What are the biggest myths in nutrition?
One of my goals when working with clients is to share knowledge about nutrition and food to empower them to make the best choices for their health goals. And with so many myths about food – the good and the bad – unsurprisingly, people come to me confused, or at least with a misunderstanding about what the body needs. Here are some of the most common food and nutrition myths that I want to bust!
Fats are to be avoided
The biggest myth is about fat, which many people avoid like the plague. You might even find yourself reacting in a certain way at the mere thought or mention of it.
But what is fat? Fat is an essential component of cell membranes which is required for producing hormones, absorbing fat-soluble vitamins, and insulating vital organs. The brain is also mostly made up of fat. In a meal, fat contributes to creating a sense of satiety and makes it easy for the body to absorb vitamins such as D and A. Fat intake also stimulates bile production, which will trigger peristalsis and promote healthy digestion.
I see many clients avoiding fats in a quest for a healthier diet, but by cutting these out completely, they are left with hormonal unbalances, cravings and fat-soluble vitamin deficiencies. Opting for sources of healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, oily fish, nuts and seeds is the way to make your diet healthy and balanced long-term.
Honey is healthier than sugar
This is a big myth and spoiler alert – both are almost the same, chemically speaking. While real honey has some extra vitamins and polyphenols, both are made of fructose and glucose molecules, just in different ratios. For example, some kinds of honey can have more fructose than glucose and small percentages of more complex sugars, while agave syrup is mainly fructose with little glucose. And though this might seem like the healthier option, it's worth noting that fructose gets processed mainly by the liver, with any excess stored as liver fat. In fact, continuous and excessive fructose intake can lead to the development of no-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in some individuals.
Does this mean you have to ditch honey altogether? Not at all, just be mindful of not using it as a deliberate "healthy option", thinking it is better than regular table sugar.
Drinking coffee is a bad habit
Many people choose to ditch coffee as they believe it to be an unhealthy habit. While excessive coffee intake or sugary lattes should be limited, a regular, moderate coffee intake has been associated with a lower risk of liver diseases, including liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. The compounds found in coffee, such as chlorogenic acid and cafestol, may play a protective role by promoting liver function and reducing inflammation.
Additionally, coffee is a rich source of antioxidants and polyphenols, which are crucial in neutralising harmful free radicals in the body, mitigating oxidative stress and potentially reducing the risk of chronic diseases. So enjoy a couple of organic coffees daily (depending on your caffeine tolerance) without thinking it is a habit you have to ditch!
Juicing is great for detox
Detoxification is a very complex process happening mainly in the liver – first, toxins are dismantled in very reactive water-soluble compounds (this is called functionalisation) to then be bound to more stable molecules, making them less damaging and more water-soluble, ready to be excreted (conjugation) and finally, excreted.
In the second phase of detoxification, which is the most crucial, proteins are a key cofactor (as well as sulphur-based compounds and B vitamins). This is why a multi-day juice cleanse won't help – the very reactive molecule doesn't have enough compounds to bind and would ultimately play havoc in the liver, potentially leading to oxidative stress and damage.
The best way to promote detoxification in the body is to limit toxic exposure (such as excessive consumption of alcohol, smoking, eating chargrilled and heavily processed foods) and focus on a balanced diet which is rich in wholefoods, to provide all the cofactors needed for optimal liver function.
Going gluten-free is a healthy choice
Gluten should only be avoided in the following circumstances: if you are diagnosed with Coeliac disease, if tests show you have a high sensitivity to the compound, or in cases of autoimmune disease. Ditching gluten based on a self-diagnosed intolerance will lead to the elimination of a big dietary group and a lot of really tasty foods.
While I am not advocating eating gluten-containing foods every day, and I do invite clients to explore alternatives – such as rice, buckwheat, spelt, amaranth and more – gluten is not the only culprit of bloating and bad digestion. In many cases, gluten-free breads and products can actually aggravate the problem a person is experiencing, as they tend to be more heavily processed and have extra sugars added to mimic the taste and texture of gluten. Gut health and an unbalanced microbiota can be a cause, in which case, a more in-depth program needs to be implemented.
These are just a few food myths I commonly see in my clinic, but please refer to a nutrition healthcare professional for more information and any specific questions you have. If you want to better understand your current diet and if it is supportive of your health goals, I invite you to speak to a professional who will be able to guide you through the journey to enhance your diet and overall lifestyle.
If you would like to know more about me and how I may be able to help you, to book a discovery call or enquire about my fees and availability, you can visit my profile.