Constitutional Health Network:
Food Myths Even a Nutritionists Would Feed You
There's no question about it: one of the best things you can do for your heart and body is to eat quality nutritious foods. Maintaining a healthy diet is also one of the best ways to prevent diseases. This is especially true as you age, since older adults are at a greater risk for certain health problems like cancer, stroke, and heart disease. 
 
It's likely that you're already aware of this. You may already be striving to make healthier food choices for yourself and your family every day. If so, keep it up. Developing healthy lifestyle habits increases your longevity and allows you to live better. 
 
But here's a problem: what exactly does a "healthy" diet look like? There's so much conflicting information in the media about nutrition. Eat that, not this. “This food” is bad for your heart, while “that food” is the new best thing. Fad diets come and go, and best-selling diet books fill our shelves.
 
Even doctors and nutritionists don't always agree on what "good" nutrition looks like. And when the "experts" don't provide consistent information, what (and who) are we supposed to believe? What's fact and what's fiction?
 
I'd like to start with a disclaimer: I believe that there is no such thing as "bad" food. Some foods are healthier and some foods are less healthy. It's not about "good" and "bad." When choosing food, we can also think about ethical and environmental factors, like sustainable farming and the humane treatment of animals. But I'm not here to demonize any food group. We have freedom of choice in our food, and feeling guilty about what we eat won't make us any healthier.
 
But our food choices are often influenced by misinformation. After a years of personal experimentation and lots of research, I've heard several food myths and some are told even by so-called "experts." Read on.   

Myth: Saturated fats are bad for your heart. Saturated fats, like those found in avocados, coconut oil, and grass-fed meat, are actually heart-healthy. These fats are necessary for absorbing minerals and vitamins, building hormones and cells, and more. It's also a myth that eating eggs are bad for your cholesterol. This isn't supported by good evidence. In fact, pasture-raised organic eggs are full of protein, amino acids, and vitamins. Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods available. Eat the yolks, folks! 

Myth: Everyone should eat a diet that includes whole grains. While there are plenty of guidelines, not everyone should eat the exact same way. This is especially true with grains. Studies have shown that a grain-free or carbohydrate-restricted diet is very safe and effective for weight loss. Since carbohydrates tend to elevate blood sugar, people with diabetes also do not need to eat grains. On the other hand, people who are very physically active may need to eat grains to support their activity level. It all depends on individual factors and goals. The truth is, most people do not need to eat whole grains in order to stay healthy, and would most likely be healthier without them. The average person really doesn't need to eat many carbohydrates. They can get enough plant-based nutrients by eating lots of vegetables and maybe some fruit.

Myth: To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. It's not as simple as eat less, exercise more. The type and quality of your food is more important. When you eat carbohydrates, you tend to store body fat. When you eat protein and fat, you tend to burn body fat. So instead of counting calories and doing tons of cardio, a person trying to lose weight is more likely to succeed by eating more protein and healthy fats. It's especially important to eat enough so that the body doesn't go into starvation mode, which can actually cause the body to store fat. 

Myth: Honey, agave, and "raw" sugar are healthier than table sugar and high fructose corn syrup. All forms of sugar (including fruit) are carbohydrates. Once inside your body, they get broken down the same way. Sugary food spikes your blood sugar and can lead to problems with insulin, an important hormone. Eventually, too much sugar and carbohydrates in the diet can lead to diabetes. But beware: "calorie-free" sweeteners aren't really a healthy alternative, even for people who are diabetic. Artificial sweeteners have been shown to increase hunger and sweet cravings, and may lead to over-eating. 

It's tough to eat healthy. Misinformation is everywhere. But as far as I'm concerned, you can't go wrong with the basics, supported by science: lean protein, vegetables, and healthy fats. If these make up the bulk of your diet, you're doing just fine. 
 
For more information and guidance, consider contacting organizations such as the Paleo Physicians Network, a network of doctors around the country who practice alternative medicine. 
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