10 Nutrition Myths Experts Wish Would Die (2023)

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We surveyed some of the country’s leading authorities to reveal the truth about fat, dairy, soy and more.

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10 Nutrition Myths Experts Wish Would Die (1)

By Sophie Egan

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Soy milk can raise the risk of breast cancer. Fat-free foods are healthier than high-fat foods. Vegans and vegetarians are deficient in protein. Some false ideas about nutrition seem to linger in American culture like a terrible song stuck in your head.

So to set the record straight, we asked 10 of the top nutrition experts in the United States a simple question: What is one nutrition myth you wish would go away — and why? Here’s what they said.

Myth No. 1: Fresh fruits and vegetables are always healthier than canned, frozen or dried varieties.

Despite the enduring belief that “fresh is best,” research has found that frozen, canned and dried fruits and vegetables can be just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts.

“They can also be a money saver and an easy way to make sure there are always fruits and vegetables available at home,” said Sara Bleich, the outgoing director of nutrition security and health equity at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a professor of public health policy at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. One caveat: Some canned, frozen and dried varieties contain sneaky ingredients like added sugars, saturated fats and sodium, Dr. Bleich said, so be sure to read nutrition labels and opt for products that keep those ingredients to a minimum.

Myth No. 2: All fat is bad.

When studies published in the late 1940s found correlations between high-fat diets and high levels of cholesterol, experts reasoned that if you reduced the amount of total fats in your diet, your risk for heart disease would go down. By the 1980s, doctors, federal health experts, the food industry and the news media were reporting that a low-fat diet could benefit everyone, even though there was no solid evidence that doing so would prevent issues like heart disease or overweight and obesity.

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Dr. Vijaya Surampudi, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Human Nutrition, said that as a result, the vilification of fats led many people — and food manufacturers — to replace calories from fat with calories from refined carbohydrates like white flour and added sugar. (Remember SnackWell’s?) “Instead of helping the country stay slim, the rates of overweight and obesity went up significantly,” she said.

In reality, Dr. Surampudi added, not all fats are bad. While certain types of fats, including saturated and trans fats, can increase your risk for conditions like heart disease or stroke, healthy fats — like monounsaturated fats (found in olive and other plant oils, avocados and certain nuts and seeds) and polyunsaturated fats (found in sunflower and other plant oils, walnuts, fish and flaxseeds) — actually help reduce your risk. Good fats are also important for supplying energy, producing important hormones, supporting cell function and aiding in the absorption of some nutrients.

If you see a product labeled “fat-free,” don’t automatically assume it is healthy, Dr. Surampudi said. Instead, prioritize products with simple ingredients and no added sugars.

Myth No. 3: ‘Calories in, calories out’ is the most important factor for long-term weight gain.

It’s true that if you consume more calories than you burn, you will probably gain weight. And if you burn more calories than you consume, you will probably lose weight — at least for the short term.

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But the research does not suggest that eating more will cause sustained weight gain that results in becoming overweight or obese. “Rather, it’s the types of foods we eat that may be the long-term drivers” of those conditions, said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a professor of nutrition and medicine at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Ultraprocessed foods — such as refined starchy snacks, cereals, crackers, energy bars, baked goods, sodas and sweets — can be particularly harmful for weight gain, as they are rapidly digested and flood the bloodstream with glucose, fructose and amino acids, which are converted to fat by the liver. Instead, what’s needed for maintaining a healthy weight is a shift from counting calories to prioritizing healthy eating overall — quality over quantity.

Myth No. 4: People with Type 2 diabetes shouldn’t eat fruit.

This myth stems from conflating fruit juices — which can raise blood sugar levels because of their high sugar and low fiber content — with whole fruits.

But research has found that this isn’t the case. Some studies show, for instance, that those who consume one serving of whole fruit per day — particularly blueberries, grapes and apples — have a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. And other research suggests that if you already have Type 2 diabetes, eating whole fruits can help control your blood sugar.

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It’s time to bust this myth, said Dr. Linda Shiue, an internist and the director of culinary medicine and lifestyle medicine at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco, adding that everyone — including those with Type 2 diabetes — can benefit from the health-promoting nutrients in fruit like fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Myth No. 5: Plant milk is healthier than dairy milk.

There’s a perception that plant-based milks, such as those made from oats, almonds, rice and hemp, are more nutritious than cow’s milk. “It’s just not true,” said Kathleen Merrigan, a professor of sustainable food systems at Arizona State University and a former U.S. deputy secretary of agriculture. Consider protein: Typically, cow’s milk has about eight grams of protein per cup, whereas almond milk typically has around one or two grams per cup, and oat milk usually has around two or three grams per cup. While the nutrition of plant-based beverages can vary, Dr. Merrigan said, many have more added ingredients — like sodium and added sugars, which can contribute to poor health — than cow’s milk.

Myth No. 6: White potatoes are bad for you.

Potatoes have often been vilified in the nutrition community because of their high glycemic index — which means they contain rapidly digestible carbohydrates that can spike your blood sugar. However, potatoes can actually be beneficial for health, said Daphene Altema-Johnson, a program officer of food communities and public health at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. They are rich in vitamin C, potassium, fiber and other nutrients, especially when consumed with the skin. They are also inexpensive and found year-round in grocery stores, making them more accessible. Healthier preparation methods include roasting, baking, boiling and air frying.

Myth No. 7: You should never feed peanut products to your children within their first few years of life.

For years, experts told new parents that the best way to prevent their children from developing food allergies was to avoid feeding them common allergenic foods, like peanuts or eggs, during their first few years of life. But now, allergy experts say, it’s better to introduce peanut products to your child early on.

If your baby does not have severe eczema or a known food allergy, you can start introducing peanut products (such as watered-down peanut butter, peanut puffs or peanut powders, but not whole peanuts) at around 4 to 6 months, when your baby is ready for solids. Start with two teaspoons of smooth peanut butter mixed with water, breast milk or formula, two to three times a week, said Dr. Ruchi Gupta, a professor of pediatrics and the director of the Center for Food Allergy & Asthma Research at the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine. If your baby has severe eczema, first ask your pediatrician or an allergist about starting peanut products around 4 months. “It is also important to feed your baby a diverse diet in their first year of life to prevent food allergies,” Dr. Gupta said.

Myth No. 8: The protein in plants is incomplete.

“‘Where do you get your protein?’ is the No. 1 question vegetarians get asked,” said Christopher Gardner, a nutrition scientist and professor of medicine at Stanford University. “The myth is that plants are completely missing some amino acids,” also known as the building blocks of proteins, he said. But in reality, all plant-based foods contain all 20 amino acids, including all nine essential amino acids, Dr. Gardner said; the difference is that the proportion of these amino acids isn’t as ideal as the proportion of amino acids in animal-based foods. So, to get an adequate mix, you simply need to eat a variety of plant-based foods throughout the day — such as beans, grains and nuts — and eat enough total protein. Luckily, most Americans get more than enough protein each day. “It’s easier than most people think,” Dr. Gardner said.

Myth No. 9: Eating soy-based foods can increase the risk of breast cancer.

High doses of plant estrogens in soy called isoflavones have been found to stimulate breast tumor cell growth in animal studies. “However, this relationship has not been substantiated in human studies,” said Dr. Frank B. Hu, a professor and the chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. So far, the science does not indicate a link between soy intake and breast cancer risk in humans. Instead, consuming soy-based foods and drinks — like tofu, tempeh, edamame, miso and soy milk — may even have a protective effect toward breast cancer risk and survival. “Soy foods are also a powerhouse of beneficial nutrients related to reduced heart disease risk, such as high-quality protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals,” Dr. Hu said. The research is clear: Feel confident incorporating soy foods into your diet.

Myth No. 10: Fundamental nutrition advice keeps changing — a lot.

This is not the case, said Dr. Marion Nestle, a professor emerita of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. “In the 1950s, the first dietary recommendations for prevention of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and the like advised balancing calories and minimizing foods high in saturated fat, salt and sugar. The current U.S. Dietary Guidelines urge the same.” Yes, science evolves, but the bottom-line dietary guidance remains consistent. As author Michael Pollan distilled to seven simple words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” That advice worked 70 years ago, and it still does today, Dr. Nestle said. And it leaves plenty of room for eating foods you love.

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FAQs

Can I have fruit on a No sugar diet? ›

Fruit can provide several essential nutrients, including fiber, antioxidants, and other healthful compounds that help protect the body from disease. Including whole fruits in a no-sugar diet can still be healthful.

Why is nutrition so controversial? ›

There's a lot of controversial information about nutrition. This is because information is accessible everywhere but is not always reliable. In addition, quality scientific studies are difficult to put in place and conflicts of interest are frequent, leading to contradicting information.

What are the most asked nutrition questions? ›

10 Most Popular Diet & Nutrition Questions Answered by a Registered Dietitian
  • How Can I Drink More Water? ...
  • Why Should I Eat a High-Fiber Diet? ...
  • Do I Need to Eat Breakfast? ...
  • How Can I Eat More Healthfully? ...
  • What Are Healthy Fats? ...
  • How Many Fruits and Vegetables Should I Eat? ...
  • What Are Probiotics and Prebiotics.

What are 2 common nutrition disorders? ›

Carbohydrate Malabsorption. Disorders of Amino Acid Absorption. Disorders of Fat Digestion.

What is the most common nutritional problem in the world? ›

Iron is the most common nutritional deficiency, with approximately 2 billion people worldwide affected (12).

What happens if you suddenly stop eating sugar? ›

It's during this early "sugar withdrawal" stage that both mental and physical symptoms have been reported – including depression, anxiety, brain fog and cravings, alongside headaches, fatigue and dizziness.

What happens if you quit sugar for a month? ›

Detoxing from sugar can help you lose weight quickly. “We had over 80 testers from all over the country, and they lost anywhere between 5 to 20 pounds during the 31 days, depending on their weight or sugar addiction,” Alpert said. “Many also noticed that a lot of the weight was lost from their midsection.

Who is the No 1 nutrition in world? ›

1 Nutrition and Weight Loss Brand - Herbalife Nutrition. Technology.

Why do doctors know so little about nutrition? ›

Inadequate instruction during medical school, residency and other additional training is a primary reason for this dearth of expertise, according to an American Heart Association science advisory published Monday in the journal Circulation(link opens in new window) that looked at gaps in nutrition education over the ...

What nutrition facts should I avoid? ›

7 Nutrition Label Ingredients to Avoid
  • Trans-Fat. ...
  • Partially Hydrogenated Oils. ...
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) ...
  • Artificial Sweeteners such as Aspartame, Sucralose, and Saccharin. ...
  • Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Benzoate. ...
  • Sodium Nitrites and Sodium Nitrates. ...
  • MSG (monosodium glutamate)
Oct 4, 2016

What is the 10 rule in nutrition? ›

The diet is based on the idea that the optimal diet should provide at least 80% of calories from carbs, with no more than 10% of calories from protein and 10% from fats. Unlike many popular diets, the 80/10/10 Diet has no time limit.

What are the 5 nutritional problems? ›

Major nutritional problems include: 1) Maternal nutritional anemia; 2) protein energy malnutrition; 3) vitamin A deficiency; 4) lactation failure; 5) addiction to milk feeding; and 6) inadequate preparation and use of artificial milk products.

What is the 3 are key in nutrition? ›

The 3 keys to optimal nutrition are balance, quality, and timing. To maintain balance, eat from all or most of the food groups. Eat the right amount for your activity and performance goals.

What are 3 common causes of poor nutrition? ›

living alone and being socially isolated. having limited knowledge about nutrition or cooking. alcohol or drug dependency. low income or poverty.

What is the most common vitamin deficiency? ›

1. Iron. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide and is one of the leading factors contributing to the global burden of disease. Iron deficiency can also lead to anemia, a blood condition that results in fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and low immune support.

Which four mineral deficiencies are most likely to cause serious health problems? ›

What types of mineral deficiency are there?
  • Calcium deficiency. Calcium is needed for strong bones and teeth. ...
  • Iron deficiency. More than half of the iron in your body is in red blood cells. ...
  • Magnesium deficiency. The body needs magnesium for hundreds of chemical reactions. ...
  • Potassium deficiency. ...
  • Zinc deficiency.
Sep 28, 2016

What is the number 1 unhealthiest food in the world? ›

1. Bacon
  • Fried food. ...
  • Potato chips. ...
  • Added sugars. ...
  • Processed oils. ...
  • Hydrogenated fats. ...
  • Refined carbohydrates. ...
  • Breakfast sausages. ...
  • Processed meat. Even though it's been explained that processed meats like breakfast sausage, bacon and turkey bacon are horrible for your health, this category of food is unhealthy as a whole.
Jan 30, 2022

What is the top 10 unhealthiest food in the world? ›

10 Unhealthy Foods That You Should Avoid
  • Sugar: Sugar is a complete source of empty calories as it have 100% of energy and no other nutrient. ...
  • Caffeine: Coffee is the major source of caffeine. ...
  • Soft Drinks: ...
  • Refined Foods: ...
  • Saturated Fats: ...
  • Animal Protein: ...
  • Salt: ...
  • Cooking Oils:
Oct 23, 2018

What foods flush sugar out of your system? ›

Eggs, peanut butter, beans, legumes, protein smoothies, fatty fish, and nuts are all high in protein. An increase in healthy fat intake also helps in sugar detox.

What happens to your face when you stop eating sugar? ›

"Reducing your sugar intake can help improve your complexion by strengthening elastin and collagen and reducing the level of inflammation present in your skin," Glatter said.

How to completely detox your body from sugar in only 7 days? ›

Sugar Detox Tips
  1. Quit Soda & Drink More Water. One of the best ways to kickstart your sugar detox is to quit your soda habit. ...
  2. Increase Healthy Fat Intake. ...
  3. Consider Glutamine. ...
  4. Choose Fresh Fruit. ...
  5. Eat More Protein. ...
  6. Eat More Complex Carbs. ...
  7. Choose Healthy Snacks. ...
  8. Manage Stress.
Jan 6, 2023

What is sugar face? ›

Nigma Talib, a naturopath who works with celebrities, has popularized the term “Sugar Face” to describe the effects that excess sugar has on the skin. Supposedly, she can look at someone's face and determine if they have a sweet tooth by the appearance and the location of their blemishes and wrinkles.

Can giving up sugar reverse aging? ›

The American Academy of Dermatology emphasizes that a diet high in sugar can accelerate aging; although quitting sugar may not reverse signs of aging that have already manifested, it can slow their progression.

Does sugar age you? ›

At blame is a natural process that's known as glycation, in which the sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins to form harmful new molecules called advanced glycation end products (or, appropriately, AGEs for short). The more sugar you eat, the more AGEs you develop.

Which fruit Cannot be eaten in diabetes? ›

Diabetics should avoid fruits with a high GI or eat them in moderation so that their blood sugar levels do not spike abruptly. Pineapple, watermelon, mango, lychee, and banana have a high GI, so these are the worst fruits if you are diabetic.

What fruit lowers your sugar? ›

In addition to raspberries, studies have shown that strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries may benefit blood sugar management by enhancing insulin sensitivity and improving glucose clearance from the blood ( 42 , 43 , 44 ).

What are the 3 biggest health problems? ›

Heart, stroke and vascular disease – 82.7% Kidney disease – 77.8% Cancer – 75.0%

What are nutrition related problems? ›

nutritional disease, any of the nutrient-related diseases and conditions that cause illness in humans. They may include deficiencies or excesses in the diet, obesity and eating disorders, and chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer, and diabetes mellitus.

What health issue is related to over nutrition? ›

Overnutrition increases the risks of serious diet-related chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.

What is the number 1 health problem in America? ›

The No. 1 health condition in the U.S. is heart disease. It is one of the leading causes of death, comprising more than a quarter of all deaths annually. It is estimated that someone has a heart attack in the U.S. every 43 seconds.

What is the leading cause of death in the world? ›

Summary. Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally. The second biggest cause are cancers.

What age brings the greatest number of health problems? ›

From your 60s on, your health risks generally increase. At ages 60 through 80, much of the health problems women are at risk for in their 50s are the same — the risk just increases as time goes on. The risk for heart disease increases significantly for both women and men in their 60s.

What is the fastest way to cure malnutrition? ›

Treating malnutrition
  1. Eat 'little and often' – 3 small meals a day with 2-3 snacks in-between meals.
  2. Include protein at each meal such as meat, fish, chicken, eggs, beans or lentils.
  3. Avoid low fat, sugar-free, diet foods and drinks for example skimmed milk.
May 17, 2021

What are 4 signs of malnutrition? ›

Other symptoms of malnutrition include:
  • reduced appetite.
  • lack of interest in food and drink.
  • feeling tired all the time.
  • feeling weaker.
  • getting ill often and taking a long time to recover.
  • wounds taking a long time to heal.
  • poor concentration.
  • feeling cold most of the time.

Does the average American have a healthy diet? ›

The United States has a bad reputation when it comes to healthy diets. That's because at least a third of Americans enjoy fast food on any given day. In fact, popular American eating habits have long been a cause for concern.

What are the 5 health conditions associated with poor nutrition? ›

How Does Poor Nutrition Affect Us?
  • being overweight or obese.
  • tooth decay.
  • high blood pressure.
  • high cholesterol.
  • heart disease and stroke.
  • type-2 diabetes.
  • osteoporosis.
  • some cancers.

What is the paradox of nutrition issues? ›

Dubbed the 'nutrition paradox', the intertwining trends of obesity, undernutrition, hunger and environmental degradation point to a global food production system that has reached breaking point.

What are the four nutritional diseases? ›

Featured Articles
  • malnutrition. Malnutrition, physical condition resulting either from a faulty or inadequate diet (i.e., a diet that does not supply normal quantities of all nutrients) or from a physical inability to absorb or metabolize...
  • iodine deficiency. ...
  • dehydration. ...
  • obesity. ...
  • scurvy.

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