10 Health Myths We Want To Believe (But Shouldn't)Gina Vaynshteyn

I’m kind of confused as to what to eat these days. You have magazines telling you diet sodas make you fat, bread is Satan and starving yourself (they call it “fasting”) for a day or two is perfectly healthy. Your doctor says everything is pretty much okay in moderation, but the Internet spotlight was recently on a guy who lost 37 pounds by eating solely McDonald’s. Is it just me, or is all food suspect? Should I just stock up on astronaut meals (wait, those are super caloric, right?) or what?

While doing research for this article, I came across a lot of information. I mostly used the Internet, but I flipped through some women’s magazines, too. Some facts contradicted others (like the egg debate; I’m still not sure whether they’re good for you or not), and I’m pretty sure some of these sources will change their minds in a couple of years (like many health studies do). But for now, let’s discuss some of the health myths and crazes that are straight up bogus (at the moment) but are widely believed to be true.

1. Some foods magically burn fat away.

I’ve heard this one. Supposedly eating grapefruit, celery and cabbage soup (there’s  even a special cabbage soup diet) will burn or melt away the fat in our bodies. No food can do that. Caffeine, for example, can speed up your metabolism, but this doesn’t mean you will lose weight. Eating grapefruit, celery and cabbage soup is good for you because you’re able to fill up on something that isn’t too caloric. But you won’t see fat “melt away.”

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2. Muscle turns to fat after a while.

Muscle and fat are two completely different types of cells. You’re able to burn fat and build muscle. You can also lose muscle mass, but it isn’t converted into fat.

3. Low-fat options are the best options.

Ugh, wrong. In many cases, reduced-fat (as well as lowered sugar) snacks are super misleading. People buy into the low-fat allure because they think they can eat all the crap they want and it won’t affect their bodies at all. But, according to Brian Wansink Ph.D., “When people are given foods marked as low-fat, they chow down 25 to 44% more calories than when foods are labeled as regular fat.” And since these low-fat snacks are less filling, it’s easier to eat more because we find ourselves dissatisfied with the suggested amount. According to West Virginia University, “Many processed low-fat or fat-free foods have just as many calories as the full-fat versions of the same food-or even more calories. They may contain added sugar, flour or starch thickeners to improve the flavor and texture after fat is removed.” Gross.

Also, be aware of the fat substitutes in low-fat food. For example, Olestra has shown to cause cancer.

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4. Coffee dehydrates you.

Actually, no. A study done just this month in the journal, PLOS ONE, shows that one or two cups of coffee will not dehydrate you. Moderate consumption actually keeps you just as hydrated as water. Researchers observed a group of 50 male coffee drinkers (I honestly don’t know why they only tested guys out) who consumed four 200 milliliter mugs of black coffee per day and compared them to another group of men drinking the same amount of water. The researchers tested their hydration using their weight, blood, and urine. The study showed no real difference between the subjects.

5. Lose weight by not eating carbs!

Okay, kind of. But don’t think that just because you threw out all the Wonder Bread and Sprinkles in your house, you’ll immediately shed 20 pounds. It doesn’t work that way. 

Carbs are not necessarily bad for you. It really depends on the carbs you’re talking about. Are they simple carbs like juice, rice, bread, potatoes or pasta? Or are they complex carbs like certain fruits and veggies? Complex carbs contain fiber that actually make you feel more full, and they don’t always come with a ton of calories.  The bad part about carbs is when you combine fat and simple carbs, because your body ends up storing the fat and your blood sugar spikes.

I went gluten-free (but not carb-free) as an experiment for HelloGiggles, and it actually worked. But I not only cut out gluten, I ate more fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. I made healthier choices because I kind of had to if I wanted to see results. You can go gluten-free (or go on the Atkins diet) and still eat processed foods and junk and therefore not lose weight.

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6. Fasting makes you lose weight.

Initially, yes. But it can actually prevent weight loss long-term. Fasting removes fat and muscle. The loss of muscle causes a fall in your basal metabolic rate (netdoctor). This basically means that your body will become used to a smaller amount of calories, so when you do start to eat more after your fast, you’ll gain weight faster.

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  1. genius. Thanks a lot.

  2. Wonderful article! it’s pretty close to my personal theory about eating healthy which is this: People have been eating Eggs, Butter, and Bread gluten for millions of years and (unless allergies and diseases such as the celiacs interfere) people have been healthy enough to survive happily. Science has done wonders to improve our understanding of what our personal bodies can and cannot handle and So I pretty much go with the rule: “Try mostly to eat foods with words I understand in the ingredients list”

    • I agree with your rule totally but, you’re not factoring in one thing: people have not been eating eggs from antibiotic and hormone riddled chickens for millions of years, or gluten from genetically modified high yielding dwarf wheat which was created in the 50′s to withstand nature. If our bodies are natural themselves, then it’s no wonder so many of us have trouble digesting mutant food. And lactose? Most adults can’t digest it because, millions of years ago, we stopped drinking milk when we stopped breastfeeding so we no longer needed the enzymes to break it down. Sadly, I don’t think our bodies are changing as fast as scientists are changing our crops and livestock! :(

  3. Definitely a great read! Thanks for writing this! My only opinion is that I personally believe that certain supplements do have positive effects on people’s bodies. But, it really depends on the quality of the vitamin/supplements. So many brands that are sold in the typical Target or grocery stores are made up of really low quality ingredients that actually could be harmful to your body. So I wouldn’t rule out ALL supplements…Vitamin D for example is a great one to take for people who live in the colder, darker parts of the country, when it’s hard to get enough of that naturally in your body every day…but the quality has to be there for it to help at all. Anyway, that’s just my opinion though. Cheers!

  4. Nothing to do with the content but that first image is Elizabeth Montgomery from Bewitched!

  5. “Are they simple carbs like juice, rice, bread, potatoes or pasta?” — you might want to be more specific with this statement and list which kinds of rice, bread, potatoes and pasta are considered to be a simple carb.

    According to the CDC website (http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/carbs.html):

    Starch and dietary fiber are the two types of complex carbohydrates. They can be found in such foods like potatoes, brown rice and breads.

  6. Thank you SO much for this! I’m so sick and tired of everyone shouting from the rooftop of things that aren’t scientifically proven to work! Also, I’m gluten-free (not by choice, but by celiac disease) and I’m so tired of everyone proclaiming that the GF diet is what helped shed their lbs. and made them look like a celebrity. BS – if you eat my bagels over your bagels, nothing will happen to you. Meanwhile, they’re out there ordering food at a restaurant that is only safe for fad dieters, and not for people who are gluten-free because of a medical condition (harsher regulations for cross contamination purposes). OY! Needless to say, high five on this one!