in Healthy Eating

6 Persistent Nutrition Myths (You Probably Still Believe In) Debunked

7 min read

 

Debunking myths and changing the common perception, when it comes to certain pieces of nutritional information, is always fun. Today, I demystify six of the most persistent myths gathered in the public.

The myths you’re about to read appear in no particular order. They were chosen because I believe that they contribute to an immense number of bad nutritional decisions worldwide. And without further ado, let’s start:

 

Myth I. Eggs will clog your arteries

This one is my favorite. Eggs are one of those food items with a lot of myths and misinformation surrounding them. I am not a proponent of either the “eggs are the perfect superfood” or the “eggs will kill you” ideological camp, which is why I’d like to emphasize that this myth has many iterations. Another one is “throw out the yolk, it has too much cholesterol”.

But are any of them true?

Firstly, one egg holds a lot of different micronutrients (Vitamin A, folate, phosphorus, selenium, and vitamin b2, b5, and b12), while giving you a good amount of protein and healthy fats as well.

Secondly, eggs do have a lot of cholesterol. One big egg has around 210 mg, while the recommended daily intake is 300 mg. However, the question is: does it matter? The answer seems to be: Not really for the majority of people. Dietary cholesterol consumption has little to do with cholesterol levels in your body. When you consume more cholesterol through food, less cholesterol gets produced in your body and vice versa. [1, 2, 3, 4].

A minority, around 30% of people, seem to respond with an increase in cholesterol levels [5]. However, whether that is important will be more clear in the next myth (here’s a little hint: not really).

 

Myth II. High levels of cholesterol will give you a heart attack

This myth looks as if it wants to stay a little longer. Little does it know that it is being systematically eradicated throughout the world. To put it in one sentence – high levels of cholesterol will not kill you (with a few exceptions).

When talking about cholesterol, the first important thing to know is that we’re talking about an essential structural part of cell membranes in all animals. The second important thing to know is that cholesterol isn’t even the thing we’re talking about when we talk about high cholesterol. Woah, what?

Lipoproteins are neat biochemical compounds which carry cholesterol through our bloodstream. And it is their number and size that varies. You may have already heard that we have VLDL, IDL, LDL, and HDL. These are lipoproteins that vary in their density and their roles in our bodies. To keep this very short – oxidized low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) are the best indicator of heart disease risk.

LDL cholesterol is often called “bad”, but that is an oversimplification. The oxidized LDLs found in our bloodstream are the main culprit behind heart disease, as far as cholesterol goes. However, there is also HDL cholesterol. It plays a vital role and is often called “good” cholesterol because it transports LDL particles back to the liver from our bloodstream.

I’ve debunked these cholesterol myths before in a standalone article here.

Chris Masterjohn wrote an extremely detailed overview of cholesterol and the mechanisms behind it; this link is for those who have a good essential grasp in biochemistry, my version states the same facts, but is easier to understand for the lay person.

 

Myth III. Vegetable oils are very healthy to cook with

First, I’d like to point out that mainstream nutritional guidelines often go in the way of promoting different vegetable oils that are high in polyunsaturated fats. Some of these include soybean, canola, and sunflower oil; oils that are very high in omega-6 fatty acids. While you can often hear omega fatty acids being mentioned in a positive context, having an imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids is something you would want to avoid.

Adding more omega-6 fatty acids (to a diet which is usually already characterized with an over-consumption of omega-6 fatty acids) can increase the risk of heart disease and lead to inflammation [6, 7]. I’ve extensively covered why chronic inflammation is bad. The short version being; it amplifies and is connected to all major chronic diseases of the Western civilization.

Moreover, some of these oils contain amounts of trans fatty acids which aren’t negligible; up to 4% [8]. And trans fatty acids really are one macronutrient subgroup which has been universally accepted as bad and to be avoided. Mostly, because they contribute to a variety of diseases, which are often connected to bad eating habits.

 

Myth IV. Microwaved food gives you cancer

I don’t know, this is just one of those myths that’s probably associated with being a conspiracy theory nut, or not knowing how microwaves work. Their basic premise is electromagnetic radiation which causes polarized molecules (water is a polarized molecule) in our food to rotate and thus warm up. And that’s it, nothing magical happens. It does not make food less healthy, neither does it cause food radiation, cancer, bad karma, filthy chakras, or anything like that.

On a more serious note. Yes, putting our food in a microwave oven will cause it to lose nutrients. But so will cooking, boiling, frying, stir-frying, and steaming. And no, putting live animals in a microwave oven is not a smart idea. It has never been, nor will it be.

There is an ongoing debate about the amount of nutrients that are being lost when it comes to microwaving food. In some cases, certain vegetables lose more nutrients. In others, however, it is the opposite. This area needs more research, but it seems that it largely depends on the particular micronutrient in question. Because of the shortened preparation time, there is sometimes a greater retention of different micronutrient levels when microwaves are used. [9]

Click here for more information about this.

 

Myth V. High-Fat diets are unhealthy

No, they’re not. In fact, the mainstream media has finally started to cover the fact that studies have shown the superiority of high-fat diets over low-fat diets continuously for the past few decades. You can find a detailed write-up on Authority Nutrition about this. He does write about low-carb diets, however, a low-carb usually implies a high-fat, high-protein diet.

A recent randomized controlled trial put a high-fat and low-fat diet against each other. Here is the conclusion from the study’s authors. [10]

The low-carbohydrate diet was more effective for weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor reduction than the low-fat diet. Restricting carbohydrate may be an option for persons seeking to lose weight and cut cardiovascular risk factors.

 

Myth VI. Stress isn’t important when it comes to food

Having a degree in psychology myself, emphasizing the importance of stress on our health is vital for me. Very few people are aware of the physiological changes that occur when people are subject to long-term stress. All of them lead to unfavorable outcomes, one of which is weight gain.

Because some of these pathway are rather complex, I do not wish to dive too deep into them. I have covered them in different articles by themselves. When it comes to stress and weight gain, the most basic idea is that it alters our body’s hormonal balance and the ideal neurochemistry of our brain, making it harder to lose weight and easier to gain it. Moreover, it often changes out food preference from usual foods to sugary, salty, and fatty foods. These are associated with increased weight gain. Certain clinical syndromes have stress listed as one of their main triggers; emotional eating and night eating syndrome being two of them.

That was it. These were only six of the most persistent myths that need to be eliminated from the collective mentality of people. Sharing evidence-based articles such as this one is one of the easiest ways to stop false information from reinventing itself all around the internet.

In the future, I will be debunking myths similar to these. Do have any particular myths in mind which I should cover?

One more thing, before you click away.

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