Six Diet myths busted

Can you separate diet fiction from fact?

In the world of food, health and nutrition it’s sometimes hard to separate fact from fiction. This week we uncover the inconvenient truth about some common diet myths.

1. Low fat = low calorie

Myth: If a product claims to be fat-free or low-fat it’s a good option and you can eat as much as you like.

Fact: When you see these claims on food packaging, it’s easy to believe that what’s inside is low in calories. However, many fat-free and low-fat foods are still energy dense. This is because manufacturers often replace fat with sugar to help maintain texture and flavour. Read the nutrition label to find out how many calories are in a serving, and don’t forget to check the serving size too.

2. Carbs make you fat

Myth: Cutting out carbs will help you lose weight faster. Carbohydrates have long been seen as the bad guys of the diet world with many weight loss programs, such as The Atkins Diet, advocate cutting them back dramatically.

Fact: Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy and provide an essential part of a healthy diet. If you choose unrefined, complex carbohydrate, such as wholemeal pasta, brown rice and whole grain breads, you’ll be adding a lot more fibre to your diet, which will help you feel satisfied for longer.

Carbs, like protein and fat, don’t make you gain weight unless you eat too many of them. So enjoy your carbs but just in moderation.

3. Salads are always a good option

Myth: Choosing a salad is always a healthy, low-fat choice.

Fact: Not necessarily. Salads from restaurants, takeaway stores or delis are often packed with energy-dense ingredients, such as creamy dressings, crispy bacon, croutons and cheese. Salad vegetables are an excellent choice and when they come au naturel you can eat as many as you’d like. Go for sparing amounts of low-calorie dressing and limit the toppings.

4. Slow metabolism made me gain weight!

Myth: Overweight people have a slow metabolism.

Fact: Your metabolism is the rate at which you burn energy, speed it up and you’ll burn calories faster – great if you’re trying to lose weight. However, you can’t blame a slow metabolism if you’re bigger than you’d like to be because resting metabolism increases as people become fatter. In other words, the larger you are the more calories you need to keep your body ticking over. Find tips on how to boost your metabolism here.

5. If it's ‘natural’ it's good for you

Myth: No additives, no preservatives, all natural – what could be wrong with that? Choosing chemical-free and organic produce is always a better option.

Fact: If your goal is weight loss, as opposed to a low-chemical diet, then natural may not always be the best option. Some all natural, no additive foods, such as honey and butter, are still high in calories. Choosing natural lollies is usually just as negative for weight loss as the real thing. It’s your choice, and there’s nothing wrong with substituting chocolate sauce for honey if you prefer a natural taste, but don’t be fooled – you still need to factor it into your energy equation.

6. Snacking at night causes weight gain

Myth: Eating after 8pm will lead you to put on weight at a faster rate.

Fact: Having a late-night snack won't make you gain weight according to a study at Oregon Health & Science University. "Eating at night is no more likely to promote weight gain than eating during the day," said study co-author Judy Cameron, a lead researcher. The truth is, it's what you are eating and how much, not when you eat it that counts. If you’re considering an evening snack, think first about what you’ve eaten during the day. And try not to snack in front of the TV – you’re likely to eat more if you are distracted.

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Carbohydrates are not essential nutrients. The human body can live without carbohydrates indefinitely. New research also shows that, while cutting carbs out completely may not work long term, reducing carbohydrates (especially sugar and flour) leads to stabilization of insulin levels which leads to easier dieting (fewer cravings, less change of insulin resistance).

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