Health Myths that People Still Believe

I am so frustrated.

I am a health conscious person and I know a lot about living a healthy lifestyle. I know what foods to put into my body to make me feel the best, the bare minimum amount of sleep I need to function (I refuse to get less!), and how much I need to move around each day not to feel lethargic.

And I know I’m lucky to know all that I do about health. I’ve done research, taken classes, and figured things out through trial and error.

But a lot of people get their health advice from the media and newsstands and that’s just so frustrating. 

Because the media knows squat about healthy living and every single time I go grocery shopping I am bombarded with magazine covers at checkouts touting low carb diets and low-calorie meals trying to convince people that calories and carbs are the enemy. (Spoiler alert: They’re not.)

Last time I was at the grocery store though I decided I’d do something about it and address some of the most common myths that I see on newsstands and I hear perpetuated on social media and by my peers.

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Myth #1: Low-calorie diets are healthy & desirable

This is the most infuriating myth of all. Yes, you want a caloric deficit in order to lose weight but that doesn’t mean starving yourself or cutting calories drastically.

Everything you do burns calories – even sleeping. The healthiest way to lose weight is to try to burn more calories than you’re consuming throughout the day while still consuming a healthy intake of calories.

As a moderately active 21-year-old, I should be consuming around 2,200 calories a day to maintain my body weight. I am not calling any magazines out by name (I don’t want any legal ramifications, yo!) but right now there is a magazine on stands boasting recipes for meals 250 calories and under making it seem like that is a desirable meal size.

It’s not.

If you eat 3 250 calorie meals and a snack every day you aren’t getting even half of your daily calorie intake and you’re going to feel weak and lethargic and your body isn’t going to be healthy.

Instead you should focus on keeping your calorie intake at a healthy range and ramping up your physical activity to burn more calories.

This can mean parking futher away and walking, doing crunches first thing in the morning, going on jogs with your pup, or anything else you can think of to get up and moving each day.

Myth #2: Carbs make you gain weight

This myth is sort of kind of true, but not really. And that’s because not all carbs are created equally.

If your idea of carbs is Twinkies and croissants then yeah – carbs just might make you gain weight. But if you’re consuming healthy carbs then you shouldn’t have much of a problem.

Staples like rice, oats, potatoes, fruits are all high and carbs and all great for you.

Carbs naturally stimulate the productions of serotonin which helps regulate your appetite (i.e. keep you from overeating) and also regulates your mood. So not only will avoiding carbs mean you’re risking overeating because your brain won’t signal that it’s full, but it’s also associated with irritability and depression.

Instead you should focus on cutting out processed and sugary carbs that you find in treats, cookies, and other desserts.

Of course there is no reason to cut the treats out completely, just make sure that they aren’t your primary source of carbs.

Myth #3: You need meat to get protein

OK, so maybe this one is just irritating to me as your resident veg – but meat is not essential to the human diet at all and you can easily get enough protein cutting meat out of your diet. As long as a vegetarian or vegan is eating enough calories each day, they will be getting sufficient protein without even having to think about it.

99% of what you eat contains protein. Beans, legumes, oats, heck, even fruit has protein.

What I’m trying to say is that don’t worry about protein when switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet. In fact, you’ll probably start consuming a healthier amount of protein as most meat-eating Americans are over consuming protein as is.

Instead of worrying about protein instead, focus on B vitamin. Vitamin b12 is actually a little tricky to get as a vegan if you’re not eating fortefied food or taking supplements.

Nutritional yeast is my go-to for getting my b12, though there are definitely other methods, too!

Myth #4: Cleanses remove toxins from your body

Nope, that’s what your liver does. Cleanses make you hangry.

If you haven’t heard of cleanses (who am I kidding?) basically they are something people do to shed pounds or cleanse their body of toxins. They involve only drinking juice, and maybe nibbling on veggies if you’re on a more lenient program for any extended period of time.

The problem with juicing is you’re leaving behind the fiber of the fruits and veggies and wreaking havoc on your metabolism.

Instead of terrorizing your friends and family with your hangry outbursts after two days on your cleanse, just be more intentional about the (solid!) food you’re putting in your body. Focus on fruits, veggies, and grains and minimize your consumption of processed foods and animal products.

And that doesn’t mean kicking juices to the curb altogether! When I was living in New York I treated myself to a juice every Monday morning (until I discovered the almond butter baby smoothie at Juice Generation that is…)

Long story short

Go to your doctor or an .edu website to research how you should be eating – not cosmopolitan. Once you start researching health and diet you might experience what I did and completely overhaul your diet and feel worlds better for it.

Are there any health myths that you bought into in the past? What about crazy diets? I want to hear all about them!

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  • *high five* This is so good. I’m currently studying a degree in Nutrition and the more I learn, the more frustrated I get with what the media leads people to believe.
    There is one particular blogger who promotes a crazy diet with a butt-tonne of fruit. She eats like 7 bananas for breakfast alone!

  • Doreen MacLean

    Hey! I’ve been a reader for quite a while, but never commented before, so hi! 🙂 I loved this post! Just wanted to say (since I’m a registered dietitian) please go to your doctor to see if you’re good and healthy or if you have a medical condition that means you should be getting more/less of something, and then go to see a dietitian to see what you should be eating! Doctors often don’t have time to help (and some just aren’t great) with the day-to-day practicality of how to eat well, though they may (or may not in some cases) be very knowledgeable about nutrition. A dietitian will not only make sure you’re getting all important nutrients, but will help you with making it practical, realistic, and enjoyable!

    …I suppose I should also mention if you choose to see a holistic nutritionist or a naturopath to be very careful who you choose as your practitioner… as many of the RHN and naturos I’ve dealt with will believe some of the myths above!

    Just my two cents! Thanks for this post, it was great!

  • As a fellow non-meat eater the protein thing bugs me, too! I always find myself cringing when I see this stuff on magazine covers!

  • Thank you so much for writing this Morgan! Sometimes it feels like I’m the only person in the world (or our generation lol) who doesn’t think that “cleansing” in that way is a good idea. In addition to the stuff you wrote, juice (especially if it’s more fruit than vegetable) has a lot of sugar. Specifically a lot of sugar without any fiber, as you mentioned.