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Common nutrition myths busted

We’re here to bust the top 10 nutrition myths you thought were true!

Did you know, the average human spends roughly 32,000 hours eating in their lifetime? You’d think that after all that time, you would know a thing or two about food and nutrition. Well, perhaps not. Nutrition is key to a healthy life, but thanks to internet trends, it can be hard to know what to believe. We've taken a look at some common nutrition myths and given a different perspective.

1. All fat is unhealthy

Many people fear high-fat foods, and while excess fat is unhealthy, having small quantities in your diet is essential for your health. Many high-fat foods can be nutritious, such as cheese, oily fish, eggs, avocados, and dark chocolate. Including these kinds of foods can help to keep you satisfied and fuller for longer, which aids any weight loss goals. 

You don’t have to cut out all fat from your diet, instead just try to reduce your intake of saturated and trans fats, and opt for healthier alternatives. 

2. Chocolate gives you spots

To get straight to the point, no – chocolate does not cause spots or acne, so we can all enjoy that treat with a little less guilt. The real causes of acne are a build-up of dead skin, hormones, and genetics. People with problem skin may also find that certain foods, such as dairy and carbohydrates, make their existing acne flare-up; but for the most part, your diet does not play a significant role in your acne.  

3. White potatoes are unhealthy

White potatoes seem to have gained the reputation of being the unhealthiest carbohydrates and are usually omitted from any diet plan. While they do rank high on the glycaemic index scale (the body digests them quickly and causes a spike in blood sugar), they also include multiple nutrients such as vitamin C and fibre. If you are going to eat white potatoes, try having them baked or roasted instead of fried and leave the skin on – to get the most nutrients you need to eat the whole potato.

4. Coffee is bad for you

One of the world’s most popular beverages and beloved part of the morning ritual is often assumed to be unhealthy. However, coffee actually has some nutritional benefits – it’s high in antioxidants which help inflammation, and it’s also a stimulant that increases energy levels. Pregnant women and people who are sensitive to caffeine are advised to keep their intake to two cups per day, but aside from that, three to five cups a day is still considered healthy.

5. Superfoods have more nutrients

Superfood is a marketing term that tries to convince everyone certain foods are more nutrient-dense and therefore have more health benefits. While some foods are healthier than others, the term ‘superfoods’ has no accreditation in nutrition. Your diet should be diverse in different food groups and sources, making the overall outcome beneficial. 

6. Avoiding carbs is the key to weight loss

As with potatoes, carbohydrates seem to be shunned when trying to lose weight. People are correct in thinking that carb-rich foods, such as cakes, white bread, biscuits, etc. can increase weight gain, especially when eaten in excess. However, unprocessed carbohydrates offer nutritional benefits and can help to prevent over-eating by keeping you feeling fuller for longer. If you want to retain carbohydrates in your diet, reduce your intake of unhealthy, refined carbohydrates and replace them with high fibre resistant starch foods like beans, oats and other whole grains.

7. Vegan diets are healthier

A plant-based, whole food diet is undoubtedly an extremely healthy diet, and is the cornerstone of the diet of many of the longest-lived communities around the world. However, that’s not to say any food labelled vegetarian/vegan is healthy; you still need to be mindful of its contents and check the nutritional labels on packaging. There has been a rise in vegan processed foods recently, particularly in fast-food chains, so don’t be fooled into thinking that vegan = healthy. Do some research into the healthier plant-based options that are available to you.

8. Frozen food isn’t as healthy as fresh

Actually, frozen food can sometimes be healthier than fresh, for example, as fruit ripens the sugar content increases and the nutrients deteriorate but having them frozen helps to preserve these nutrients and makes them last longer. As a general rule, fresh food is beneficial when eaten at the right time, but don’t rule out the frozen options.

9. Gluten is unhealthy

Gluten-free is a term that has been circulating the media and supermarkets a lot recently, which causes people to think it’s a healthier alternative, and gluten should be avoided. Gluten itself is not unhealthy but is found in many unhealthy foods such as cakes, pies, and biscuits, which has only added to the assumptions.

Unless you have coeliac disease or are gluten-intolerant, there is no reason to dismiss gluten; simply moderate the unhealthy food that it’s contained in.  

10. 'Diet foods’ are a good alternative

Nowadays, a lot of packaging is plastered with terms such as “light,” “diet,” and “fat-free” to entice those on a weight loss journey, but don’t be fooled by the labels. Although a tempting and easy option, these foods are often an unhealthy choice and tend to include more salt/sugar than their regular counterparts. Be mindful of this when shopping, small quantities of ‘bad’ foods can sometimes be better than the diet alternatives.

The bottom line

As long as there are people that are willing to read them, there will always be new nutrition myths being circulated. Eye-catching myths seem more exciting than the truth, but at the end of the day, a balanced diet that incorporates mostly unprocessed plant-based whole foods, fish and limited meat (if you want to include it) will always be the most beneficial option. For a more nutritional intake, consider exploring a Mediterranean, plant based or vegan diet. Remember to only have treats in moderation and accompany your eating habits with at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Your long-term health will really benefit from a healthy diet and a consistently active lifestyle, so try to find a diet and activity you enjoy and stick with it. 

Wondering whether your diet is providing your body with the important vitamins and minerals it needs for health, well-being and immunity? Our Nutrition Check Blood Test is a simple finger-prick blood test which includes tests for vitamin D, vitamin B12, cholesterol and iron. It can help you to understand whether you need to make adjustments to your diet, or whether you might benefit from taking a supplement.