat a large meal at night, go for it! Just make sure you’re still going to be active for a while after you eat. If you’re just planning to eat, relax and go to sleep, have a smaller meal. (Y, 2013)
5. Smaller meals throughout the day keep your metabolism running at full speed.
People really don’t seem to understand how their metabolism works, and what’s worse is that health professionals are having a blast using the consumers’ ignorance against them. Smaller meals throughout the day are better than larger meals, but not because they increase your metabolism.
Yes, your metabolism increases when you eat, but only slightly. The increase is essentially negligible. Your metabolism doesn’t work like a car engine, so stop trying to manipulate it like one. Eating 2000 calories in six meals instead of three meals or vice-versa makes no real difference.
It does help nutritionally though. There’s a finite amount of nutrients your body can take in during each meal. Eating six smaller meals throughout the day allows you to take in more nutrients than if you were to eat only three large meals. (PJ, 2013)
For example, let’s say that the maximum amount of protein you r body can take in during a meal is 50g and you’re trying to eat 300g a day in order to bulk up. If you try to get that 300g in three meals, i.e. 100g per meal, you’re going to end up wasting 150g because your body can only process 50g at a time. In order to get your body to make use of the whole 300g, you’d need to space your protein intake out between six smaller meals that are about three hours apart.
However, a lot of people don’t eat with nutrition in mind – they’re just looking to lose weight. What happens to a lot of people, and why some have found success with the micro meal programs, is that they end up eating too much by the time dinner comes around because there’s a huge gap between their lunch and dinner meals.
To avoid this, eating a small snack sometime during those long periods between meals will help you curb your appetite and not overeat during dinner. It works the same way as the micro meals, but requires a lot less time and planning. And it allows you to have a nice time with your family at the dinner table.
6. Natural flavoring is better than artificial.
I won’t lie; this one even got me for a bit. After getting into the habit of avoiding as much processed food as possible, it’s easy to be weary of words like ‘artificial’. However, when it comes to flavoring, there is no nutritional difference between natural and artificial. How they made the taste doesn’t affect anything but your taste buds’ reaction.
In fact, let’s take this a step further and dispel another similar myth – that real fruit juice is better than artificial fruit juice. Freshly squeezed orange juice and lemonade may taste better than some of the less natural stuff, but it’s actually loaded with just as much sugar as the fake stuff, meaning it’s just as a bad to drink regularly. Some natural juices actually have more sugar than some sodas! So don’t think it’s okay to gulp it down just because it’s all-natural. (MG, 2013)
7. Eggs are bad for you.
When thinking about items to put on this list, I was originally going to leave this one out; but after a bit of research I was surprised to find that a lot of people seem to think eggs are bad for your health. This is a simple case of a single fact getting blown out of proportion and misrepresented.
Yes, eggs do have cholesterol in them. However, there is such a thing as good and bad cholesterol. The cholesterol provided by eggs, specifically egg yolks, is not bad for you. Studies on the health properties of eggs have shown that they do not increase a person’s chance for heart disease and in fact are entirely helpful. (L, 2013)
They’re a great protein source, the perfect breakfast choice for someone trying to bulk up or lose weight and full of other nutrients and anti-oxidants. Do yourself a favor and make an omelet in the morning instead of a bowl of cereal.
8. Energy drinks are better than soda.
This is widely believed by college students and gamers around the world who down Red Bulls and Monsters to stay up at night. Anyone who takes the time to read the labels on a soda and an energy drink should be able to plainly see just how much worse the energy drink.
“But energy drinks don’t have high fructose corn syrup!” True, but they have more sugar overall. Not just a little more either – a lot more. About 30% more! (MG, 2013)
“But the sugar helps me stay up too!” No, it doesn’t. Studies researching the supposed “sugar rush” all parents dread whenever they give their children candy found that there’s no such thing. Sugar does not cause hyperactivity or stimulate wakefulness in people.
But wait, there’s more! Energy drinks are also more corrosive than sodas. Have you ever seen Coke clean a penny? If not, go Youtube it now. We’ll wait… Yea, energy drinks are worse than that. People downing them left and right are destroying their teeth with each passing sip. (PM, 2013)
So where does the energy boost come from? The gigantic amounts of caffeine – which is unhealthy for a ton of other reasons we won’t bother to get into right now. If you really need to stay up, avoid the Red Bull and just drink coffee. It’s the same energy boost with less of the negative effects.
9. Everyone can benefit from gluten-free dieting.
A friend of mine has celiac (also spelled as celiac) disease, which is the autoimmune disease that makes it impossible for someone to digest gluten. After having him explain what he can and can’t eat – the latter of which is ridiculously long – I started thinking that maybe eating gluten-free could be beneficial for me too.
It took one bite of gluten-free bread for me to correct my way of thinking, but unfortunately there are a lot of people out there who have taken on a gluten-free diet because they think it’s going to help them feel better and lose weight just like it does for celiac patients.
The truth is, unless you have celiac disease, a gluten-free diet isn’t really going to help you. Sure, you’ll avoid a bunch of bad foods and probably lose weight, but you’re going to be missing out on a bunch of good food too. (B, 2013)
As for the feel good effect; people with celiac disease often feel very sick after ingesting gluten. Gluten is found in almost anything, and cooking something gluten-free in a pan that has had something gluten cooked in it will often add gluten to the gluten-free food. Even with careful planning and monitorization, people with celiac disease can mistakenly ingest gluten. Being on their diet alleviates their sick, food poisoning-like symptoms, which is why they often get a feel good effect from their diet.
My friend actually breaks his diet once a year or so just so he can taste some good food every now and then, despite how he knows he’ll feel in the morning. So, unless you just love the taste of gluten-free food – which I doubt you do – I highly recommend stopping your gluten-free diet in favor of something a little less restrictive.
10. Microwaving destroys good vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
I’m not quite sure how this myth got started. I guess I can kind of see how someone who’s not very technologically gifted may think a microwave destroys nutrients during the heating process, but anyone who knows how a microwave works should realize that’s not true.
First of all, to dispel another myth, microwaves don’t use radiation at all. They use electromagnetic energy to send radio wave-like energy through your food. This energy heats the outside of your food and helps create water molecules that are then heated by the microwaves to vibrate at a high rate. This vibration creates heat, which in turn helps expedite the increase of your food’s internal temperature.
It’s true that nutrients are lost whenever you cook something, but it’s the length of time it takes to cook an item and the level of heat it’s exposed to that causes nutrient loss. In many cases, microwaves save nutrients because they take a lot less time to heat food up than more traditional methods. (F, 2013)
11. Food cravings are due to nutrient deficiencies.
This myth was born from what we know about pica, an eating disorder that causes people to crave and habitually eat nonfood items. Severe nutrient deficiencies, particularly iron deficiencies can be a cause of pica. However, they aren’t the reason you want a cheeseburger right now.
Most cravings are psychological in nature. Your current diet has either gotten too repetitive or restricts something you like and therefore you now want it more because you can’t have it. (EM, 2013)
Vitamin deficiencies are hard to detect until they get severely low. To keep from getting to this point, make sure your diet is well saturated with all the proper vitamins and mineral.
And no, you don’t need vitamin supplements to ensure you get all the right vitamins you need. Most of the vitamins you take through those expensive supplement pills pass right through your system anyway. Remember what we talked about in #5? Same rule applies.
12. Bananas are the best source for potassium.
Speaking of vitamins and minerals, try to name something else that has a significant amount of potassium in it besides a banana. If you can’t, don’t worry, I couldn’t either. I’ve always thought bananas were the way to go if you needed potassium, but apparently they’re not.
For starters, having a two-to-one ratio of potassium to sodium helps halve your chance of heart disease. (S, 2013) That’s about 17 bananas a day for most of us who eat normally! That many bananas would almost account for your entire daily amount of calories.
So what are some alternatives?
- A cup of cantaloupe
- A stalk of broccoli
- Sun-dried tomatoes
All of the above and a few other vegetables offer the same amount of potassium while providing a lot fewer calories. The same rule applies to oranges and vitamin C too.
13. Some people naturally lose weight easier than others.
This is technically true, but not to the extent many people make it out to be. After looking around on internet forums and whatnot, I’ve discovered a lot of people who tend to think they their friends are just able to naturally lose weight easier than them because their friends were just born with a natural gift of weight loss. While some people do have an easier time losing weight, the difference isn’t astronomical.
What many people don’t take into account is their daily activities. If you’re sitting in-front of a computer all day, you’re losing fewer calories throughout the day than the mail clerk who has to constantly walk around the office and deliver mail.
It’s more appropriate to say that some people are naturally more active than others. People with active professions are going to have an easier time losing weight than those with less active professions. Next time you want to write off your friend as a genetic lottery winner, take a look at what he or she is doing and see if you can’t implement similar practices. (AJ, 2013)
14. Fat-free is good for you.
This ties back in with #2, but it’s so widely accepted that it deserves a place of its own. Cutting fat completely from your diet is bad for you! The consumption of fat promotes healthy skin, brain health, is the only way our body can obtain essential fatty acids, and is a great source for fat-soluble vitamins – otherwise known as vitamins A, D, E and K. (HB, 2013)
Like I said before, you just need to make sure you’re eating the right kind of fat. Avoid trans fats and bad saturated fats that come from processed food. Unprocessed deli meats are the best source for healthy fats and, in my opinion at least, taste a lot better than processed meat.
If you find yourself eating a lot of fats, cutback by engaging in a low-fat diet – not a no-fat diet.
15. We all need less sodium.
In #12 I mentioned that we should average about a 2:1 ratio of potassium and sodium to halve our chance of heart disease. It’s no secret that we, especially us Americans, eat a ton of sodium. However, it’s not as bad as a lot of people make it out to be.
While it is true that sodium increases blood pressure, there are no studies that prove lowering your amount of sodium intake improves your chance of avoiding heart disease. In fact, sodium is a crucial element for your continued survival! It’s an electrolyte your body needs to function. (S, 2013)
The more active you are the more important sodium is. If you live a very active lifestyle, then you’re going to need a high amount of sodium. If you live a fairly inactive lifestyle, then you may need to cut back your sodium intake.
And please remember, eat in accordance to how you’re living – not how you plan on living in the future. If you’re having a lazy day, eat less sodium than you normally do on a workout day.
Now that the truth has been set free…
I hope you’re able to take what you’ve learned to eat smarter and a bit freer. Please, don’t take my word for anything either. That’s what all the references are for. I strongly suggest researching all the health facts we’ve talked about here and all the ‘facts’ you hear about in the future.
The only way we’re going to stop perpetrating all these lies and half-truths is through education. But to do that, you have to be willing to educate yourself. If you just take what I have to say as truth, then you’re only perpetuating the cycle further – and that’s not my intention.
Use what you know to better your life and please pass it on to ensure the people you care about can better their lives as well.