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10 Common Nutrition Claims that are False

Scrolling through social media, reading your favourite magazine, or visiting popular websites exposes you to endless information about nutrition and health — most of which is incorrect. Here is a list of popular nutrition claims that are false

Written by
Sanchia Parker
Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist
Reviewed by

If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Myth 1: Weight loss is simply “calories in vs calories out”

While weight loss is essentially from burning more calories than we eat (resulting in a calorie deficit), there are sometimes other factors at play that can affect weight loss efforts.

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Watch out

Focusing solely on calorie intake doesn’t take into account what else might impact the ability to lose weight. 

There are some medical conditions that make weight loss much more difficult. For example hormonal imbalances, hypothyroidism and metabolic adaptations all make it much harder to shift weight. In addition, certain medications and even a person’s genetics can all be factors that affect weight loss. 

So while weight loss does result in a calorie deficit, it’s not always as simple as it’s made out to be. 

Myth 2: A detox will help you lose weight

A detox promises fast weight loss, toxins removed from your body, and improved skin among other benefits. But the truth is, your body is already perfectly designed to detox itself each day without buying an expensive product! Your liver, kidneys and gut all detox toxins from the foods and drinks you consume. 

Commercial detoxes require you to eat very little, cut out certain food groups and abide by strict dieting rules for a certain amount of time. 

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If you are wanting to improve your health, a more moderate approach would be to focus on consuming minimally processed whole foods, having plenty of water and avoiding alcohol and excessive caffeine.

Myth 3: Sweeteners are better than sugar

While some sweeteners offer a low calorie option compared to sugar there is emerging research to show that sweeteners may be harmful to your health. 

Some sweeteners can increase your risk of Type 2 Diabetes by causing negative changes to gut bacteria and affecting blood sugar regulation. Not only that, but a recent study found that there is a potential link between consumption of artificial sweeteners and heart disease. Other research has linked artificial sweeteners to obesity and cardiovascular disease

So it’s best to simply aim to try and reduce the sweet, processed food from your diet, whether it contains sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Myth 4: Fruit juice is healthy

While fruit juice is often perceived as healthy, the reality is that it’s not the healthiest choice. 

A whole piece of fruit is an incredibly nutritious choice as it contains fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. But when it’s juiced, most of the gut-friendly fibre has been removed. In fact, a whole apple contains around 10 times more fibre than apple juice, with the fibre helping feelings of satiety.

Commercial juicing can also degrade many of the vitamins and minerals too. 

A typical 240ml bottle of 100% juice contains around 25 grams of sugar (about 6 teaspoons) which is similar to some soft drinks. Without the fibre slowing down digestion, the sugar in the juice is quickly absorbed, shooting blood sugar levels up.

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Instead of a glass of fruit juice, try fruit-infused water, or a cup of fruity herbal tea.

Myth 5: You should avoid foods that contain cholesterol if you have high cholesterol

High cholesterol levels can be detected from a blood test. Causes of high cholesterol can range from genetics, to smoking, to poor diet. 

While dietary changes include reducing saturated fat intake and increasing fibre intake, there is a myth that persists that states you should also avoid food containing cholesterol too.

Cholesterol-rich foods include cheese, eggs, shellfish and organ meats. The belief is that the dietary cholesterol in these foods will raise your blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. 

However, research has shown that in the majority of people, foods containing cholesterol have very little effect on blood cholesterol. It’s worth noting that some people are more sensitive to dietary cholesterol than others. But even though dietary cholesterol slightly increases cholesterol in these individuals, research has shown it does not seem to increase their risk of heart disease. 

Cholesterol-rich foods such as eggs and shellfish are nutritious choices, and can provide important health benefits. 

Myth 6: Carbs make you gain weight

While fat was once a macronutrient people shunned, the attention has now turned to carbs. There is a concern that eating carbohydrates can lead to weight gain. 

In reality, a moderate amount of nutritious carbohydrates high in fibre, vitamins and minerals can improve health. This includes foods like root vegetables, grains and legumes. 

Diets that include a balanced mix of high-fibre carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein like the Mediterranean diet has shown to reduce risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. 

However, highly refined carbohydrate foods like cakes, biscuits, soft drinks and white bread can lead to weight gain and poor health outcomes when eaten in excess. 

Myth 7: Going vegan is healthier

It’s sometimes promised that switching to a vegan diet means many health benefits such as weight loss, reduced risk of heart disease and some cancers. While there is some research to show that vegans tend to have a lower BMI, lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure, there are some caveats here. 

Firsty, switching to a vegan diet means cutting out meat, fish, eggs, milk and all other animal products. By removing so many foods from your diet, it means vegans are at a higher risk of certain nutritional deficiencies. This includes nutrients such as vitamins B-12 and D, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, iron and zinc. So it does require a lot of planning to ensure all nutrient needs are met. 

Secondly, the health benefits of a vegan diet boil down to the nutritional quality. A vegan diet may consist of chips, peanut butter sandwiches and vegan junk food. A vegan diet may also consist of fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes and nuts and seeds. So a vegan diet can be both healthy, and unhealthy depending on what types of food are eaten. 

Finally, health benefits can be found from a number of different diets, not just vegan diets. So choose a way of eating that works best for you and your lifestyle. 

Myth 8: Gluten-free is healthier

Gluten is the protein found in some grain-based products such as wheat, barley and rye. Gluten itself provides no nutrition, but the foods it’s found in do. Gluten-containing foods are a source of fibre, B vitamins, folate and iron so eliminating these foods can make it a bit harder to ensure nutrient needs are met. 

While gluten-free products are available, they tend to be lower in fibre and use more sugar, fat and additives to re-create the texture and flavour that is lost when gluten is removed. 

A gluten-free diet is the only treatment for those suffering from coeliac disease. However, for those who are not coeliac, there are no health benefits to be gained from avoiding gluten. 

Myth 9: Fresh fruit and vegetables are healthier than frozen

In fact, frozen produce may be healthier than fresh! Fresh fruit and vegetables are often picked before they are ripe, so that they can ripen on the way to the grocery store. However, the light and heat that the produce is exposed to during transport can degrade the nutrients, reducing their overall nutrient profile. 

On the other hand, fruits and vegetables are picked and flash frozen while they are ripe. Freezing retains the nutrients found in the produce, meaning the vitamins and minerals are not degraded in the same way fresh produce can be. 

Two studies found that in over 60 per cent of cases, frozen fruit and vegetables contained more antioxidants compared to fresh varieties stored in the fridge for three days.

Myth 10: Sweet potatoes are better than white potatoes

White potato is often touted as an unhealthy choice, but this is far from the truth! While some forms of white potato such as hot chips and potato chips, aren’t the best choice, this is due to additional ingredients used in making these products. Namely, the oil and salt. 

While sweet potato does have more Vitamin A and a little bit more fibre than white potato, white potato has more potassium and is lower in sugar. Otherwise, both are comparable in their calorie, protein, and carb content. 

So with neither being a superior choice, be sure to enjoy both as part of a varied diet. 

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