Food health myths
Eating a healthy, balanced diet can have a huge impact on your overall health and wellbeing but sometimes, with so much conflicting advice out there, it can be difficult to know what are the best rules to follow.
To help, we’ve brought together nine common food health myths, with the facts behind them…
“Eating carbs will make you fat”
Low carb diets have been the dieting fashion for years now, with some promising fast weight loss if you cut them out completely. However, cutting out an entire food group is never a good idea - a healthy diet is a balanced one. We get a lot of our energy from carbohydrates so we need to eat them - particularly whole grains and vegetables, which are important in a balanced diet. So while reducing the amount of sugary and refined-carbohydrate-rich foods, such as white bread, pasta and doughnuts, can lower your risk of developing health problems like heart disease and diabetes, we shouldn’t cut out the healthier carbs completely. Find out more about eating a balanced diet.
“Gluten-free foods are healthier”
Unless you are allergic to gluten then cutting it from your diet isn’t any healthier for you. Our bodies are able to process gluten, and by avoiding it you will be restricting the amount of fibre, vitamins and minerals you’re able to consume - which are essential to stay healthy.
Find out more about a gluten-free diet.
“Eating fat makes you fat”
Untrue. Fat in moderation doesn’t make you fat - in fact, we need some fat as part of a healthy diet. Too much of a particular kind of fat however (for example, trans-fats which are found in fried, fast foods) can cause you to gain weight and increase your cholesterol levels. Think about which fats you eat as part of your diet and as with most things, moderation is the key: a bit is fine, but too much, as with any food group, could lead to you gaining weight.
Discover more about which fats to include in your diet.
“Eggs are bad for your heart”
While eggs do contain some cholesterol in their yolks (and we know that excess cholesterol in our bodies can lead to heart problems), what we now know is that the cholesterol we collect in our bodies comes from saturated fat, not from actually eating cholesterol. So boiled, poached and scrambled eggs with no added fats in them are fine and can be eaten as part of a healthy balanced diet. Check out the advice from the British Heart Foundation on eating eggs.
“Missing breakfast is a good way to lose weight”
This is a myth! Having a healthy breakfast is an important part of a balanced diet. While you are sleeping, your body responds to the lack of food consumed by slowing down its metabolic rate. When you eat breakfast you kick start your metabolism again, helping to burn calories during the day. By missing breakfast, you may also feel extra hungry later in the day, potentially causing you to snack and eat more. Discover more reasons why eating breakfast is important.
“Microwaving kills the nutrients in your food”
Yes, while some nutrients can be killed, this is not restricted to cooking in a microwave. The most important thing when cooking in a microwave is to use microwave safe containers - if not, plastic molecules can leach into foods when heated. Check on the bottom of your container - it should tell you if it is microwave safe. Find out more about the effects of microwaving your food.
“Sugar makes children hyperactive”
Anyone who has looked after young children will probably bear witness to the fact that sugar can lead to a serious case of hyperactivity. But studies have shown that this isn’t always the case - in fact, it can be other external factors relating to the circumstances in which children have a lot of sugar that cause the hyperactivity. For example, at birthday parties, they will become more excited as they play games, see more children and then become very tired. Read more about sugar and hyperactivity.
“Calories eaten at night are more fattening than those eaten early in the day”
Calories are calories, and ultimately it doesn’t matter what time you eat them. What matters is the total amount of calories you consume and how much physical activity you undertake throughout the day. Take a look at this guide to understanding calories for further information.
“If I exercise I can eat anything I want”
Incorrect. What you eat is as important as how much physical activity you engage in. Even if you work out five times a week, a high-fat diet with lots of sugar can have a negative impact on your health and wellbeing. If you are exercising regularly, you will be using more energy and so you may need more food to maintain your weight – however, you should try to stick to a healthy, balanced diet which will provide you with all the nutrients you need. Read these tips on food and diet for athletes.
This article has been brought to you using public health information freely available online (click on links in the article for more information). Benenden Health has not provided any direct medical advice within this article. Please consult the sources provided if you would like additional information or support or contact your GP for further advice.