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FOOD MYTHS DEBUNKED

FOOD MYTHS DEBUNKED

We all have received plenty of advices from our family, friends on what is healthy and not. From television commercials to magazines to the internet world one can find an array of nutritional information. Nutrition research can be puzzling, and it’s always changing.

How true are they?

Here are some common myths that require clarifications based on scientific evidences.

All calories are the same

If we consider the equation of thermodynamics, a calorie is equal to a calorie, but the notion that all food calories are equal is a myth. The calorie from food is obtained from either carbohydrates, protein or fat, these macronutrients have different metabolic and thermic effects in the body (i.e. the energy spent to break down the food). Hence, 1 calorie consumed from a protein source requires more energy to break it down than carbohydrates or fats consumed.

To illustrate, one glazed doughnut has 260 kcal coming from 31g of carbs, 3 g of protein and 14 g of fat. Similarly, one chicken salad sandwich has the same 260 kcal but from 28g of carbs, 15 g of protein and 10 g of fat. Now, if all calories were the same, doughnut consumption should have had the same effect on our body as a chicken sandwich would have, is it not?

A calorie gap of even 250 calories in a day can mean the difference between remaining thin and developing morbid obesity in just a few years. In that case, if calorie counting were the key to weight control, how did humans manage to avoid massive swings in body weight even before the very concept of the calorie was invented?

Judging the calories based on their sources are imperative.

You need to skip meals to lose weight

In order to lose weight, most people think we need to diet aka start skipping meals. Unfortunately, skipping meals gives quite opposite the desired effect. Rather, it has a harmful effect on health and lifestyle. One ends up feeling hungrier with massive mood swings resulting in an indulgence later.

2 things happen when one starves, one is the fasting-feasting effect – where the body gets irregular food. At this time since the brain doesn’t know when he will get food next- starts storing all the food whenever you eat. This causes fat deposition, low energy, and a general dull aura.

Secondly, due to the unavailability of carbohydrates, one’s body will turn to the muscles as a fuel source. Resulting in muscle wastage and further lowering metabolism. And healthy weight loss will remain a dream.

According to a study by Farshchi, skipping the day’s main meals results in lower postprandial energy expenditure, influences the metabolism of carbohydrates and lipids, and is associated with a reduced thermogenic effect of food, subsequently affecting the long-term weight gain.

Eating breakfast is necessary

No, it is not a myth. Skipping breakfast is one of the factors affecting the development of overweight and obesity. A nutritional gap is formed and is not compensated for, in rest of the day’s meals. We then tend to experience low energy levels, a shorter attention span and reduced productivity. In fact, those who skip breakfast feel a yearning for binging on snacks between meals.

Now consider this, at night after dinner, we eat our next meal after a gap of 10-11 hours on an average. At night when asleep, our brain doesn’t rest. It continuously utilizes the energy in the form of glucose. As a result, our sugar levels reach rock bottom by the time we are up and about.  Hence, it is quite easy for one to understand why breakfast has been given so much importance both then and now. Apart from the fact that breakfast recharges us, it also saves energy to take on the hustle and bustle of the day.

Snacking is a totally bad idea

Snacking may not be good for all. Virtually one can find many who give into the habit of snacking and ruin their appetite. Snack smartly by tracking you’re eating habit.

It might be that one is snacking not due to hunger but there was a strong relation with stress and emotional eating. Thus, an emphasis on mindful eating would deeply benefit by preventing the ‘wear and tear of the body’ that accumulates as an individual is exposed to repeated or chronic stress.

It’s important to opt for healthy snacks like nuts, fruits, seeds rather than choosing food with high fat, carb and sugar.

To lose weight, you must avoid fats and carbs

Most certainly not, the major part of any low carb diet regimen is to increase the fiber content in one’s diet. Fiber is a complex carbohydrate, so be vigilant when you hear ‘Low carb diet’. This should only include a restriction of simple carbohydrate such as sugars, starchy vegetables and refined flour and include high fiber vegetables.

Fat on the other hand is essential in our diet. ‘Fat does not make you fat’. This is one of the foods which has been labelled ‘bad’ in our community for a long time now, but today has been promoted by nutritionists all over India, be it for hair, skin, constipation or even immunity. Correct fat choices will help one to reduce weight, than making us fatter. Include Cold pressed oils, desi ghee which has a healthier fatty acid profile.

Genetics and weight loss – the secret life of fat

“It’s all in my genes!” We do tend to blame our parent’s gene if we are overweight. One might be genetically susceptible to be overweight, that does not mean they are destined to be obese. Over time the evolved ‘thrifty gene’ along with Genetic variability provides part of the answer to why some are obese, and others are not, and epigenetic factors(Age/environment/lifestyle) provide another part of the answer.

FTO gene or else called as obesity gene in an individual makes it difficult to lose weight and tend to seek more fattier foods. It is not always constant that the gene has the final say. Being physically active and following a healthy lifestyle can reduce the genetic predisposition to a certain extent (2)

 

Eating breakfast is necessary

No, it is not a myth. Skipping breakfast is one of the factors affecting the development of overweight and obesity. A nutritional gap is formed and is not compensated for, in rest of the day’s meals. We then tend to experience low energy levels, a shorter attention span and reduced productivity. In fact, those who skip breakfast feel a yearning for binging on snacks between meals.

Now consider this, at night after dinner, we eat our next meal after a gap of 10-11 hours on an average. At night when asleep, our brain doesn’t rest. It continuously utilizes the energy in the form of glucose. As a result, our sugar levels reach rock bottom by the time we are up and about.  Hence, it is quite easy for one to understand why breakfast has been given so much importance both then and now. Apart from the fact that breakfast recharges us, it also saves energy to take on the hustle and bustle of your day.

Thin is healthy while fat is unhealthy

Being thin is what we all yearn for with less chubby arms, legs or a heavy trunk.

There should be no doubt that anyone, thin or fat, if they have a poor lifestyle and/or have indiscipline eating regimens – are unhealthy.

Keeping that in mind, just because someone looks thin, doesn’t mean that they have the liberty to eat anything they wish and skip the regular physical activity. In fact, it has been found that ‘thin’ individuals who eat unhealthily, tend to have higher TGL levels, lower HDL levels and increased insulin resistance. They were not able to create new fat cells and the fat starts depositing in the visceral area (surrounding all organs) and tends to have lower subcutaneous fat (layer below the skin) which is dangerous.

In ‘Fat’ individuals the excess of fat is deposited in layers under the skin providing an energy store along with cushioning and insulation which is not the real threat when compared to visceral fat protecting them against diseases. They also keep creating new fat cells which store fat (Brown Adipocytes).

There are many big built people who have a very healthy lifestyle and eating habits, who are definitely more fit than a thin unhealthy individual.

Eating and exercising consistently will prevent weight gain

Our body stores energy in two forms: Fat and Glycogen. Glycogen stores are altered depending on the type, intensity and the frequency of exercise and Fat storage is based on one’s current lifestyle.

Reducing calories-in and increasing calories-out by exercising doesn’t make us lose weight on a long term. Imagine a man in his 20’s runs twenty miles a week in order to compensate for the calorie intake and he will have to double that in his thirties and so on.

If we believe calories-in/calories-out, which leads us to conclude we have to run half marathons five days a week to maintain our weight. Now it’s time to question whether it’s something other than the calories we consume and expend that determines whether we gain or lose weight.

When we exercise we tend to lose weight which might be in the form of water. Losing fat and losing weight are not the same. When we exercise we build good muscle and can always find the weights to be deceiving when we step on a weighing scale after each exercise session.

Diet foods help with weight loss

The worst myth of all are those that cause people to replace normal food with Diet foods labeled ‘low fat’ which is found in processed and packaged hydrogenated foods which is stripped out of all its wholesome nutrition.

In market one can find all sort of diet supplements claiming to reduce weight. Once we fall trap to these supplements, it sorts of creates a placebo effect and we are more conscious about our food choices. The diet supplements create a false weight loss and has proven results for a shorter duration. Neglecting the long-term complication and the yo-yo effect of this form of dieting will be damaging to the health. Stick to whole/natural foods and stay away from processed foods.

Losing weight is a straight road

We approach dieting and exercise with an unrealistic approach and plan a strategy which insist on ‘detox’ diet, ‘fruit’ diet and so on. If it took months and years to gain the unwanted weight and how can one expect it to lose it in a few weeks? The long loads always work and there are no shortcuts for weight loss, even if they might work for a shorter term but may end up with worse results.

Stop following Sensational weight loss diet which promise extreme weight loss but never meet up to our expectation. Instead go for sustainable weight loss diet which helps us to maintain a strong will power to lose weight.

 

(2) https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/105/5/1204/4637724
http://tees.openrepository.com/tees/bitstream/10149/621616/2/621616.pdf

 

-VISMITHA YESHWANTH
Nutritionist

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