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10 Common Food Myths Exposed!

August 9, 2019

10 Common Food Myths Exposed!

10 Common Nutrition Myths Exposed!

Time to expose the truth about some common food myths and nutrition lies!
Debunking nutrition myths is so important! There is too much misinformation out there, it can be difficult to know what to believe. In this blog, I’ve done the hard work for you.

Table of Contents

Nutrition Myth 1: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eating a good breakfast boosts your metabolism.”

TRUTH: Breakfast gives you energy and enhances satiety.

If eating breakfast causes better eating throughout the day, then yes it’s beneficial. If not eating breakfast makes you overeat later in the day, then again yes it’s beneficial to have.
Calories consumed in TOTAL by the end of the day are what matter most. Whether you eat breakfast or not, your total energy consumption is what matters.
If you are trying to gain muscle or strength, or if you are in a fat loss phase and want to maximize your lean muscle tissue growth or retention- meal timing can play a role through the role of muscle protein synthesis (MPS).
Having breakfast allows more opportunities to stimulate MPS if the breakfast has a high protein content. No conclusive evidence is available to definitively say whether skipping breakfast reduces your gains or lean muscle mass retention in a diet.
You can maximize MPS still skipping breakfast by consuming 3-4 meals with 20-30g protein throughout the day.

Nutrition Myth 2: “Eating late makes you gain weight and can inhibit fat loss. Eating late leads to fat gain since you don’t move during the night. Don’t eat carbs after 6pm. “

TRUTH: Eating late at night ONLY inhibits fat loss if you eat in a calorie surplus!

The eating before bed myth is something we have all heard before – from people who do not know what they are talking about! If you are a night eater – as long as you aren’t bingeing, then having a midnight snack is totally fine.
Your body will utilize the food you eat and only store as fat if in a caloric surplus. Whether you eat your carbs at 10 am, 4pm or 6pm, they will still be utilized and contribute equally to your total daily calories.
Actually, eating at night can help aid in sleep by boosting your body’s natural serotonin levels through carbohydrate consumption! Many of my clients report better sleep with a pre-bed carbohydrate based snack/meal.
I DO suggest consuming your calories when you need them most for energy- for workouts and daily activity, but eating at night will not inhibit your fat loss or make you gain weight. And if you are hungry – by all means, EAT!

Woman caught eating a late night snack. Food myths debunked.
Eating Late Makes You Gain Weight?

Nutrition Myth 3: “Organic food is healthier than conventional food. They contain more nutrients and no pesticides.”

TRUTH:  “Organic” does not mean “more healthy.”

It refers to how a product is made and processed through federal regulations. Lower pesticides (organic farming still allows pesticides!), no hormones, no antibiotics, specific agricultural practices & animal ethics are involved in organic farming.

A little more info on organic farming:

  • An organic product must be made without: genetic engineering (GMOs), ionizing radiation, sewage sludge, most synthetic pesticides and herbicides, antibiotics, and hormones.
  • Organic products STILL allow the use of approved pesticides and vaccines.
    • Many people choose organic products due to less pesticides, no added hormones (hormones aren’t allowed in poultry products anyways!), and sustainable agriculture practices.
    • I myself choose organic meats & poultry, and choose the dirty dozen (listed by the EWG) to help decrease my exposure to pesticides/herbicides, lower the bioaccumulation of those products in my meats, & maximize nutrient intake (and ensure no ROUND UP is used)
  • Choosing organic can decrease exposure to pesticides, but there is inconclusive evidence to fully answer whether the reduction of pesticides corresponds with a statistically significant health outcome
    • Inconclusive doesn’t mean there isn’t a benefit… it  just means evidence of there being a benefit versus no benefit are mixed!
    • The EPA also regulates pesticide usage in conventional products that are mostly well below safety limits- and washing your produce also greatly further decreases pesticides!
    • Eating conventional fruits and veggies is much better than avoiding fruits and veggies because organic is too expensive!
  • Do some organic foods have more nutrients than their conventional counterparts? Yes! But not all do and some actually have lower amounts of nutrients.
    • So many factors play into this. Organic meats can have higher omega 3’s, while organic produce can have higher nutrients such as Vitamin C, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron. But keep in mind this will depend on each different veggie or fruit, how IT was specifically grown, the soil quality, and then greatly influenced by how you cook it as well!!! (Cooking in water means water-soluble nutrients leach into the water).

Whew! I think that’s enough for now, but the overall point is that whether you choose organic or not, just know WHY you are choosing organic and know for certain products you are really just paying for the marketing term!

I personally choose organic meats, eggs, and organic versions of the dirty dozen. But go conventional if organic isn’t on sale!

Meme Dihydrogen monoxide is deliberately sprayed on organic crops
Organic Farming Exposed

Nutrition Myth 4: “If you cant pronounce it, don’t ingest it.”

TRUTH:  Not being able to pronounce an ingredient has nothing to do with its healthfulness.

Yes there are certain chemicals like BHT, BHA, sodium sulfite, alfatoxin, propylene glycol, brominated vegetable oil that should be avoided, but not ALL chemicals are carcinogenic or “detrimental” to health.

Dosage and toxicity matter! Remember- water is dihydrogen monoxide!!

Strawberries and a list of their chemical composition. Shows that natural food is composed of many chemicals.

Nutrition Myth 5: “Post workout you need immediate carbs and protein because of the anabolic window”

TRUTH: There is no window. There is a revolving door.

If you workout and get a meal in within 2 hours, you’re still good. Muscle protein synthesis is elevated up to 72 hours post training.

Yes, you should maximize your protein feedings to at least 3x a day for best MPS elevation, but you don’t need a meal RIGHT after working out. This is especially true if you had a meal prior to working out, as that fuel is STILL being digested from that meal! In this case you still have amino acids elevated, and muscle protein synthesis elevated!

Nutrition Myth 6: “Saturated fat is what causes heart disease.”

TRUTH: Heart disease doesn’t have only ONE cause.

Multiple mechanisms including genetic predisposition, low fiber intake, alcohol intake, high refined carbohydrate intake, chronic inflammation, and lack of physical activity play a role in the development of heart disease.

You don’t have to avoid saturated fats! In fact, saturated fats can be great sources of vitamins/minerals as eggs (vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, and choline), red meat (iron, B vitamins), and ghee (vitamins A, D, E, and K).

Just make sure have saturated fats in moderation with OTHER healthy fats, including omega 3’s & omega 6’s (your polyunsaturated fats!) and other monounsaturated fats. Overall quality of your diet matters and your lifestyle.

Nutrition Myth 7: “A detox can help you lose weight & flush out toxins.”

How a Detox/Cleanse Works. You consume a supplement, detox magic happens, and then you poop out your money!
How to Detox

TRUTH: Your liver, skin, and lungs are in charge of detoxing.

Unless you have a CLINICAL reason to do a PROPER detox protocol (something monitored by a medical professional – for example, if you have high mercury in your body or mold toxicity), you don’t need a detox. You need to drink water, exercise, and eat a nutrient dense diet.

There IS such a thing as having poor detoxification, and in this case, this can be due to lack of micronutrients, enzyme deficiencies, genetic mutations, or sub-optimal bile status. This is where a liver supporting supplement such as N-acetyl-cysteine or milk thistle can help, but not a “detox tea.”

Nutrition Myth 8: “Gluten is bad for you & makes you fat.”

TRUTH:  Gluten is good to eat for most people, but can harm those with celiac disease.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It is bad for you if you have celiac disease (in which the body attacks itself with ingestion), and can cause harm in individuals with intestinal permeability and in autoimmune disease. This is related to molecular mimicry and increases in zonulin.

Typically, gluten containing products actually have more vitamins, minerals, and fiber along with less calories and carbs than normal gluten-free products!

Additionally, going gluten free can be detrimental if you don’t ensure adequate micronutrient intake.

If going gluten free makes you feel better- do it! But gluten isn’t evil.

Common symptoms of gluten sensitivity (but may indicate another sensitivity or medical condition):

  • Brain fog
  • Joint & muscle pain
  • Digestive distress
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Excess gas and bloating
  • Tingling or numbness

You should work with a health care professional (like me! – a dietitian), or your doctor to determine whether you may need to try removing gluten from your diet (or not!)

Gluten meme: You said that your product was gluten free. My intestinal tract has determined that was a lie.

Nutrition Myth 9: “Too much protein is bad for your kidneys.”

Does a high protein diet equal being bad for your kidneys?
Protein and Kidney Function

Truth: Too much protein is bad for your kidneys… IF you have kidney damage or kidney disease.

“Too much” protein is NOT bad for your kidneys if you’re a normal, healthy person.

Numerous studies have shown that high protein diets of 1.5-3.5g/kg of protein per day do not negatively impact kidney function. Though this amount is FAR from what is necessary, it will not create kidney damage. I suggest a minimum of 1g/kg of body weight for healthy, sedentary individuals and 1.5g-2.5g/kg of body weight for those who strength train.

Another important thing to mention… more protein does not equal “more gains.”

Excess protein can be utilized in the body by being converted into glucose for energy OR by being stored as body fat. Protein stored as far is way less likely to occur, as the thermic effect of protein is substantially elevated over other macro nutrients!

Things that harm your kidneys include: ⚠️

  • Not drinking enough water
  • Overusing NSAIDS
  • Too much Phosphorus in packaged foods
  • Hypertension
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • PPIs (proton pump inhibitors)
  • Illegal drugs and steroids
  • Diuretics
  • Herbal supplements like Kava Kava and St John’s Wort
  • Malnutrition

Nutrition Myth 10: “GMOs are bad for you.”

TRUTH: Context Matters!!! GMOs save lives.

Golden rice, a GMO, combats low income populations suffering from Vitamin A deficiency. Insulin, a GMO, saves thousands of lives of diabetics. GMOs also greatly reduce food waste and improve shelf life, increase potential micronutrient quality, and can enhance taste and texture. Keep things into perspective!!

What is a GMO? It’s a “Genetically Modified Organism” which can be a plant, bacteria, virus gene, or animal. Many GMOs in the food industry are created to help increase shelf life, increase nutrient content, increase bacteria/herbicide/insecticide/resistance, or increase crop yield.

Truth is, there are no long term studies telling us the full safety of GMOs. We don’t know exactly how they influence long term health- but what we DO know is that for many people and countries- GMOs help save LIVES.

For many farmers and food industries, they help increase food production and decrease food waste. I believe people have the right to know which foods are GMOs, but we shouldn’t demonize them if we don’t know safety. Let’s be real… consuming 3 alcoholic drinks per day on the weekend is going to contribute more to cancer than eating a GMO based cereal.

In my opinion, the problem with GMOs in food is NOT the alteration in DNA in the food themselves, but the result of the resistance to herbicides that further increases use of other herbicides and pesticides on our crops. The health risk doesn’t lie in the gene altered, but in the EXPRESSION of the gene in relation to the environment.

Hope this helps! Whether or not you want to eat or support GMOs, it’s YOUR CHOICE. Just don’t be one of those “fear mongerers” or make others feel bad for THEIR choice.

Keep in mind, there are only 9 allowed GMO crops at this time. “GMO Free” salt, strawberries, bananas, chicken, eggs, etc are complete BS. Another fun fact- the “Non GMO” label is not regulated and does NOT actually guarantee being GMO free.

Graph of USDA Approved Genetically Modified Crops produced in the US versus not currently produced

Hope this clears up some common nutrition myths!

– Lacey Dunn, MS, RD, LD, CPT

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