Eating healthy is hard work, so it's no surprise that many of us have tried a shortcut or two at some point, hoping for speedy results.
But some of these alleged nutritional quick-fixes aren't all that useful, and a handful of them can even be dangerous.
Here's a look at the most insidious food and nutrition myths, along with the science that debunks them.
Myth: You should never 'cheat' on a diet.
"It’s alright to overeat occasionally," says Whitehead. "It’s overeating consistently day in and day out over the long term that causes weight gain."
If you've managed to switch from a diet heavy in red meat and processed carbohydrates to eating mostly vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, you've already done the majority of the work, Whitehead says.
Myth: Counting calories is the best way to lose weight.
Truth: Although counting calories can be a useful tool in a bigger toolkit for weight loss, it is not a perfect solution for healthy eating, especially when it's used in isolation.
That's because restricting calories doesn't take into account all the aspects of a food that are required to fuel your body, from protein and carbohydrates to vitamins and minerals. Whitehead summarizes the problem this way: "While calories are important when it comes to losing, maintaining, or gaining weight, they are not the sole thing we should be focusing on when it comes to improving our health."
Myth: Eating low-fat food will make you lose fat.
Truth: A low-fat diet doesn't necessarily translate into weight loss.
In an eight-year trial involving almost 50,000 women, roughly half the participants went on a low-fat diet, while the others did not. The researchers found that the women on the low-fat plan didn't lower their risk of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, or heart disease. Plus, they didn't lose much weight, if any. New recommendations show that healthy fats, like those from nuts, fish, and avocados, are actually good for you in moderation. So add them back into your diet if you haven't already.
Myth: Cleanses and detoxes are a good way to jump-start a diet.
Truth: No one needs to detox.
Unless you've been poisoned, you have a built-in, super-efficient system for filtering out most of the harmful substances you eat. It's made up of two toxin-bashing organs: the liver and the kidneys. Okidneyslivers
Myth: Adding a supplement to your weight-loss plan is a good idea.
Truth: substantial evidence
The most dangerous types of supplements are those related to w, according to S. Bryn Austin, who spoke on a recent panel organized by the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.
These supplements are "the most lawless of all the categories and where the most problems turn up," Austin said.
Myth: A diet that works for one person should work just as well for others.
Truth: No two bodies are the same, so there's no single best diet.
Everything from an individual's genetics to their taste preferences and even their schedule can influence the type of healthy eating plan that works for them. The most important factor to look for in a healthy eating plan, studies suggest, is a routine you can stick with. This can mean trying out a few different options until you find one you like and can maintain.
Myth: Egg whites are healthier than whole eggs.
Truth: People tend to avoid whole eggs because of their high cholesterol content, but recent research suggests that the cholesterol from our diets doesn't have much of an effect on the level of cholesterol in our blood.
Most of the early research suggesting that cholesterol consumption was unhealthy was done in rabbits, who don't eat any animal products.
Myth: Avoiding gluten is a good way to keep your digestive system healthy.
Truth: Unless you're among the 1% of Americans who suffer from celiac disease, gluten probably won't have a negative effect on your body.
Studies show that most people suffer from slight bloating and gas when they eat, whether they consume wheat or not.
Myth: Almond milk is healthier than regular milk.
Truth: Alternatives to dairy aren't always nutritionally superior.
Compared with a glass of low-fat milk, which has about 8 grams of protein, almond milk has none. Plus, most of the vitamins in almond milk are added during the production process, which some studies suggest can make it harder for the body to absorb and hold onto the nutrients. Soy milk, on the other hand, is roughly on-par with low-fat milk, serving up the same amount of protein plus some naturally occurring micronutrients from soy beans.
Myth: Juices are a good replacement for meals.
Myth: You should steer clear of MSG.
Truth: Monosodium glutamate is an ingredient added to many foods to enhance their flavor, and it's completely
Myth: Microwaving your food destroys its nutrients.
Truth: "Nuking" food does not rob it of nutrients.
Microwave ovens cook food using energy waves that cause the molecules in food to vibrate quickly, building up their energy as heat. S
Myth: Chia seeds, apple cider vinegar, and mushrooms are superfoods.
Truth: While certain foods have more health benefits than others, there is no legal or medical definition for what counts as a "superfood." target="_blank" Nutritionists and public-health experts rarely use the term. So if anyone starts tossing that word around, there's probably a good chance they're not as knowledgeable as they claim.