In today’s hyperconnected world we are bombarded with health and diet information. Everyone from Dr. Oz to your next door neighbor is a self-declared nutrition expert. (Have you noticed that I’m not so fond of Dr. Oz?) While it’s great that we have easy access to health information, some of it may not always be true. Here are some common diet myths debunked.
Myth: Eating after 8 P.M. will make you gain weight.
Truth: It doesn’t matter what time of day you eat. When it comes to losing weight what matters most is the total amount of calories consumed versus the total amount of calories burned. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight; regardless of when those calories were consumed. Your body is constantly burning calories (even when you sleep) so food eaten late at night will not “stick” anymore than food eaten in the morning.
However, many people do tend to overeat at night, whether it be from boredom or stress. If you find that you are a “night eater” it may be a good idea to set a limit of not eating past a certain hour so you do not exceed your overall calorie requirement. Next time you want to grab an evening treat ask yourself, am I truly hungry or am I just bored?
Myth: Brown sugar is healthier for you than white sugar
Truth: The brown sugar sold at grocery stores is actually white granulated sugar with added molasses. Brown sugar contains the same amount of calories and sugar as white sugar. Similarly, there are no real health benefits of using maple syrup or honey instead of white sugar. Honey is useful for soothing a sore throat, but that’s another topic. Brown sugar, pure maple syrup, and honey do contain trace amounts of minerals. Unless you are downing a whole cup of maple syrup or honey (which I don’t recommend) the minerals are insignificant.
By the Numbers
1 cup white granulated sugar = 773 calories, 200 grams sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar = 836 calories, 213 grams sugar
1 cup pure maple syrup = 819 calories, 214 grams sugar
1 cup honey = 1031 calories, 278 grams sugar
As you can see the calories and sugar content of the first three products are similar. Honey exceeds white sugar by over 200 calories. Honey is a bit sweeter than white sugar so it is possible to use a smaller amount of honey and obtain the same sweetness.
Myth: Avoid carbohydrates (carbs) to lose weight
Truth: Cutting out carbs will help you lose weight initially because you will be losing water weight. When reducing carbs your body will burn glycogen as opposed to glucose. Glycogen (the storage form of glucose) contains a lot of water and for the first couple of weeks you may see a big drop in your weight due to the water loss. If you continue to lose weight it is only because you are reducing your overall calorie intake, not because there is anything magical about cutting carbohydrates.
If it works, then why not do it? Carbohydrates are important for a balanced diet and they are a good source of fiber. Additionally, they are your main energy source when exercising. Carbohydrates are found in grains, fruits, vegetables, and milk products which provide essentials vitamins and minerals. Eating smaller portions of carbohydrates is okay, but eliminating them from your diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics a balanced diet should contain 50-60% of calories from carbohydrates, 25-30% calories from fat, and 15-20% calories from protein. If you have diabetes I would recommend going as low as 30-40% of total calories from carbohydrate.
Myth: Eating a lot of sugar causes diabetes
Truth: If you already have diabetes, you do need to watch your sugar and total carbohydrate intake to manage your blood glucose. However, if you do not have diabetes, high sugar intake will not cause you to develop the disease. The main risk factors for Type II diabetes are being overweight or obese, having a sedentary lifestyle, and family history of the disease. It is recommended to consume a diet with low to moderate amounts of added sugar for overall health, as sugar contains zero nutrients but many calories. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugars and men no more than 9 teaspoons. As a reference, one can of soda contains 9 teaspoons of added sugars.
Did any of these myths fool you? What other diet myths have you heard?