The Most Common Diet Myths Debunked

The Most Common Diet Myths Debunked

From cutting out carbs to eating within an eight-hour window, we've all followed at least one diet 'rule'. But, like with most things, reading something on the internet doesn’t make it fact and, as leading Harley Street Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert tells us, the vast majority of weight loss tips should be avoided. Here, she debunks 15 of the most prevalent myths…

1. Skipping Meals = Eating Less

It might make sense to skip meals, however research suggests that when we restrict ourselves, we’re more likely to end up bingeing. This can creates a vicious cycle and may encourage an unhealthy relationship with food.

2. We Should Avoid Fats

The brain has the highest concentration of fats (lipids) after adipose tissue – possibly the best reason why our cognitive health relies on a healthy fat consumption (including enough healthy fats in your diet is essential for optimizing your memory, concentration and mood). Some vitamins rely on fat for absorption too, like vitamins A D E & K, which are all fat-soluble, meaning they can’t function without daily fat intake.

3. It’s OK To Cut Out Entire Food Groups 

When you cut out a whole food group, you risk missing out on essential nutrients. For example, cutting out dairy may result in not enough calcium in your diet. We always need to be mindful that when you take something out of our diet, we may need to replace it with something else, in order to ensure you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals.

4. Never Eat After 8pm

This is a myth nutritionists  hear time and time again. When the clock hits 8pm, your body doesn’t stop using food for energy and storing it as fat – it simply doesn’t work like that. Some people don’t get in from work until after 8pm, that doesn’t mean they shouldn't eat dinner. 

5. Carbs Cause Weight Gain

Not only do carbs provide vital energy for our body, they fuel our brain too. Instead of cutting them out completely, think about the quality and the quantity in which you consume carbohydrates. If you're determined to lose weight, consider portion control and what healthy foods to put in your diet. Complex carbs like wholegrains are advised to consume as part of a healthy diet, as they contain a variety of nutrients and are high in fibre.

6. Certain Foods Help Us Burn More Fat

It’s claimed certain foods and drinks can boost your metabolism, including green tea, black coffee, spices and energy drinks. But the evidence behind these claims is weak – there are no miracle foods that ‘burn fat’. Body size, age, gender and genes all play key roles in the speed of your metabolism. Muscle cells require more energy to maintain than fat cells, so people with more muscle than fat tend to have a faster metabolism.

7. Low-Fat Foods Are The Healthiest Option

Remember that low fat or low calorie doesn’t equal healthy. Often foods labelled as ‘low fat’, such as yoghurts, contain less nutritional value than the full fats ones. Read the ingredients label carefully on foods. Snack bars posed as 'healthy' often contain hidden sugars and added sweeteners. 

8. Snacking Is Bad

This is such a misconception, particularly if you’re someone who leads a busy lifestyle – snacking could be hugely beneficial. Snacks keep your performance and concentration levels up in between meals, helping you avoid those awful hunger pangs. The key to healthy snacking is to think about what your body needs and what it hasn't had. If you haven't had enough protein, then snack on a boiled egg. If you're missing some greens, then grab a pot of edamame beans.

9. We Should All Drink More Water

Truth be told, a lot of people aren’t drinking enough water. We should be drinking around 1.6 - 2 liters a day (although this may differ depending on height, weight and physical activity). But be mindful of drinking fluids in excess. Drinking large amounts of any fluid above your recommended intake can cause the sodium in your blood to drop rapidly which in extreme cases could lead to seizures.

10. Going Veggie/Vegan Is An Easy Way To Lose Weight

Unless you ensuring you’re eating the correct foods and getting the right nutrition, vegans can run a danger of being deficient in essential nutrients such as omega-3, B12, protein and much more. This is because animal products containing a lot of important micronutrients that are otherwise never consumed. Vegetarians may struggle to consume enough protein and could have a diet high in carbohydrates with a small variety of vegetables. If you’re thinking about going veggie or vegan, consult a registered nutritionist or dietician to ensure you do it in the healthiest way possible.

11. Frequent Small Meals = Better Than 3 Large Meals

There’s absolutely no rule about how much and how often we should be eating. Some people prefer to eat little and often, some prefer three meals a day. As I explain in my book Re-Nourish, we’re all genetically different and have unique bodies, therefore what works for one person, won’t work for another. 

12. Dieters Should Drink More Coffee  

Coffee may temporarily suppress your appetite, but it certainly won’t lead to effective weight loss. In fact, too much coffee may lead to increased anxiety and sleep disruption. 

13. Calorie Counting Is Key

Whilst counting calories can provide a sense of control for some dieters, it often ends up becoming all-consuming, resulting in a lonely, competitive dieting culture. Additionally, numbers don’t always tell you the whole picture or how healthy a meal is. 200kcal of vegetables, is not the same as 200kcal in a slice of cake. The nutritional value is completely different and not all calories are used by the body in the same way. 

14. Gluten-Free Diets Are Healthier

For some reason, gluten-free foods are perceived to be healthier. But the truth is, you should only be avoiding gluten if you have been diagnosed with coeliac disease or have a gluten intolerance. Cutting out gluten won’t make you lose any more weight.

15. Superfoods Boost Weight Loss

Few lies about health and wellness can be told in a single word, but ‘superfood’ manages it. According to Bupa, 61% of British people have reported buying foods because they were supposed superfoods – but the idea that some foods are healthy, some unhealthy and some super healthy is misguided. The truth is that nutrition is amazingly complex and different for everybody. we know that if you eat a balanced diet and do regular exercise, you will benefit from it. And if you don’t, no superfood will save you.
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