Dispelling six nutrition myths and misconceptions

Fearing processed foods and going gluten-free? Read on to find out if your eating habits are leading you in a healthy direction.

Nuts and seeds

Photo: Masterfile

Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD is director of nutrition for WebMD, overseeing diet, nutrition, and food information. She recently dispelled some common myths surrounding healthy eating and obesity:

1. Gluten-free diets help with weight loss
Designed for individuals with celiac disease and not meant to be a diet craze or buzz word, Zelman emphasizes that when you eliminate wheat from your diet, you’re not just cutting out carbohydrates (which your body needs for energy), but you’re also cutting out iron, folate, niavin, zinc and fibre. Going completely gluten-free lacks the evidence to support guaranteed weight loss, and often the products are actually higher in calories.

2. High-fructose corn syrup is the culprit for obesity
Though there’s been claims in recent years that high-fructose corn syrup is addictive and North America’s reasoning for our weight issues, what people don’t understand is its virtually the same structure and function as sucrose or essentially, granulated sugar. It’s the added calories, not just the corn syrup, that are contributing to obesity along with a host of other foods and factors. In and of itself, it’s full of empty calories and though it’s not as bad as sugar, it’s no better either.

3. Nuts are fattening snacks
Too much of anything can be a bad thing and the same rings true for nuts. These energy-dense foods can lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides. Much like vegetables, nuts offer unique nutritional qualities — all are rich in protein, fibre and healthy fats that can help with weight loss. Walnuts are the best source of plant-based omega 3 fatty acids. Zelman recommends reaching for almonds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios and walnuts. They’re a great protein option for vegetarians and promote bone health so don’t nix them from your diet completely.

4. Detoxing is necessary for weight loss and body cleansing
Contrary to what most people believe, the human body is actually equipped with organs and an immune system to self-detoxify (no assistance needed). There’s no evidence to suggest the need to cleanse. In fact, there are often potential risks and dangers in some detox regimes that restrict too many calories.

5. You should fear processed foods
Most food we eat is processed in some way — waxed apples and packaged foods are just a few example. The act of processing encompasses a huge range of manipulation, so don’t fear it all. Focus on shopping the perimeter of the store and you’ll ensure you avoid the ultra-processed products.

6. Coconut oil is the latest cure all and healthiest fat
Evidence of the benefits of coconut oil is limited. It has a 92 percent fat content and though many vegans use it heavily, the majority of the fats in it are not healthy. Though it is cholesterol free, given that it’s got saturated fat mean its ingestion should be limited. She recommends using vegetable oils, such as canola and olive oil, which are much healthier choices.