The ‘health’ landscape has undergone a seismic shift over the last decade. The long-held beliefs relating to what we should and shouldn’t eat have been increasingly placed under the microscope, leading to scientists chipping away at ‘what we think we know’ when it comes to diet.
If you are still struggling to get your head around what the term ‘balanced diet’ really means, let us debunk some of the most important food myths.
Carbohydrates make your fat
This myth gained serious traction in the 70s with the rise of Dr Atkins’ research. In fact, it led to the word ‘carbs’ being considered as something of a dirty word. What the Atkins diet failed to convey, however, is that carbohydrates is a broad term that applies to many different forms of energy-rich foods. More recently, experts have stated that while reducing sugars in our diet is important, carbs such as brown rice and wholegrains burn more slowly in the body and can leave us feeling both fuller for longer and avoid the kind of blood sugar spikes that play havoc with our health.
Low carbohydrate diets often ignore the benefits of starchy foods, which contain important nutrients and play an integral role in maintaining the health of the digestive tract. Starchy carbs include some fruit and vegetables, legumes, wholegrains and even dairy products.
Mini-meals or snacking is better than bigger main meals
There is an impression that frequently eating small meals or snacks fires up your metabolism more often therefore causing weight loss. However, recent evidence suggests that the difference in the metabolism’s ability to burn calories when frequently snacking or waiting for bigger meals is negligible. More likely, the benefits of snacking are psychological. Frequently eating mini-meals may prevent you from indulging too heavily by keeping your cravings at bay.
A more fundamental issue for individuals looking to manage their weight is portion control. By ensuring that overall calorie intake is regulated and within recommended daily guidelines (2000Kcal for women; 2500Kcal for men), it is possible to avoid unwanted weight gain.
Cleansing or detoxing is good for your body
The idea that our bodies are full of toxins that need to be flushed out through fasting, juicing or even colon hydrotherapy is simply false. Our bodies are perfectly equipped to remove toxins naturally given the right tools to do so, and there is little evidence to support the theory that detoxing helps this process. In fact, attempting to flush out the body can cause us to lose important bacteria that actually aid digestion and help us deal with food on a daily basis.
Instead, it is important that the right balance of nutrients is consumed to allow the digestive system to work efficiently as nature intended.
Fat is the worst thing to eat (fat-free is better)
It was once believed that fats were the devil of the food family, with the simple notion that fat in food makes you fat when you eat it. However, there are just as many healthy fats as unhealthy fats and your body needs them to function.
The growth of ‘fat-free’ as a marketing tool in the food industry has led many people to believe that avoiding fats equates to a healthy choice. But many of these foodstuffs are instead high in sugar – an ingredient that we now understand to be much more detrimental to health and a balanced diet. Rather than avoiding fat altogether we now understand that certain good fats in foods such as avocados can actually contribute towards our health.
Gluten-free diets are good for everyone
In recent years there has been an influx of gluten-free products on the supermarket shelves leading many people to believe that there must be some sort of health benefit to going gluten-free. In reality, while these foods are essential for those with celiac disease or suffering from a gluten intolerance, there is no evidence that a gluten-free diet is good for non-sufferers.
Salt is the devil
The common perception of salt is that it is inherently bad for us; it raises your blood pressure, it can cause hypertension and ultimately can lead to an early death. However, salt is just as much a victim of wild food myths as fats and carbs. In reality, small amounts of salt are important in the maintenance of thyroid function, good metabolism and the regulation of stress hormones. As with fats, carbs and sugars, however, the problem comes when we consume too much salt and upset the balance within our bodies.
A cliché it may be, but the real secret to eating healthy lies in a balanced diet. But balanced also means diverse – and it is as important to ingest a broad range of nutrients as it is to control calories. Nevertheless, with an estimated 25% of adults now considered to be obese in the UK, there is a very real need for many people to take steps to achieve their weight loss goals – through improved diet and in some cases with the assistance of prescription weight loss medication.
For more advice and guidance on weight management, book an online consultation with one of our pharmacists.