Arbitrary dietary rules are part of our food culture, and distorted views of what “healthy eating” really is are pervasive in our society. These rules often manifest as specific injunctions and broad maxims about what, when, and how we should eat. But is that really true? We dispel myths and reveal 8 supposedly healthy eating rules that you should throw overboard immediately.
So, from the start, some dietary rules are well-intentioned suggestions, and actually, for some people, they can sometimes be really helpful when used as guiding principles rather than hard and fast rules. But many food rules are total nonsense. They are unnecessarily restrictive, unrealistic, or unscientific, and can even be harmful by destroying our relationship with food.
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The problem is that rules are, by definition, one size fits all, whereas we know that healthy eating is far from one size fits all. Our different bodies, nutritional needs, tastes, cultures, medical backgrounds, food access, budgets, and lifestyles all play a role in choosing the best foods for each individual. It follows, of course, that rigid, one-size-fits-all rules about eating won’t work for everyone.
But what do the experts really say about the most common nutritional myths? A general vision:
Nutritional Myth 1: “Avoid processed foods.”
“This rule is inconsistent and not necessarily helpful in choosing the best foods,” Marina Chaparro, board-certified diabetes educator. There’s a lot of hype in the food world around the word “processed,” but what does it really mean? Nothing other than the food has been combined with at least one other ingredient or otherwise altered from its natural state (for example: canned, blended, sliced, or pasteurized).
“So unless you’re exclusively eating raw food that you’re not cooking, you’re eating processed food,” explains Chaparro. This includes nutrient-rich foods like yogurt, whole-grain bread, almond butter and smoked salmon, he emphasizes. “Instead of avoiding processed foods, I would focus on teaching people how to read a label and not generalize foods as good or bad.”
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After all, viewing some foods as “good” and others as “bad” is essentially putting a moral value on food, which can make you feel like a bad person for eating something that is “overly processed” or seems unhealthy. .
Diet Myth 2: “Don’t eat after 6 pm”
Some people stop eating at a certain time because they have heard that eating before bedtime is bad for your health. But for the few people who find that eating before bed causes indigestion, late-night snacking isn’t actually any worse for your body.
Instead, this myth is being superseded by the reality that for many of us, our schedules simply aren’t conducive to stopping eating at 6, 7, or 8 pm “A lot of people eat dinner too early and go to bed too late. But actually they still need food because your body needs energy even when you are awake,” nutritionist Dalina Soto told SELF magazine.
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“What’s interesting is that this arbitrary rule may actually be contributing to your late-night cravings,” confirms Vincci Tsui, anti-diet nutritionist and certified intuitive eating consultant. “We all know that the more we tell ourselves we can’t have something, the more we want it, right?” If you allow yourself to go to the kitchen at any time, late-night snacks can become less tempting.
Nutrition Myth 3: “Don’t eat emotionally.”
The fact is that eating is often emotional. We eat to celebrate and we eat to cry. Eating for emotional comfort is a problem, but it’s actually very similar to most other coping mechanisms: a tool designed to help you cope with stress and feel better. “Emotional eating is just another way to seek comfort when needed,” says expert Kimmie Singh.
“Part of having a healthy relationship with food is allowing yourself to emotionally eat when it’s helpful,” explains Singh, adding, “Delicious food can be a great source of joy and comfort when experiencing painful emotions.”
However, food should not be your only survival mechanism. Singh recommends psychological support if he has trouble accessing other tools.
Nutrition Myth 4: “Cook from scratch to eat healthier.”
“There’s this idea that to eat well and healthy, you have to make everything from scratch, but that’s not true,” says registered dietitian Marisa Moore. Prepared, packaged and frozen foods can actually make nutritional choices more realistic for people, agrees Veronica E. Garnett, nutritionist and chef. For example, Garnett recommends “nutritious and delicious time savers” like fried chicken, quick rice, salad boxes and microwave-safe bags of frozen vegetables.
“If you feel like it and have the time, by all means make your homemade favorites,” says Garnett. “But keep in mind that there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting help from the grocery store.”
Nutrition Myth 5: “Eat less fruit, too much sugar!”
“It’s such a common belief — that fruit has too much sugar and must be ‘bad’ for you,” says Erica Leon, a board-certified nutritionist specializing in eating disorders. Yes, fruit contains sugar. But it also provides fiber and a host of essential vitamins and minerals, not to mention juicy flavor.
That fiber helps keep you full while slowing the rate at which your body absorbs fruit sugars, Leon explains, helping to keep energy and blood sugar levels more stable than, say, an equivalent amount of sugar. of table So be sure to eat fruit.
Nutritional Myth 6: “Drink a glass of water when you’re hungry.”
Actually, it makes sense: thirst demands hydration; Hunger demands food. And yet, many people advise drinking a glass of water when you feel hungry. “This rule is used to suppress hunger. And although it may make you feel full temporarily, your body will eventually realize that the energy has not entered the body,” explains Carolina Guízar, a certified intuitive eating trainer.
And then you get very hungry. “The longer you take to feed your body, the hungrier you’ll be, and this can cause you to eat in ways that make you feel ‘out of control,'” explains Guízar. Plus, “this habit has the potential to decrease your body’s trust in you to feed it regularly.”
Nutrition Myth 7: “Always choose whole grains.”
Whole grains are a great thing to include in your diet – they are usually higher in fiber and protein
than their refined counterparts. But that doesn’t mean we have to condemn the refined grain for eternity. “Eating regular pasta or white rice and not the high-fiber alternative doesn’t mean your food isn’t ‘healthy,'” says nutritionist Yasi Ansari.
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For example, if you really want the white bread, how full will you feel after eating the whole wheat bread? However, what is more important from a nutritional point of view is the balance of the meal as a whole. “There are a variety of ways to add more protein, fat, and fiber to your meal to pack in more nutrients,” Ansari explains: think beans, vegetables, nuts, dairy, and meat or plant-based protein.
Nutritional myth 8: “Reduce carbohydrates.”
Recently, the influence of diets that glorify fat and demonize carbs (such as keto or paleo) has led to the widespread assumption that, in general, fewer carbs are better. But that’s not true!
“Carbohydrates are great and should be treated like any other macronutrient,” says Yasi Ansari. “They provide us with the efficient, easy-to-use fuel our bodies need for mental and physical performance,” including essential bodily functions, daily activities, and exercise.
Without enough carbohydrates from foods like grains, fruits, starchy vegetables, beans, and legumes, “we risk losing our energy,” says Ansari, which makes it really hard to perform at your best in daily life. And carbohydrates often contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals that your body really needs.