6 Clean Eating Myths Debunked

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Stop Believing the Food Myths

overhead view of different foods on a table
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With so much nutrition advice out there, it can be hard to figure out who to believe. These 6 clean eating myths are so common, you might not even realize they're myths! Learn the truth behind these myths and what to eat instead.

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Myth #1: Juice Cleanses Help You Detox

Juicing
Juice Cleanse Detox is Not Necessary for a Healthy Body. Matilda Delves Moment Open/Getty Images

You've probably heard that juicing is a good way to detox your body from impurities. But is drinking only freshly squeezed fruit and vegetables 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.

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Myth #2: Fruit Is Nothing But Bad Sugar

Fruit is Bad
Eating Fruit is not Linked to Weight Gain and Part of a Healthy Diet. Digni Taxi/Getty Images

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.

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 eat "too much!" 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. Bottom line? Fruit is good for you and does not make you fat.

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Myth #3: Eating After 6pm Makes You Store Fat

Eating Late
Eating the Right Foods Late at Night have Positive Health Benefits. Cultura/Liam Norris Cultura Exclusive/Getty Images

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 then making up for it in the evening, then evening eating might be an issue for you. If you find that you're triggered to overeat or eat junky 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 that a bedtime supply of nutrients can promote positive physiological changes in healthy populations. In addition, when nighttime feeding is combined with exercise training, any adverse effects appear to be eliminated.” What that means? As long as you're making healthy food choices and exercising, then eating before bed can be a good thing.

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Myth #4: Wheat is Evil

Wheat is Evil
Wheat Contains Gluten Protein and Other Essential Nutrients. John Carey Photolibrary/Getty Images

Let's start off by saying wheat doesn't have a soul. That doesn't make it evil, it just makes it a food. 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 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 led to “reductions in beneficial gut bacteria populations and the ability of fecal samples to stimulate the host's immunity.”

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Myth #5: Organics Provide Better Nutrients

organic food
Organic and Conventional Foods Have the Same Nutritional Value. -MG- E+/Getty Images

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 2012 review of the evidence suggested that organic produce is not more nutrient dense than conventional, but that conventionally-farmed chicken and pork was more likely to have antibacterial-resistant bacteria.

And when it comes to processed food products, remember: cookies and chips aren't healthier for you if they're organic. 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.

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Myth #6: I Can’t Eat “Bad” Foods Anymore

Can't Have Bad Foods
Eating Treats are a Part of a Healthy Nutrition Plan. mediaphotos E+/Getty Images

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 "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.

Sources:

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

American Journal of Medicine, Department of Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona Kidney Disease and Hypertension Center, Tucson, Yeong-Hau H. Lien, MD, PhD, 9/13

American Journal of Medicine, Oxalate Nephropathy Due to ‘Juicing’: Case Report and Review, Clinical Significance, Jane E. Getting et al., 7/8/13

The Journal of the American Medical Association, Examining the Health Effects of Fructose, David S. Ludwig, MD, PhD, 7/3/13

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, The health impact of nighttime eating: old and new perspectives, Kinsey AW et al., 4/9/15

British Journal of Nutrition, Effects of a gluten-free diet on gut microbiota and immune function in healthy adult human subjects, De Palma G et al., 5/18/09

Annals of Internal Medicine, Are organic foods safer or healthier than conventional alternatives?: a systematic review, Smith-Spangler C et al., 11/6/12

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight, 12/6/13

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