Crucial Nutrition Mistakes Even Healthy Eaters Make

We have access to so much nutritional information, but misinformation is also widespread. Why is it that some myths keep coming back, even when scientific evidence… Simi - November 21, 2018

We have access to so much nutritional information, but misinformation is also widespread. Why is it that some myths keep coming back, even when scientific evidence exists that they are not true? The more persistent myths probably contain a tiny element of truth that makes them more believable. They may seem logical and reasonable, even though science doesn’t back them up. Unless we go and study original research, it’s not difficult to believe what all the health and fitness gurus tell us, even if research suggests otherwise.

Information about food that used to be spread by word of mouth now spreads like wildfire on social media. We are exposed to some truly ridiculous false claims, but at times it can be challenging to separate fact from fiction. Before we make decisions based on what we’ve heard or read, we need to make sure our sources are reliable. Nutritional information is constantly expanding, and new studies are always being done that can shed more light on common misconceptions. The following points may help to clear up some misconceptions that remain despite clear evidence to the contrary.

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1. We choose organic products

The organic food business is booming because we want better food, both for us and for the environment. One of the main reasons we buy organic products is because the farmers do not use synthetic pesticides. What we may not take into account is that synthetic pesticides are replaced with natural ones that have not been studied, meaning the side effects are unknown.

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Does eating organic produce lead to better health? Research has yet to link eating organic foods to better health, although this does not necessarily mean a link does not exist. A review in the British Journal of Nutrition reported substantially lower levels of pesticides and higher levels of antioxidants in organic produce. However, an oft-cited analysis Stanford scientists found very few differences between the nutrients in organically grown and conventionally grown produce. Buying organic produce may help reduce synthetic pesticide consumption, but there’s no guarantee it will improve health.

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2. We eat foods with an ‘all natural’ label

Food labeling is often deceptive. Consumers often fall for a label like “all natural” on food, even if the phrase is meaningless. The “natural” mark on packaging is often just a marketing tactic to increase sales. The FDA has no official definition of natural foods. It does not object to the term as long as the food doesn’t contain artificial flavors, synthetic substances or added color.

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Many products labeled “all natural” are filled with high-fructose corn syrup and other ingredients that have been genetically engineered. A product like a raisin bran, for example, may be considered “all natural” even though the raisins have been soaked in corn syrup and sugar. Foods labeled “all natural” may still be high in calories, sodium, sugar or fats. We may need to find whether a product advertised as “all natural” lives up to the claim. These products are usually more expensive, and we shouldn’t pay more if it isn’t healthy.

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3. We think a gluten-free diet is healthier

We tend to believe that products containing gluten are harmful. This may be true for people who have celiac disease, a diagnosis possible to discover by taking a blood test. Gluten intolerance may be diagnosed when fatigue and abdominal problems occur regularly after consuming gluten – and after celiac disease has been eliminated as the culprit. If there is no medical reason for following a gluten-free diet, scientific evidence doesn’t support eliminating it from the diet to improve health.

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Research shows that when we eliminate whole grains from our diet, we increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Gluten is present in many carbohydrate-based foods such as barley, rye and wheat. Some of the foods containing these ingredients can be unhealthy, such as cakes, pies, biscuits and pastries. This is probably why gluten has gained such a bad reputation. However, if we are healthy, we do not have to fear gluten.

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4. We buy low-fat products

It may seem intuitive that eating fat would make us fat, but it’s not that simple. In a 2008 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that people on low-carb diets lost 62% more body weight than those trying to cut out fat. Many misconceptions about the role of fat in our diets have been addressed in the past decade.

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We choose low-fat products because we believe they are healthier for us, but what we may not realize is that in order to make low-fat products taste better, manufacturers often add more sugar, flavoring and stabilizers which are bad for our health. What’s important is not to cut out fat all together, but to cut out unhealthy fats. Our bodies need unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats have been associated with lower cholesterol and are found in foods such as avocado, oily fish, nuts, oils and seeds.

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5. We drink fruit juices

Fruit juice may be a good source of nutrients, such as vitamin C. The problem is that when drinking fruit juice, we may be get too many calories and too much sugar. Fruit juice can contain the same – and often times more – calories and sugar than a sugary soft drink. The antioxidants and vitamins in the juice don’t make up for all the sugar.

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When we buy fruit juice, it isn’t always what it seems to be. High-quality juices may be labeled “100% pure,” but they may be stored in oxygen-depleting tanks and have “flavor packs” added to bring back the flavor that’s lost in processing. The lowest quality ones are little more than fruit-flavored sugar water. Fruit juice does not contain the fiber and phytonutrients found in fresh, raw fruit. It’s far better to opt for a whole piece of fruit or water containing pieces of fresh fruit.

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6. We think natural sugar is better than processed sugar

All sugar is broken down in our bodies into glucose, which our cells use for energy. Fructose, another form of sugar, is also used for energy as it’s converted to lactate and glucose in the liver. High-fructose corn syrup, frequently believed to be unhealthy because it’s high in fructose, is not that different than table sugar from a health perspective. Ultimately, the only difference between the teaspoon of sugar we add to our tea and the sugar we get in fruit is in the vitamins and minerals the fruit contains.

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It’s the amount of sweet stuff we eat that matters – too much honey or agave syrup can cause the same health issues, even though its natural sugar. What to remember when it comes to sugar is to stick to sugar in fruit and vegetables, because these contain the most nutrients, and to stay away from any added sugar.

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7. We choose eggs with a brown shell

The size and color of the eggshell depends on the breed of the hen that lays it. Chickens with white feathers lay white eggs, and brown ones are laid by ones with brown feathers. Raising chickens with white feathers is cheaper as they need to be fed less, and this is why we see more white eggs on the shelves, and brown eggs are more expensive.

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Researchers have been unable to distinguish much difference between brown and white eggs in terms of nutritional value. The majority believe there’s no difference. The color of the yolk of a brown egg may taste different, and it may be much darker, but this is due to what the chicken is fed. No matter what color feathers chickens may have, if they are fed the same food, the yolks of the eggs are the same color.

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8. We eat energy bars

When we’re looking for a quick, healthy snack on the go, we often grab an energy bar. These bars are usually sold in the healthy food section of the store. We may think energy bars are healthy, but many of them contain ingredients that make them no different from a Snickers bar when it comes to the volume of sugar. Watch out for coatings like chocolate, and ingredients like cane invert syrup.

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Whether or not an energy bar is healthy depends upon the ingredients it contains. Ones that contain mostly fruit and nuts may be healthy. There are some bars low in saturated fat and sugar, with a good amount of protein and fiber. These can provide a nutritious, satisfying snack. An energy bar with high calories is fine if it’s eaten in place of a meal, but otherwise stick to those with around 150-200 calories.

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9. We drink sports drinks

If we’re exercising for less than an hour, we do not need a sports drink. Sports drinks were developed to aid athletes who exercise for long periods of time, not for recreational athletes. People exercising for longer than an hour at moderate intensity may want to drink a sports drink, but they need to remember that ounce for ounce they contain almost half the calories of a sugary fruit juice or regular soda.

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Drink too many sports drinks, and the calories quickly add up. It sometimes even defeats the whole object of the exercise. One with more than 6-8% carbohydrates can slow the rate at which food and fluids leave the stomach, causing nausea, cramps and diarrhea. Unless we’re training for an extended period, all we need is water. Fitness waters can provide the necessary fluid with some taste and only a few calories.

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10. We buy imported produce

Some people assume that imported produce is better than local produce. Sometimes this is true, but it does not always apply. An orange grown on a local farm in natural conditions is healthier for you than one imported from another country. The imported fruit may be harvested out of season and shipped around the world, causing a deteriorated nutrient content. The imported orange usually does not contain the vitamins found in a locally grown orange.

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Buying local produce allows consumers to enjoy seasonal diversity. When it is harvested in season and eaten not long afterward, the taste is unbeatable. Local produce travels less of a distance to reach your kitchen, so it reduces the impact on the environment, too. The chance of food becoming contaminated is also lower when we buy it from local farmers. When buying imported products, we need to consider the manufacturer, importer, type of product and storage dates.

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11. We eat granola

When we see that granola contains whole grain, oats, nuts, seed, dried fruit or coconut, it certainly seems like a wise choice, especially when comparing it to sugary cereals. The problem with granola is that manufacturers use healthy ingredients but may add enough sugar to rival a dessert.

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A bowl of granola contains a serious amount of calories. Because we think it’s healthy, we eat a generous portion, ignoring the advice on the label to eat a quarter of a cup as a serving. Granola offers some benefits in the form of fiber and iron, but it becomes unhealthy when it contains artificial ingredients and sugar. Try to avoid those with high-fructose corn syrup, honey or sugar mentioned in the first five ingredients. Keep portion size down and think of granola as an addition to yogurt rather than its own full-sized meal.

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12. We believe all calories are equal

Is weight loss all about counting calories? The calorie weight-loss formula was based on the idea that we lose weight when we burn more calories than we consume. This theory has many problems, though. High-value low calories can be confused with low-value low calories. For example, eating 300 grams of chicken is not the same as eating 300 grams of cake. Chicken has vitamins and minerals that satisfy our bodies more.

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Calories also differ depending on the cooking method. A fried egg, for example, contains 66 more calories than a boiled egg. Calorie-counting shouldn’t be such a numbers game, but rather making sure that calories we consume come from the right sources. Our calories need substance so our diets should be low in refined and processed foods, and full of whole grains and high-quality proteins. Lean protein sources, such as fish, are high-quality proteins.

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13. We eat dried fruit

Dried fruit has most of its moisture content removed, making it smaller and more energy-dense. Eating dried fruit can boost our intake of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The problem is that dried fruit is high in calories and sugar because it contains glucose and fructose. Common dried fruit contains enough sugar to contribute to weight gain and cause various health problems.

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The healthiness of dried fruit also depends on the conditions under which it is made. Some manufacturers add preservatives to dried fruit because it preserves the fruit and prevents discoloration, making it look more appealing. This applies mainly to brightly colored fruits such as raisins and apricots. Some fruit is coated with syrup or sugar before it gets dried. Fruit that is not stored or handled correctly may be contaminated. As with many other foods, dried fruit has its pros and cons. You should eat it in small amounts.

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14. We eat yogurt

Yogurt is a convenient, nutrient-rich snack many of us eat for breakfast or take to work. Some yogurts contain beneficial bacteria, and these usually say “live active cultures” on the label. These bacteria help to improve the balance of bacteria in our gut, which has many health benefits. Yogurt also provides us with protein, calcium, B vitamins and minerals such as potassium and magnesium.

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The problem is that not all yogurts are good for you and if we make bad choices, it can be detrimental to our health. We have so many types to choose from – full or reduced fat, sweetened versus unsweetened. Most of the yogurt available in the grocery stores is flavored, which means it’s full of sugar. This may even promote more unhealthy gut bacteria, because bacteria feed on sugar. Go for plain Greek yogurt and avoid sweetened yogurts with flavorings or fruit purees.

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15. We order a salad when we eat out

A salad made with spinach, tuna, veggies and a yogurt dressing may be a healthy, nutritious meal. It is low in calories and full of nutrients. If a salad contains bacon, crispy chicken, cheddar and a ranch dressing, we shouldn’t fool ourselves – we might as well be eating a burger. The truth is that salads are not always the best choice when it comes to calories – it’s all the added extras that make the difference. Nuts, meat, fried chicken strips, bacon, avocado and creamy dressings can pack quite a calorie punch.

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For a healthy salad, start with colorful veggies, leafy greens, fruits and beans. Where possible, go for dark leafy greens, like spinach, and fresh herbs. Add tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, red bell peppers or cabbage. Add a small amount of lean protein and a small amount of avocado or a few nuts for some healthy fat.

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16. We eat peanut butter

In its best form, peanut butter consists of peanuts ground into a paste and perhaps a little salt. It does have a high fat content, but when its overall nutritional profile is considered, most nutritionists believe it to be healthy. Vegetarians might find it a convenient way to add protein and healthy fat to their diets. Peanut butter contains monounsaturated fats, the heart-healthy fats that help us lose weight.

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The problem is that peanut butter might contain more than just peanuts. Many brands of peanut butter are highly processed and full of trans-fatty oils and sugar. These ingredients have linked to heart disease. Eating small amounts of quality peanut butter doesn’t cause any harm, and it’s relatively rich in nutrients and a decent source of protein. It’s only when we indulge too much that it can become harmful, mainly if we eat peanut butter which is highly processed.

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17. We eat dark chocolate

Studies have shown that dark chocolate contains polyphenols that can help to lower blood cholesterol, improve cognition and possibly reduce the risk of diabetes. This gives even the most health-conscious of us permission to indulge in something we used to ban from our diets. Much of the positive press comes from the cacao, but the bad news is the benefits don’t apply if the chocolate contains less than 70% of cacao. The more chocolate is processed, the fewer polyphenols it contains.

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Portion size is also very important. The risk of overeating and putting on weight often far outweigh the health benefits of eating dark chocolate – and of course, it’s usually difficult to stop at a piece or two. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a square or two after a meal, but we can quickly get the antioxidants elsewhere, especially if we find we can’t stop eating it once we’ve started.

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18. We eat bananas for potassium

One of the reasons people eat bananas is to up the potassium content of their diets. Bananas are a good source of potassium, and we need potassium to keep our muscles and nerves working efficiently. Having enough potassium in our diets can also reduce the effect of sodium on our blood pressure. One medium sized banana contains 422 milligrams of potassium (9% of daily recommended intake) and 105 calories. The following foods contain fewer calories than bananas and provide the same amount of potassium.

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  • Half a medium potato (80 calories)
  • Five apricots (80 calories)
  • One full stalk of broccoli (50 calories)
  • A quarter cup of sun-dried tomatoes (35 calories)

Foods that contain more potassium than a medium banana:

  • Half an avocado (487 mg)
  • Medium-sized sweet potato (541 mg)
  • One cup of frozen spinach (540 mg)
  • One cup of black beans (611 mg)
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19. We eat oranges for vitamin C

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that has many essential roles in the body other than boosting our immune systems. It keeps the skin healthy by building collagen, improves mood and helps with efficient metabolism. Our bodies cannot store or create vitamin C, so we need to eat foods containing it on a consistent basis. Most of us associate oranges with vitamin C – one orange contains about 100 milligrams of vitamin C (130% daily recommended intake) and 70 calories. The truth is that many other foods contain as much vitamin C as oranges and fewer calories.

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  • Half a stalk of broccoli (25 calories)
  • Seven large strawberries (40 calories)
  • One cup Brussels sprouts (40 calories)

Some foods contain more vitamin C than oranges, such as:

  • One medium red bell pepper (152 mg)
  • One-and-a-half cups of kale (120 mg)
  • 10 strawberries (108 mg)
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20. We can eat as much healthy food as we want

Many people can’t understand why they aren’t losing weight when they’re only eating healthy foods. Avocados, nuts, and oatmeal are perfect for us, but they are indeed not low in calories. We may be better off eating 300 calories of oatmeal than 300 calories of cookies, but this doesn’t mean we should eat too much of it. Nutritious or not, portion sizes matter.

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Yes, we know we have to control portion sizes when eating cake or ice-cream, but we tend to think this doesn’t apply to ancient grains, fruit and healthy fats. When we load up our plates with healthy foods, like nuts, berries, quinoa and avocados, we need to remember that we’re not eating “empty” calories. Those who battle to stick to reasonable portion sizes may find it helpful to buy portion-controlled packages. Buying mini sizes instead of big tubs also helps keep calories in check.

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21. We eat whole-wheat bread

We might think eating bread is fine as long as it’s whole wheat. Whole wheat bread is allegedly healthier than white bread because it has a higher fiber and nutrient content. It has a lower glycemic index, and when it’s eaten results in a lower release of insulin. This is all true, but we don’t have to eat whole-wheat bread to get enough fiber in our diet.

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While whole-wheat bread might be a little healthier than white bread, neither contains the amount of fiber found in many fruits and vegetables. Whole-wheat bread might look much darker than white bread, but some manufacturers add food coloring and molasses to give the refined bread a darker color. Whole grains do provide more fiber, vitamins and minerals than refined food, but overdoing whole-wheat bread is almost as bad as overdoing white bread and can pack on the pounds.

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22. We don’t eat carbs because they make us fat

Loading up on refined, carbohydrate-rich foods like pasta and white bread can increase our risks of developing many health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. But if we cut out carbohydrates like beans, grains, fruits and vegetables, we’re doing without our body’s primary source of fuel as well as fiber and other nutrients.

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A low-carb diet might help people manage their weight, especially those who tend to go overboard on carbs, but it’s better to focus on the type of carbohydrates we eat rather than eliminating them. Unrefined starchy carbohydrates are necessary for energy and should make up about a third of our diet. We need to go for the type of carbs that are higher in fiber and full of essential vitamins and minerals. Eating food high in fiber helps us feel full longer and might even help us shed weight.

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23. We eat celery because it contains no calories

The theory is that some foods contain so few calories that when you chew and digest them, this requires more energy than the body absorbs. A celery stick contains only 10 calories, and much of this consists of cellulose which passes through the body undigested. Chewing a celery stick is a wiser choice than eating chips. However, if we eat too much celery, it can cause problems that outweigh any health benefits because it is high in insoluble fiber and sodium.

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While a diet high in fiber has numerous health benefits, a sudden increase in fiber can cause gas, constipation and pain. Too much sodium is bad for our blood pressure. We need a mix of healthy vegetables to get the required nutritional benefits and eating celery alone doesn’t make us healthy. Conventionally grown celery is one of the foods most likely to contain residual pesticides, according to the Environmental Working Group.

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24. We think calorie information on labels is correct

A label can be a good guideline, but the FDA allows companies latitude in the accuracy of calorie count listed on labels. They may be out only a little, but they may differ as much 20% in either direction. If a label says the product contains 200 calories, it could hold as much as 240 calories. This difference could add up fast for those who are counting calories.

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The way the number of calories gets assessed is problematic. It is most accurate when it is applied to food that is digested quickly, but it ignores the fact that some foods are harder to break down and use up more energy during digestion. How many calories we extract from food depends on many different factors. A better option than counting calories is to be aware of portion sizes and how full we feel as well as focusing on eating healthy food.

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25. We eat very hot peppers

Hot peppers contain capsaicin, a molecule shown to increase the body’s metabolism and promote fat burning. The highest level of capsaicin is found in habanero peppers, which are very hot. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 6 mg of capsaicin a day improved abdominal fat loss and suppressed appetite. Various other studies showed similar results. We were prepared to suffer the burning sensation because we believe habaneros will increase metabolism and burn fat.

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Recent research suggests we may not have to eat very hot peppers to achieve this effect. It found that mild peppers may have the same calorie-burning effect. It appears that the compound dihydrocapsite (DCT), the non-spicy relative of capsaicin, is just as effective. In the study, participants who ate the most DCT from mild peppers experienced nearly double the metabolic boost as the placebo group.

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26. We think fresh food is always best

Fresh produce naturally appeals to many of us because it sounds much better than frozen food. Fresh produce ripens during transport or gets picked and sold ripe at a farm stall or farmer’s market. Frozen produce ripens on the vine and undergoes some processing before freezing. Most vegetables and some fruits are blanched in hot water to make enzymes inactive that could cause changes in color, flavor, nutritional value and smell.

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The truth is that while there are some differences between fresh and frozen produce, overall the nutrient content is very similar. Sometimes frozen food can even be healthier because produce is frozen straight after harvest and nutrients are preserved. Fresh fruit and vegetables are great when eaten at their freshest and most nutritious, but using frozen instead will do you no harm. Using frozen veggies might encourage us to add more vegetables to our diets because they are so convenient.

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27. We use coconut oil

Coconut oil is saturated fat, and in the past, studies linked this type of fat to problems with high cholesterol and heart disease. More recent research suggests that the kind of fat in coconut oil is metabolized differently to other saturated fats, so it does not have the same adverse effects. However, in mid-2017, it was announced that coconut oil was “bad” for us, creating much confusion and making it difficult for us to know what to believe.

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Saturated fat isn’t as harmful as artificial trans-fats and processed vegetable oils, which are high in omega fatty acids. These vegetable oils include sunflower, corn, cottonseed, safflower, soybean and canola. Some research shows that the saturated fatty acids in coconut oil are not as bad for us as we may have thought before. But it is still a saturated fat, and unsaturated fat is better for us.

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28. We need protein shakes right after a workout

The idea that we need protein right after a workout is popular. It’s true that if we exercise, our muscles need protein to repair. When we exercise – especially a high-intensity exercise – we need to ensure we have sufficient protein intake. However, what matters most is our daily protein intake. We may benefit from consuming 20-40g of protein within a few hours after exercising, but it’s the amount of protein we consume throughout the whole day that matters more.

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Our bodies can only metabolize a certain amount of protein at a time, so overloading on the protein shakes is pointless. Many of us get more than enough protein in the day without having to drink a protein shake. If we have a protein shake, it should be limited to shortly after we exercise so our bodies can use it to help our muscles.

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29. We eat small, frequent meals

We’ve been told that eating small meals throughout the day raises our metabolism. Digestion raises our metabolism a little. However, controlled studies in which one group ate many small meals, and the other group ate the same amount of food in fewer meals, showed there is no difference. It was found that having smaller meals more often made it harder for people to feel full and they had the potential of eating more.

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Our metabolism fluctuates based on the size of a meal. When eating fewer, larger meals, there’s a significant spike in metabolism. Given an equal amount of calories, the number of meals does not seem to matter. Meal frequency has less effect on us than on the total calories we consume. Besides, when we don’t eat for a while, a cellular process takes place that cleans waste products out of our cells.

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30. We think salt is bad for us

We’ve been warned for some time about the dangers of eating too much salt. Studies have found that excess salt in the diet causes high blood pressure, kidney damage and an increased risk of cognitive decline. On the other hand, salt is an essential mineral, and our bodies need it. We tend to think that salt itself is bad, but it’s only bad for us when we eat too much of it or have too little. Both very low and very high salt intake is associated with cardiovascular problems.

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Reducing the amount of salt in the diet is essential for those with high blood pressure. Sometimes people do not realize how much they’re consuming because they eat a lot of processed foods that contain salt. Most of these people would benefit from a diet of mostly unprocessed foods, which would automatically reduce the amount of salt in their diets.

31. We think eggs are bad for us

Eggs have a fair amount of cholesterol in their yolks, which is why we believe they are bad for our hearts. However, experts say that labeling eggs as bad for our hearts is connecting the wrong dots. Studies appear to show that most healthy people can eat an egg a day without any problems.

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For most of us, the cholesterol we eat does not have a huge impact on our blood cholesterol. When we eat eggs, our bodies compensate by manufacturing less cholesterol. Eggs are full of nutrients. A large egg contains 2 grams of saturated fat and no trans-fats. Saturated and trans-fats are those connected with raising blood cholesterol. Those with a history of heart problems, over a certain age or with diabetes should limit the amount of eggs they eat to about two eggs throughout a week.

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32. We think late-night snacks make us gain weight

Many people believe late-night snacking makes them gain weight. There are two main reasons why eating late at night may interfere with weight loss, both of which gets linked to increased intake of calories. The first reason is simple – a snack before bed is calories we could have done without. The second is that, when we are tired, we tend to eat to keep going.

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Eating late is not what piles on the pounds, but the fact that we’re eating more. Studies do show a slight fat-loss advantage in early eaters, but nothing much. The truth is, it’s not when we eat that matters but what we eat and how much. If we skip meals during the day, we may make up for it later on by overeating. To break that cycle, it’s important not to go for more than four to five hours between meals, and to watch portion sizes.

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33. We always eat breakfast

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is a mantra we hear all the time. If we skip breakfast, we believe our metabolism suffers. Some observational studies show that people who skip breakfast have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI). However, in one clinical trial, women who didn’t usually eat breakfast were made to eat it, and gained weight as a result. Some people subconsciously compensate for skipping breakfast, but many others don’t.

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Individuals who shouldn’t skip breakfast are those with impaired glucose regulation. Healthy people who force themselves into an expected eating pattern that doesn’t come naturally to them may find it backfires. We don’t have to eat breakfast if we don’t want to – it doesn’t mean we won’t be healthy or won’t be able to lose weight. The decision whether to eat breakfast or not should be based on our preferences and what we know suits us best.

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34. We think we should detox regularly

We believe our bodies need a “cleanse” now and then to get rid of toxins. These toxins may include human-made poisons such as pollutants or pesticides, preservatives or heavy metals. A detox diet usually means only having plant-based juices for a few days, and sometimes taking supplements or using enemas.

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Our kidneys, liver, lungs and other organs continuously work to remove harmful substances from our bodies and to excrete waste. Detox diets can make it harder for them to do this. They are not always safe either – there have been cases of liver failure from detox teas and kidney damage from green smoothies. We should instead focus on eating nutritious food every day with enough proteins, leafy greens and foods full of vitamins and minerals. This makes sure our bodies are healthy and able to eliminate harmful substances as they’re meant to do.

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35. We believe some alcohol is good for us

For many years, public health officials have told us that, while we shouldn’t start drinking because it makes us healthier, moderate drinking (a drink a day for women and two a day for men), probably won’t hurt us and may even offer some benefits. Some studies showed the benefits of consuming some alcohol, linking it to the prevention of certain diseases.

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However, the adverse effects of drinking alcohol may outweigh any benefits. A new study has found that people who drink one alcoholic drink a day have a 0.5% higher risk than non-drinkers of developing one of 23 alcoholic-related health problems, including cancer. At five drinks a day, the risk was 37% higher. If we drink alcohol, it should always be in moderation, and we shouldn’t fool ourselves that we’re drinking it because of its health benefits. There are plenty of foods that provide more antioxidants, etc. than alcohol.

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36. We try to eat ‘clean.’

We may think eating raw organic vegetables is the only way to be healthy really. Or, we worry about whether what we put in our mouths is “clean,” although we don’t always agree on the meaning of ‘clean.’ Clean diets mostly focus on exclusion – they tell us what not to eat. For some of us, eating “clean” means avoiding anything that isn’t natural. Some “clean” eaters will only eat raw foods, so the nutrients aren’t “denatured.”

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The problem is that raw milk can contain harmful bacteria and raw eggs contain a protein that can bind to biotin, leading to a biotin deficiency. This shows we cannot generalize and that “clean eating” can go too far. There’s no question that we should eat whole foods rather than processed foods, but we can become obsessive about cutting too many foods out of our diets because they’re not “clean.”

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37. We think raw carrots are better than cooked ones

Cooked carrots are more nutritious than raw ones. We do get plenty of nutrients from raw carrots, but the beta-carotene found in carrots is more readily available when carrots are cooked or processed. This breaks down the tough cellular walls that encase the beta-carotene. The beta-carotene is what gives the carrots their color, and the body converts it into vitamin A. This essential vitamin helps to boost the immune system, bones to grow and give us a healthy vision.

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The body stores this vitamin, so we don’t have to consume it every day. One of the main reason we eat carrots is for the beta-carotene content, and more of this is available to us if the carrots are cooked. Other vegetables, like broccoli, bell peppers and beetroot contain vitamin C which gets destroyed when they are cooked, so it’s better to eat them raw.

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38. We drink bottled water

We may drink only bottled water because we believe it is healthier for us. When the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) did a four-year review of bottled water, they found that it was not safer or healthier than tap water. A study done by the University of Geneva confirmed this finding. Some of the water tested was found to be tap water that had been filtered.

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Bottled water companies increasingly use BPA-free plastic, but the bottles might contain other chemicals that can leak into the water if they sit around for a long time or are exposed to heat. In developing countries, bottled water may provide a solution, and there’s no denying the convenience factor of bottled water, especially when we’re on the go. In the final analysis however, tap water is cheaper, just as safe as bottled water and much better for the environment.

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39. We measure our weight on a scale

When we eat healthy and exercise, we want numeric proof our efforts are paying off. When we step on the scale and see our weight has dropped, we feel rewarded. For various reasons, however, what we see on the scale can mislead us. We are made of more than just fat, and losing a pound may mean nothing at all if all we have lost is water.

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The scale treats muscle and fat the same way. When we’re strengthening our muscles with exercise, we may see weight gain. We may not realize our health is improving and because we feel as though we’re failing, and we give up. There are more effective ways to track weight loss, such as measuring body fat percentage. The best way to determine whether we’re achieving our health goals is by the way we look and feel.

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40. We drink eight glasses of water a day

Most people seem to believe it’s essential to drink eight glasses of water a day for multiple health benefits (including preventing gallstones and having better skin). Water is essential to keep us hydrated, but no medical evidence drinking a minimum of eight glasses a day is necessary. Water is not our only source of hydration – our body gets water from juice, tea, coffee, fruits and vegetables.

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It’s not true that the more water we drink, the better. Drinking too much water is just as unhealthy as not drinking enough. The best gauge of how much we should drink is as and when we feel thirsty. That does not take away from the fact that water is the healthiest drink and that we do need to make sure we don’t get dehydrated. It just means we don’t have to feel guilty if we don’t drink eight glasses a day.