Co-Written by Talia Cecchele & Andrea Clares
How many times have you felt confused around nutrition information given by certain 'experts' in the media? One day they tell you fats are bad, the next it's carbs, the next gluten, lactose, free-sugars... until you end up back to where you started, asking yourself - what the hell should I eat? I’m here to help you dispel five common nutrition myths!
Carbohydrates make you fat
This is the BIGGEST myth! Carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient and our bodies preferred fuel source. Grains, vegetables, fruit and dairy all contain carbohydrates and if we cut them out there wouldn’t be much left to eat! Carbohydrates provide the body with a variety of nutrients such as folate, thiamine (vitamin B1), vitamin B6, magnesium and fibre which is needed to maintain a healthy gut.
Aim to eat a variety of carbs, mostly from complex sources like wholegrains, fruit and vegetables. Quality and quantity is important when it comes to building a balanced diet.
Fruit has too much sugar
Sugar in fruit is found naturally (not added) in the form of fructose and while too much sugar can put our health at risk, fruit is so much more than the sugar it contains. Fruit has an extraordinary nutritional profile including fibre, essential vitamins and minerals and antioxidants which can protect our cells against toxic chemicals. Fruit can’t be compared to the sugar found in processed foods as they aren’t as nutrient dense.
For balance, aim to eat 2-3 serves of fruit daily and mix it up! Try to make them a different colour each time. Variety is key.
Gluten free foods are healthier
Absolutely not! The only times situation you should be cutting out gluten is if you have been diagnosed with coeliac disease. Gluten is a gluey protein found in wheat, barley and rye which helps foods like bread, hold together. It is found in many products including pasta and other grains, seasonings, sauces, dietary supplements and processed foods.
Avoiding gluten containing foods can result in a higher intake of sugar, fat and salt from processed gluten-free alternatives, vitamin and mineral deficiencies and low fibre intake if not planned well. If you suspect you have a gluten intolerance please speak to your GP or a Registered Dietitian before eliminating foods from your diet.
Low fat is better for you
Fat is essential for the proper functioning of hormones, helps with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D ,E and K) and is essential for our brain to support our concentration and long-term memory. Low-fat options like ice cream, cereal bars, biscuits and yoghurt are mistakenly thought to be healthier than their full fat varieties. However, to make low-fat foods taste great companies often have to add sugar, additives and artificial sweeteners to replace the taste and mouth-feel of fat. Check the ingredient list to see.
Fat helps to keep us feeling fuller for longer as well which is important for appetite regulation and weight management. Aim to include mostly unsaturated fats such as oily fish, avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds in your diet
All calories are equal
A calorie is a unit of energy, just like a gram is a unit of weight. Reducing calories to achieve weight loss (in a healthy way) is absolutely fine, but it’s not okay when you forget to focus on the nutritional quality of your diet. For example, 1 tablespoon of nutella on a slice of bread has the same number of calories as half a small avocado on bread but lacks many essential nutrients that avocado provides. If you fill up on diet and low calorie products this can increase cravings and doesn’t leave you satisfied which can lead to overeating and nutritional deficiencies on the long term if you don’t address the nutritional quality of your diet too.
It is not just down to the calories when we think of our overall diet, but how much nutrition we get from the foods we eat. Focus on the nutrients over numbers and trust your internal hunger rather than a calorie-counting app.
I hope that helps to dispel some myths you may have encountered. Having a positive relationship with food is to eat a balanced and flexible diet which includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods without rigid rules.
Andrea is a Registered Nutritionist and Intern at TCN! Her mission is to empower and equip you with all you need to live a healthy and fulfilling life, diet and guilt free. You can find Andrea on instagram @andreacm_nutrition and check out her website here.
Talia is a registered dietitian working in private practice and as an eating disorder specialist dietitian in London's leading private mental health hospital. As a freelance dietitian, Talia not only offers 1:1 consultations but can present at your workplace, create recipes or articles or host a cooking demonstration. To enquire please fill out a contact form.