Debunking 10 Common Food & Nutrition Myths
Medically Reviewed by Carolin Schneider, MD
Whether you hear them from a friend or see them in an advertisement, the same food and nutrition myths have been passed around for ages. Fortunately, people have easier access to an abundance of information these days, which makes determining the validity to these health claims even easier. So, whether you’re wondering about the alleged calorie-burning qualities of certain foods or curious about the relationship between red meat and your health, read on to learn more about 10 food and nutrition myths that are just that — myths.
1. All Fats Are Bad
When people think of the word “fat” associated with their food, they always assume it is something negative. Often they associate fatty foods with obesity.
While there are certainly types of fats out there that are “bad,” like the trans fats found in processed foods, there are also omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats, which provide health benefits. For example, these healthy fats can decrease a person’s risk of developing heart disease or diabetes.
2. Some Foods Actually Burn Calories
Many people have heard of “negative calorie” foods — or foods that allegedly burn more calories when digested than they actually contain. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), this notion that a food can burn more calories than it provides is not true.
You cannot simply eat certain types of foods to lose more weight. In other words, you can’t eat to lose weight. However, foods that contain caffeine may promote weight loss, namely because they can boost one’s metabolism.
3. Eggs Lead to Higher Cholesterol
More and more people have become aware of the cholesterol content of eggs, leading them to believe that eggs may increase their bad cholesterol levels. However, what they don’t know is that the amount of dietary cholesterol found in eggs is not enough to elevate cholesterol above the upper limits if one is consuming a normal amount of eggs each week.
If you have elevated cholesterol, it might be a good idea to keep an eye on the amount of eggs you eat, so that you stay within a healthy limit each week.
4. More Fiber Is Always Better
Fiber may support dieting and weight loss, but overeating fiber isn’t always a good thing. If you increase your fiber intake suddenly, you might suffer from gas, bloating, and other digestive issues. Like everything else, fiber should be eaten in moderation. If you want to increase your daily fiber intake, start out slow and gradually increase the amount you’re consuming.
5. High-Fructose Corn Syrup Is Worse Than Sugar
Many of us have heard that high-fructose corn syrup is terrible for your health. But how did this rumor start? Maybe it came about when someone realized that high-fructose corn syrup is in so many things.
While studies have shown a correlation between high-fructose corn syrup and obesity, the American Medical Association has concluded that it is no different from regular sugar when it comes to an individual developing obesity. But as high-fructose corn syrup is in nearly every processed food, it’s still good to keep an eye on the amount you consume.
6. Caffeine Is Bad for You
In extremely high doses, caffeine can be detrimental to your health. However, this stimulant doesn’t deserve the bad reputation it often gets, especially when one consumes it in moderation.
Perhaps surprisingly, caffeine can be beneficial to your health: it provides boosts of energy and can help speed up your metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories (especially before a workout). In fact, some studies show that caffeine can be beneficial for your liver.
7. Starchy Foods Lead to Weight Gain
Starchy foods, such as bread, rice, cereals, pasta, potatoes, and fruits, are often associated with weight gain and obesity. The truth is, many of these foods are actually low in fat and calories, making them a perfect part of a properly balanced diet.
The only problem? These starchy foods aren’t as filling as protein-rich foods, which causes people to eat more than they need. In other words, starchy foods do not necessarily lead to excess weight gain, but they do make overeating easier.
8. Fast Food Should Always Be Avoided
With high levels of saturated fat and excessive calories, fast food has gotten a bad name. However, it shouldn’t be ruled out of a person’s meal plan entirely. The NIDDK suggests making smarter choices at the drive-thru, like avoiding supersized combo meals and opting for salads and grilled chicken breast sandwiches instead of hamburgers. In short, a healthy diet may include fast food every now and then.
9. Eating Late at Night Leads to Weight Gain
Late-night eating does cause excess weight gain — but excess calories, no matter what time you’re eating them, might. All of this to say, the most important thing to account for is how many calories you’re consuming against how many calories you’re burning.
Want to have a late-night snack? Ask yourself how many calories you consumed during the day. If you’ve had several meals and snacks throughout the day, you’ve probably hit your calorie goal.
10. Eating Red Meat Is Bad For Your Health
Red meat is often associated with numerous health risks, from cancer and heart attack to stroke. Overeating red meat is always frowned upon, but it can be part of a nutritious diet when eaten in moderation. Eating leaner forms of red meat in moderation allows folks to reap its benefits. For example, red meat is packed with protein, iron, and zinc.
- “Dispelling myths about a new healthful food can be more motivating than promoting nutritional benefits: the case of Tofu” via U.S. National Library of Medicine
- “Diet and Cancer Prevention: Separating Fact from Myth” via U.S. National Library of Medicine
- “Myths, Presumptions, and Facts about Obesity” via U.S. National Library of Medicine
- “Nutrition Myths and Healthy Dietary Advice in Clinical Practice” via American Family Physician
- “Nutrition – facts and myths” via Acta Pharmaceutica