1. Eat Small Meals Throughout the Day
This is a myth that even the most educated nutritionists fall victim too. The idea is that if we eat many small meals throughout the day our blood sugar will remain more stable and that it boosts metabolism.
Maybe this is true if we’re consuming sugary, high carb foods that create a blood sugar roller coaster. However for anyone who knows just how bad these types of foods are, eating 6 times a day shouldn’t be a concern.
While many small meals can speed up metabolism, it certainly isn’t significant- nothing to call home about. Metabolism could just as easily be amped by eating more spicy thermogenic foods.
The scientific community has busted this myth over and over again. One study with obese men showed the group eating 6 small meals per day vs. the group eating 3 meals per day, were less satiated. (1)
Other studies found no marked difference at all between eating 6 or 3 times per day (2).
Anyone who is looking to lose weight should try doing the opposite of eating multiple times per day. Intermittent fasting is a practice which actually gives our bodies a chance to burn fat stores.
Skipping breakfast isn’t so crazy after all and falls in line with the evolutionary characteristics of our ancestors. It doesn’t make sense, past or present, for humans to have continuous access to food.
Fasting has long been employed by humans both by choice and not. What we see in the studies done alternate day fasting vs simple calorie restriction is that fasting can actually inhibit chronic illness.
One study showed those who practiced alternate day fasting had lower diabetes risk , lower cholesterol, lower heart rate, animal studies found lower lymphoma incidence and lower rates of cancer cell proliferation (3).
Intermittent fasting can be anything from skipping meals a few times per week to fasting for longer periods. The good news is we don’t have to suffer too much to enjoy the benefits.
Even just skipping breakfast can have dramatic life lengthening effects, and reduce overall calorie consumption. One of intermittent fasting main effects is increasing the bodies sensitivity to insulin, lowering the risk of obesity and diabetes (4).
2. Foods Marked “Low fat” or “Diet” are Best
This is my favourite myth to bust because it’s absolutely bogus. Not only are low fat diet foods disgusting, they’re also contributing to the obesity epidemic.
While I won’t dive too deep into the fallacy of aspartame, know that it is rat poison disguised as a healthy sugar substitute.
Low fat doesn’t mean low sugar, or low carb and we have enough evidence now to know that it isn’t fat making us fat.
Artificial sweeteners are actually linked to higher rates of obesity and diabetes and heart disease (5). Not only that but they affect our hormones and can cause thyroid disorders and mood imbalance, not fun.
It’s a touch ironic that since low fat foods exploded onto the marketplace, people have actually gotten a lot more fat.
We see ancestral examples of healthy hunter gatherers who consumed mainly fat and animal protein and were completely free from the modern diseases we see today.
As a rule of thumb I stay away from absolutely anything marked, low fat, low sugar, healthy, diet, sugar free or natural.
These words are void and meaningless in the food industry, there are no regulations and basically any company can say something is natural, even if its loaded with MSG and artificial flavors.
3. Vegetable Oils are Heart Healthy
The implications of modern people embracing polyunsaturated vegetable oils as the main fat source are devastating.
What we see is an extreme imbalance of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3. Over time this can lead to chronic inflammation, which is at the root of all disease and other health problems (6).
Vegetable oils like soy, corn, sunflower, canola, even olive oil are used in all processed foods, as it would be far too expensive to use good saturated fats.
They’ve also become staple cooking oils in most households. The over consumption of these high omega-6, highly processed, genetically modifies oils is one of the root causes of the growing levels of modern diseases we’re faced with.
While the marketing surrounding vegetable oils is that they are heart healthy, the evidence points to quite the opposite. High ratios of omega-6 are associated with higher risk of developping heart disease (7).
“In this cohort, substituting dietary linoleic acid in place of saturated fats increased the rates of death from all causes, coronary heart disease, and cardiovascular disease.” (8)
On top of the omega-6 to omega-3 imbalance that overconsumption of vegetable oils lead to, they are often highly process, heat treated and refined.
What happens when we process the life out of these types of fats is trans fats are created, particularly with hydrogenation.
Trans fats are not our friend, they cause free radical damage in the body, chronic inflammation and can lead to heart disease (9) (10).
4. We Should Avoid All Cholesterol
This is a big one, considering 33.5% of American adults have high cholesterol (11). We’re told to avoid eggs, avocados, coconut oil– these amazingly healthy foods because why? Cholesterol.
Before we throw the baby out with bath water lets examine cholesterol and its functions, there’s more than one type of cholesterol.
LDL = bad cholesterol
HDL = good cholesterol
I promise we aren’t seeing an increase in high cholesterol because people are eating too many eggs (12).
Cholesterol is a tricky thing, since there’s good HDL cholesterol and also subtypes of “bad” LDL cholesterol some of which aren’t bad at all (13) (14)!
It’s challenging to quantify total cholesterol and get a good understanding on specific quantities of the good the bad and the ugly.
On the other side of the medical spectrum, cholesterol prove to be very important. Low levels of cholesterol have been associated with higher risk of cancer (15).
Measuring total cholesterol and LDL inaccurately has created an over prescription of statin drugs and people are advised to be weary of healthy fats.
Instead, if doctors emphasized tests which measure HDL and triglycerides they would have a deeper understanding of a person truly being at risk (16)
5. A Calorie is a Calorie, Doesn’t Matter From What
If calories are units of energy, and we need a certain number of these units per day, why should it matter where they come from?
Technically we should all just be able to live on a diet of frosted flakes and soda and get plenty of calories to fuel us, right? Wrong.
This rationale isn’t rational at all, since we humans have such diverse needs we can’t pretend that a calorie from sugar is equal to a calorie from protein.
Critics of organic food like to use this way of thinking too, saying there’s no difference between an organic carrot and a conventionally grown carrot. Too bad there’s ample evidence that a food is only as nutritious as the soil it’s grown in.
Quality really doesn’t overrule quantity. If we’re loading up on high sugar foods, sure we’re meeting our caloric requirements but we’re also stealing from our bodies.
Sugar leaches nutrients and it takes a lot of extra effort to assimilate processed foods than it does whole foods.
Since we were just talking about cholesterol, its interesting to point out that sugar is actually more dangerous than eggs when it comes to bad cholesterol any day.
The way our livers process sugar leads to elevated triglycerides and increases bad cholesterol (17).
A diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates leads to insulin resistance which is an indicator for developing diabetes and obesity (18).
When we disregard where our calories come from, we set ourselves up for failure, inflammation and disease.
6. Replace Butter with Margarine
The saddest of nutritional fallacies is the tale of how butter was demonized.
“In the late 19th century, chemists discovered that they could add hydrogen atoms to unsaturated fats by bubbling hydrogen gas through vegetable oil in the presence of a nickel catalyst.
This was far more than a chemical curiosity. Partially hydrogenated oils don’t spoil as easily as nonhydrogenated fats. They can withstand repeated heating without breaking down.
And the process can turn a liquid oil into a solid, which allowed for easier transportation and wider uses; this solid fat was also much less expensive than solid animal fats.” (19)
Margarine is a highly processed food, before it is bleached and dyed yellow, it is an alluring shade of grey. Chemists engineered artificial butter flavoring to try and trick our palates into thinking they were getting the real deal.
Not only is real butter high in healthy saturated fat, when consumed from grass fed cows it has rare nutrients like activator X and a near perfect ratio of omega-6 to omega-3.
The average American has 14-25 times more omega 6 to omega 3, an ideal ration would be closer to 4:1 respectively. (20)
Margarine just adds fuel to the inflammatory fire, especially when paired alongside other “heart healthy” vegetable oils.
It becomes a recipe for disaster where people are chronically deficient in anti-inflammatory omega-3’s and lacking long term energy.
Saturated fats help to stabilize blood sugar levels and promote satiety, consuming plenty of grass fed butter will actually promote weight loss, not the opposite like we’ve been told. (21)
7. Juice is Healthier than Soda
I hate to be the bearer of bad news here but commercial juice is no more nutritious than soda.
Juice is sugar and it’s just as addicting, while we can feel good about fresh juices with a balance of fruits and vegetables, pure commercial fruit juice doesn’t do much but spike blood sugar.
Most juices have to be pasteurized, which kills any vitamins or enzymes anyway.
A common addition to children’s lunch boxes, the sugar in juice is far from brain fuel. How hard is it to think clearly when you’re craving your next sugar fix.
Obesity, diabetes and heart disease are all directly related to excess sugar intake (22) (23) (24). Orange juice has potentially even more sugar per cup than soda, a whopping 5-8 teaspoons per cup.
Oh ya and if you weren’t turned off by juice already, imagine this, since fruit juice loses most of its natural flavor through the bottling process, companies add artificial flavor packets.
Yes, our wholesome morning juice contains the same chemical additives as our perfume, lovely.
8. Soy is a Healthy Meat Substitute
Soy started out in traditional societies as a nutritious fermented food, through the fermentation process its nutrients are unlocked and easily assimilated.
Harmful estrogen mimickers xenoestrogens are broken down and it becomes easily digested.
Todays story of soy is quite different, soy is a cash crop and as demand rises entire rainforests are ripped down to be over powered by this mono crop. But the ecological implications are just the tip of the iceberg.
Most soy, up to 90% is genetically modified, it’s also one of the most heavily pesticide sprayed crops (25). The processing methods for soy strip it of all its nutrients and they certainly don’t involve fermentation.
Common meat substitutes have to make up for the lack of flavour by adding MSG and other artificial flavours and colours.
Soy is also high in xenoestrogens and isoflavones which can throw our hormones off balance.
It acts as an endocrine disruptor confusing the body into thinking it’s real estrogen (26). Animal studies show that the isoflavones in soy can contribute to breast cancer (27) (28).
Soy has infiltrated the marketplace and is found in commercial vegetable oils and almost all processed foods.
Removing the oil from soybeans involves using hexane, a chemical solvent. It’s also what most livestock are now fed in combination with genetically modified corn.
There are nutrient blockers present in soy which interfere with calcium absorption. It’s also been shown to contribute to thyroid problems (29).
9. Gluten Intolerance is a Myth
This has been a huge topic lately and has the scientific community in hot debate. What we know about gluten is that there are certain genes that people carry which make them more sensitive to it, about 40% of people carry these genes (30).
The condition of gluten sensitivity is however quite challenging to diagnose. Celiac on the other hand is more easily diagnosed yet estimates say 80% of people with the condition are undiagnosed (31).
There are many diseases which improve when people cut out gluten. IBS (32) and other digestive disorders, as well as schizophrenia (33), autism (34) and epilepsy (35) all respond very well to gluten free diets.
Wheat allergies are on the rise and trials are already being done on genetically modified wheat. If and when GMO wheat makes it in to the food supply I speculate that even more people will start to experience symptoms of gluten sensitivity.
10. Taking Vitamins Insures Nutritional Needs are Met
We thought we could take our one a day vitamins and not have to worry about getting the right vitamins and minerals.
Think again, while not all vitamin supplements are created equal, and granted some are far better than others. The typical synthetic vitamin supplement actually takes more energy to assimilate than it gives.
There are many disadvantages to synthetic vitamins and minerals. Many come in crystalline form, which our bodies can’t absorb or assimilate, they then cause mineral accumulation in places like our joints. (36)
Would you believe me if I told you that synthetic vitamins often come from the nastiest of places. Synthetic vitamin B-1 is made from coal tar, ammonia, hydrochloric acid and acetone.
Some even have petroleum bi-products and formaldehyde. Ascorbic acid for synthetic vitamin C is sourced from genetically modified corn treated with acetone. (37)
Relying on synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements is doing us more harm than good. Stick to whole foods supplements and nutrient dense raw foods, vegetable juices and smoothies.
11. The Majority of Calories Should Come From Carbohydrates
Standard American Diet gold, the base of the food pyramid is breads, pastas and various other grains and legumes.
As we mentioned above, gluten is likely not the healthiest food for most people. We can see in numerous studies that an excess of carbohydrates leads to weight gain and insulin resistance.
Carbohydrates also don’t provide the same long term energy that fats and protein do, leaving us chronically hungry and depleted.
In short, carbohydrates turn into sugar in the body and sugar is addictive.
Were the food pyramid and guidelines really concerned about our health, the base would be nutrient dense vegetables and fruits.
Lowering carbohydrates helps with weight loss (38), lowers blood pressure (39), increases good cholesterol (40) and lowers triglycerides (41).
12. GMO’s Have Been Extensively Studied, Nothing to Fear
Genetically modified foods, contrary to popular belief, have never been proven safe for human consumption. Although genetically modified foods have practically taken over the food supply, we should do everything we can to demand labeling in the very least.
There are many nations including most of Europe which have put implementation of biotechnology on hold until there’s more unbiased research.
The keyword being, unbiased as Monsanto has largely funded most of the research in the realm of their own products. It’s also questionable that a number of higher ups in the FDA used to work for Monsanto (42).
The studies which have been done on GMO foods tell a scary tale.
There’s evidence that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s roundup show that it may contribute to lymphoma (43), damage to DNA (44), contributes to breast cancer (45), hormonal disruption (46) and more.
There are also adverse effects on gut bacteria and soil bacteria as well as the logical negative implications of pesticide exposure.
As Monsanto aims to spread its dominion over the worlds food supply, third world farmers bear the brunt of exposure to toxic chemicals that they haven’t been trained to hand.
Just another myth busted that GMO’s will never feed the world.