Just to get things started, know that as DNAfit, we don’t believe there is ever a one size fits all approach to health and fitness. We always advocate for the power of personalised care that accommodates unique genetic traits that often influence the kind of nutrition that works for you vs other people. Every person needs to uncover what would work for them so they live a healthier and happier life.
Now, here are some nutritional myths that continue to persist even though they've been busted by the scientific community. Familiarise yourself with them so we can leave them behind in 2020:
1. Myth: Eating Healthy Means Depriving Yourself Foods You Love
Truth: Diet culture has led many to believe that to lose weight, they need to completely cut out things they enjoy eating, such as carbs and fats. With the practice of self-deprivation upheld as the pinnacle to weight loss.
But this approach often fails to distinguish between health and diet, with the number on the scale being the only measure of a win. In reality, this often leads people to excessive cravings that increase the likelihood of binging or overeating the thing they are told they need to stop eating, resulting in more weight gain than before with an impact on one’s relationship with food.
Having 'no go food' also tends to be one of the reasons people fail or give up on their pursuit to healthy eating because they may become resentful of a lifestyle that prohibits them from enjoying their favourite foods. This is also one of the greatest contributors to why there is an unhealthy cycle of diet culture with low rates of long term success, leading people to associate ‘healthy’ with negative connotations.
The realistic approach would be to focus on including more foods with health-promoting properties instead of focusing on what to limit or cut out. Thus adopt a behaviour of eating them in moderation to avoid binge eating at a later stage, while fuelling your body with the nutritional foods it needs more often.
2. Myth: Losing Weight Means You’re Healthy
Truth: Health experts and us at DNAfit urge for a cultural and mindset shift that propagates the perception that ‘healthy’ eating is about dieting or weight loss.
We want to advocate that one’s health goal be focused on giving your body the variety of nutrients it needs to function at its best, make you feel good, happy, energised, and fighting fit for the long haul. When healthier eating behaviours are adopted for the purpose of achieving a well functioning and healthy body, weight loss can be seen as an added bonus. If the driving force is weight loss alone, however, extreme means that aren’t sustainable are often used and this can lead to disordered eating and can wreck our relationship with food. So, don’t allow the number on the scale to be the whole story when it comes to what you tell yourself about your health and wellness.
It's not just about looking well on the outside, it's also about achieving a state of optimum health that is reflected on the inside-out. It's as much about what you eat, as it is about what you aren’t eating. There needs to be a holistic balance that’s achieved through good nutrition and fitness regimen that keeps you moving.
3. Myth: Carbs Are Bad For You And Are The Reason You’re Gaining Weight
Truth: Carbohydrates are meant to give you energy, but not all carbs are the same - the type of carbohydrate you choose can determine its effects on your health and weight.
There is a distinction between unhealthy refined (simple) carbs with nutrients removed like sugar, sodas, sweets, alcohol, and white flour products, vs unrefined (high fibre) foods like fruit, wholegrains, legumes and vegetables that are high in carbs with varying nutrients and fibre.
It's important to firstly know that refined carbs are hyper-palatable - meaning as humans we may find them more enjoyable than other foods, leading to overconsumption and therefore weight gain. Secondly, they give us a fast energy boost because they are digested quickly, but this is short-lived, and we'd usually need another snack again soon - again leading to eating more calories. Thirdly, refined foods provide calories with very little nutrition, so while they provide energy, they provide little other benefit to the body. So you just need to enjoy them mindfully and in moderation, instead of having a list of forbidden food. Be aware of how much of the refined carbs you put into your body over the festive season because it's easy to mindlessly overindulge in them because they are so delicious.
So focus on increasing your consumption of unrefined carbs instead because they keep you fuller and energised for longer. They are high in fibre, so they are digested more slowly. You tend to feel fuller for longer with a more stable blood sugar level, thus preventing constant snacking and overconsumption. Unrefined carbs also come with the added benefit of being rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals - eating them regularly can reduce your risk of several conditions. This tells you that carbs aren't the problem, it's just about choosing the healthy types that will offer your body the nutrients and minerals it needs to keep going for longer.
If you want to learn more about different types of carbs filled with wholegrains, find our blog, “Top 5 benefits for a whole-grain filled diet”
4. Myth: Eating Breakfast Is Better Than Eating Late At Night
Truth: Contrary to popular belief, there is no scientific data conclusively determining when you should start vs stop eating.
In reality, your individual schedule plays a significant role when it comes to whether breakfast vs night time eating is appropriate for you or not. Some people study or work late into the evening and need to nibble at night. Others are in bed by 9 pm and wake up at 6 am. The important thing to note is that eating dinner late at night or having an evening snack alone will not make you gain weight, but here’s the catch - overeating in a 24 hours period will.
The studies only support the notion that eating earlier in the day is better for weight management because you get to burn the calories throughout the day and aren’t as tempted to snack often due to low sugar levels, but has no direct relationship to breakfast itself. Keep in mind though that people’s bodies are different, depending on your weight, fitness levels and genetics, breakfast might or might not make a difference to your weight.
But research on this isn't conclusive because there is a back and forth between scientists on the matter, they simply show that people who eat breakfast are more likely to be healthier without proving that the breakfast itself caused this occurrence. Depending on your lifestyle and economic circumstances, you should rather focus on eating a balanced diet and calorie intake consumed in a day, instead of emphasis on any singular meal time.
5. Myth: All Fats Are Bad And Lead To Weight Gain
Truth: Fat has always been a CONTROVERSIAL word, especially in the world of nutrition because it's often associated with heart disease and weight.
It is also a major source of energy, but it is also needed to help us absorb fat-soluble vitamins, and produce certain hormones. Some fats, like omega 3 and 6 are essential to health and our body can't make them so we must get them from our diet. That being said, not all fats are beneficial, so it's important to distinguish between the different types of fats. There is a difference between good, not great vs bad fats.
There are three types of fats: polyunsaturated, monounsaturated fats and saturated fats. Saturated fats aka ‘not great’ fats found in meat, butter and coconut oil can affect cholesterol levels and contribute to cardiovascular disease, but they are not the worst of the fats. Newer research has shown that the context of these saturated fats matters as the food matrix of particular foods can sometimes reduce the harmful effect of these fats (as is the case with yoghurt and cheese, which are less likely to affect cholesterol levels than butter).
Polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats aka as the ‘good’ fats are found in plants, nuts, seeds, avocados, oily fish and some oils (like olive oil) that will help improve your cholesterol profile.
Meanwhile, Trans fats aka ‘bad’ fats occur when hydrogen is added to solidify the fats and stop the fat/ food from spoiling or when oils are repeatedly heated to very high temperatures. They are largely found in fast food and junk food, known to raise harmful LDL cholesterol, lower beneficial HDL cholesterol, and increase inflammation.
Eating fats in moderation is essential, but because fats are calorie dense, eating them in large quantities can lead to weight gain. That being said, some are necessary and beneficial to health, so it's all about choosing fats more wisely, not cutting them out completely.
6. Myth: Everyone Will Be Healthier On A Vegan Diet
Truth: The reality is that some people experience incredible benefits from turning vegan while others experience a decline in their health as a result of the shift to veganism.
Like all diets and nutritional plans, not everyone's bodies react the same way. It all essentially depends on an individual's genetic profile, unique nutritional needs and how well planned the plant-based diet is (planning is essential).
Some scientific studies are now indicating that some people have bodies that are better equipped to live on a plant-based diet, while others simply have bodies that fare better with some animal-based protein. Some simply feel better and are healthier with some meat. For instance, while everyone eating a vegan diet may be at risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency (vitamin B12 is only found in animal products), those with certain genetic variants are at a higher risk of a deficiency than others, even when taking a B12 supplement (which is not as well absorbed as vitamin B12 from food).
Some people can struggle with veganism if they have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as this diet relies on a heavy intake of vegetables, legumes, grains and fruits that may be high in fermentable starches, resulting in aggravated symptoms of IBS. While fibre is good for you, and still needed for good health (even with IBS), a vegan diet may contain more fibre than someone with IBS can handle or a high intake of certain types of starches and fibres that their gut may be sensitive to. These possible health complications can lead to difficulty maintaining a healthy balanced diet while fully vegan for those whose bodies conflict with a strict plant-based diet.
For those on a strict vegan diet while trying to bulk-up, see our blog on tips with vegan food options which can help you increase your protein intake
All of these myth vs truths tell us that not everyone's the same, so what may be true for one person, may prove to be untrue for another person. There is not one size fits all formula to nutrition, it mainly comes to a healthy balance that accommodates your individual lifestyle, genes, health and sensitivities. Our bodies have unique needs, so we should uncover what they are before settling on a nutritional plan that is personal to us.
Get your hands on Health Fit so you can discover how to build your perfect meal, with carbohydrate & fat response, and take control of your long-term health with personalised nutrient recommendations based on genetic data. Going into the New Year, make your nutrition a priority by unlocking recipes and shopping lists built for your goals, automatically personalised to fit your nutrigenetic profile from the start.