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Health Information | 01/06/2020

7 Nutrition Myths

By  Helen Mastro, MS, RD, CDE
It seems as if there are new nutrition studies coming out on a regular basis, and unfortunately, after the information is funneled through all of the media channels available, it comes out the other end pretty garbled and very confusing. This of course can be very frustrating to those of you who are trying to eat healthfully and lose weight. Consulting with a registered dietitian is the best way to straighten out the confounding mess of information, but to help where I can in the meantime, below please find some common nutrition myths that should be debunked.

Myth #1: Coconut oil is a healthy oil. Coconut oil has gained a lot of popularity recently, especially among those who follow the Paleo diet. Coconut oil has a number of uses: in moisturizers and hair conditioners and as a cooking oil. However, most nutritionists recommend that people use the oil as a beauty product instead of an ingredient in their cooking. Coconut oil is very high in saturated fat – the saturated fat content is 91% - and should be used in moderation, as studies have shown that a diet high in saturated fat can increase cholesterol and your risk of heart disease.

Myth #2: Gluten is the cause of the obesity epidemic. Many people fear that gluten or wheat is the cause of their belly fat. There are no studies in the literature that prove gluten or wheat causes obesity. An excessive consumption of any nutrient can lead to weight gain, but the only reason to avoid eating wheat or gluten is if you have a wheat allergy or a gluten intolerance (also known as celiac disease). Whole grains are a good source of fiber, and as fiber is satiating, it can actually help people lose weight.

Myth #3: Eggs are high in cholesterol and are not part of a heart healthy diet. For years we’ve been telling people to stay away from eggs if they have high cholesterol. Based on new research, this recommendation has changed. For most people, dietary cholesterol (the cholesterol in the food you eat) does not increase blood cholesterol; it is the saturated fat and trans fat in foods that can increase blood cholesterol. It’s true, eggs are high in cholesterol but they are low in saturated fat and do not contain any trans fat. It is important to be mindful of ALL sources of saturated fat in your diet, including red meat, whole milk and cheese. If you have diabetes or heart disease, the Harvard School of Public Health recommends limiting egg yolks to 3 per week since they are a source of saturated fat, but egg whites do not contain any saturated fat. Make eggs a part of your heart healthy diet by serving them with whole grain toast at breakfast or boiling them and throwing them onto a salad at lunch.

Myth #4: Juicing is a good way to lose weight. A lot of people think juicing is healthy, and it can be, but with limits. When done right, it is a great way to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet. But juicing removes the fiber, and without fiber, you’re ultimately drinking vitamin and mineral water with sugar and you’re more likely to feel hungry soon after eating. Juicing also lacks protein, which is the other key to weight loss and building lean body mass. If you’re going to juice, be sure to include more vegetables than fruit, and limit yourself to about one, 8-ounce serving per day.

Myth #5: Eating bananas can make you gain weight. Many people think bananas are fattening. While they are a higher carb fruit, they can absolutely be a part of healthy diet. Like anything, fruit should be consumed in moderation, and the recommendation for fruit is 2-4 servings per day. One whole banana is considered to be about 2 servings. Pair it with some all natural peanut butter and you’ve got yourself a healthy, balanced snack.

Myth #6: You should stop eating after 6 PM if you’re trying to lose weight. There is no truth behind this myth. There is no magical hour that, if you eat past it, makes all your calories turn to fat. If you’re going to bed on the later side, let’s say 11 PM, then eating dinner around 8 PM is acceptable. The key is to try to keep active after you’ve consumed your meal instead of lying down and watching TV. And some people with diabetes can actually benefit from eating a balanced and portioned bedtime snack.

Myth #7: We crave nutrients we are deficient in. You might think that if you’re craving steak, your body may be low in iron, but there is no evidence to support this. We tend to crave foods based on how often we eat them. If you’ve been eating a lot of chicken and fish lately, your body may crave a hamburger, but that’s more likely because you’re bored and in need of some variety. Everything is good in moderation, so it’s okay to indulge once in a while. Blood tests are the most accurate way to determine any vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

About The Author

Helen Mastro, MS, RD, CDE

Helen Mastro has been with Atrius Health since 1993 and sees patients at our Somerville and Wellesley practice locations. While she provides medical nutrition therapy education for a wide variety of nutritional problems, she has a particular interest in the areas of diabetes education, obesity, and pediatric nutrition.

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