As with any large and active industry, facts and truths are bound to be misinterpreted and misconstrued over time.
As we approach 2014, what is a truth and what is a myth is still unclear to most people.
Because of this, we got in touch with 30+ experts from a variety of different fields (ranging from nutritionists, influential nutrition bloggers, and dietitians) who helped us answer the following question:
When talking to your friends, families and clients, what is the biggest lie/myth about nutrition that people still commonly believe to be true?
The 2 most popular myths were the following:
- Saturated fat is bad for you
- Egg yolks should be avoided at all costs
To my surprise however, the majority of our responses didn’t fall under these categories, and were in fact so diverse that we weren’t even able to categorize them.
I was happy to see this because a lot of myths that are less frequently talked about were brought up by these experts (remember, these were their biggest myths, meaning that even though they’re less talked about online, lots of people still very much believe in them).
Although experts in the field may sometimes have varying opinions on certain topics (such as dietitian’s and holistic nutritionists), we think it’s valuable to get opinions from everyone.
I highly encourage you to read each and every answer we received! For those who want to jump straight to their favourite expert though, feel free to use the links below.
Ameer Rosic, Ayla Withee
Carolyn Brown, Cindy Silver, Corinne Dobbas
Dan Bolton, Darya Rose, Donielle Baker
EA Stewart, Elisa Zied, Emily @anutritionisteats
Janice Newell Bissex and Liz Weiss, Jennifer House, Joy McCarthy
Karen Roth, Kathie Swift, Kris Gunnars, Kristen Race, Kristen Ma
Lyssie Lakatos/Tammy Lakatos Shames
Marion Nestle, Maya Nahra, Melissa Ramos
Sally Kuzemchak, Sara Ouellette, Sarah Reiter, Steve Kamb, Summer Innanen
Tamara Duker Freuman, Tara Miller, Todd Dosenberry
Vanessa Perrone, Vani Hari
Below you’ll find the answers given by each expert in no particular order.
Vani Hari – Blogger and Health Food Activist
A big myth that a lot people still believe is that Subway is a healthy fast food choice.
Vani has written a post specifically on this topic here.
The biggest myth I see perpetrated by both the weight loss industry and the medical community is that dieting is necessary for better health and weight control. While self-control and restraint works great for short-term goals, long-term goals like health and fitness require a different strategy.
Robb Wolf – NY Times Best Selling author
That bacon and eggs are a bad breakfast.
Robb is best selling author of his book, The Paleo Solution.
Joy McCarthy – Nutrition Expert on GlobalTV’s Morning Show
That salt is bad for you, could raise blood pressure and is not heart-healthy. Even though this drives me a bit bonkers I also see it as an opportunity to educate someone in the difference between table salt and sodium in processed foods versus sea salt and rock salt. Sea and rock salts are full of trace minerals, in some cases over 50 different kinds and are actually heart-healthy!
I always put a good pinch of salt on my salads and not only is it a great dose of alkaline minerals but it also brings out flavours joyously. My clients are often smiling when I tell them they can still use salt, just switch to a healthier kind, not table salt.
Ameer Rosic – Holistic Nutritionist & Functional Medicine Practitioner
Cholesterol is important for our bodies and for every hormone in the body. Cholesterol doesn’t cause arteriosclerosis and heart disease. Instead, inflammation and other factors like eating too much refined sugar causes it. Don’t be afraid of cholesterol – and instead, learn to eat good fats.
People think bread, pasta, potatoes (you name the white food of choice) are the devil! They’ve been blamed for causing everything from obesity to diabetes. In fact, carbohydrate-rich foods–especially high fiber, low sugar whole grains provide the main fuel your brain and entire central nervous system need to thrive and survive. In fact, higher carbohydrate diets have been linked with lower body weight in several studies. And foods rich in quality carbs–whole wheat breads and pasta, oatmeal, and potatoes–provide fiber and tons of nutrients to keep you healthy. Instead of excluding them, you can include them in your daily diet without going overboard and while emphasizing the highest fiber, lowest added sugar options that are healthfully prepared.
Tamara Duker Freuman – MS, RD, CDN
I’m always hearing people justify the use of sugars and juices because they’re “organic” (or “natural”–like the sugar in the raw, or honey, for example) and therefore must be healthy, or at least healthier. Sugar is sugar. Your body can’t tell the difference whether it was organically grown or not.
Lyssie Lakatos/Tammy Lakatos Shames – Authors, RD & Personal Trainers
Eating after 7pm causes weight gain.
EA Stewart – RD
Myth: “Eat your biggest meal of the day at noon.”
Everyone is individual when it comes to eating patterns, and I personally find myself very sleepy if I eat a large meal at noon, so lunch actually tends to be my smallest meal of the day, with a small snack in the late afternoon to tide me over until dinner.
Nathane Jackson – Holistic Nutritionist
I guess one that I get a lot of deals with “foodtribalism.” Meaning my diet is better than your diet or paleo vs vegan, vegan vs vegetarian, Mediterranean vs Zone and so on. I am plantbased and I would love to say a 100% plant based diet is the best diet out there but for a lot of people, it is not. Just as Paleo isn’t great for everyone, saying “just eating whole foods,” is too general however a phenomenal place to start. Lucretius said “one man’s food may be a fierce poison to others.” So even for vegans, this may mean the highly regarded vegetables can negatively affect certain conditions. Such as those that have arthritis and may need to stay away from tomatoes and other nightshades vegetables until their gut health clears up or those with thyroid issues may need to stay away from the raw brassiness family vegetables until thyroid function is balanced.
Vanessa Perrone – MSc., RD
The most common misconception among my clients is that all unsaturated fats are good and all saturated fats are bad. The tide might be (finally) changing, but the notion is still very much engrained.
Sally Kuzemchak – MS, RD
Myth: “Eating fat will make you fat”. Fat is so important because it makes meals and snacks satisfying and keeps us fuller longer. And healthy fats in foods like salmon, nuts, avocados, and olive oil are so important for health. Besides, many products labeled “fat free” or “low fat” are hyper-processed anyway.
Kris Gunnars – Blogger, Medical Student & Personal Trainer
Many people find it hard to accept that ‘fatty’ foods like eggs and butter are not harmful. Even though the myth about saturated fat and dietary cholesterol has been thoroughly debunked, the bias against these foods still remains.
Janice Newell Bissex and Liz Weiss – Authors & RD’s
A lot of people still think it’s healthy to toss the yolk of the egg away when the majority of the nutrition is in the yolk (things like choline, lutein, and vitamin D). Plus, there is more heart-healthy monounsaturated fat than saturated in the yolk.
Marion Nestle – NYU Professor & Author
When it comes to body weight, the idea that what you eat is more important than how much you eat is a myth. What you eat matters tremendously for health. For weight, calories count. And larger portions have more calories!
Kristen Race – RD
That’s a tough question because there are so many! Definitely a big myth that most still have is that saturated fats and cholesterol are very bad for us. Another is that all bacteria is bad and everything must be sterile. Fermented foods are some of the best foods for overall health 🙂
Melissa Ramos – Holistic Nutritionist
Myth: Fat is bad for you!
Truth: Our body requires fat to function. We require fat for hormone production, brain power and our cells are lined with it. The problem is people are consuming low-fat products and in an effort to stay health turning to low-fat substitutes which also is making many people constipated. Fat controls blood sugar, so if your diet is low fat, then you may run the risk of getting hungry more easily. Great sources of fat to include is organic unsalted butter (which is a better alternative than margarine), coconut oil and olive oil. Adding these fats into your world is a great place to start!
Ayla Withee – MS, RD, LDN
A common myth I hear is that weight management is all about calories-in, calories-out and portion control. I think this has become a popular over-simplification of the issue and in reality, there are a number of factors that contribute to a healthy weight -many of which are very individual-specific. Oh, and I always hear that eggs, especially eggs yolks, are bad for you and absolutely cringe when I see people go for egg beaters instead.
That saturated fat is “bad.”
Emily – Blogger
I cringe when I hear people talk about using only egg whites! Egg whites have their time and place, but there is no reason to get rid of the yolk. Most of the nutrients found in eggs are found in the yolk, and more and more research is showing that dietary cholesterol has little affect on cholesterol levels. Eat the yolk in addition to the white!
Jennifer House – MSc, RD
The most common is “my baby/child is not eating enough” which is almost never the actual truth.
Jennifer has written a post on this exact topic on her blog.
Cindy Silver – RD
The biggest nutrition myth that I hear day-after-day, year-after-year, and regardless of trends such as low carb, gluten free, is this:
I cannot afford to eat healthfully.
My answer is this:
You cannot afford not to eat healthfully. Start by writing down a simple menu plan. Then, shop for your menu and include simple, seasonal fruits and veggies (fresh, canned without added salt, frozen plain), whole grains, small portions of lean meat/fish/poultry, low fat or nonfat dairy foods. When you get home, put your menu plan into action. Stay as organized as possible and make an effort, little-by-little, to improve your cooking skills. Make simple meals that fuel your healthy life.
Maya Nahra – Behaviourial Nutritionist, RD, LD
Myth: The number on the scale determines my level of success in my diet.
Truth: A decrease in the number on the scale will always be a symptom of the new healthy habits you’ve adopted in your life. Success is not measured on a scale. (Neither is happiness!) I would highly suggest adopting the belief that success can be measured by your feel good factor, a measurement that includes changes in energy levels, digestion, and body fat percentages, quality of sleep, clarity of thought, improvements in mood and stress handling, and even increased emotional intelligence! A healthy diet is all about finding a way of eating that makes you feel good.
Kathie Swift – MS, RDN, LDN
That butter, coconut and saturated fats are bad for you!!!
Dan Bolton – Blogger
The biggest myth I encounter in people trying to lose weight is thinking that there are certain foods that make you fat and certain foods that make you skinny, as opposed to being in a calorie deficit. Quality is important but so is quantity.
Kristen Ma – Author & Owner of Pure and Simple Spa
The biggest myth that I encounter is that if we aren’t eating “junk food” that we are eating a healthy diet. My perspective is that we need to eat according to our constitutions and needs, this may mean cutting out so-called healthy foods too. So while avoiding processed foods is important, we really need to look at one’s body metabolism, food sensitivities and imbalances to out together a diet plan!
Donielle Baker – Author of Naturally Knocked Up
The food I eat doesn’t affect my fertility.
Sara Ouellette – Holistic Nutritionist
From the top of my head, two of the biggest myths that I still hear with a lot of my clients and family are that margarine is healthier than any other fat, and that eggs should be eaten without the yolk. Those two things drive me crazy! And it’s sometimes very hard to get through to people because of their misinformed, old fashion doctors.
Tara Miller – Holistic Nutritionist
I would say that people still think they need to drink milk/eat cheese do get enough calcium…which is totally not true! We can get tons of absorbable calcium from plant sources such as kale, almond and sesame seeds (tahini) and do not need dairy products to be healthy!
Paula Martinac – M.A., M.S., Writer
Many of my clients still believe you can’t get all the nutrients you need if you don’t eat animal-based foods — they think being vegetarian leads to numerous nutrient deficiencies, especially protein.
Steve Kamb – Fitness Blogger
The biggest myth I see these days is still that fat makes you fat. If you go back and look at the history of how fat got “vilified” it’s quite fascinating. Fat is so freaking important to our diet and health…I’m excited for more people to come to that realization as time goes on.
Sarah Reiter – Health & Wellness writer
Aside from avoiding or severly limiting processed and refined foods (foodstuff made in a lab) the best rule of thumb is just to listen to your body and eat a diet that makes you feel good. EveryBODY is different. Yes we are all made of the same elements and building blocks but of different combinations so our bodies react to elements differently. I can’t eat gluten and feel good. So for ME wheat is bad. Nutrition is one way to maintain a balance and there is no one way that works for everyone. Other than maybe eat the way nature intended.
Summer Innanen – Holistic Nutritionist
When it comes to weight loss, the myth that it’s all about calories in and calories out OR that calories don’t matter at all.
Karen Roth – MS, CNC
Most people believe that all red meat is bad for their health. When in reality, if it’s grass fed AND grass finished, allowed to roam freely and not given antibiotics or hormones, grass-fed beef is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, the healthy fat found in salmon, in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a proven cancer fighter.
Corinne Dobbas – MS, RD
Nutrition myth: That all smoothies are healthy.
If they’re loaded with fruit, juice, and flavored or frozen yogurt, they can be sugary calorie bombs. Instead, opt for smoothies with mostly veggies, a little fruit, and a source of protein, think protein-rich Greek yogurt, nut butters, or a clean eating protein powder (one without artificial sweeteners, sugar, artificial flavors and coloring, or preservatives).
Carolyn Brown – MS, RD
Some very interesting answers and insightful comments. A big thanks to those who had contributed to this gigantic post. Do you agree or disagree with any of the nutrition myths? Please share this if you enjoyed reading it!
Over the next few weeks we hope to bring in a few guests and dive deeper into a few more of these myths. If you have something you want to share about any of these topics, feel free to let us know!
Otherwise, make sure to follow us on Twitter so that you don’t miss our follow up posts.
30+ experts have given their thoughts on this. What about you? What is the most common nutrition myth that you hear whilst talking to friends and family? Let us know in the comments below!