10 nutrition myths you should stop believing
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 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
“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
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
“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
“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
“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
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 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
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
“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.