Saturday, 30 July 2011

12 Diet Myths -- Busted

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Myth 1: Carbs will make you fat
This myth has stuck around ever since the rising popularity of low-carb diets, but not all carbohydrates are bad for your waistline. The trick is to pick the right kind of carbs -- choose whole grains over refined carbs found in processed foods like white bread, white rice and pasta. "Eating small portions from time to time will not affect your weight," explains Anna Mason, a health and fitness coach and founder of Distance Dieters.

Then why do people lose weight by avoiding carbs? Low-carb diets, like almost every other kind of diet that restricts certain food groups, translate to restricting calories. And when you consume lesser calories, the pounds come off over time.

Myth 2: You'll put on more weight if you eat at night
Your body doesn't know when calories are being consumed, but if you find night snacking piles on the pounds, it's mainly down to what you eat, not when you're eating: Studies show that dieters who restrict their calorie intake in the day are more likely to crave more unhealthy snacks later at night. Which obviously backfires if you're trying to lose weight.

To drop the pounds, you need to be consuming fewer calories than you're using up -- try upping your activity level with regular moderate exercise instead of going on ridiculously low calorie diets, and you'll lose weight no matter when you're eating. On a side note, it's a good idea to avoid late-night suppers so you're less likely to experience indigestion during the night, says Mason.

Myth 3: Dairy products are fattening
Cheese can be high in fat but like most dairy products, it's fine in moderation. A balanced diet contains food from a range of food groups -- including dairy -- so it can do more harm to cut these foods out, Mason explains.

If you're concerned about the fat content, opt for low-fat dairy products but don't ditch them altogether. A no-dairy diet will mean missing out on good sources of calcium and vitamin D, which are essential for healthy teeth and bones.

Myth 4: Frozen and canned fruit and vegetables are less healthy than fresh
Fresh fruits and veggies aren't the only healthy option when it comes to getting your five a day. Frozen and canned varieties can be just as good for you, says Mason.

Because they're frozen or canned relatively quickly, they can actually be more nutritious because vitamins and minerals don't get as much chance to escape in comparison to fresh produce, which could have been imported long distances and left to sit on the shelf before it reaches you.

Myth 5: You should shun red meat
Red meat has gained a bad rep in recent years but it's only unhealthy if you eat too much. The key is moderation -- 2 to 3 servings of red meat per week is fine, and are a good source of vital nutrients like B vitamins, iron and zinc.

Just choose lean cuts of good quality meat, advises Mason, trim off unnecessary fat and avoid cooking methods that will increase the fat content.

Myth 6: Low fat foods are always best for weight loss
Just because the product boasts a "low fat" label doesn't mean it's diet-friendly. Low fat foods often contain hidden calories in the form of sugar or starch thickeners (often to make them more palatable), warns Mason. So while they may be lower in fat than their full-fat counterparts, they won't necessarily contain fewer calories. As well as sugar, keep an eye on the salt content.

Myth 7: Organic foods are more nutritious
Organic foods are not treated with pesticides, making organic fruit and vegetables a safer and healthier option. Most organic foods contain the same nutritional values as non-organic foods, though, so you can't automatically assume that they're superior in all respects.

Myth 8: Grapefruit and celery make your body burn fat more quickly
You'll often hear that certain foods like grapefruit and celery can encourage your body to burn fat more efficiently but in reality, no foods can do this. Miracle weight-loss foods? A big fat myth, period.
Myth 9: Skipping meals is a good way to shed weight
Bad idea. Missing out on breakfast makes you more likely to snack during the day to keep your energy levels up so it can be completely counterproductive. You're better off eating a good breakfast to see you through to lunchtime.

Instead, try eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day, so you'll be less likely to reach for unhealthy snacks.

Myth 10: A high-sugar diet causes diabetes
Because diabetes is linked to blood sugar levels, the condition is often misunderstood as being caused by eating too much sugar. Type 1 diabetes (which is controlled by insulin injections) is the result of the immune system turning on the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas and has nothing to do with diet.

Type 2 diabetes is also linked to poor insulin production but this type is more common if you're overweight. High sugar levels can therefore be a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes but it's got more to do with being overweight and with one's sugar consumption per se.

Myth 11: All fats are bad
Many women fall into the trap of believing that all fat is automatically bad but this myth ignores the fact that there are different types of fat.

'Good' fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats play a key role in good health and are needed for to keep the brain, heart, lungs, digestive system, eyes, skin, hair and immune system in optimum condition, Mason points out.

The fat that's bad news -- trans fat. It's a man-made fat that's been linked to cardiovascular diseases and can be found in commercial baked goods such as biscuits and doughnuts. Ban trans fats from your diet. And limit your consumption of saturated fats.
Myth 12: When you're pregnant, you need to 'eat for two'
There may well be two of you in the equation but it's worth remembering that a foetus is only tiny and doesn't need nearly as many calories as an adult. Experts claim that the extra calories needed per day only amount to several hundred even in the last few months of pregnancy, so there's no need to pile on the pounds deliberately. The most important thing is to eat a well-balanced diet that is rich in fruit, vegetables, lean protein and fiber, says Mason.

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