Nutrition Myths

10 nutrition myths you should stop believing

juice cleanseThese juices may look pretty, but they’re no miracle cure.Iudina Ekaterina/Shutterstock

Juice cleanses. Low-carb diets. Superfoods. Nutrition myths masquerading as health or medical advice are everywhere.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that there’s “one crazy trick” that will completely detox your system, help you lose weight, or lower your cholesterol — but you should resist.

INSIDER talked to nutritionists Grace Derocha, a registered dietitian and wellness coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and Frida Harju, a nutritionist at the health app Lifesum, who helped us debunk common nutrition myths that can harm, rather than help, your health.

Activated charcoal is a superfood

Activated charcoal is a superfood

Eating and even brushing your teeth with activated charcoal is the latest trend within the superfood craze.showcake/Shutterstock

Activated charcoal is not quite as super as its super-fans would have you believe.

“Activated charcoal is known for its absorption properties … but it can also deplete your system of good nutrients your body needs,” Derocha told INSIDER. “Activated charcoal supplements may diminish the effectiveness of medications people take as well.”

Artificial sweeteners are better than the alternative

Artificial sweeteners are better than the alternative

Artificial sweeteners are usually thought to be better because they’re low in sugar, and totally sugar-free.Steve Snodgrass / Flickr

“Many artificial sweeteners are highly processed chemicals and most people’s bodies don’t react well to them causing digestive issues and even headaches,” Derocha said. She recommends adding a bit of honey, agave, or raw stevia root (not the packaged stuff) to your meals instead.

Carbs are the enemy

Carbs are the enemy

Gluten-free and low-carb diets are some of the most pervasive misleading health claims out there.Lithiumphoto / Shutterstock

We already know that gluten-free diets are a bad idea, but Derocha emphasizes that not all carbs are created equal: “Complex carbs found in whole grain or whole wheat foods contain healthy levels of nutrients and fiber,” she said. “Simple carbohydrates like white rice and white bread are the type that cause issues due to their lack of nutrients.”

Cravings mean you have a nutritional deficiency

Cravings mean you have a nutritional deficiency

When you crave meat or dairy, the (not-so) old wives’ tale indicates that your body is trying to tell you something.Photo and Share CC/Flickr

“It is difficult to conclusively say that cravings are connected to nutritional deficiencies,” Derocha said. “Often, it’s a way for people to justify eating certain foods.”

She said that cravings could actually be a little-known sign of dehydration, so keep drinking water!

Eating after 6 p.m. is a bad idea

Eating after 6 p.m. is a bad idea

Eating at night has always had bad connotations associated with it.photographee.eu/Shutterstock

“This is a persistent myth,” Harju said. “Your body won’t know what time it is, whether it is 6 or 7 p.m., what it does know is how many calories you consume.” She suggests instead of putting a cutoff time on your meals, to eat smaller portions instead.

Eating fats will make you fat

Eating fats will make you fat

For decades, fats have been the enemy of good health, but now nutritionists are doing an about-face on this advice.dulezidar/iStock

“Fat is a necessary element in our diets, as the body can’t process some vitamins without the fat’s help in dissolving them into your system,” Harju said. “It’s important not to cut out all fats from your diet, but instead, know the difference between the healthy and unhealthy varieties.”

She recommends sticking with monounsaturated fats like olive oil, fish, avocados, and nuts.

Frozen vegetables aren’t as healthy as fresh vegetables

Frozen vegetables aren’t as healthy as fresh vegetables

Frozen vegetables get a bed reputation because fresh vegetables just sound better for you.bonchan/Shutterstock

This is a tricky one. Sometimes fresh produce does have more nutrients than frozen, but often fresh produce loses some of its nutrients through exposure to oxygen and sunlight, according to Harju.

“A good rule of thumb is to buy frozen produce when it isn’t in season and fresh, local produce when in season,” she advised.

Juice cleanses can detox your system

Juice cleanses can detox your system

Juice cleanses are the most popular type of detox that’s supposed to clear your body of noxious “toxins.”Iudina Ekaterina/Shutterstock

Juice cleanses can actually be dangerous because they “rid the body” of important nutrients and calories so that it’s forced to go into starvation mode, according to Derocha. That’s why you lose weight so fast when you go on a “detox” program.

“Your best bet is to count on your body’s natural cleansing mechanisms, consume nutrient-dense food, stay active, control portions and drink plenty of water,” she said.

You need to drink eight glasses of water a day

You need to drink eight glasses of water a day

The “eight glasses of water a day” mantra has been drilled into our heads, but hardly anyone actually follows it.Stockphotosforfree/Flickr

Your body does need significant amounts of water to survive and thrive, but there are other ways to stay hydrated besides plain old H2O.

“We can get some of the required liquid from other drinks, such as tea, coffee, and fruits and vegetables,” Harju said.

You should eat seven small meals every day

You should eat seven small meals every day

So the myth goes: it’s better to eat several small meals or snacks every day than to indulge in three normal-sized meals.pixelbliss/Shutterstock

“Everyone’s body and metabolism are different, so this approach cannot be considered a viable go-to option in every case,” Derocha said. The best thing to do is to be mindful of portion size and never skip meals, she added.

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