7 Common Nutrition Myths (Debunked)

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Written By

Rhea Dali

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Butter Webcrop | 7 Common Nutrition Myths (Debunked)

Whenever I first start working with my clients on their nutrition, and begin suggesting some changes, sometimes women will tell me, “It’s too hard.”

“It just doesn’t make sense…” or “Are you sure?…” they ask when I suggest “crazy” things like:

  • Eat more (not less) calories
  • Reach for full-fat dairy (instead of fat-free)
  • Add some butter
  • It’s ok to eat carbs
  • Meat is good for you
  • Cut back on the coffee
  • Workout out less

Seriously?!

Seriously.

Even these small changes can make a BIG difference, and once they get started, they soon realize: it’s not nearly as hard as they think (and it works).

Here are 7 common myths you’ve probably heard before (and the whole truth behind the lies):

The Myths

  1. Eat Less Calories
  2. Reach for Low-Fat Dairy
  3. Don’t Eat Too Much Fat
  4. Go Low Carb
  5. Meat is Bad for You
  6. Drink Coffee to Boost Metabolism
  7. Workout Harder

1. Myth: Eat Less Calories

“I don’t get it. I am eating 1200-1500 calories every day and nothing is happening to my weight.”

“I am so frustrated! I’m eating really healthy, things like vegetables and protein, fruit and yogurt for most of my meals, but my metabolism seems so slow.”

#SaidManyWomen.

Get this: Eating more—not less—calories is “the way” to overall health and metabolic function.

When we don’t eat enough our body goes into “reserve” mode.

Not knowing when it will get its next meal, and being forced to run off little fuel and make due with what it’s got, your body says: “I want to keep her alive and well—to do the basic things I need to do today, like breathe, think, or survive the Orange Theory workout, so I am going to try to make this fuel last as long as possible.”

Your body fights back, doing everything it can to make you stop losing, as well as experience things like:

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  • A “sluggish” metabolism hormonal imbalances
  • Energy dips and highs
  • Sugar, caffeine or fruit cravings
  • Obsessive thoughts about food and body image
  • Infertility

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  • Lowered immunity
  • Allergies
  • Bloating, constipation
  • Suppressed appetite
  • And low energy

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In “reserve” mode, your body reduces calories expended, as well as throws off your hormonal balance in an attempt to restore energy balance.

(Translation: No weight loss, “slow metabolism,” or, in some cases, even weight gain).

All of this—despite continued calorie restriction, and often times, increased exercise.

Not All Calories Are Equal | 7 Common Nutrition Myths (Debunked)Bottom Line: Eat more calories for a revving metabolism (Average 1800-2200 calories as a baseline for a woman with a moderate active lifestyle—3-5 days/week of movement).

Bonus: Counting is not necessary for a lifetime. Once you establish a good baseline for you, your body’s cues will kick in and intuitive eating can happen!

Not sure if you’re eating enough? Schedule a Wellness consult with Dr. Lauryn for your customized plan to make sure you are eating enough.

2. Myth: Reach for full-fat dairy (instead of fat-free)

For years we’ve been told to avoid high-fat dairy and reach for non-fat, 0% and fat-free sources of cheese, yogurt and milk to boost bone health, metabolism and a healthy weight, but get this: Whole fat is the way to go. (Be it for weight loss, muscle gain, hormone balance, enhanced energy or digestion)

The dilemma: To Eat Low-fat/Fat-free Dairy or Not?

That is the question.

I get it.

Low-fat and fat-free dairy seems healthier.

It’s lighter.

Maybe you’ve even trained your taste-buds to like it better

BUT the thing about opting for low-fat and non-fat sources of dairy is that we are essentially eating a processed food version of dairy.

Not to mention, MISSING OUT on the REAL nutritional benefits dairy CAN provide, like:

  • Healthy fats – Saturated and Omega-3’s (Necessary for proper digestion, heart health, cell health, clear skin, nail and hair health, taste, metabolic balance; Saturated fats are also known to be antiviral, anti-fungal and anti-plague properties—despite old-school artery-clogging theories)
  • Vitamin D – (necessary for absorption of vitamins, minerals and nutrients in the first place)
  • Vitamin A –  (vision, immune health, normal growth and development of body tissue)
  • Calcium –  that is ACTUALLY absorbed (you need fat-soluble vitamins, like Vitamin D, found in healthy fat, to absorb it)
  • Probiotics –  (the FULL-FAT, organic, plain versions of yogurt with Live and Active Cultures provide your body with an excellent source of gut-friendly probiotics)
  • Digest-ability –  (full fat, less-processed, organic versions are more easily recognized by our bodies, and also contain the enzymes our bodies need to digest dairy in the first place)

Low-fat and non-fat dairy sources provide little to none of these benefits, only leaving you thinking you are eating healthy while missing out on nutrition in the first place.

Here is what you get from low-fat or fat-free dairy:

  • Hunger (minutes or a couple hours later): The combo of fat and protein is what promotes a feeling of fullness. If you remove much or all of the fat, you’ll be less satisfied and hungry sooner.
  • Sugar: Even though varieties like Greek yogurt tend to be lower in sugar (about 4 grams in 5.3 ounces verses 7 grams in regular yogurt) than regular yogurt – if you buy anything other than plain, you can end up eating up to 18-30 grams of sugar in a serving.
  • Poor Source of Probiotics: Many commercial yogurts are not an ideal source of probiotics because they are not fermented long enough. Homemade (grass-fed, organic, raw) yogurt is fermented for about 24 hours, but some commercial yogurt is fermented for as little as one hour. A hint that your yogurt hasn’t been fermented long enough is additional ingredients, such as: whey concentrates and modified corn starch, pectin, and locust bean gum (which are sometimes added to give insufficiently fermented yogurt a thicker texture). In addition, many standard yogurts and ‘brand names’, manufacturers often time heat-treat yogurt after fermentation to prolong shelf life (thus destroying the probiotic properties in the first place). The FDA requires these products be labeled “heat treated after culturing.” Be sure the container is labeled with “active cultures,” “living yogurt cultures” or “contains active cultures” as the primary ingredient.
  • Weight Mis-management: Contrary to popular belief, low-fat and fat-free dairy can actually have the opposite effect on weight loss or body fat loss . If you have goals around weight management, lean muscle gain or body fat loss, full-fat dairy is the way to go.In a 2013 European Journal of Nutrition research review, 11 of the 16 studies included found that participants who consumed more high-fat dairy products either weighed less or gained less weight over time than their counterparts who didn’t consume fat-laden dairy.
  • Processed Foods. Most low-fat and fat free dairy products SUPER processed and ‘watered’ down versions of the original versions of foods (Like low-fat dairy! Fat-free cheese, skim milk or 0%yogurt). Meaning: Additives, sugars and other chemicals or processes that are not natural for real food.
  • Bottom Line: Reach for the real deal. Full-fat, grass-fed, organic dairy sources. In addition, have you tried coconut yogurt? Another “probiotic” rich food, coconut (no sugar added) yogurt is a great alternative to dairy, as is goats’ milk or sheep’s milk yogurts.

3. Myth: Don’t Eat Too Much Fat

Food Salad Healthy Vegetables 1 | 7 Common Nutrition Myths (Debunked)Similar to our low-fat dairy myth above, fat does a body good too.

You’ve probably heard by now that ‘good fats’ are good for you; or the statement: ’Eating fats’ doesnt make you fat.

But where is the science to back these claims?

 

Here are 8 reasons why you should add some butter to your veggies the next time you cook:

  1. Fat burns fat. Healthy fats boost metabolic processes—including fat burning. Your cortisol levels need fat to remain balanced (when we aren’t getting enough fat, our cortisol—stress hormones—gets out of whack, elevating cortisol, holding onto stubborn body fat and leaving us burning a candle at both ends—never able to ‘catch up’ or feel fully energized or rested)
  2. Fat aids in digestion. Fat lubricates your intestinal and digestive system to help things flow smoothly and not ferment in our guts for too long.
  3. Enhances brain function. Your brain is over 60% fat itself—and it needs fat to think straight and operate at its peak.
  4. Healthy fat—especially saturated fats, like coconut oil, ghee, egg yolks, animal meats and butter—prevents inflammation from building in your body.
  5. It helps us ABSORB all the vitamins and minerals from our food.
  6. Clears up skin. Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (i.e. salmon, walnuts, flax seed) help keep inflammation under control. Additionally fats help us absorb our fat soluble vitamins A & E, preventing dry skin and breakouts
  7. Decreases inflammation. Contrary to popular belief, healthy fats won’t clog your arteries—instead they will allow your cells (as mentioned above) to be at their ‘fittest’ and ‘slickest.’ Saturated fat intake in particular also  helps the body reduce levels of lipoprotein, a risk factor for heart disease.
  8. It makes everything taste better.

Some healthy fats to include in your diet (preferably every meal)? Try these:

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  • Raw nuts/seeds
  • Nut butter (almond, cashew, walnut, pecan)
  • Sunflower seed butter (unsweetened, unsalted)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fatty cold-water (wild caught) fish (salmon, cod, snapper)
  • Coconut butter
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Nitrate free bacon
  • Raw almond flour/meal
  • Full-fat raw dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt)

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  • Coconut oil
  • Avocado
  • Olives
  • Avocado oil
  • Walnut oil
  • Ghee
  • Tallow
  • Lard
  • Egg yolks
  • Animal meats (grass-fed beef/bison, boneless skinless chicken thighs, drumsticks, etc.)
  • Cod liver oil/Fish oil (take 1-2x daily)

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The bottom Line: Fat does a body good.

4. Myth: Go Low Carb

Carbs are not the enemy.

Contrary to popular belief that carbs make you gain weight, store fat or turn you into a “sugar burner,” carbs are one of the three majorBread Food Healthy Breakfast | 7 Common Nutrition Myths (Debunked) “macro-nutrients” that provide your body with a unique set of micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals), digestive support (hello, fiber), muscle-leaning (and toning) support, and energy that protein and fats do not.

In fact, too low-carb intake can lead to stalled weight loss plus poor health outcomes like thyroid dysfunction, HPA axis dysregulation, hormonal imbalances, sleep disturbances, etc.

Often times, clients come to me wondering “why” they are not losing weight, or why their metabolism is so slow—similar to the whole low calorie myth mentioned previously.

We take a look at their carbs and low and behold, they are maybe eating a little bit of sweet potato a day, or a piece of fruit here or there.

This also often happens accidentally when a person switches to “clean” eating or something like a “paleo template”—cutting out old versions of processed carbs and grains, only to…not replace their carb intake at all.

In turn, the body (and your hormones) go: “May day! May day! I am not getting enough energy or vitamins/minerals from carbs!” and it struggles to hang on.

While, I am not big on counting, but if you are moderately active or finding yourself feeling run down, fatigued or wondering if you have a “slow metabolism,” look no further than your carb intake to see where you’re at.

A “moderate amount” of carbs for a female is anywhere between 75-150 grams—and these can be from a variety of sources. Check out my carb cheat sheet to pick and choose the tons of tubers, fruits, veggies and even some grains to adorn your plate and…Make peace with carbs.

They don’t make you weaker. They can make you stronger.

Bottom Line: While therapeutic diets and fad diets may claim that you don’t need ‘em, no study ever showed that a “balanced” diet—inclusive of proteins, fats and carbs—did a body good for general health.


Carb Cheat Sheet

Fruit
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  • Apple (1/2 medium/large apple=serving)
  • Apricot
  • Bananas (1/2 medium/large=serving)
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Boysenberries
  • Cranberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherry
  • Coconut
  • Date/Raisins
  • Dried Fruit
  • Elderberries
  • Fig
  • Gooseberries
  • Grapes
  • Grapefruit
  • Jackfruit

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  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Nectarine
  • Oranges
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Honeydew melon
  • Papaya
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Plums
  • Pineapples
  • Passion fruit
  • Pomegranate
  • Strawberry
  • Tangerine
  • Watermelon

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Starchy Tubers

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  • Sweet potatoes (Jewel, Garnet, Jersey, Purple and Japanese—so many flavors!)
  • Yam
  • Carrots
  • Pumpkin
  • Potatoes (Red, Yukon Gold, Purple, New, etc.)
  • Butternut squash
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Delicata Squash
  • Eggplant
  • Beets
  • Yuka

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  • Acorn Squash
  • Cassava root
  • Tapioca
  • Arrowroot
  • Green Peas
  • Coconut Flour
  • Jicama
  • Plantain
  • Parsnips
  • Taro
  • Rutabaga (Turnip)

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Grains/Legumes – (prepare by soaking in water overnight with 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar prior to cooking)

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  • White Jasmine Rice
  • Brown Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Gluten-Free Steel Cut Oats
  • Flaxseeds
  • Beans (black, kidney, white, fava, navy, red, mung, etc.)
  • Chickpeas
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Lentils

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[one_half_last]

  • Sourdough (especially homemade!)
  • Sprouted, Ezekiel
  • Seeded Bread (Guiltless Superfoods brand is delicious!)
  • Gluten-free bread (almond flour/coconut flour, cassava flour and tapioca flour sources before something like Udi’s or other mainstream gluten-free breads)

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5. Myth: Meat is Bad for You

Baked Italian Meatballs Tsri | 7 Common Nutrition Myths (Debunked)“I am thinking of going vegetarian to ____” (lose weight, heal my digestion, feel lighter, speed up my metabolism).

Meat-free diets seem like the obvious choice when you hear things like “meat causes cancer,” watch documentaries like “Food Inc.” and see yogi’s on Instagram posting pics of nothing but granola, Acai bowls and raw vegetables.

Vegetarian and vegan diets carry an allure of health, lightness and environmentalism.

However, get this:

(No ifs, ands, or buts about it), all humans need a balance of proteins, carbs and fats to function optimally. Just like a plant needs water and sunlight, or a car needs gasoline, to run, we have 3 main fuel sources we need to run our engine.

Whenever we miss out on that balance for long, our body starts to suffer.

Ironically, in our efforts to save the animals, we end up treating our own bodies like we do the sickly animals in the conventional meat industry—fed grains and additives (i.e. soy products, gluten-free products, vegetarian imitation products).

Meat, eggs, seafood and fish are the purest sources of protein—comprised of all 22 amino acids you can’t get anywhere else.

Why do you “need” these aminos? Several essential minerals and vitamins (B-12, zinc and iron in particular) are found in proteins. In addition, amino are the precursors and building blocks for the skeletal structure of ALL your body cells, especially the neurotransmitters in your brain (mood balancers, clarity, focus, etc.). Without the “building blocks” of protein for your cells, then over time, your cells can get “sick”—more susceptible to sub-optimal health and overall function.

While you CAN “combine” grains, beans, nuts/seeds and other foods for “complete” proteins, the question then comes down to: Are you absorbing these foods in the first place?

Grains, nuts and legumes, in particular, contain phytates and lectins (“anti-nutrients”) on their outer shells that our gut has a difficult time breaking down. So even if you are physically chewing these foods, your body may not be actually digesting them.

Check out these articles for more “digesting” on this topic:
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Bottom Line: Aim for balance. Eat real food. Mostly plants. But don’t neglect protein—real protein. For those completely adversed to meat, aiming for a condiment-sized portion of real protein 1-2 times per day is better than none. And if meat is completely off the table, ensure you are getting the minerals and vitamins you need—opting for more fresh produce (less processed soy or processed foods), plenty of healthy fats and raw, sprouted, soaked versions of beans, nuts, fermented soy (tempeh, tofu) and grains.

6. Myth: Drink Coffee to Boost Metabolism

Not my coffee!!!

Coffee is the “water of choice” for many in our society today.

Approximately 85% of Americans drink coffee—and not just one cup, but on average, 3 cups per day  (ironically Americans also consume 90 grams of sugar per day—nearly four times as much as the maximum recommended amount, much of this also in our coffee).

Like with most things in life, coffee is not inherently bad but when we become dependent on coffee to function (energy, bowel movements, mood, happiness), then something is awry underneath the hood.

Coffee is a natural stimulant (i.e. stressor) and can promote blood-sugar imbalances, hormonal imbalances and digestive dysfunction (yes, even decaf)—especially when consumed regularly or relied upon to “function.”

It all comes down to cortisol (our stress hormones).

We all have stress in our daily lives, and often times when we get stressed, we need an “energy boost” in order to get us through the stress.

Enter: Coffee, right?

While coffee (and other caffeine stimulates) do seemingly give you a boost in energy…that “energy” is NOT lasting…setting you up to need…another cup of coffee…something sweet and sugary…a cup of green tea…an Energy Drink.

And the beat goes on.

Beachbody Blog Bulletproof Coffee | 7 Common Nutrition Myths (Debunked)The more we rely on coffee for “energy”, the more our internal “energy” system begins to depend on coffee—and other stimulants—to keep us going. AND the more our cortisol levels rise and fall (leading to hormonal imbalances, digestive dysfunction, mood swings, sugar cravings, poor sleep and more).

In addition, did you know that coffee is one of the moldiest foods we consume?

Most coffee beans are almost always contaminated with“mycotoxins.” Mycotoxins are gut-damaging compounds created by molds that grow on coffee beans and have been linked to cancer, kidney disease, brain damage, heart disease and inflammation—to name a few. They also make your coffee taste bitter (like it needs sugar).

Lastly, did you know that coffee (particularly instant coffee) is a cross-contaminant with gluten (or “gliadin ”)—meaning that many people who are sensitive to gluten are also sensitive to coffee (often times without recognizing it).

Fresh, whole roasted beans are the way to go if you do drink coffee—although, again, if you are dependent on coffee to function, a time away from the Joe can do a body good (re-set).

7. Myth: Workout Harder

Less is more when it comes to working out. This can seem counter-intuitive in a culture where we are told: “Calories in=Calories out.” But seriously, serious.

Night Copy | 7 Common Nutrition Myths (Debunked)

When we run like hamsters on wheels (working out all the time), similar to when we eat less calories (not more), our
body goes into “reserve mode.” It fights to hold on to what it’s got—reducing overall energy expenditure and metabolism, even when you’re off the treadmill or out of your fitness class. In addition, here are a few other things too much working out does for your body:

You Don’t Shed Body Fat

The “move more” and “go long” philosophies seem to make sense, but your body can physiologically only go “so hard” for so long. The longer you train, the more “steady state” the workout becomes and the “less” burn you get. Why? Exercise raises cortisol (i.e. stress). When our bodies are stressed…they hold on to things (like body fat) as reserve to continue to fight against stress (as you fight against it).

You Decrease Your Lean Muscle & Tone.

Muscle and “tone” grows and repairs in between workouts—not during them. So when we run and run and run. Or push the “more time=better” button every single day day, we break our bodies down, rather than building them up.

Your Digestion & Appetite Gets Thrown Off

Digestion occurs in a parasympathetic state (rest and digest). Workouts and active lifestyles are AWESOME, but when we do too much a couple things happen: 1.) Stomach Acid production gets suppressed (we need stomach acid to break down our food); 2.) Body energy is devoted to muscle break down and repair—as opposed to digestive flow (things slow down).

Intensity Goes Down

Like way down. You have three different energy systems to tap into when you workout: Aerobic (Endurance), Glycolytic (Power) and Anaerobic ATP (Strength). For all-around fitness, a blend of all three is ideal. Too much in any one zone and intensity will go down, naturally—but, particularly in that aerobic (endurance) zone (the longer steady state type exercise), the body can only last so long.

Your Hormones Get Out of Whack

We mentioned this some, but as noted in point 3: Exercise induces a cortisol response (not necessarily a bad thing). However, when cortisol stays elevated, other hormones get out of balance. Like a see-saw, cortisol goes up, estrogen and testosterone go down, and vice versa.

You Get Disconnected from Your Body

You stop listening (or knowing how to listen) to your body.

Working out is not inherently bad at all (it does a body good), but the “Goldilocks approach” is best (just right).

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