Nutrition is full of misinformation.
Everyone seems to “know” what is right, most often based on zero evidence.
Here are the top 11 most common nutrition mistakes that people keep repeating.
1. Drinking Fruit Juice
Fruit juice isn’t always what it seems to be.
It is often little more than water mixed with sugar and some kind of fruit concentrate.
In many cases, there isn’t any actual fruit in there, just chemicals that taste like fruit.
But even IF you’re drinking real, 100% fruit juice, it is still a bad idea.
That’s because fruit juices like orange juice have just about the same amount of sugar as Coca Cola and Pepsi!
Fruit juice is like fruit, except with all the good stuff removed.
There is no fiber, no chewing resistance and nothing to stop you from downing massive amounts of sugar.
While whole fruits take a long time to eat and digest, it is easy to consume large amounts of fruit juice in a short amount of time. One glass of orange juice can contain the sugar equivalent of several whole oranges.
If you’re healthy, lean and active or you just ran a marathon, then you can probably tolerate fruit juice and other sources of sugar without problems.
So… eat your fruit (unless if you’re on a low-carb diet, which may require moderating them) but avoid fruit juice like the plague.
Bottom Line: Most fruit juices contain as much sugar as sugar-sweetened beverages. It is best to avoid them and choose whole fruits instead.
2. Not Reading Labels
Many of the marketers at the junk food companies are shameless liars.
They tend to put highly misleading labels on foods… convincing health conscious people to buy unhealthy junk foods for themselves and their children.
Because most people don’t know much about nutrition, they repeatedly fall for labels like “includes whole grains,” “low-fat” or “contains Omega-3s.”
Adding small amounts of healthy ingredients to an unhealthy, highly processed food does not make it healthy.
For example, tiny amounts of Omega-3s are not going to make up for the fact that a food contains large amounts of sugar.
So… it is important to read labels. Even health foods can contain sugar, refined wheat and other very harmful ingredients.
This also applies to children’s foods that are marketed as healthy… do NOT trust the food manufacturers, READ the label.
Bottom Line: It is important to read labels, even “health foods” can contain nasty ingredients like added sugar.
3. Eating Whole Wheat
Awareness of the harmful effects of refined wheat has increased dramatically in the past few decades.
However, whole wheat is often mistakenly assumed to be healthy.
The problem is that whole wheat usually isn’t “whole” … the grains have been pulverized into very fine flour.
This makes the grain rapidly digestible and it can spike blood sugar just as fast as its refined counterpart (5).
Wheat also contains large amounts of gluten, a protein that many people are sensitive to and can contribute to various adverse effects like digestive issues, pain, fatigue and stool inconsistency (6, 7, 8, 9).
There are also multiple studies linking wheat consumption to serious diseases, including schizophrenia, autism and cerebellar ataxia. One study shows a dramatic increase in cholesterol for people eating whole wheat (10, 11, 12, 13).
Saying that whole wheat is better than refined wheat is like saying that filtered cigarettes are better than unfiltered cigarettes.
Using that same logic, everyone should be smoking filtered cigarettes for the health benefits. It doesn’t make sense.
Bottom Line: Whole wheat is often mistakenly assumed to be healthy, but studies show that it can contribute to various symptoms and health issues.
4. Not Focusing on Real, Unprocessed Foods
When it comes to optimal health, people tend to get lost in the details. They miss the forest for the trees.
Even though “nutrition” as an academic discipline can be incredibly complicated, eating healthy can and should be simple!
Keep in mind that humans and pre-humans have managed to survive and be healthy for millions of years.
Yet, we only learned about calories, vitamins, macronutrients and all that stuff very recently. Knowing about this stuff has NOT made us healthier.
What healthy, non-industrial societies that maintain excellent health all have in common is that they eat real, unprocessed foods that resemble what they looked like in nature.
If it looks like it was made in a factory, don’t eat it!
Bottom Line: It is most important to simply eat real, unprocessed foods. Avoid stuff that looks like it was made in a factory.
5. Not Eating Enough Protein
The health authorities advocate a relatively low protein intake.
They say that we should aim for about 56 grams per day for men and 46 grams per day for women.
However, even though this meager intake may be enough to prevent downright deficiency, it is not enough for optimal health.
Protein is also by far the most satiating macronutrient and your body expends quite a few calories metabolizing it. For this reason, adding protein to your diet can help you lose weight without even trying (18, 19, 20).
Bottom Line: Most people aren’t getting enough protein in their diet. Increased protein can enhance fat burning, reduce appetite and improve health in various ways.
6. Being Afraid of Eating Fat
Back in the 60s and 70s, many scientists believed that saturated fat was a leading cause of heart disease.
This idea formed the foundation of the low-fat, high-carb diet… which has been recommended to all Americans since the year 1977.
In the past few decades, many studies have examined the health effects of saturated fats.
They consistently show that these fats are harmless. They raise HDL (the “good”) cholesterol and change LDL (the “bad”) to a benign subtype. Saturated fat does NOT raise your risk of cardiovascular disease (24, 25, 26, 27).
The fats to avoid are man-made trans fats and refined vegetable oils like corn, soybean and others.
There is no reason to avoid foods that are naturally high in saturated fat. This includes butter, coconut oil, eggs and red meat… these foods are perfectly healthy!
Bottom Line: Studies show that saturated fat is harmless and that the low-fat diet pushed by the mainstream nutrition organizations doesn’t work.
7. Throwing Away The Egg Yolks
“When life gives you eggs, you eat the damn yolks.”
– Mark Shields.
Nutrition professionals have an excellent track record of demonizing perfectly healthy foods.
Probably the worst example of that is eggs… which happen to contain a large amount of cholesterol.
Because of the cholesterol, people have been advised to reduce their consumption of eggs.
What we’re left with is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. Eggs are loaded with vitamins, minerals, quality protein, healthy fats and various nutrients that are important for the eyes and brain (31, 32).
Keep in mind that this applies to whole eggs only. The yolk is where almost all the nutrients reside, the white contains nothing but protein!
Throwing away the yolks and eating only the whites is just about the worst thing you could do.
Bottom Line: Eggs are incredibly nutritious, but most of the nutrients are found in the yolk. Despite being high in cholesterol, eggs do not raise the bad cholesterol in the blood or your risk of heart disease.
8. Thinking That All That Matters is Calories
There is a large misconception that all that matters for weight (and health for that matter) is calories.
Even though calories (the energy we take in and expend) are important, they are far from being the only thing that matters.
Even though simple calorie counting and portion control work for a lot of people, many others fail using these methods.
For some people, it is much better to focus on the right foods and macronutrients to optimize your hunger and hormones to make your body want to lose weight.
Bottom Line: Weight loss and health are about much more than just calories. Different foods affect hunger, hormones and health in vastly different ways.
9. Cutting Back on Sodium
The nutrition organizations consistently tell us to reduce sodium in the diet.
This is supposed to lower blood pressure and reduce our risk of heart disease.
However, this doesn’t actually work.
Even though sodium restriction can cause mild reductions in blood pressure, studies show that this doesn’t lower the risk of heart disease, stroke or death (38).
The biggest source of sodium in the diet is processed food. If you’re already avoiding highly processed foods, then there’s no reason not to add some salt to your foods to make them palatable.
If the “experts” had their way… we’d all be eating bland, tasteless foods with zero evidence that it would actually lead to health benefits.
Bottom Line: Despite being able to mildly reduce blood pressure, sodium restriction doesn’t lead to improved health outcomes. Avoiding salt is completely unnecessary for most people.
10. Eating Too Many Meals
Many people seem to think that it is best to eat 5-6 small meals per day.
They say that you need breakfast in the morning to “jump start metabolism” and then eat regularly throughout the day to “stoke the metabolic flame.”
It is true that eating can raise your metabolic rate slightly while you’re digesting and metabolizing the food
However, it is the total amount of food you eat that matters, NOT the number of meals.
The thing is… it’s not natural for the human body to be constantly in the “fed” state.
The human body is well equipped to handle short periods of famine and there are studies showing that a cellular repair process called autophagy starts to occur when we fast for a short while (44).
Bottom Line: Eating so frequently is completely unnecessary and highly inconvenient. There is no evidence that it leads to improved outcomes.
11. Eating Too Many “Health Foods”
Every passing year, more and more people are becoming “health conscious.”
For this reason… the market for so-called “health foods” has grown rapidly in the past few decades.
The marketers have taken notice and brought all sorts of foods that are supposed to be healthy to the market. On these foods, you will find labels like “organic” and “gluten-free.”
The problem with many of these foods is that they usually aren’t healthy at all. Organic sugar is still sugar and gluten-free junk food is still junk food.
It is best to avoid processed, packaged foods… even if they are found in the “health food” aisle.
If the packaging of a food tells you that it is healthy, then it probably isn’t.