Top 14 Myths About Food and Nutrition

Do carbs make you fat? Will eating tons of protein help you get Ahnold’s muscles? Local health experts give us the cold, hard facts.

By: Melissa Romero

Happy Nutrition Month! To start it off the right way, we rounded up 14 of the most common and persistent myths about food and asked local dietitians and nutritionists to debunk them. Read on to find out the real deal--some of the answers may surprise you.

If you have diabetes, stay away from sugar and you'll be fine.

The truth: "All foods have different effects on blood sugar levels," says nutritionist Robyn Webb. "While sugar is nutritionally devoid, it's the total number of carbohydrates that may play a role in blood sugar management. So it's important to monitor blood sugar even after eating whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, and whole grains."

Fat makes you fat.

The truth: Fat gets such a bad rap that we often forget there are such things as healthy fats, such as those found in nuts, olive oil, salmon, and avocados, says Nicole Ferring Holovach. Yes, fat grams do contain more calories than carbs or proteins, but fat is still an essential component of our diet. Adds Elise Museles: They "keep you satiated by slowing down the digestion process so you stay full for a longer period of time."

Eating more protein will lead to bigger muscles.

The truth: “A myth perpetuated in gyms!” Webb says. “While eating protein is important, eating more than you need is unnecessary. Resistance training and exercises in which you use your body weight as resistance, such as yoga, can lead to a more defined look. But eating a ton a protein is not going to lead to large muscular development.”

Muscle weighs more than fat.

The truth: “Unless the laws of physics have changed, one pound is one pound is one pound,” says Elana Natker. “The difference is that muscle is denser than fat, so one pound of muscle takes up less space than a pound of fat.”

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Egg yolks are bad for you.

The truth: Don’t waste those yolks anymore—they’re a “goldmine of nutrition,” says Holovach. One yolk contains half of your day’s requirement of choline, which is an essential nutrient for the brain. Plus recent research shows that dietary cholesterol doesn’t affect blood cholesterol levels as much as previously thought, Holovach adds. Eggs for breakfast will fill you up with protein and fat and will keep you from overeating the rest of the day.

Eight glasses of water a day is the magic number.

The truth: Just like with nutrients and calories, basic hydration needs varies for each individual, says Heather Calcote. How much water you need to drink daily depends on your exercise and activity level, and even the temperature of where you live. A person needs to learn to recognize thirst and drink water both with meals and in between meal times as needed. “Remember that things like tea, coffee, soup, and most fruits also contribute to water intake, but be mindful of added sugars, caffeine, and sodium.”

To lose weight, avoid indulging.

The truth: “Healthy eating and healthy living is all about balance,” says Stephanie Mull, so there’s always room for most foods in one’s diet. “People who restrict too much create psychological connections to those forbidden foods, causing them to overeat when they do consume them.”

“Healthy” foods are bland.

The truth: There are many ways to make natural foods tasty and nutritious at the same time, says Elise Museles. You just need to know the best foods to mix together. “Picture a simple smoothie made with all kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables; a colorful salad with deeply pigmented vegetables and some added protein (plant or animal-based); or a savory soup with butternut squash and a side of homemade kale chips.”

Eating after 7 PM will make you gain weight.

The truth: “You don’t magically store more fat after 7 PM,” says Danielle Omar. “What and how much you eat will determine weight gain or loss.” To lose weight, try spreading out your calories throughout the day, so you’re not starving in the evening and end up overeating, she suggests.

Carrots are high in sugar, so you should avoid them.

The truth: Carrots are more than 85 percent water, and one pound of cooked carrots only has three teaspoons of sugar. In fact, since they’re high in phytochemicals such as beta carotene and fiber, eating them will actually help lower blood sugar, Omar says.

Babies sleep better and longer if you give them formula before bed.

The truth: It’s an old wives’ tale, says Natker. In fact, formula can cause an upset stomach in some babies, which would certainly keep them up at night. A good night’s rest really depends on a baby’s size, daily sleep patterns, and temperament.

Eating a product labeled gluten-free is healthy.

The truth: Gluten-free is a hot trend in the world of nutrition, but it’s not for everyone, says Museles. While those who jump on the gluten-free bandwagon even if they don’t suffer from celiac disease often feel better, it’s most likely because they’ve eliminated processed foods from their diet. Eating naturally gluten-free foods such as quinoa, sweet potatoes, and millet is great, but gluten-free processed food is not necessarily a healthy choice.

Ground turkey and chicken are always better for you than ground beef.  

The truth: Ground turkey and chicken can be made of any parts of the bird, including the higher-fat dark meat and skin, says Claire LeBrun, senior nutritionist at GW Medical Faculty Associates. Ground beef comes this way, too, but it's labeled with the percentage of fat. In fact, 95 percent lean or "extra lean" ground beef  is much lower in fat than most ground turkey. Lebrun says for the leanest meat, look for packages labeled "ground turkey breast."