Debunking 10 Common Nutrition Myths

We are constantly being bombarded with advice on what we should and shouldn’t eat from numerous information sources (social media particularly), as well as in conversations with friends and family.

Unfortunately, not all this advice is accurate, and many nutrition myths persist despite scientific evidence to the contrary. Here are 10 common nutrition myths we’ll debunk to help you make informed choices about your diet.

Myth 1: Carbs are the enemy

One of the most pervasive nutrition myths is that carbohydrates are bad and should be avoided. In reality, carbohydrates are a crucial source of energy for your body and for your brain. It is the type of carbs you consume that matters. Choose whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and limit refined carbohydrates like sugary snacks and white bread for optimal health.

Myth 2: Fat makes you fat

The belief that eating fat makes you gain weight has been debunked. Healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, nuts, olive oil, and fish are essential for your body's functions. Including these in small amounts does not lead to weight gain. Weight gain happens when the energy (calories) you consume is greater than the energy you expend (activity) as your body converts it to fat as a means of storing energy. Excess calorie intake, regardless of the macronutrient (protein, fat or carbohydrate), will lead to weight gain.

Myth 3: All calories are equal

Some calories are what we call “empty calories”. This means they provide little or no nutrients other than energy. Nutrient-dense foods like vegetables and lean proteins provide more nutritional value than empty-calorie junk foods.

Myth 4: Eating late at night leads to weight gain

The timing of your meals matters less than the overall quality and quantity of what you eat. As long as your “energy in equals energy out”, eating late at night won't inherently lead to weight gain. What matters most is the content of your late-night snack and the overall daily energy (calorie) intake.

Myth 5: Detox diets are necessary

Detox diets and cleanses often promise to remove toxins from your body, but your body has its own detoxification systems in place. Instead of detox diets, focus on eating a balanced diet rich in wholegrains (fibre), fruits and vegetables (antioxidants) to support your body's natural detoxification processes. This will also help to keep your gut bacteria happy.

Myth 6: All protein sources are equal

While protein is essential for building and repairing tissues, not all protein sources are equal. Animal based proteins such as lean meats and fish, eggs and dairy foods are known as complete proteins, meaning they contain all the essential amino acids necessary to build and repair tissues. Plant-based proteins like beans and lentils (except soy beans) are not complete proteins, meaning they lack one or two of the essential amino acids. Soy (tofu, edamame, tempeh) is a complete protein and makes a good choice for vegetarians and vegans. Combining different grains and legumes can also make complete proteins. 

Myth 7: Skipping meals helps with weight loss

Skipping meals can slow down your metabolism and lead to overeating later in the day. It's better to eat regular, balanced meals and snacks to maintain steady energy levels and control your appetite.

Myth 8: Egg yolks are bad for your cholesterol

For years, egg yolks were demonized due to their cholesterol content. However, recent research has shown that dietary cholesterol has a minimal impact on blood cholesterol levels for most people. Eggs are a nutrient-rich food that can be part of a healthy diet.

Myth 9: All sugar is the same

There are different types of sugar in the foods we eat. Fruits have natural sugars that come with fibre and essential nutrients, but processed foods have added sugars that have little nutritional value. It is important for your health to limit the amount of added sugars you consume.

Myth 10: You need to eat meat to get enough protein

While meat is a good source of complete proteins, you can get all the protein you need from a vegetarian or vegan diet by incorporating tofu products and by including a variety of beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds and wholegrains. A balanced plant-based diet can provide ample complete protein – you just need to make sure that you’re eating a combination of these foods.

Nutrition is a complex and ever-evolving field, and misinformation can make it challenging to make healthy choices. By debunking these 10 common nutrition myths, we hope to empower you to make informed decisions about your diet. Remember that a balanced and varied diet, rich in whole foods, is key to maintaining good health. The UQ Nutrition and Dietetics Clinic is also a great service you can refer to for personalised nutrition advice.

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Last updated:
19 October 2023