Top 5 Dietary Myths & Truths

1. Fat makes you fat

“But, I thought if you eat fat, you get fat?" Not true. Despite what you may hear from your doctor, you should not avoid fat in your diet. This is a dangerous myth. Fat is essential for many functions in our body. It provides energy, protects our organs, and is necessary for hormone production.

It was once believed that fat led to heart disease but now, we know that it’s actually excess inflammation caused by excessive SUGAR and CARBOHYDRATE intake, COMBINED with unhealthy fats, that will cause heart disease.

However, there is a difference between good fats and bad fats. Good fats are things like almonds, avocados, eggs, olive oil, and most fish. Bad fats are margarine, vegetable oils, fried foods, baked goods like cookies cakes and pastries, and processed snack foods like crackers. You want to avoid trans fats at all costs.

2. Cholesterol is dangerous

Much like fat, cholesterol has gotten a very bad rap. Cholesterol, just like fat, is absolutely essential for us. Cholesterol helps protect our bodies from inflammation and is also crucial in hormone production.

Another myth about cholesterol is that the amount of cholesterol you eat has very little impact on the amount of cholesterol circulating in your blood. That’s because the vast majority of the cholesterol in your body is actually produced by the body itself, which is known as endogenous cholesterol. The cholesterol you intake is known as exogenous cholesterol, and that has actually been shown to have little effect on raising your body’s total cholesterol. It is all dependent on how much cholesterol your body produces by itself. And what determines that is inflammation. Which takes us to our next myth about cholesterol which is that it’s bad for your heart. Which isn’t necessarily true.

Now, while high cholesterol has certainly been correlated with heart disease, that does not mean high cholesterol causes heart disease.

Saying that cholesterol causes heart disease is actually analogous to saying umbrellas cause rain. Every time it rains, we see umbrellas, right? So, umbrellas must cause rain, yes? No. High cholesterol is the result of inflammation, and when we have inflammation, we are more prone to heart disease. It doesn’t mean that cholesterol causes heart disease, it’s just high because inflammation is high and the cholesterol acts to protect us from this inflammation. So, we shouldn’t aim to reduce cholesterol per se, rather reduce inflammation.

3. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

I’ll give you one guess who started saying that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” – cereal companies! That line was invented in the 19th century John Harvey Kellogg. You may recognize the name, “Kellogg” and begin to connect the dots. That’s right, it’s the same Kellogg of the Kellogg cereal company. Make sense why they would want everyone to think breakfast is the most important meal of the day now, doesn’t it?

The fact of the matter is skipping breakfast has been proven over and over again in the research to have no detrimental effects on weight gain or lack of performance. Additionally, the claim that one meal would be more important than any other meal has no scientific or logical backing whatsoever.

4. Milk builds stronger bones

Again, who perpetuated this myth but the milk industry and dairy farmers. Actually, it does quite the opposite. A 2009 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered the rates of bone fractures were highest in the countries that consumed the most dairy.

Why is this? Even though conventional dairy is fortified with calcium and vitamin D, the milk is too acidic to absorb any of it. Just another example of a dietary practice that’s become commonplace because of misleading but catchy advertising.

5. Products that are labeled “organic” or “natural” are healthier

A product is not organic unless it is labeled as “100% USDA Organic.” Something labeled as “organic” can only be 50% organic. And just because something is 100% organic, does not mean it’s healthy. Organic junk food is still junk food.

Labeling something as “natural” means absolutely nothing. It is an unregulated claim that connotes no health benefit. Be careful not to fall victim to these labels. A lot of them are just schemes to get you to buy their product. Be smarter than them!

Top 5 Dietary Truths

1. Caloric intake matters - notice I didn’t say that calories are all that matter. Like it or not, the research has shown over and over again that calorie intake matters. If you want to lose weight over the long haul, you must be at a caloric deficit. However, food is more than just calories. The foods we choose to eat send signals to our genes and to cells. Each bite is a choice we make that triggers a response in our bodies. We can either be eating for health or eating for disease. Genetics load the guns for certain diseases, but food and lifestyle pull the trigger. Which brings me to my next point.

2. Avoiding common inflammatory foods is important - The biggest inflammatory foods to avoid are wheat, dairy, and soy. Wheat is a problem because it contains gluten and zonulin which both act to disrupt our intestinal lining. Now there are supposed to be openings in the lining, but wheat basically causes the Kool-Aid man to burst through and put huge holes in the walls. Then things get out into the bloodstream and trigger and immune response which will cause inflammation. Dairy is an issue because it’s difficulty to digest and digestive issues for many people and any lack of digestion will lead to inflammation. Soy is to be avoided due to the fact it contains phytoestrogens which can completely disrupt our thyroid gland and sex hormones and also soy is often very high in omega 6 which is extremely pro-inflammatory.

3. The goal is to get to 80% compliance - People need to realize that they don’t need to be “on a diet” at all times. You can have fun and eat purely for fun sometimes. Weddings, parties, trips, cookouts, you name it its ok to not be neurotic. Now, don’t get me wrong, at first it may need to be 100% compliance. If you’re really trying to break a bad habit, or really trying to heal yourself if you’re dealing with chronic pain or a chronic illness, then you really may have to go 100% for a while, usually about 21 days. But eventually you get to the point where you can relax a little. That’s what the 20% is for. If I go and eat pizza for 5 days in a row I’m going to feel like crap, but I can have it every once in a while and be fine. However, at the beginning, I couldn’t, I had to work my way up to that point.

4. Tracking helps improve outcomes - what gets measured gets improve. Dietary self-monitoring is the number one most important predictor of weight loss success. I know it sucks. I know it’s boring. However, once you get used to it, it only takes about 14 minutes a day. And then once you’re at a good weight loss pace and in tune with your body and what you’re eating, you won’t have to track anymore. 14 minutes a day to track your food which is the most important thing you can do for fat loss; I think that’s very manageable.

5. Eating in line with our evolutionary biology is the goal - everything makes sense through an evolutionary lens. This rule is really inescapable. It wasn’t until the advent of agriculture that we started to see these diseases of lifestyle, like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and now what’s becoming more and more prevalent is auto-immune diseases, the body attacking itself. Even dental health was relatively better in our hunter gatherer ancestors than when we started domesticating animals and growing crops. So, the more and more we can eat like our hunter gatherer ancestors, the better our health will be as a result.