Top Nutrition Myths Debunked by a Registered Dietitian

By Cliona Byrnes, RD

It’s no surprise that nutrition can become a little bit confusing when we are exposed to so many mixed messages daily. From your friend at the gym to your favorite influencer on social media, the messages are often contradictory and rarely grounded in science. Whatever your goals may be, it’s a good idea to separate fact from fiction when it comes to nutrition. This article will debunk some of the more common myths so that you can feel more confident in making a healthy choice.

1. Carbs are “bad” for you and lead to weight gain

There is nothing inherently wrong with carbohydrates – it is an excess of calories, not carbs, which leads to weight gain. One of the reasons that popular diets often suggest cutting carbs is that short-term weight loss can occur after reducing carb intake, but this is largely due to a loss of water from the body and a reduction in overall calorie intake, not specifically carbs. Carbohydrates are delicious and can be equally nutritious. They are an important part of a healthy diet and function as the body’s preferred source of fuel, though it is important to note that not all carbs are equal. Refined carbs like cookies and crackers lack fiber and will lead to a sharper rise in blood glucose after eating than more complex carbs like whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables. The fiber content of these complex carbs also has the added bonus of keeping you full for longer and providing more long-lasting energy due to the steadier rise in blood sugar. Our Stabilize capsules, which block the absorption of sugars and slow down carb digestion to prevent blood sugar spikes, may also help.

2. Fat-free or sugar-free is a license to eat more

Beware the health halo effect! Fat-free or sugar-free cookies, chocolates and sweets are often marketed as a “guilt-free” indulgence. However, if you take a closer look, the overall calorie content is often broadly similar. If weight loss is your goal, whatever variety you opt for will not make a substantial difference (except maybe to your wallet!). On top of this, research has shown that the “health halo” effect can lead to an underestimation of calorie content and overconsumption of foods that consumers believe are healthier. In the case of these “healthier” treats, having an extra serving or two under the guise of it being a healthy choice could mean that you end up consuming more calories. The takeaway message is that whether you choose fat-free, sugar-free, or regular sweets, they should be viewed as treats that fit into a healthy, balanced diet.

3. You need to consume protein ASAP after working out

Consuming protein after exercise supports muscle recovery and muscle building, but you don’t need to choke down a protein shake immediately after your last rep. Muscle building peaks within 3 hours of a workout and remains elevated for at least 24 hours. Research has shown that consuming a mix of protein and carbohydrates at either 1 hour or 3 hours post-exercise resulted in the same level of muscle protein synthesis. The evidence suggests that total daily intake and the spread of protein across the day seems to be more important than consuming protein straight after a workout. The type of protein consumed may also play a factor, as the body needs enough essential amino acids, including the amino leucine, to optimize muscle growth and recovery. You will find leucine in protein rich foods like salmon, eggs, chickpeas, soybeans, and brown rice. During exercise, the body uses glucose and stored glycogen to provide a fast-acting source of energy. Our Energize pre-exercise electrolyte drink is made with isomaltulose, which has a lower impact on blood sugar than glucose or sucrose (aka table sugar). As it is digested and absorbed more slowly, it provides a steady supply of fuel. The steadier increase in blood glucose levels spares glycogen stores, helping to increase endurance, and promote increased oxidation of fat.

4. Detoxes and cleanses are a good idea

We have all had moments of overindulgence and a desire to press “reset” on our eating pattern. Fasting, drinking only juice or similar beverages, eating only certain foods – there are many different detox diets or cleanses that claim to remove toxins from the body, help you lose weight and boost health. However, there is little compelling research to support the use of detox diets for weight management or flushing toxins out of your body. Many of the more popular detox diets and cleanses are overly restrictive and nutritionally unbalanced. What’s more, while these regimens may lead to some weight loss initially, they tend to lead to weight regain once a normal diet is resumed. The body is well equipped to detoxify itself using our kidneys, liver, lungs, gut, and skin. If you want to support your body’s natural detoxification process, you can start by staying hydrated and eating a healthy, balanced diet.

5. Minimally processed sugars are better for you

Products or recipes may claim to be “refined sugar free” or use minimally processed sugars like honey to appear healthier than they are. While it’s technically true that less processed sugars may retain more antioxidants and minerals than highly processed ones like table sugar, the amount you would need to consume to obtain a significant health benefit would be offset by the quantity of sugar consumed. All forms of sugar, whether natural or otherwise are considered “added sugars” that should be enjoyed in moderation. Refined and unrefined sugars will both increase your blood glucose levels after eating. Products like our Resist functional breath strips can help curb sugar cravings by temporarily blocking the taste of sugar.

We all want to be healthy and with our busy lives, it’s all too easy to fall for the nutrition myths that promise miracle results. While the Dietary Guidelines may not be as exciting as the latest wellness trend, the focus on eating a healthy, balanced diet is based on a large body of research that supports best health outcomes. Keep an eye out for Part 2 in this series where we debunk some more common nutrition myths and separate fact from fiction.