There’s no shortage of nutrition facts; both positive and negative.
Eating healthy isn’t complicated. We’ve boiled down 12 nutrition facts testing the myths.
#1. Nutrition Facts About “Natural” Not Equaling “Healthy”
Not everything labeled natural is essentially healthy.
There are several foods marked with this label, but in fact are higher in calories, carbs and unhealthy fats.
For example, a close look (as confirmed by studies in the Journal of Medicinal Food, Annals of Botany, and Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition) at the nutritional content of agave nectar shows it contains more fructose than regular sugar and corn syrup.
So it turns out that agave nectar is even worse for you than sugar (which is already pretty bad for you).
Don’t be fooled by the “natural” label. While there are many benefits to eating natural products, it’s smart to examine product nutritional composition before making a purchase.
#2. Protein – The Best Macronutrient for Weight Loss
One of the misleading nutrition facts relates to protein and weight gain, instead of weight-loss.
Protein has been shown by multiple studies (Nutrition & Metabolism, Diabetes Educator, Journal of Nutrition, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and Annual Review of Nutrition) to be an essential nutrient in the quest for permanent weight loss.
The research into this is pretty conclusive (see Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, British Journal of Nutrition, Physiology & Behavior, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, and Proteomics). Protein boosts your metabolism and helps curb appetite. That means protein limits how many calories you consume while increasing the number of calories you burn.
Protein works. A diet that includes ample amounts of protein can increase your rate of calories you burn by as much as 100 a day.
One particular study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that getting 30% of your calories from protein helps you eat about 441 calories per day. This translates to weight loss of 11 pounds in 12 weeks.
Nutrition facts include replacing calories with high-protein foods.
Protein helps you build muscle mass and repair tissues. It keeps you strong, energized, and in good shape, as studies in the British Journal of Nutrition and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition can confirm.
Protein improves your bone density, as per another study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
According to research in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, eating enough protein is also important for helping your brain work the way it’s supposed to. When you get enough protein, you feel energized, focused, awake, and motivated.
Protein even helps you sleep better, says Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. It optimizes your chemical transmitter balance. Protein exerts a calming effect on your nerves that helps you sleep more relaxed and wake up less often throughout the night.
#3. Nutrition Facts Relating to Labeling
It would be great if the labels on the product labels we buy were always 100% accurate. That would make purchasing a lot easier for the health-conscious shopper.
However, the manufacturers are trying to maximize their sales. And to do that they often play around with the truth.
Many of the claims on products are misleading. They include phrases and wordings that make it seem like the food is healthy.
Think about breakfast cereals. How many put the phrase “whole grain” in large letters on their packaging? But is the cereal any healthier for being whole grain when it’s loaded to the brim with sugar?
Many other products do the same. They loudly announce one or two healthy ingredients to try to distract you from the other ingredients that make the product unhealthy.
Remember this: small amounts of a healthy ingredient don’t make up for lots of unhealthy ingredients like sugar or refined oils.
If the packaging is trying to sell you on how healthy a product is, be skeptical and do your due diligence before buying.
#4. “Low-Fat” and “Fat-Free” are Bad – Nutrition Facts or Fiction
There are several products labeled “low-fat” or “fat-free,” but are they bad for you?
Not necessarily. Several with this label do offer essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
The problem with most low-fat foods is this: natural foods lose all their taste when you take the fat out of them.
Obviously, the food manufacturers know they aren’t going to make money selling something that tastes like cardboard. So they throw in huge helpings of sugar and other chemicals to improve the taste, says Nutrition & Diabetes.
So you may be eating a low-fat food. But when the fat is replaced with sugar, you’re in a worse situation.
Keep in mind that fat isn’t always bad. You need to eat fat as it has beneficial properties. You should stay away from foods with sugar, though, suggest studies from BMC Biology, Alternative Medicine Review, and Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews.
#5. Carbs Causing Weight Gain
It’s a nutrition fact that low-carb diets use fat as fuel, but some think the opposite.
Carbs don’t necessarily cause weight gain.
Eating the right carbs leads to increased energy and possible weight loss.
There are examples of many populations around the world following high-carb diets without displaying the obesity problems present in Western society (see studies in Biomedical and Environmental Sciences, Nutrition Research and Practice, and BioScience Trends). Just think of Asian cultures that eat loads of rice.
For most ordinary folks trying to lead a healthy life, cutting carbs out of your diet isn’t necessary. Just try to avoid processed carbs. Choose the carb sources that have plenty of fiber
#6. Dietary Cholesterol and Saturated Fat Are Good for You
Dietary cholesterol and saturated fat have taken a lot of heat in the past.
Here are the nutrition facts; not all dietary cholesterol and saturated fats are bad for your health.
On the contrary, there are many benefits to dietary cholesterol and saturated fat.
Your body needs both cholesterol and saturated fat.
Another thing to know about cholesterol: you need it for your intestine to work properly. Cholesterol maintains the integrity of intestine walls. It’s also used to repair damaged cells throughout your body, according to WebMD and Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology.
Saturated fat has its benefits too. It strengthens your liver, your lungs, your heart, and your nerves.
Saturated fat, particularly the kind found in butter, lard, and coconut oil, serves as a signal messenger to influence metabolism and release insulin, WebMD states.
Getting enough saturated fat helps prevent the onset of heart-related illnesses.
#7. Skip Junk Food
Despite the seemingly complicated nature of nutrition, eating healthy is quite simple.
If you do anything, keep this one rule-of-thumb in mind: always choose whole, unprocessed foods. If the food looks like it did in nature, it’s a good choice.
Foods with more ingredients than you can count on one hand are probably super processed and bad for you. The same goes for foods containing chemicals you can’t even pronounce.
Always choose real food over junk food. Real food is full of nutrients, high in fiber, and doesn’t have a lot of sugar. Real food are also good for your skin and contains the right kind of fats.
Also, sticking to real food helps keep you from overeating. Junk food isn’t filling. You can probably eat a full bag of potato chips on your own and still have room in your stomach for a meal. That’s how calories add up.
Real food, on the other hand, is filling. Once you’re done, you can go several hours before your appetite comes back. Satiety helps you lose weight.
#8. Reduce Processed and Refined Oils
Some nutrition facts claim vegetable oil, canola oil, and other processed seed oils are healthy.
Processed and refined oils tend to be very high in Omega-6 fatty acids, which can lead to health problems, according to Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and the Journal of Food Lipids.
Another issue with these oils is that they have trans fats—the most toxic kind of fat. Consuming trans fat can lead to metabolic problems.
The best oils are made from natural fats. Good choices include coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil.
#9. Nutrition Facts about Sugar and Sweetened Beverages
Some people think the only problem with sugar is that it fills you with empty calories.
And if sugar wasn’t bad enough, try chugging it down in liquid form (see research in Kidney International).
Your brain would compensate for calories by eating less of other foods you take in. But that doesn’t happen with liquid sugar calories (see studies in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Circulation, and Diabetes Care).
#10. Fat Isn’t What Makes You Fat
Eating fat does not necessarily make you more fat.
However, it does contain more calories per gram than protein and carbs.
Fat comes with a lot of benefits.
For one, it keeps your brain healthy. The brain is made up of nearly 60% fat. If you don’t get enough fat in your diet, you deprive your brain of the material it needs to work right.
Your brain needs vitamins A, D, K, and E. But there aren’t water soluble. They need fat to get to your brain. When you eat fat, you reduce the risk of brain illnesses, suggests a study in Behavioural Pharmacology.
Fat is also vital to your lungs. Your lungs are coated with a material that’s made up almost entirely of saturated fat. You should incorporate enough fat in your diet to keep your lungs in good shape.
#11. Meat Rotting in Your Body
Is it nutrition fact or fiction that meat rots in your body?
Our digestive systems are accustomed to eating meat. The human body makes full use of all the vitamins, proteins, fats, and other nutrients contained in meat, per Appetite and the European Journal of Nutrition.
Actually, it’s fiber—indigestible plant matter—that rots in your colon.
But that’s not a bad thing. Good bacteria in you intestine digest fiber and convert it to short-chain fatty acids that have enormous benefits for your health, states a study in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.
#12. Choose a Diet You Can Stick With
That’s one of the soundest pieces of advice you can follow if you want to lose weight.
Naturally, some situations necessitate a particular kind of diet.
But, if you want a healthy diet that can help you lose or maintain weight for the long-haul, it’s best to choose one that you can stick with indefinitely.
When you find a plan that fits your needs and preferences, you’re more likely to stick with it. And you’re more likely to be successful.
The first step in developing successful weight loss habits is to be armed with the right information. It’s important to know the nutrition facts verses fiction.
Remember the key takeaways: read the nutritional labels, limit sugar and sugary beverages, and take a second look at low-fat foods.
Eat real foods in reasonable portions and limit processed foods. Above all, pick a plan that you know you can stick with for the long-haul.
Think of weight loss and maintenance as a marathon. By keeping your expectations realistic, you can see gradual improvement over time and have lasting results.
Summer Banks has researched over 5000 weight-loss programs, pills, shakes and diet plans. Previously, she managed 15 supplement brands, worked with professionals in the weight loss industry and completed coursework in nutrition at Stanford University.