Eat this. Don’t eat that. Carbohydrates will make you gain weight. All fats are bad. All the nutrition information circulating the media can be confusing and give you a headache just trying to sort through it all. So what gives? What is the truth? Should we be avoiding all fats, carbs, dairy, gluten and whatever other food group is being criminalized in mainstream media this week? At this rate we will be eating nothing more than a few carrot sticks and cardboard by 2016.
There are a few universal truths to keep in mind. We will get to those pesky myths later on…
- Calories are calories no matter where they come from. Carbohydrate do not make you gain weight. Excess calories make you gain weight, no matter where they are coming from. The magic rule of weight loss and weight maintenance? Calories in – calories out. It is as simple as that.
- You should not exclude any food group unless you have a medically diagnosed condition that requires you to do so. Your body needs carbohydrates, fats and proteins to function properly.
- Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and dairy products will ensure you are getting adequate levels of macro and micro nutrient. Some foods are more nutritionally dense than others. It goes without much explanation a floret of broccoli is going to do more for your body than a Twinkie.
So let’s address some of those myths that just will not seem to go away…
One of my favorite is that eating late at night will make you gain weight. It is what you eat NOT when you eat. Calories have the same effect on the body no matter what time of the day. Late night eating is associated with an intake of extra calories. Late night snack usually exceed daily intake and the snacks are usually things like chips, ice cream or junk food that has little nutritional value.
Cravings… we all have them. What do they mean? Are they really our bodies telling us what we may be deficient in? That would be false. The only medically known craving associated with a deficiency is known as pica. Pica occurs when a person is very iron deficient. Interestingly, a person suffering from pica will not crave iron rich foods like steak or broccoli but rather want to eat things like cement, chalk or dirt.
Protein will make you gain muscle? False, protein alone cannot make you gain muscle. Protein is an important component to muscle building but you must exercise to promote the growth of muscle. Too much protein has its consequences. Research shows excessive protein intake can lead to kidney disease and an increased risk of osteoporosis.
Going forward, how to sift through all that information…
Generally, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Maintaining a healthy body weight and eating a diet that is good for you overall health and wellbeing requires balance. Not just balance in your diet but also getting enough sleep, exercising and managing stress.
Fad diets are everywhere. Diets that make claim such as “loose inches fast” or “burn fat faster” generally are very low in calories and are not balanced nutritionally. Eating a diet only of kale will certainly make you lose weight initially but that weight will most definitely come back and it will be harder to lose the next time. Avoid anything that seem extreme.
Resources: Ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietitian if you are considering changing your food patters. You can also find an RD near you on the eatight.org website.