Diet and exercise myths are like fast food restaurants – they are everywhere, they’re hard to avoid, and they can derail your best intentions to follow a healthy, balanced diet. Just when you think you have a handle on the best way to nourish your body, a new study comes out that upends what you previously thought. From sugar being enemy number one to juice cleanses, detoxing, and turning fat into muscle, many “wellness” and diet trends just don’t stack up against scientific evidence. No matter what your health goals are, it’s important to separate fact from fiction. Here are four common misconceptions that might be tripping up your goal of healthier living:
- Eating carbs makes you fat: While we know that completely cutting out carbs can help you lose weight, the reality is that carbs on their own don’t make you fat. Most people will lose weight on a low-carb diet as restricting carbs reduces calories (no pizza or cake), but we get fat when we consume more calories than we burn, no matter where the calories come from. Carbs are actually needed for providing energy to your muscles and glucose to your brain – the answer, as always, is balance.
- Everyone should go gluten-free: While avoiding gluten is a necessity for people who are intolerant to gluten, going “gluten-free” has become a popular diet trend, even for those who have never been diagnosed with a gluten condition. Aside from those making big money from the diet (gluten-free foods are on average 242% more expensive than their gluten-containing versions), it seems there is little to be gained from giving up gluten. If you’re unsure whether or not you are gluten sensitive, try eliminating gluten for a few weeks and reintroduce it slowly – your body will quickly tell you.
- With the right exercise, you can turn fat into muscle: This is similar to saying you can turn a dog into a cat. Fat and muscle are two completely different structures and have different processes – fat levels are reduced when our bodies burn fat due to a calorie deficit, whereby muscle is enhanced by use. They do affect one another, though. Individuals with higher muscle mass will burn more calories to simply live and this could encourage greater fat loss.
- All calories are created equal: A calorie is a calorie in terms of energy, but the nutrients that come with those calories vary. While it’s true that a 3 oz. skinless chicken breast has the same amount of calories as two slices of white bread (about 140 calories), those calories are not equal in terms of how your body uses them. The protein in chicken requires more energy to digest and also supplies more nutrients.
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Mollie Steiner, M.S.
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