10 Clean Eating Myths Debunked

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Food Myths You Should Stop Believing

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With so much nutrition advice out there, it can be hard to figure out who to believe. Diet trends and fads have many of us confused about foods and even when to eat them. The truth behind ten of the most common clean eating food myths is outlined below. 

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Juice Cleanses Help You Detox

You've probably heard juicing is a good way to detox your body from impurities. But is drinking only freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices for several days at a time a good idea? Not really. When you choose juice over whole fruits and vegetables, you're missing out on fiber--a nutrient that helps your body digest food more slowly. By drinking juice, you're dumping a whole lot of sugar into your bloodstream (even when you're having lower sugar fruits and vegetables) without fiber, fat, or protein to slow it down.

There is no scientific basis to support the health benefits of juicing over simply including fruits and vegetables in the diet. What's more, juicing might even be more harmful than helpful. The American Journal of Medicine reported a case of nerve damage brought on by a 6-week juicing fast. Oxalates--a compound in plant foods--can be toxic and in high doses. In this case, a patient went into acute renal failure that “was attributable to consumption of oxalate-rich fruit and vegetable juices obtained from juicing.” The patient was able to recover a portion of his kidney functioning but sustained permanent damage from his juicing program.

The bottom line - juicing can be a great supplement to a healthy diet that already includes antioxidant-rich foods that work to detoxify the body. 

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Fruit Contains Bad Sugar

Fruit has sugar in it, no question. The sugar it contains is called fructose. Fructose, along with glucose (another sugar), forms sucrose—table sugar. In high doses, fructose is linked with metabolic syndrome (a cluster of health issues that increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease). If you drink sweet beverages, such as soda, sweet coffee drinks, or even fruit juice, then chances are you might be getting too much fructose in your diet. But when it comes to sugar in fruit, there's little need to worry. Research indicates fruit is healthy and provides minimal fructose in the American diet. 

In addition to fructose, fruit has fiber, a nutrient that slows down the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream. It also takes up a lot more volume, which means you'll be less likely to overeat. It takes several apples to get a cup of juice, but if you're eating whole apples, one is enough.

According to health research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, there's actually an inverse relationship between eating fruit and body weight and risk of obesity-related diseases. 

The bottom line - fruit is good for you!

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Eating After 6pm Makes You Store Fat

Eating after 6 p.m. (or whatever arbitrary time), doesn't make you fat. Eating more calories than your body burns through exercise or daily activities does. On the other hand, if you find yourself getting the midnight munchies, or skimping on food during the day and making up for it in the evening, then late night eating might be an issue for you. If you find that you're triggered to overeat or consume junk foods in the evening, then take a look at what's really driving your behavior ... and think of ways to address it.

According to the National Institutes of Health, eating before bed might even have some health benefits. It appears supplying our body with nutrients before bed promotes positive physiological changes. Those results are enhanced even more when late night eating is combined with exercise training during the day. 

The bottom line - as long as you're making healthy food choices and exercising, then eating before bed can be a good thing.

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Everyone Should Eat Gluten Free

Eating gluten free has become a popular diet trend. Wheat contains a protein called gluten, and the market for gluten-free products has exploded and not because people require a special diet, but because they believe it to be healthier. Going gluten-free is essential for those diagnosed with celiac disease (CD) and currently, that is approximately 1% of the American population. Some people have gluten sensitivity and feel better avoiding foods like wheat and other whole grains.

Surprisingly most of the consumers of gluten-free products are people not diagnosed with CD and have fallen prey to believing wheat and everything about it is unhealthy. Peter H.R. Green, MD, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University asserts that gluten-free is not a healthy way to go for others, meaning those without celiac and states "unless people are very careful, a gluten-free diet can lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber." The British Journal of Nutrition also reported gluten-free diets reduced beneficial gut bacteria vital to maintaining our immunity. 

The bottom line - gluten free diets may not be the best choice for everyone. 

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Organics Provide Better Nutrients

The organic market has boomed in recent years and a health halo has surrounded all foods that bear the organic label. But organic food isn't necessarily healthier. There's limited research on the subject, but a clinical review of the evidence suggests organic produce is not more nutrient dense than conventional. Also, conventionally-farmed chicken and pork were more likely to have antibacterial-resistant bacteria. 

And when it comes to processed food products, organic cookies and chips aren't any healthier for you. Organics can be more expensive than conventional so knowing there really isn’t a difference in the nutrient value offers some comfort for those on tight budgets.

The bottom line – organics are preferable not because they contain more nutrients but because they are treated with fewer pesticides and other toxins than conventional foods. 

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I Can’t Eat “Bad Foods” Anymore

You might define "bad foods" in many ways, but doing so (and then forever swearing off those foods) is not healthy or realistic. A healthy diet is a way of eating that you can sustain. Black and white thinking isn't particularly useful for the lifelong part of a healthy lifestyle. Choose nutrient-dense foods most of the time, but make sure you know that your diet isn't "busted" if you enjoy a treat. One way of thinking about a healthy balance is to use the 90-10 rule. Make 90% of your meals and snacks nutritious (and delicious), but save room for 10% to splurge on fun foods.

 

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Chocolate Isn’t Healthy

It appears not all chocolate is created equal and the darker the better. According to research, dark chocolate contains powerful antioxidants good for our body and is recommended as part of a healthy diet. Research has shown consuming dark chocolate can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. 

The chemical compounds in dark chocolate are said to improve body function and enhance athletic performance. Eating dark chocolate stimulates nitric oxide (NO) to be released into our bloodstream. Increased nitric oxide dilates our vessels for better blood and oxygen flow to working muscles.

The bottom line – eating chocolate is healthy as long as it’s 70 percent dark and 1.5 ounces is the recommended serving size. 

 

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Don’t Eat Egg Yolks

How many of us have tossed our egg yolks believing them to be unhealthy? According to research, we have been dumping valuable nutrients down the drain. Egg yolks are shown to have essential fatty acid compounds beneficial to our cells. They also contain important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Eating whole eggs are indicated to increase our metabolism and good cholesterol (HDL). Increasing our HDL is recommended for heart health and is accomplished through healthy eating and exercise. 

The bottom line – eating a whole egg daily provides quality protein and beneficial nutrients.

 

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Carbohydrates Make You Fat

We have all heard in order to lose weight, stop eating carbohydrates because they make us fat. There may be a difference in the types of carbs we should be eating but they don’t make us fat. Consuming more calories than we can burn through daily activities and exercise is what increases our fat stores. 

Eating good carbs is shown to help with weight loss, body fat reduction, and improved muscle growth. Carbohydrates are our primary energy source and vital for optimal body functioning. Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are great examples of carbohydrates part of a healthy diet. Good carbs contain essential nutrients and fiber providing sustained energy throughout the day. Carbs support optimal fitness levels, improved digestion, and are shown to reduce our risk of heart disease and other illness. 

Consuming bad carbs lacking in nutrient value can contribute to being unhealthy and eventual weight gain. Examples of carbohydrates to avoid include sugary drinks, white bread, processed foods and ice cream. 

The bottom line – carbs don’t make us fat and there is a difference between good and bad carbohydrates.  

 

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Carbonated Drinks Are Bad For You

Many of us consider bubbly drinks to be filled with sugar and bad for you. This is far from the truth and some carbonated beverages can be considered healthy. Carbonated waters help people who struggle drinking regular water meet daily fluid requirements. Staying hydrated is an important part of staying healthy.

What makes carbonated drinks good or bad for you are the ingredients. If they are filled with sugar, additives, and preservatives then it wouldn’t be a healthy choice. If the carbonated drink is nothing but water made bubbly with pressurized carbon dioxide gas then it’s good for you. Sometimes people may experience bloating or gas with carbonated water but that’s really the only reported negative side effect. Otherwise, plain bubbly water is just as hydrating and healthy as regular water. 

The bottom line – plain fizzy waters like seltzer or mineral are healthy alternatives to regular water.

Sources:
American Council on Exercise, Weight Management, Fit Facts, Diet Myths Debunked

Jane E. Getting et al., Oxalate Nephropathy Due to ‘Juicing’: Case Report and Review, Clinical Significance, American Journal of Medicine, 2013

Kinsey AW et al., The health impact of nighttime eating: old and new perspectives, US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, 2015

Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D, Nutrition and healthy eating, Do detox diets offer any health benefits?, Mayo Clinic, Healthy Lifestyle, 2015

Smith-Spangler C et al., Are organic foods safer or healthier than conventional alternatives?: a systematic review, Annals of Internal Medicine, 2012

 

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