12 Myths of Christmas: Nutrition Myths, Busted!

There is often so much misinformation online, particularly pertaining to nutrition and gut health. We are here to arm you with the truth about these rumours so you can look after yourself without all the nonsense! 

Nutrition Myths

Is a calorie a calorie?

Yes, it is.

All calories are the same. However, foods that have the same caloric value are different. Just like a mile is a mile, the terrain can differ. A calorie is a unit to measure energy like a mile is a unit to measure distance.

What people mean when they say this is that not all foods are the same.

300kcal from a doughnut would not provide much in the way of nutrients (vitamins, minerals and fibre) as 300kcal from fruit would - But they would both still provide 300kcal of energy.

Calories must be considered when managing your weight (intake and expenditure) and regularly consuming nutrient-dense foods. 

Carbs/fat makes you fat!

While carbohydrates and fat (and protein) contribute to your overall calorie intake, none inherently cause weight gain. 

It's a fact: Consuming excess calories over a prolonged period causes weight gain.

However, carbohydrates are usually the first macronutrient targeted when planning to reduce calorie intake. This is because protein and fat are essential for our health, whereas carbohydrates are non-essential. 

This doesn't mean they aren't important, though. Your diet should include a balance of all 3 macronutrients, and calories should be considered a fundamental factor of a weight management plan.

You must eat breakfast to lose weight

Whether you eat breakfast or not, it doesn't affect your weight or metabolism. Overall calorie intake vs expenditure will dictate your body composition.

There are two sides to the "breakfast for fat loss" argument, either of which is suitable depending on what you prefer:

1) Starting the day with a high-protein breakfast would help keep you fuller for longer, controlling your appetite and potential cravings as the day goes on.

2) Skipping breakfast doesn't impact weight. If you aren't hungry in the morning, that's fine; you don't have to eat. It can be a good strategy for fat loss (intermittent fasting).

There is no right or wrong!

You NEED to try this new diet! 

You can usually identify a fad diet by the way it is promoted: quick fix, highly restrictive, "magic" food claims and the cutting out of certain food groups.

These diets can be very harmful and ineffective for sustainable, safe, healthy weight loss. 

Here are a few red-flag words associated with diets to look out for:

  • Carnivore
  • Cabbage
  • Cotton wool
  • Grapefruit
  • Juice
  • Detox
  • Keto
  • Atkins
  • Zone 

Avoid falling for these bold claims. To lose fat, you simply need to analyse the diet you already have, identify where you may be consuming excess calories, and address lifestyle factors that affect calorie expenditure.

If it's too good to be true, it probably is!

Eating little and often will boost metabolism and help you lose weight

Digestion does raise your metabolism a little bit, which is likely where this "eat little and often" myth has come from. 

However, this doesn't really have any effect on fat loss. If anything, eating small meals often may not keep you full for a long time, which could make it challenging to manage your calorie intake.

It definitely doesn't make as much difference as addressing your overall calorie intake! 

Gut Health Myths 

You should poo every day  

Each body is different, and how your body behaves typically is what is normal and healthy for you as an individual. If you usually poo every other day throughout your life, that is healthy for your body! 

If you have historically poo'd every day and recently have not been, that does indicate there may be an issue, perhaps, constipation. Anywhere from 3 times a day to 3 times a week can be considered normal, as long as that's your regular movement.1  

Gluten is bad for your gut

If you don't have a gluten intolerance, gluten is not bad for you. Many fad diets encourage you to exclude gluten, yet this is not necessary or helpful for most people. 

Gluten can ask as a prebiotic for the good bacteria in the gut, which is beneficial for your gut health. If the good bacteria are well-fed, they can grow stronger, multiply and leave less room for the harmful bacteria to reproduce.

In particular, a prebiotic in wheat bran has been shown to improve the amount of bifidobacteria in the colon, an essential good bacteria.2

Weight loss is linear

It can be super frustrating when you try to lose weight and you gain or maintain some weeks. Fat loss is not generally a linear process, and it is entirely normal for your weight to fluctuate.

Hydration levels, your menstrual cycle and what you consume can all have an impact on your weight that is not relevant to your weight loss progress. 

It may be easier to track and feel good about your progress by measuring your measurements, the way your clothes fit and through fitness levels rather than solely on what the scales say. 

Chewing gum stays in your body

You've probably heard the rumour that if you swallow chewing gum, it stays in your stomach for 7 years. Is there any truth in it?! Well, no. Although it's true that our bodies can't digest chewing gum, that just means it stays intact and is removed from our bodies in our poo, still whole.3

Very, VERY rarely, a large amount of chewing gum being swallowed can block the intestines in children, but accidentally swallowing a piece is really nothing to worry about.3 

You need to cleanse your colon 

Colon cleansing can actually be quite dangerous; several deaths have been linked to coffee enemas. It can also cause cramping, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and vomiting.4

Colon cleansing can also lead to tears in the rectum, potentially leading to dangerous infections. Dehydration is another possible side effect, as well as a change in electrolytes which is particularly dangerous if you suffer from heart or kidney disease.4 

It's best to avoid colon cleansing unless directed by a trusted medical professional! 

You need to cut out food groups to look after your gut

The key to a healthy gut is consuming everything in moderation and ensuring you get a good balance of all the essential nutrients. Each food group is really important to ensure you get the diversity of nutrients needed for optimum gut health!

Don't forget that there can also be joy in what you eat; if you get enjoyment from eating something considered "unhealthy", then that is still benefiting you. Enjoyment in food is a crucial part of life that shouldn't be taken for granted. Keep in mind that moderation is important, not removal. 

Bloating is only caused by what we eat

Bloating isn't all about food; there are so many other reasons you could be experiencing bloating. Diseases such as IBS, Crohn's disease and Ulcerative colitis can all cause bloating,5 as well as certain medications such as antacids, aspirin and diarrhoea medications can all lead to bloating.6  

Bloating can also occur during the early stages of menstruation for people with a uterus. It will usually go away as your cycle progresses, but it can be super uncomfortable during this time period!7

Conclusion

Whatever you read online, make sure you fact check what you are reading; don't just take their word for it! It's so easy to fall into the trap of clever writing and bold claims that seem to make sense. 

Look after your gut, ensure you are consuming the right nutrition and seek medical advice if you are having any issues. 

References → 1

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