Health and nutrition information is everywhere. When scrolling through Instagram or TikTok, you’re bound to see some influencer touting incorrect diet claims every second or third post.
Unfortunately, even doctors and dietitians are guilty of popularizing misinformation on social media and other platforms.
Here are 5 common nutrition myths that need to be put to bed.
1. Eat 4-6 Small Meals a Day for Optimal Health
You’ve probably heard that eating small, frequent meals throughout the day is the best way to boost your metabolism and lose weight. This is a common misconception. While it is true that the digestion of a meal increases metabolism slightly, the amount of food eaten at any given time is what determines how much energy is used to digest it.
Whether you eat 6 meals of 400 calories each or 3 meals of 800 calories each, there is no difference in the amount of energy your body will use during digestion. Studies show that eating more frequently does not promote weight loss or optimal health.
It really comes down to what works best for you and your lifestyle. If you find yourself hungry between meals, eat a balanced snack to keep your energy levels stable. If you’re too busy to eat 4-6 times per day, eat 3 larger meals to satisfy your energy needs.
2. All High Cholesterol Foods are Unhealthy
Eggs are often thought of as something to be avoided due to the cholesterol in egg yolks. Foods that are high in cholesterol have been perceived as unhealthy due to misinformation about how dietary cholesterol affects blood cholesterol levels and heart health.
While genetics can cause people to be more sensitive to cholesterol, most individuals can consume nutrient-dense cholesterol-rich foods as part of a healthy diet without negative health consequences.
Some foods that are high in cholesterol, such as eggs and full-fat yogurt, are also very nutritious. These foods may even promote health by increasing feelings of fullness and providing vitamins and minerals that other foods don’t.
If you like eggs, shrimp, or other foods that contain cholesterol, you enjoy them as part of a balanced diet without any significant risk to your heart health.
3. Carbs Make You Gain Weight
Magazines, websites, and social media posts everywhere insist that carbohydrates will make you gain weight and should be avoided. The popular belief is that consuming carbohydrates causes obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems.
In reality, carbohydrates provide the body with energy, just as fat and protein do. Your body uses carbohydrates for energy very efficiently. In fact, carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of fuel.
The consumption of nutritious complex carbs that are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals has actually been shown to promote health, not harm it. Higher intakes of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are associated with decreased risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems.
Simple carbohydrates, like cookies, cakes, candy, and sugar-sweetened beverages, should be consumed in balance with more nutritious foods (check out our protein brownie mix). To promote optimal health, these foods should make up only a small part of your diet.
There is no one food or macronutrient that will cause you to be unhealthy or gain weight. Consuming calories in excess of your body’s energy needs, no matter what food it comes from, will cause weight gain.
4. Eating at Night Causes Weight Gain
A common myth is that raiding the pantry past 8 p.m. causes weight gain or will hinder weight loss efforts. This misconception comes from the idea that eating at night goes against your body’s natural circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is an internal clock that tells your body when to sleep and when to wake. According to this biological clock, nighttime is for resting, not digesting.
Some animal studies support this hypothesis, however, a number of other studies observing humans show that time of day does not play a role in weight gain. Again, it is how much you eat, not when you eat, that causes changes in weight.
One thing worth considering is that if eating at night causes your total daily calorie intake to be more than your body expends, this will likely cause weight gain over time.
If you’re hungry in the evening, choose balanced snacks that include a fruit or vegetable and some protein. This helps slow digestion and keeps you feeling full for longer. Plus, you’ll get in an extra serving of produce. Try a protein smoothie with Naked Shake, plant milk, and frozen fruit.
5. Seed Oils are Harming Your Health
This is a new diet myth that has surfaced on social media more recently. In the United States, the intake of vegetable oils has increased substantially over the past 100 years. Seed oils are extracted from plants and used in cooking, baking, and in processed foods.
Although seed oils are considered healthy by most health professionals, there has been recent concern over the amount of omega-6 fatty acids contained in these oils.
You need to consume both omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids from your diet because your body cannot produce them on its own. It is recommended that omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids be consumed in similar quantities, suggesting that a 1:1 ratio is best to support optimal health. As the Western diet has evolved over time, the ratio has changed drastically and is now closer to 20:1. Most Americans consume more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3.
Some researchers believe that a higher omega-6 intake compared to omega-3 intake may play a role in increased inflammation. However, research examining how omega-6 fatty acids affect health generally does not support that these fats cause increased inflammation.
In fact, studies show that eating high amounts of linoleic acid (omega-6) does not appear to have any effect on blood markers of inflammation.
Current research does not support the claim that seed oils are harming your health; however, if you are concerned, choose olive oil or butter instead of margarine and other plant oils (corn oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil) more often.
Misinformation regarding health and nutrition is everywhere, especially on social media. Nutrition, like medicine, is an ever-evolving science. As more research becomes available, recommendations change. This only adds to the public’s confusion.
Diet culture and nutrition myths are here to stay, but questioning what you read and educating yourself can empower you to develop a nutritious and sustainable eating pattern that works for your individual needs and the needs of your family or partner.