19 Food Myths That Could Change the Way You Eat

Sometimes, deciding what to eat for a healthy diet can be confusing—with aggressive marketing by food manufacturers and questionable ‘food facts’ circulating in the media and online. Fear not! We’re here to cut through the misconceptions and reveal the truth. Here are 19 common food myths re-examined with a more scientific and unbiased approach.

Carbs Are Bad

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The Mayo Clinic insists carbohydrates are essential for providing your body with energy and macro-nutrients. While it’s true that refined white bread, pastry, and pasta can cause weight gain when consumed in excess, there are plenty of carbs that boost your health. Include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes in your diet for optimal gut health and energy levels.

All Calories Are Created Equal

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Many people view a food’s calorie content as the sole indicator of its impact on weight, but it’s far more complex than that. We get hungry when our bodies need energy or a certain nutrient, so high-calorie, nutritious foods will be more satiating than foods with fewer ’empty’ calories because they don’t provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber, leading to cravings later on.

Organic Food Is More Nutritious

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Organic farming produces food without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, but this doesn’t impact the nutritional content. Choosing organic food may benefit the environment and reduce the risk of chemical contamination, but the food itself doesn’t have superior health benefits. Ensure you thoroughly wash all produce (organic or not) before consuming.

Eating Fat Makes You Fat

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Healthline writes, “While it’s true that eating too much of any macronutrient, including fat, makes you gain weight, consuming fat-rich foods as part of a healthy, balanced diet does not lead to weight gain.” Just make sure you choose low-cholesterol, monounsaturated fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fatty fish—all of which offer many health benefits.

Fasting Helps You Lose Weight

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Skipping meals, especially breakfast, disrupts your metabolism and can cause unhealthy cravings and overeating later in the day. The Economic Times warns that fluctuating blood sugar levels lead to erratic calorie burning and that excessive fasting can put your body in ‘starvation’ mode, ultimately causing it to store calories as fat more readily.

Detox Diets Are Necessary

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According to Health, “One of the liver’s functions in the body is the metabolism of drugs and detoxification of substances in the blood; therefore, it does not require cleansing.” So long as you possess a functioning liver and kidneys, you do not need to detox. Fad diets labeled ‘miracle cures’ are often destructive and cause health problems rather than preventing them.

Gluten Is Bad for Everyone

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Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, and it has been a vital component of human diets for thousands of years. Unless you genuinely suffer from gluten intolerance (like celiac disease), eating gluten is safe, digestible, and has no negative health effects.

Spicy Food Causes Ulcers

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Unless you have a medical condition like gastritis or heartburn, spicy foods like chilies and curries won’t damage your digestive system. Stomach ulcers are holes in the stomach lining that cause stomach acid to contact underlying tissue, resulting in a burning pain. They are primarily caused by the H. pylori bacteria or prolonged use of certain medications.

Artificial Sweeteners Are Awesome

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Sadly, you rarely get ‘something for nothing,’ and low-calorie sweeteners found in products like Coke Zero have many potential drawbacks. Although they may seem better for your teeth and weight, they can affect gut biomes and have a laxative effect. In addition, over-reliance on them can impact brain chemistry, causing increased cravings for ‘real’ sugar over time.

Breakfast Is the Most Important Meal of the Day

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This myth exaggerates the importance of breakfast. Dr. Kellogg (a nutritionist) first made the claim and went on to have commercial success with his own grain-based breakfast food, Corn Flakes! Those who skip breakfast or eat lightly aren’t prone to health problems, so long as they eat sufficient nutrients and calories each day.

Eating Late at Night Makes You Gain Weight

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This false statement should be rephrased as “Eating more calories than you burn makes you gain weight.” The most important things for weight loss or maintenance are your calorie count, the type of food you’re eating, and your energy levels. So long as you burn more calories than you consume daily, you will lose weight, no matter the timing of your meals.

Eggs Are Bad for Your Cholesterol

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Egg yolks do contain cholesterol, but their whites do not. In any case, dietary cholesterol has a minimal impact on blood cholesterol levels in healthy individuals, and focusing on the cholesterol in eggs ignores their other health benefits. They are an excellent source of protein, ‘good’ fats, and essential nutrients; just ensure you eat both the yolks and the whites.

Fruit Must Be Eaten on an Empty Stomach

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This myth stems from the idea that fruit is easily digestible and its nutrients are absorbed better without the presence of other food. In reality, fruit is just as nutritious when mixed with other ingredients like yogurt, cereal, or nuts. Combining fruits with other foods increases the meal’s nutritional value and can keep you full for longer.

Multivitamins Cure All

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Multivitamins support individuals with nutrient deficiencies or dietary restrictions, but they are not a substitute for a varied, balanced diet of whole foods and fresh produce. Time Magazine reports that the full spectrum of nutrients humans need to thrive doesn’t exist in pill form, so take vitamins alongside fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other nutritious foods.

You Must Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day

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Staying hydrated is important, but you won’t die of dehydration if you drink only six glasses of water daily! How much water an individual needs depends on their weight, activity level, age, diet, salt intake, and the climate in which they live. The most important thing is to drink water regularly and avoid letting yourself get to the point where you feel thirsty.

Expired Food Is Always Unsafe

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For all but the highest-risk foods (like shellfish and raw fish), the “best by” and “use by” dates merely indicate when food will start to decline in texture, flavor, or quality. So long as a food smells and looks unspoiled, it is typically safe to eat, even if the “best before” date has passed. Just ensure you thoroughly inspect food for signs of spoilage before consuming it.

Milk Is Necessary for Bone Health

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While calcium is an essential dietary component for strong bones, dairy products aren’t the only good source of this mineral. Those following a vegan diet can get all the calcium they need from plant-based alternatives like fortified plant milks, leafy greens, tofu, and nuts. Indeed, Healthline claims that seeds (especially chia and poppy seeds) are the best source of calcium of all!

Processed Foods Are Unhealthy

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This depends on which processed foods you are talking about. Fatty, highly processed, high salt or sugar foods like fast food are often unhealthy, but some minimally processed options offer essential nutrients and extra convenience. Products like canned fish, frozen vegetables, and pre-cut fruit are perfectly acceptable for a balanced diet.

“Healthy” Means Low-Fat

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In reality, “healthy” means a balanced diet that includes a large amount of carbohydrates and fresh fruit/vegetables, some protein, and a small amount of fat. While saturated or trans fats do increase the risk of heart disease and obesity, avocados, nuts, seeds, fish, and olive oil provide essential ‘good’ fats that help keep our bodies functioning properly.

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