The latest research about nutrition and dieting seems to be ever-changing, and myths run rampant about the healthiest foods to eat and the most effective way to lose weight. Some of these myths persist, despite evidence otherwise, and learning what's true and what's false can help you make smarter decisions about taking charge of your health and diet.
Eggs are a traditional, nutrient-rich breakfast food, but they're often avoided because of the yolks' cholesterol content. However, it's a myth that eggs raise your cholesterol levels, says Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., in "Cooking Light." Though they contain dietary cholesterol -- along with 13 vitamins and minerals -- that type of cholesterol has a negligible impact on your blood cholesterol levels. Another persistent food myth -- particularly when you're on a diet -- is that it's healthier to eat reduced-fat foods. However, when fat is removed, sugars, chemicals and thickeners are added to the food, making it a less-healthy option. Instead, consume fresh or whole foods, doing so in moderation if they're high in fat. It's also a myth that foods that are brown, such as wheat bread, are automatically whole-grain -- sometimes, caramel coloring is added to give the food that color. Instead, look for labels that state "whole-wheat" or "whole-grain."
To lose weight, you need to cut calories from your diet, but it's a myth that cutting calories severely will help you lose even more weight. You should cut around 500 calories a day to lose 1 pound per week, but severely restricting calories might make your body hold onto body fat. However, you will lose muscle mass. A similar, equally persistent myth is that skipping meals on a diet will help you lose weight. Instead, you're more likely to overeat at the next meal because you're so hungry, says University of Washington Medicine. Don't believe the myth that eating later in the evening will cause weight gain, either -- it's not the time of day that makes you gain weight, but rather what you eat. According to Dr. Oz, you're more likely to misjudge the number of calories you eat when it's late at night.
Fad Diet Myths
A gluten-free diet, as effective as it might be for celiac disease or gluten intolerance, won't necessarily help you lose weight -- that's a myth. Although it can be helpful for weight loss if you switch from gluten-filled foods such as bread and other baked goods to fresh, whole foods such as produce and lean meats, it's not designed to be a weight-loss strategy, writes Karen Ansel, R.D., in "Fitness" magazine. Myths surround low-carb diets, too, which aren't always the weight-loss miracle they're touted to be. Ansel recommends focusing on complex carbohydrates such as fiber-rich vegetables and oatmeal rather than cutting them out entirely.
If you're drinking sugary soda frequently, switching to diet soda helps you cut calories. However, Oz says it's a myth that it will help you lose weight. Artificial sweeteners causes your pancreas to release insulin, which leads you to crave food and eat more -- leading to weight gain. Drink water instead, but don't aim for eight glasses a day -- that number is a myth. Researcher Speros Tsindos told "CBC News" that you should drink water when you're thirsty, but the fluid in fruits, vegetables and juices counts, too.