Every day we are exposed to a plethora of health and nutrition information on social media and the internet. However, not all of this advice is factual. We spoke to some of India’s best health experts to bust the most common nutrition myths. Here’s what they had to say.
These are the 12 biggest nutrition myths busted by the experts
Most common nutrition myths
1. Myth: Consuming fats makes you fat
Fact: Contrary to conventional wisdom, studies have shown that fats, when consumed in moderate quantities, are good for you. “People fear eating ghee and oils and actually adopt a fat-free diet, thinking they are doing the right thing. In reality, fats when eaten in the right amount, and in visible (ghee, oils and butter) and invisible forms (nuts, seeds, avocado, cheese, fatty fish) is actually beneficial for your health. Fats have a very important role to play in your body and are responsible for a number of metabolic functions. Additionally, certain fats act like anti-inflammatory agents and are the only source of certain vitamins—vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin E. As far as you are not overdoing it, you will benefit from consuming fats!” states Kamna Bhandari, Lifestyle Coach and Co-Founder, Intermittent Fasting and Mindful Living.
2. Myth: Consume small, frequent meals for weight loss
Fact: It is commonly believed that eating small, frequent meals promotes the body’s metabolism and aids weight loss. However, if you are eating healthy food and are meeting your energy requirements, the frequency of your meals is inconsequential.
3. Myth: Focus only on the ‘Calories in, calories out’ approach for weight loss
Fact: While achieving a calorie deficit by burning more energy than you consume is a crucial factor when it comes to weight loss, it is not the only thing that matters. “This is not true as the process of losing weight is way more complex! Calories are just one piece of the puzzle. Our emotions, thoughts, behaviour and other factors like sleep, stress levels and hormones, all affect the way our body processes energy. When we only focus on calories, we miss out on these important factors!” says Neha Ranglani, nutritionist and author of the book Breakfast Reboot.
4. Myth: Skinny is healthy!
Fact: While obesity is linked to a number of adverse health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, experts advise that it is beneficial to focus on eating nutritious food and staying active rather than becoming skinny. Thus, maintaining a healthy body weight and body fat percentage is the way to go.
5. Myth: ‘Sugar-free’ is good
Fact: “Food labels can be as misleading as your Tinder match,” quips Pallav Bihani, founder and CEO of BOLDFIT. He further adds, “Foods that are labelled ‘calorie-free,’ ‘sugar-free,’ or ‘fat-free’ are usually filled with harmful preservatives and substitutes that will harm your body way more than natural calories. Moreover, several high protein foods such as nutrition bars and breakfast cereals are filled with artificial sweeteners that will destroy your fat loss progress without you even realising it. I suggest that you consume natural produce as much as possible. You will be fine in the long run!”
6. Myth: Eating carbohydrates results in weight gain
Fact: Eating a moderate quantity of nutritious carbs that are high in fibre, vitamins, and minerals is actually beneficial. These nutritious carbs include starchy root vegetables, grains and legumes. That being said, consuming carb-rich, sugary food items in excess will result in weight gain.
7. Myth: Consuming carbohydrates at night is harmful
Fact: “Since the Indian diet is based around carbohydrates, it is tough to eliminate carbs at night, especially in the long term. Additionally, eating carbohydrates at night helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle through the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that promotes healthy sleep. Therefore, consuming carbs at night could help you sleep more soundly!” remarks Ruchi Sharma, nutritionist and founder of Eat Fit Repeat.
8. Myth: Your macronutrient ratio is all that matters for good health
Fact: While adjusting your macronutrient ratio can help you lose weight, the quality of the foods you consume is more important for overall health. For instance, you may be able to lose weight if you focus only on your macronutrient ratio and consume highly processed foods and protein shakes. However, to improve your metabolic health, lifespan, and vitality, consuming a wholesome diet of natural foods, regardless of your macronutrient ratio is recommended.
9. Myth: Excessive protein is required to build or retain muscle
Fact: “In my opinion, the biggest nutrition myth is that we need excessive protein to build or retain muscle. That is not the case! To build muscle, you need to consume the base minimum amount of protein, which does not necessarily come from supplementation, it comes from simple, natural food,” states Prateek Kumar, founder of FitCru.
10. Myth: Supplements can replace real food
Fact: While supplements are beneficial in numerous ways, they should never replace real food. For example, if you are taking a fibre supplement, it does not mean that you can stop consuming high fibre foods like vegetables, beans and fruits. These foods have nutrients and plant compounds that cannot be substituted by fibre supplements. “Supplements should do exactly what the name says—supplement normal input if the body is deficient. If you have a well-rounded diet, most likely you should be getting all the vitamins and minerals your body requires in the desired quantities,” adds Avinash Mansukhani, transformation specialist and founder of Fight The Sunrise.
11. Myth: Eating less or starving is the only way to lose weight
Fact: “Eating less only slows down your metabolism, makes you lethargic, leads to deficiencies and most importantly increases cravings and makes you unhappy. If you want to lose weight, you need to eat right rather than eat less, and consume the right food at the right time!” says lifestyle coach Kamna Bhandari.
12. Myth: Immunity boosters build your immunity overnight
Fact: “There are several products in the market that are marketed as ‘immunity boosters.’ However, the truth is that immunity can’t just be boosted by taking these pills. Yes, they do help, but a majority of our immunity lies in our sleeping habits, quality of food, and our lifestyle habits,” says Pallav Bihani, Founder of BOLDFIT.