Myth #1 Start your day with a green juice
As far as drinks go, green is the new black. Health gurus and celebs alike have bought into this fad. “Blending vegetables and fruit means that you’re likely to be consuming more than you would if you ate them naturally, but it’s no substitute,” says nutrition expert Dr Marilyn Glenville. “A smoothie is a better option, as it maintains the fibrous pulp that juicing doesn’t, but the vegetables are still being processed.” As a result, the natural sugars in carrots, beetroot and apples hit the bloodstream quicker. “That means you’ll find yourself getting hunger pangs two hours afterwards and reaching for more food, since juiced vegies pass through your system faster than if you ate the real thing.”
Instead: Don’t rely on drinks for nutrients – eat your fruit and vegetables. Stick to just one vegie smoothie or juice per
day, and if you’re adding fruit to sweeten it, choose low-GI fruits, such as strawberries or apples.
Myth #2 Avoid carbs after 7pm to stay slim
Guess what? Carbs can’t tell the time. There’s no conclusive evidence to show that eating carbohydrates at night makes you put on weight, says nutritionist Azmina Govindji. “In fact, the right carbs in the evening can aid a good night’s sleep – which is key to long-term weight loss – by helping the body release chemicals, such as tryptophan, which aids the production of brain neurotransmitters that help us sleep.”
Instead: Porridge with skimmed milk just before bed is a great low-fat snack that’s high in nerve-calming B vitamins. Or opt for a fist-sized portion of wholegrain carbohydrates – quinoa, brown rice and sweet potato are the best.
Myth #3 Hummus with carrots is a healthy snack
The trusty hummus and carrot sticks snack isn’t the dietary miracle food it’s cracked up to be. Yes, it’s high in fibre-rich chickpeas, but it’s also laden with fat, explains Govindji. Just a tablespoon would make a great snack at 150 kilojoules, but it’s too easy to polish off a 200g container – that’s 1500 kilojoules – in minutes. Carrots aren’t the best partner, either, being high in carbs and sugar compared to most vegies.
Instead: Be strict – stick to one tablespoon of hummus and serve with high-water, low-sugar crudités, such as cucumber or celery.
Myth #4 You need five portions of fruit and vegetables a day
In fact, the latest research* suggests seven portions is better for overall health (those who eat seven or more reduce their risk of dying from cancer by 25 per cent and of heart disease by 31 per cent), but this should be made up of almost all vegetables. “[The researchers] recommend that five of those are vegetables and only two fruit,” says Dr Glenville.
Instead: Aim for eight to nine portions, with two portions only of low-sugar fruits, such as berries, apples and melons. Eating nuts or seeds with them will slow down their effect on your blood sugar.
Myth #5 Sugar-free cereal is the dieter’s best friend
The homemade-looking packet says “sugar-free” and looks pretty posh (and so does the price tag). It’s simply oat flakes and fruit – what could possibly be wrong? A lot, says David Gillespie, author of Sweet Poison: Why Sugar Makes Us Fat. “These sugar-free mueslis are commonly packed with dried fruit, such as raisins and apricots. All the water has been taken out and what is left is the sugar – natural, but sugar nonetheless.” What’s more, a little dried fruit goes
a long way: one cup of raisins contains a whopping 2070 kilojoules (versus just 440kJ found in a cup of fresh grapes).
Instead: Buy some oat, barley or wheat flakes from a health food shop and add a handful of raw nuts and fresh fruit yourself. It’s cheaper, too.
Myth #6 You need eight glasses of water a day to stay hydrated
Sure, regular fluid intake is important, but how we get it matters. “Constantly sipping water means it acts like
a diuretic and flushes your body of the vitamins it needs,” says Dr Glenville. Plus, guzzling it in short periods can cause undue kidney strain and excrete valuable nutrients from food.
Instead: Eat foods that are naturally high in water, such as cucumber, celery and watermelon.
Myth #7 Eating red meat is bad for you
Meat from lamb, beef and game is actually an excellent protein source, containing all eight amino acids necessary for muscle-building –something virtually no vegetarian source can provide, says Charlotte Watts, a nutritional therapist. “A lack of protein can result in depression, moodiness, insomnia, fatigue and poor concentration because amino acids in meat are essential to the functioning of the brain’s serotonin pathways, which help keep moods stable.”
Instead: Eat organic, non-processed, free-range (grass-fed, if possible) meat along with vitamin C-rich foods, such as tomatoes or spinach, to increase iron absorption.
Myth #8 Swap butter for spreads and vegetable oils
A British study** recently found no link between saturated fat and heart disease. It also discovered that from the so-called “healthy” polyunsaturated fats only omega-3 fatty acids, consumed in the form of oily fish, decreased the
risk of cardiovascular disease.
Instead: Go back to butter, says Watts. It’s a good source of vitamins A, D, K and E.
Don't listen to the fads - see linked recipes below and discover how yummy our myth-busting recipes are!
*Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health Vol. 68 No. 8, 799–800 (2014). **annals of Internal medicine Vol. 160, No. 6, 398–406 (2014)