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Healthy Eating: The Biggest Misconceptions In The World Of Food

Eating healthy and staying at a good weight and shape is one of the biggest stresses in today’s world for so many people. The obvious health realities coupled with social stigma and attitudes can make the challenge of staying healthy quite the daunting task for some.

In order to help combat this, we spoke to several leading experts in the hopes of getting their insights into some of the biggest misconceptions in the world of healthy eating.

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#1 Effects On The Brain

We all know that eating unhealthily is bad for our bodies, but little do we think about what it's doing to our brain.

An example is sugar, everyone knows that eating it in excess can lead to obesity and diabetes, but what does it do to our brain? The answer, it increases inflammation, which contributes to the sensation of brain fog. It may have worse effects as well, some studies suggest excess sugar leads to insulin resistance in your brain, a possible cause of dementia.

Contributor:  Joseph Coulburn from brainzyme

#2 Caloric Consumption

I think people look at certain foods as unhealthy or evil because they are part of a new fad diet. Like gluten for example. People think it is evil and take drastic measures to eliminate it from their diet simply because they want to believe it is going to be the magic cure to weight loss.

But we need to start seeing weight loss as total caloric consumption and expenditure. When we eat less calories than we need to sustain our weight, we will lose weight. That is the basic law of thermodynamics. You should only really stop eating gluten if you have Celiac Disease.

Contributor: Chris Cucchiara from personal develop fit

#3 Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are NOT better for you than sugar. The sweetness essentially tricks the body's biochemical pathways. Research has shown that people who consume a lot of artificial sweeteners actually tend to GAIN weight.

Contributor: Mary Jayne Rogers Ph.D. from doctor mary jayne

#4 Fat

We need fat in our diets. Fat is essential for the health and protection of our cells and organs, particularly the brain. We DO need to choose healthy fats, such as omega 3s, found in cold water fish, walnuts and flax, grass-fed butter, avocados/avocado oil, olives/olive oil. Here's a myth that needs busting: Canola oil and vegetable oils are NOT healthy fats. They degrade to trans fat at high temperature cooking and oxidize very easily.

Contributor: Mary Jayne Rogers Ph.D. from doctor mary jayne

#5 Cholesterol

Cholesterol such as found in cage free eggs and grass fed butter is NOT the bad guy. Our bodies make cholesterol and need cholesterol. Focusing on avoiding inflammatory foods, such as processed food, simple carbohydrates, and sugars while choosing foods with deep rich color (spinach, broccoli, beets) and getting plenty of fiber is a better choice.

Contributor: Mary Jayne Rogers Ph.D. from doctor mary jayne

#6 Fruit

Fresh fruit, in moderation, is OK. But avoid excessive amounts of fruit. The fructose falls into the sugar category that can contribute to obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol. Also WHOLE fruit is a better option than juice. The fiber in the fruit helps keep the blood sugar levels from spiking (as compared to juice)

Contributor: Mary Jayne Rogers Ph.D. from doctor mary jayne

#7 Carbohydrates

One of the biggest misconceptions that I hear is the unfounded belief that all carbs are bad or that one must severely restrict carbs to lose weight.

All of the MyPlate food groups contain healthful foods which contain carbohydrates. Beans in the protein group, fruits, grains, dairy, and vegetables all contain carbs. (Some non-starchy vegetables do have a negligible amount of carbohydrate.) Some people on medically supervised nutrition therapies must restrict carbs (such as those with intractable epilepsy who are prescribed a ketogenic diet). For those of us without medical contraindications, it is important to know that the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges (AMDRs) for carbohydrates are 45-65% of calories. This is the range of intake that is “associated with reduced risk of chronic disease”

Contributor: Summer Yule, MS, RDN from Summer Yule

#8 Normal Weight Implications

One of the biggest misconceptions is that a normal weight implies one is healthy. Many people with a normal weight for their height don't follow healthy habits and are at risk for things like diabetes and heart disease because of their poor diet and lifestyle. Likewise, it's possible to follow healthy habits and be overweight and perfectly healthy at the same time.

Contributor: Rebekah Basham, RD, PA-C from village farm life

#9 Set Points

Experts are finding more evidence to support our bodies have a predetermined weight where they feel very comfortable, called a set point.It's very difficult to lose weight permanently, and likewise difficult to gain weight permanently. The body is very smart and adapts to weight loss or gain by altering metabolism and hormones that affect appetite and satiety. Instead of focusing on a goal weight, it's better to follow healthy habits and find out where your body feels the most comfortable and the weight is easy to maintain.

Contributor: Rebekah Basham, RD, PA-C from village farm life

#10 Dieting Does Not Increase Your Health

One misconception is that we will be healthier if we diet. In fact, the opposite is true. Dieting often leads to unhealthy eating habits such as restricting calories, over-exercising, and becoming obsessed with calories or nutrient content. This doesn't even mention how restricting calories sets someone up for overeating or binging. None of these things increase health.

Contributor: Sarah J. Thompson from resilient fat goddess

#11 Eating Disorders

I want to highlight that dieting is one of the biggest risk factors in developing an eating disorder. I don't think this gets discussed enough in the context of weight loss, dieting, or healthy eating. Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions that rob people of joy, freedom, and ease in their life. I do not think an unhealthy habit like dieting is worth risking an eating disorder.

Contributor: Sarah J. Thompson from resilient fat goddess 

#12 Success Of Dieting

The biggest misconception surrounding dieting is that it works! In fact, the Huffington Post posted an article about this very idea. Current research shows that upwards of 95-98% of diets fail. And it's not just fad diets that fail. Dieting tends to set up a system where people feel constantly deprived and then end up bingeing on these unhealthy foods, creating a terrible cycle of shame and yo-yo dieting.

Contributor: Katie Goldberg, MCN, RDN, LDN at EKG Nutrition EKG nutrition

#13 The Mental Drain

One significant misconception is that physical health is more important than mental health. Going back to the idea that dieting is rooted in a cycle of shame, common perception is that it's more important to encourage people to eat spinach instead of a candy bar. However, that sets people up to constantly deprive themselves, stop listening to their own hunger signals and to actively pretend to be something they aren't. The stress that causes can be just as damaging as the added sugar.

Contributor: Katie Goldberg, MCN, RDN, LDN at EKG Nutrition EKG nutrition

#14 Nutrition And Needs

A major misconception around unhealthy eating is that there are good foods and bad foods, or that understanding the definition of healthy is simple. Nutrition is much more nuanced and personalized than pithy headlines want us to believe. For instance, some people are very sensitive to salt, and small amounts will greatly impact their blood pressure.

But that's not everyone. Sometimes the healthiest decision is more about what you're not eating instead, or it's about what you're craving, or about your personal genes.

Contributor: Katie Goldberg, MCN, RDN, LDN at EKG Nutrition EKG nutrition

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Written by James Metcalfe

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