11 Popular Nutrition Myths Busted By Science

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Its seems there are hundreds of food rules these days. Do this, don't eat that, drink this but only on Wednesdays when a full moon. Some myths are believable but most are down right ridiculous and despite the abundance of emerging nutrition research, some food and nutrition myths just seem to endure. When hanging on to them prevents you from achieving weight-loss results or improving your nutrition, it's time for some debunking. Here are a dozen misconceptions you should let go of and why some fresh thinking can lead to a healthier, slimmer and happier you.

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MYTH 2: A Calorie Is a Calorie

Not all calories are created equal, so simply counting calories and staying within a certain range may not lead to the kind of results you're expecting. Case in point: One recent study from Pomona College found that when healthy women ate meals that were similar in carb, protein and fat content, they burned about 50 percent more calories when they consumed whole foods versus highly processed fare. In other words, 300 calories from a blueberry muffin loaded with sugar and refined flour isn't the same as eating 300 calories' worth of oatmeal topped with blueberries and nuts. Bottom line: When it comes to calories, quality rules.

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MYTH 3: Fruit Is Fattening

This is still a thing; avoiding fruit for fear of packing on the pounds. But a recent Harvard study found that shunning fruit altogether isn't necessary for weight management. In more than 130,000 adults, researchers found that eating an extra daily serving of fruit didn't cause the scale to climb – in fact, it led to losing an additional half a pound over a four-year period. To use fruit as a smart weight-management strategy, reach for it in place of less healthy, more caloric snacks and desserts. For example, one cup of whole strawberries paired with two squares of 70 percent dark chocolate provide about 135 calories — 275 less than a coffee-shop brownie.

Read more: 16 Surprising Facts About Bananas

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MYTH 4: It Doesn’t Matter When You Eat

Undereating during the day and overdoing it in the evening: Sound familiar? Following this eating pattern may make it more difficult to manage your weight, according to a University of California, Los Angeles study. Researchers looked at the relationship between when calories are consumed and BMI, or body mass index. They found that eating more of the day's total calorie intake at midday was tied to a lower risk of being overweight or obese, whereas consuming more in the evening was associated with a higher risk. If you're trying to shed pounds, follow the old adage, "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper." At the very least, don't make dinner the biggest meal of the day, especially if you're less active in the evening, which can lead to a calorie surplus that winds up feeding your fat cells.

Read more: 16 Snacks That Are OK to Eat at Night

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MYTH 5: Low-Fat Diets Are Best

Many still shun high-fat foods like avocado or opt for low-fat salad dressing. But the truth is that getting enough "good" fat is important for both overall health and weight control. The current recommendations around fat advise that up to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from fat. For a woman consuming 1,600 calories per day, that's more than 60 grams of fat. In addition to helping maintain healthy hair and skin, eating vegetables with fat helps to boost the absorption of certain protective antioxidants. One study from Iowa State University found that when men and women ate salads with fat-free dressing, they absorbed almost no antioxidants at all. Delicious, healthy options include extra-virgin olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds and nut/seed butters.

Read more: The 7 Principles of Fat Loss

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MYTH 6: If You Work Out You Can Eat Whatever You Want

Working out isn't a green light to eat whatever you want, and it's not a weight-loss guarantee. One recent Arizona State University study looked at the impact of exercise on 81 overweight women with previously sedentary lifestyles. While following their usual diets, the group participated in a 12-week fitness program. Researchers found that while the women were fitter after three months, there was no noticeable weight loss, and 70 percent of the women actually gained weight. There are numerous benefits to exercising that have nothing to do with weight loss, but if you are looking to slim down don't think of exercise as the panacea, and remain mindful of how much and what you eat.

Read more: The 20 Best Body-Weight Exercises

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MYTH 7: Plant-Based Eaters Must Pair Proteins

Back in the day people who followed vegetarian diets were advised to "complement" their proteins by eating certain foods at the same time, such as beans with rice. The idea was to pair a food that was low in a particular amino acid with another that provided it in order to deliver all of the building blocks needed to use plant protein for cell maintenance and healing. Newer research shows, however, that eating certain foods simultaneously is not necessary, because the body maintains a "pool" of vital amino acids to pull from when complements are required. To stay in balance and keep your amino acid "piggy bank" stocked up, just be sure to eat an adequate amount of calories and a wide variety of healthy, plant-based foods, including produce, whole grains, nuts, seeds and pulses (beans, lentils and peas).

Read more: 13 Surprising Vegetarian Sources

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Sliced whole wheat bread
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MYTH 8: Brown-Colored Bread Means It’s Made With Whole Grain

When it comes to bread looks can be deceiving. A bread may be brown because caramel color has been added, not because it's whole grain. In fact, some whole-grain breads may not be brown at all if they're made with whole grains that are naturally lighter in color, such as oats, rye and corn. Rather than choosing by hue, read the ingredient list. Brown and wild rice, buckwheat, oatmeal and quinoa are always whole grains, but if you don't see the word whole before wheat, rye, barley or corn in the ingredient list, these grains may have been refined. You can also look for the term "100% whole grain" on the package. Keep in mind that breads labeled with other terms may still be refined, including "multigrain," "100% wheat," "cracked wheat," "bran," and "made with whole grains."

Read more: 16 Diet-Friendly Healthful Carbs

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MYTH 9: There’s No Such Thing as Gluten Intolerance

The gluten-free craze is growing. And while some people are entirely convinced that giving up gluten has helped them feel better, others believe it's "all in their heads." In reality, there is a recognized condition called non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). People who test negative for celiac disease may still experience unwanted symptoms when gluten remains in the diet, including "foggy mind," depression, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, headaches, bone or joint pain and fatigue. Unfortunately, there is no simple test for NCGS, and going gluten free on your own can be challenging. So if you think you may have this condition consult with a registered dietitian for guidance.

Read more: The BEST Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

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MYTH 10: Diet Soda Is Healthy

It's true that diet soda provides zero calories, but it may not help with weight management or overall health. Research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that among adults 65 and older, upping the intake of diet soda was directly linked to increases in belly fat. Another study from the American Heart Association concluded that a daily diet soda habit is connected to a higher risk of stroke, heart attack and vascular-related deaths. For a healthier calorie-free option, make good old H2O your go-to. If you dislike the taste of plain water, spruce it up by adding lemon, lime, fresh mint, ginger or a bit of mashed fruit.

Read more: Diet Soda and 20 Foods That Sound Healthy, But Are Not!

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baked salmon with asparagus and lemon on plate
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MYTH 11: Healthy Food Doesn’t Taste Good

This all boils down to how healthy foods are prepared. True, broiled boneless, skinless chicken breast and unseasoned steamed vegetables are not very appealing. But you don't need to deep-fry or douse foods in a creamy sauce to make them taste great. Start experimenting with herbs and spices, including garlic, basil, rosemary, dill, ginger, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cumin and turmeric, along with low-calorie but flavorful additives like fresh-squeezed citrus juice, Dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar. A University of Maryland School of Medicine intervention found that teaching high-school students to use herbs and spices improved attitudes toward eating healthy foods, including vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Healthy dishes can be mouthwateringly good.

Read more: 13 Healthy Mason Jar Meals

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