YAY!! I love myth busting, and I haven’t done one of these posts in forever. Welcome to nutrition myths 2019!
I could probably write an entire post on each of these myths, but I love putting them together in an efficient one-two-punch format. If you want to hear more about any of these, just let me know, and I’ll do a full post on the topic.
Here are 6 nutrition myths you should stop believing right now:
Himalayan salt is better than table salt. In your food, or in your lungs.
Himalayan salt is pink and expensive, and it’s found in a lot of ‘alternative’ recipes and ‘cures’.
It’s also touted as ‘healing’ when breathed in, in salt caves. One Toronto-area spa claims that breathing in their caves reduces the need for inhalers and antibiotics, improves breathing and lung function, reduces hospital admissions, alleviates coughing, sneezing, and shortness of breath, clears mucus and phlegm from the lungs, strengthens resistance and the immune system.
All of these claims are total bullshit. Halotherapy, or the act of breathing in salt particles, has no credible studies behind it.
As far as Himalayan salt that you eat, it’s salt, plain and simple. While this salt may contain more trace minerals than regular table salt, you’d have to eat a ton of it (probably quite literally) to get significant amounts of any of them. Also: who eats salt for minerals? Some people claim that pink salt tastes different than other salt. I don’t get that, but eating pink salt for taste is not the same as eating it because you think it’s going to ‘detox’ you.
Pink salt is sometimes marketed as being hand-mined, which doesn’t mean anything for your health (but for your wallet, that’s another story).
Don’t eat salt for the minerals. And don’t waste your money on pink salt for health.
We know which diet is healthiest and why.
There’s no lack of diet zealots out there, and they all insist that their diet is the best.
Guess what? They’re all wrong!
We actually don’t know which diet is best for everyone, isn’t that nuts?
After all of these years, the jury is still out. We still can’t cure cancer or the common cold, either…sometimes science is just too complicated.
What we do know is that the best diet varies from person to person. It could be Keto for you, vegan for your best friend, high carbs for your husband, and so on. It’s the diet that has lots of fruits and vegetables, less-processed ingredients, and a healthy attitude towards food and eating.
The best diet is the one you can sustain. Don’t compare your diet to others; do feels right for you.
MCT oil burns fat.
MCT oil is getting stuffed into teas and bars and smoothies and stir fries and EVERYTHING. Why are people so into this fat? Oh, right! Because it’s magical and fat burning and detoxing and….well, you know.
MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides, which is a type of saturated fat found mostly in dairy products, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil. Most of the fats we eat are Long Chain Triglycerides, or LCTs. The length of triglycerides is categorized by the number of carbon molecules on their chain – MCTs have 6-12 carbons, LCTs more than 12.
There’s a common belief that MCTs aren’t stored as fat, and that they actually burn fat. That claim is everywhere, but is it true?
Sort of. Because they’re utilized so quickly by the body, MCTs are generally not stored as fat IF you eat a reasonable amount of them. If you eat too much of them – around 40% or more of your diet – MCTs are stored as any other fat would be.
In terms of fat burning, there isn’t much in the way of research or physiology that supports that claim.
MCTs are more ‘ketogenic’ than other fats – they go directly to the liver and can covert more easily into ketones than LCTs. That being said, eating MCT oil isn’t magically going to put you into ketosis; you need to do the work to achieve that.
When consumed in place of other fats and in conjunction with a very low calorie diet, MCT may have a small effect on weight loss. When added to a normal diet, you probably won’t see much of a difference in terms of weight loss. There is no science whatsoever showing that MCTs on their own can influence fat burning…which is consistent with my most repeated phrase:
Aaaaand once more for the people in the back:
NO FOOD BURNS FAT!
Plant milks are healthier than cow’s milk.
No, I don’t work for the dairy people, but for straight nutrition, cow’s milk beats most of the plant milks for protein and other nutrients. The only plant milk that comes close to dairy for protein is soy, and honestly, most plant milks are not much more than water.
If you have a milk allergy, or if you’re intolerant to dairy, then you don’t have much of a choice in terms of avoiding it; if you tolerate milk without issues, there’s no health reason why you should be avoiding it. Milk is vilified by many people who claim that it’s inflammatory, but it actually may be anti-inflammatory. Tons of people unnecessarily remove dairy from their diets and replace it with ‘healthier’ plant milks because some trendy yoga instructor or ‘health guru’ or ‘nutritionist’ told them to. Don’t take nutrition advice from those people.
If you tolerate dairy, there’s no need to avoid it. If you like plant-based milks, go for it, but understand that in most cases, nutrition-wise, they don’t stack up to dairy, and there’s nothing about them that’s ‘healthier’.
Thin equals healthy.
This isn’t a myth about food, but I still want to address it because it’s all too common.
Thin has been the health and beauty ideal for far too long, but it’s a load of BS, because thinness doesn’t equal healthy. It also doesn’t equal beautiful, but you know that, right?
BMI – unless it’s extreme on either end – tells us nothing about someone’s actual health. Just because a person looks thin doesn’t mean they don’t have a ton of health risks from things like genetics, smoking, and a poor diet – and it doesn’t mean they’re fit and healthy…or happy.
Someone’s weight tells us nothing about how healthy they are emotionally. Believe me, that counts too. So stop lusting after other peoples’ thinness and remember that you never know their true backstory.
Lower isn’t always better.
Stop comparing yourself to other people and focus on your own physical and emotional health, no matter what your body shape is.
‘Uncured’ meat that uses celery extract is healthier.
We know that processed meats are thought to be linked to cancer, and this is primarily because they’re preserved with nitrates and nitrites. When these additives are eaten in conjunction with meat, they form compounds called nitrosamines, which are thought to be carcinogenic.
It’s no wonder, then, that lunchmeat and bacon producers have tried to whitewash the reputation of their products by declaring them ‘uncured’ and using ‘natural’ celery extract or powder as a preservative.
Ahhh, nothing like a good health halo, am I right?
The issue? Celery extract contains nitrites that convert themselves to nitrosamines just like chemical nitrites do. So no, ‘uncured’ meat – at least the ones that use celery or beets as a preservative – are not healthier for us, and technically, they’re still cured. That’s not all – unlike with chemical nitrite, there is no law on how much celery extract a company can put into their food. Yikes!
You can cure meat without any nitrites (Parma ham is one that comes to mind), but this takes a really long time, and mass-production of hotdogs and bacon demands a quicker solution. Also: true ‘uncured’ meat is grey, and people like their ham to be pink.
Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s better for you.
Do you have other nutrition myths? Let me know!