Diet

20 Myths & facts related to diet & weight loss

There are now more myths related to healthy nutrition, food myths and weight loss myths than ever before. Learn the myths and facts about food and how to plan a diet that really works for your weight loss and good health.

Shivani
Aug 10, 2022

 

You would think that with all the information at our fingertips today, diet, weight loss & food myths would be fewer than maybe in our grandparents’ time.

 

Unfortunately, the internet is rife with misinformation, and it can be really difficult (sometimes impossible) to tell what is fact and what is a myth. Myths that were previously passed through word-of-mouth now spread like wildfire through social media, blogs, and even established media. There are many reasons for this. Like news outlets looking to grab attention, research studies being difficult to read, and journalists/bloggers/celebrities looking for their next viral hit.  As a result, information often gets published without being verified.

 

The result?

Confusion, frustration and in some cases harm for those who experiment with the latest quick-fix or magic solution for their weight loss and health problems.

There seem to be more myths related to healthy nutrition than ever before.

 

We’ve looked hard at the evidence and discussed 20 myths and facts about food, diet & weight loss that seem to be rampant in India. It’s likely you’ve heard some or all of them at some point.

 

Here are the 20 myths that we cover in this article:

 

  • Myth 1: You need to eat breakfast
  • Myth 2: You should eat more often to boost metabolism
  • Myth 3: Exercise is the key to weight loss
  • Myth 4: Dal, Chickpea (channa) and Rajma are a rich source of protein
  • Myth 5: Taking whey protein is like taking steroids
  • Myth 6: All smoothies and juices are healthy
  • Myth 7: A multivitamin is necessary to be healthy.
  • Myth 8: High cholesterol foods are unhealthy
  • Myth 9: You should “detox” regularly
  • Myth 10: Lemon-water is a quick fix for weight loss
  • Myth 11: Counting calories is all that matters when it comes to weight loss
  • Myth 12: Muesli and granola are a healthy breakfast.
  • Myth 13: Honey is healthier than other types of sugar.
  • Myth 14: Certain foods, such as caffeine, chilli and green tea will boost metabolism to burn fat.
  • Myth 15: Losing weight means eating mostly salads
  • Myth 16: To lose weight, you have to give up all your favourite foods.
  • Myth 17: Eating at night will make you gain weight.
  • Myth 18: Apple cider vinegar is a fat burner
  • Myth 19: Brown sugar is better than white sugar.
  • Myth 20: Egg yolks are bad for you.

Myth 1: You need to eat breakfast

 

This has to be one of the most common myths related to healthy nutrition.

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” or that eating breakfast will “jumpstart your metabolism” is something we have all heard before from parents, health bloggers, doctors, and ad campaigns.  But the health advantage of consuming a regular breakfast has been over-hyped.

nutrition myths and facts

A recent paper published in the British Medical Journal looked at studies over the last 30 years on the effect of breakfast on weight. 

The study notes that the addition of breakfast might not be a good strategy for weight loss. It went as far as saying that caution is needed when recommending breakfast for weight loss in adults, as it could have the opposite effect.

The Truth: Is it ok to skip breakfast? The short answer is Yes. If you are consuming appropriate amounts of calories and macronutrients throughout the day, skipping breakfast won’t make much of a difference.

You don’t need to eat breakfast to be healthy or lose weight. You should base your breakfast consumption on your preferences and personal goals. Feel free to experiment to see if you want to make skipping breakfast a habit. Read more about breakfast, whether it’s right for you and how to make it healthier in this article.

 

Myth 2: You should eat small meals often to boost metabolism

 

 

When it comes to food myths, this is a very common one. The need to have small frequent meals has almost become a rule for many, whether they are hungry or not.

 

It’s easy to trace this myth back to its origin. Digestion does raise your metabolism a little, so eating less food more often should keep your metabolism elevated.

 

In theory.

 

In practice, evidence shows that, given an equal amount of daily calories, the number of meals largely makes no difference in fat loss

 

Eating six times a day does not seem to have any benefit compared to eating three times a day. 

Moreover, some studies suggest that having smaller meals more often makes it harder to feel full, potentially leading to increased food intake.

 

The Truth: Digestion does slightly increase your metabolic rate, but meal frequency has less effect than the total caloric content of the food you eat.  If eating small frequent meals works for your lifestyle then it can be useful but it alone will not cause weight loss or prevent weight gain.

 

What you eat and how much has a much bigger impact on your waistline. So think in terms of food quality and quantity.

Myth 3: Exercise is the key to weight loss

 

 

We’ve been conditioned to think of exercise as a key ingredient - perhaps the most important ingredient of any weight loss effort. You know the drill: Join the gym on January 1 if you want to reach your New Year’s weight loss goal.

But in truth, the evidence has been accumulating for years that exercise, while great for health, isn’t actually as important for weight loss.

Studies have shown that compared to exercise changes, diet changes produce around three times the weight loss. You read that right: 

 

Diet changes lead to three times the weight loss compared to exercise. 

 

The truth: Exercise is excellent for health; it’s just not that important for weight loss. So don't expect to lose a lot of weight by ramping up physical activity alone. How much and what you eat has a much bigger impact on your waistline. Weight loss mostly happens on your plate.

Myth 4: Dal, chickpea (channa) and rajma are a rich source of protein

Let’s take chickpea. A simple Google search (“chickpea cooked calories”) will reveal that 100g of chickpea contains 9g of protein and 27g of carbohydrates i.e. there’s 3 times the carbs compared to the amount of protein.

 

So, while there’s certainly a reasonable amount of protein content in it, it does not qualify as a rich source of protein as we are getting a lot more carbohydrates along with it.

 

 

Every 1g of chickpea protein comes with 3g of carbohydrates.

 

 

Chickpea can certainly be used to supplement one’s protein intake or to replace sources of carbohydrate with poorer protein content, say rice. And for vegetarians with limited options, it can be used to increase the amount of protein intake. The same is true for dal and rajma, see the table below.

 

 

myths related to healthy nutrition

 

 

In comparison, 100g of boiled soybeans have 18 grams of protein and 8 grams of carbs. It has double the protein than carbs and is therefore a rich source of protein.

 

 

The truth: Dal, chickpea and rajma are not a primary source of protein as every 1g of protein comes with 2-4g of carbohydrates. It is better not to rely on it (or similar legumes) as your main source of protein, unless you have no better options. A diet rich in these legumes is a high-carbohydrate diet - not a high-protein one. For more information on this topic and to make your diet truly protein-rich, see the high-protein Indian diet chart for weight loss.

 

Myth 5: Taking whey protein is like taking steroids 

 

For a lot of people, supplements can be a scary topic. We’ve been exposed to mainstream media talk about steroids and other illegal performance enhancers, and it can be easy to consider all supplements as being part of the same category.  When it comes to whey protein, nothing could be further from the truth.

 

Whey is a part of milk - if we ‘chop’ milk into two, we will get whey and cheese essentially. Whey has been shown to be completely safe and a high-quality source of protein. It is processed (the process is needed to extract the whey from the milk) and care needs to be taken to ensure your whey protein comes from a high quality brand.

 

 

Milk protein (and soy protein) is one of the main ingredients in baby formula powders.

 

It does not do any damage to the liver or kidneys. The exception is if there is already pre-existing damage to those organs where it can worsen the issue. So, for people with kidney or liver issues, it is recommended to consult your physician who may recommend a low-protein diet.

 

For those without any such issues, it is a great source of protein to supplement our diet with, and not just for those who lift weights or actively exercise. Vegetarians, for example, will see a lot of benefit from adding some whey to their diet.

 

The truth: Whey is a natural part of milk and shown to be both safe and effective when used by healthy individuals.

Myth 6: All smoothies and juices are healthy 

Certain juices and smoothies are highly nutritious. For example, a nutrient-dense smoothie or freshly made juice composed primarily of non-starchy vegetables can be a great way to increase your vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant intake.

But the reality is that most juices and smoothies sold at stores are loaded with sugar, fats and other avoidable ingredients.

When consumed in excess, they can promote weight gain and other health issues like tooth decay and blood sugar issues. The sugars may not be white sugar but from seemingly healthy foods, e.g. apple juice is used to sweeten most juices. This is mainly the sugar from the apple without the fibre.

In general, drinking juices is an easy way to overeat. For example, you cannot eat 3 oranges but will easily drink the juice from 3 oranges.

The truth: Most store-bought juices and smoothies are packed with added sugar and calories. Juices in general can contribute to overeating. Eat the fruit instead.

Myth 7: A multivitamin is necessary to be healthy.

 

The increasing use of vitamin pills in India is alarming. Most people are unaware of the possible side-effects of these vitamins.

 

We understand why people are tempted to take a multivitamin. After all, without these nutrients, none of us would be alive. A lot of people take them as “insurance” against deficiency or as a way to compensate for a bad diet.

 

Studies have not shown any benefit from multivitamins either for lifespan or quality of life.

By far the best form of insurance is a healthy and nutritious diet.

If you do need to supplement, targeted supplementation will save you both time and money, and more importantly may be better for your long-term health. That’s because multivitamins often provide too much of some nutrients and not enough of others. Instead, you can identify nutrient gaps and supplement for the missing nutrients in high enough doses and see a benefit. Common examples are Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 where deficiencies are common in India. You can take specific supplements for those in doses prescribed by your doctor.

 

The truth: Focus on getting your nutrients from a balanced diet and supplement in a targeted way to plug nutrient gaps.

 

 

Myth 8: High cholesterol foods are unhealthy

As far as food myths are concerned, this one has been around for a long time.

Cholesterol-rich foods have had a bad reputation thanks to misconceptions about how cholesterol in food affects heart health.

While some people are more sensitive to dietary cholesterol than others, overall, nutrient-dense, cholesterol-rich foods can be included in a healthy diet. In fact, including cholesterol-rich, nutritious foods like eggs and full fat yoghurt in your diet may boost health by enhancing feelings of fullness and providing important nutrients that other foods lack. This directly helps with weight loss in the same way as milk can help in a weight loss diet

The truth: High cholesterol foods like eggs and full fat yoghurt are highly nutritious and can be included as part of a healthy diet. They have been shown to help with weight loss.

Myth 9: You should “detox” regularly

 

 

nutrition myths and facts

 

“Detox diets” are another food myth that will just not go away. Such diets commonly limit foods to plant-based juices, sometimes seasoned with a supplement. After a few days of that regimen, you’re supposed to be cleansed of …what?

 

Good question.  Well, it turns out that even detox diet companies don’t really know. An investigation of ten companies found they couldn’t name a single “toxin” eliminated by any of their fifteen products — let alone prove that their products worked.

 

But if “detox diets” are more likely to harm than help, what explains their popularity? One answer is: quick weight loss. Deprive your body from carbohydrate and you can exhaust its glycogen stores (energy is stored in the body as glycogen) in as little as 24 hours. The resulting loss of several kgs can convince you the diet had a positive effect.

 

  

When the diet ends and you resume your regular eating habits, however, the glycogen and associated water come rushing back in, and with them the kilos you lost.

 

  

Detox diets are not necessarily safe, either. Every now and then a case report emerges about potential risks, such as kidney damage from green smoothies or liver failure from detox teas.

 

The truth: The liver, kidneys, lungs, and other organs work around the clock to remove harmful substances and excrete the waste products of metabolism (ie they 'detox' all the time). A detox diet might make you feel better, but that’s usually because of the increased vegetable and fruit intake, not because any form of detoxification is taking place.

 

Myth 10: Lemon-water is a quick fix for weight loss

 

 

Except it is not. This is one of the most common weight loss myths.

 

While there’s nothing harmful about lemon and water, there’s nothing magical about it as well. There are no compounds in that special mixture of a regular fruit mixed in water that triggers a biochemical reaction which starts to melt our fat. Sad, but true.

 

If you like to drink lemon water, please continue to do so. Drinking water does help with feeling less hungry so you will end up eating a little less. This will indirectly help your weight loss and you will get enough water too. So no reason to stop.

 

 

Just don't expect any miracle fat loss outcomes from lemon water.

 

  

While you will see weight loss if lemon-water is the only thing (or one of the few things) you’re having for a few days, that is simply because of a severe calorie restriction as well as water loss. You’ll put these kilos back as soon as you start eating normally.

 

 

The truth: Lemons are just fruits, and fruits are healthy. Lemon juice won’t contribute substantially to your micro-nutrient intake, but it also doesn’t contain very many calories.

 

Most importantly for fat loss, lemon-water has no unique, proven weight-loss benefit.  So don't expect any miracle fat loss outcomes from lemon water. Sustained weight loss comes from a balanced diet, active lifestyle and good sleep habits.

Myth 11: Counting calories is all that matters when it comes to weight loss

The internet and app stores have many calorie counters that promise to have every dish you can imagine. All you have to do is download an app, input what you are eating and all the calculations are ready for you to analyse. But does calorie counting work for weight loss?

At a simple level, you can think of weight loss as pure maths and conclude that so long as you are burning more energy than you eat, you will lose weight. That is all there is to it, right?

Wrong.

Studies have shown that reducing calorie intake may not help you lose weight and keep it off. Calorie counting may only have a short-term effect.

Calorie counters are not accurate a lot of the time and are not the answer to achieving weight loss. In addition, being overly preoccupied with counting calories has been associated with an increased risk of disordered eating tendencies and mental anxiety.

Calorie counting also fails to emphasize the importance of sustainability and diet quality for weight loss. Those following the “calories in, calories out” method typically concentrate solely on the calorie value of foods, not their nutrition value. This can lead to choosing low calorie, nutrient-poor foods like rice cakes, health bars and egg whites over higher calorie, nutrient-dense foods like fruits and whole eggs.

Low-calorie diets can also leave you feeling hungry all the time.

This will not happen if you focus on eating a diet that balances the major food groups. This way you will eat satisfying meals but also be in a calorie deficit - without counting calories.  We do not count calories in the Daily9 weight loss program and still achieve excellent weight loss results.

There is a lot more to weight loss than just calories. You need to get the right balance of food groups, focus on high quality food, exercise and sleep.

The truth: Tracking calories can help you be more conscious of your food intake, but it’s not necessary to count calories to lose weight and may lead to disordered eating tendencies. It also does not deal with the reality that unless we feel full, we will not be able to sustain any weight loss diet.

That is why in the Daily9 coaching programme, we do not count calories. We focus on food quality and also work on sleep, exercise and stress.

Myth 12: Muesli and granola are a healthy breakfast

 

The marketing around muesli and granola will leave you thinking that they are a must-have healthy breakfast. The truth is quite the opposite.

Muesli and granola are really just desserts in disguise, due to the large amount of sugar & oil found in many brands. 

You can easily see this yourself when you look at the back of the packaging at the ‘ingredients’ section. You will find anywhere between 10-30 ingredients including oils, candied fruit, liquid glucose, sugar, vegetable oil and other such ingredients. Even options that come without some of these avoidable ingredients often come loaded with nuts, seeds or ‘healthier grains’ - which are good in theory, but recommended only in limited quantities for weight loss because of their high caloric content. 

Plain oats with fruit is a much better and healthier choice for weight loss and health.

The Truth: Muesli and Granola are mostly desserts in disguise. Eating plain oats with fruit is a healthier alternative.

 

Myth 13: Honey is healthier than other types of sugar

Honey does have some health benefits but it is still mostly sugar. But it’s important to not use that as a reason to add more sugar to your diet, because at the end of the day honey is still mostly sugar.  So use it instead of sugar and not in addition to sugar.

That way you’ll get the health benefits from honey without adding more sugar to your diet.

 

 

The truth: Sugar is sugar, and this is true for honey too. It does have a small amount of vitamins and minerals so is a slightly better alternative to white sugar but you still need to limit how much you have.

 

Myth 14: Certain foods, such as caffeine, chilli and green tea will boost metabolism to burn fat

As far as weight loss myths go, none is more tempting than the idea that our metabolism can be kicked into top gear to melt fat. And if we can do that by eating something, why not. But stop & think: is this sounding too good to be true? That's because it is. 

All the marketing about such foods make them sound a lot more dramatic than they actually are. 

 

Their effect on your metabolism is extremely small and gives you no real benefit in terms of weight loss. In fact, they can have the opposite effect and can be harmful if consumed in excessive amounts.

There are far better & proven ways to do this via your daily diet, exercise and sleep. And they are all free.

 

The truth: No foods burn fat, make you lose weight more quickly or increase your metabolism enough to have a noticeable effect on weight loss. Avoid diets that focus on using such foods or supplements for weight loss. They are restrictive and lack nutrients the body needs. They can also be harmful as they may require high doses of individual foods or supplements. 

Myth 15: Losing weight means eating mostly salads

When it comes to weight loss, it’s likely that you think that all you can eat are salads and that this includes only raw vegetables with a bunch of leafy greens. But this is really not the case. While vegetables and salads are low-calorie and high in nutrition, just eating plain vegetables will not help.

You will not feel full after a meal and will end up being hungry all the time.

You will also not eat enough of other foods that are necessary, like protein, fats and carbs. What you really need and what works in real life is a balanced diet that includes carbs, protein, fats and vegetables. This means you can eat all your favourite foods like rice, roti, poha, dal, idli, paneer, ghee, and sabzi for weight loss.

The important point is to balance these foods so that you eat the right balance of carbs, protein, vegetables and fat. Heard of ‘salad bowls’ or ‘Buddha bowls’? These usually come with a combination of such foods.

See our Indian diet plan for weight loss where we outline a 7-day diet chart for weight loss based on an Indian diet.

The truth: It's true that salad and vegetables are low calorie and can help with weight loss. But that alone will not help as you will feel hungry all the time and find it difficult to sustain it. Instead focus on a balanced diet that has more vegetables but also includes protein, fat and carbs.

 

Myth 16: To lose weight, you have to give up all your favourite foods

We all feel guilty about gaining weight. We think that we must then give up all of our favourite foods as punishment in order to lose weight. This is unnecessary and in fact just adds to your stress. It will also not last after a few weeks as your willpower will ultimately fail. There is a better way.

 

Instead of giving up all your favourite foods, include them in your weight loss diet in a planned way. For example, as a weekly treat.

 

This will help avoid cravings from building up and you will also not feel as awkward in social situations with friends and family.

 

The truth: You don’t have to give up all your favourite foods when you’re trying to lose weight. Small amounts of your favourite high-calorie foods may be part of your weight-loss plan. Just remember to plan them and then have them per your plan.

Myth 17: Eating at night will make you gain weight

The belief that eating carbs (or any food) at night directly results in fat gain is a myth. 

 

People who eat late at night do tend to put on extra weight. The main reason is late-night snacking which usually consists of high-calorie treats or unhealthy processed foods. It is not because they ate a late dinner.

Sleeping late at night may also mean that you have poor sleep, which can lead to unhealthy cravings the next day. 

Eating carbs (or any food) at night does not automatically cause it to be stored as fat. Eating too close to bed might cause other issues for you like digestion or acidity but it makes no difference at all to your body composition. What you eat in a day still decides whether you store, maintain or burn fat.

The truth: If you’re in a caloric deficit, you will lose fat regardless of when you eat your carbs. And if you eat poorly or too much, you will gain weight even if you eat it earlier in the day. When to eat your dinner is the wrong question to ask. What to eat for dinner is the area you need to focus on.

Myth 18: Apple cider vinegar is a fat burner

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a vinegar made from apple juice. You may have a friend who insists on taking apple cider vinegar shots in the morning for fat burning. Or you may have seen apple cider vinegar drinks in the fridge in your grocery store. ACV has achieved superfood status and you will hear claims that it can cure nearly everything, whether it is weight gain, digestive issues or skin problems. Some companies market ACV as a powerful source of vitamins and minerals, or for weight loss or “cleansing”.

ACV contains very few calories, so it can fit into your diet if you’re trying to lose weight. 

But does it really cause fat burning? No.

The truth is that taking ACV is unlikely to change your body composition or weight. That will come from a balanced diet.  

 

If you like to drink ACV in water, please continue to do so. Drinking this should help with feeling less hungry so you will end up eating a little less. This will indirectly help your weight loss and you will get enough water too. So no reason to stop.

The truth: ACV is a healthy drink and can be added to salads also. It also doesn’t contain very many calories. But it will not, by itself, cause fat burning or increase the rate of weight loss.

Myth 19: Brown sugar is better than white sugar

Brown sugar has slightly higher calcium, iron, and potassium compared to white sugar. But the difference is tiny.

Your main goal for good health & weight management is to limit the total amount of sugar in your life. White sugar, brown sugar, jaggery & honey are all sugar.

 

The truth: Focus on reducing the total sugars in your life. Once you do that, you can choose the better options like brown sugar, honey and jaggery.

Myth 20: Egg yolks are bad for you

 

We have been taught to fear cholesterol in food and egg yolk has been the biggest victim of that. 

 

The truth is that a whole egg is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. While the white portion is a rich source of protein, the rest of the nutrients are present in the yolk. Some of these nutrients in the egg yolk are very hard to get if your diet is mainly vegetarian. For example vitamin B12, D and Selenium.

 

The egg yolk is rich in:

  • Protein
  • Iron
  • Vitamin B6 & B12
  • Vitamin D & E
  • Choline
  • Folate
  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Phosphorus

 

If you eat only the egg whites, you’re missing out on all these other nutrients. 

 

A number of studies have shown that eating the whole egg helps improve health and may even be better than an oats breakfast as eggs keep you fuller for longer.

 

The truth: Whole eggs, including their yolks, are a great source of protein, fats, and other nutrients and can be part of a diet for weight loss and good health.

 

Conclusion

Misinformation is rampant, difficult to identify, and unfortunately spreads much faster than facts.  And really, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Because we all want to get fitter, it’s easy to fall for health and weight loss myths.

Knowing the myths and facts about food has become a necessary part of leading a healthy lifestyle.

Be curious. Ask questions.

Believing something, or wanting it to be true, or feeling it should be true doesn’t mean it is true. So be curious, be sceptical, ask questions.  And remember - “because it worked for me” is not enough evidence to recommend “it” to another person.

Daily9 weight loss program

At Daily9, we know that our users don’t want to trust blind belief or just personal opinions. They trust us to show them what works and has a positive effect on their health - based on science. That’s why we work hard to ensure that our nutrition and weight loss recommendations are based on measurable, accurate reality. On science and on the best evidence that we have right now.

We also know that our users don’t usually have the time, the experience, nor the interest to pore over research. They have jobs and lives. What they want is a plan, and a way to implement and track it - and finally to see real results.

In the Daily9 weight loss program we bring together research, experience and expertise to help our users achieve a better weight and a healthy lifestyle.

 

 

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