Busting Diet Dogma

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3724216_sDiet dogma has a life of its own. Even when science reveals the truth behind a diet fad or web rumor, the myth lingers. Here are a few mistaken identities in the diet arena.

1. Skipping meals is a good way to lose weight.  Just the opposite. Research repeatedly shows that people who eat regularly, starting with breakfast, have lower body weights are better nourished, think more clearly, and feel better than people who eat erratically.

2. Fat makes you feel full, so you actually end up eating less.  Fat is the slowest food component to clear the stomach, so for years it was assumed that fatty foods slowed digestion and kept you feeling full longer. More recent research has dispelled this myth, showing that protein has more of a satiating effect than either carbs or fat.

3. Eating healthy costs too much.  You don’t need to go broke to eat well. After all, pound for pound, health-boosting oatmeal, beans, and apples are a whole lot cheaper than eggs and bacon, steak, or even chips. To pare down the food bill, buy less expensive produce such as apples, oranges, carrots, and cabbage; look for specials and use coupons; buy in bulk items such as oatmeal, rice, nuts, and staples; shop at warehouse clubs where larger quantities also are less expensive; switch to beans which are much less expensive than meat; bring food with you so you’re not tempted to impulse buy expensive items; and buy generic store brands of frozen vegetables, canned fruit, milk, and other items that typically cost less than brand names.

4. With the right diet, you can burn cellulite.  There is no such thing, medically speaking, as cellulite. It’s a pretend name for plain, old pudge that ripples, puckers, and waffles, mostly on the thighs, in varying degrees in up to 90%  of women regardless of dress size or fitness level. This clumpy fat results from fat cells stored just under the skin in honeycomb-like structures held in place by bands of connective tissue. The more fat stuffed into each honeycomb, the more puckered the texture.  A calorie-controlled, healthy diet plus exercise helps you lose weight, especially fat weight, and improve your appearance if you are overweight.

5. There is no such thing as “good foods” and “bad foods.”  In a country faced with epidemics of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, and a population where indulgence is a daily routine, what is good about a fried pork rind? Nutrition-wise a can of cheese whiz doesn’t hold a candle to a mango!

6. If you work out, your body requires more protein.  The majority of people who exercise don’t need any more protein than the average couch potato. Most Americans consume ample protein, averaging 82 grams a day, or 164% of the recommended intake. The stress of resistance exercise adds to muscles’ size and strength, not the extra protein in a steak or protein supplements. If it were true that a high-protein diet was important for building muscles, everyone on the Atkins-type diet would look like Charles Atlas.

Zamora S, Perez-Llamas F: Errors and myths in feeding and nutrition. Nutrition Hospitalaria 2013;Supple 5:81-88.

Casazza K, Fontaine K, Astrup A, et al: Myths, presumptions, and facts about obesity. New England Journal of Medicine 2013;368:446-454.

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