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15 Food Myths That Are Making You Gain Weight

Believe it or not, some of your “healthy” choices are the equivalent of scarfing a bag of Oreos. We asked leading wellness expert to separate fact from fiction.

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Food Myths Caloriesphoto credit: shutterstock

A calorie is a calorie

Wrong. “This is a food myth that refuses to die and keeps people from getting and staying healthy, as well as losing weight and keeping it off,” says Mark Hyman, MD, author of Food: What the Heck Should I Eat? (and the Clintons’ health advisor). The truth is, there are good and bad calories. Sure, eating 20,000 calories a day — even if they’re all from fruits and veggies — will make you gain weight. But not nearly as much as eating half that in donuts and processed junk. “Your body is much more complex than a simple math problem. In fact, every bite you eat affects your hormones, brain chemistry, and metabolism. What counts more is the quality, not the quantity, of the calories,” says Dr. Hyman.

Drink this at breakfast and you’ll burn calories all day long.

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Food Myths Oatmealphoto credit: shutterstock

Oatmeal is a healthy breakfast

Not always: You might know that you should stay away from most store-bought oatmeal because it’s full of added sugars, but did you realize that sugar-free ones aren’t great either? “Oatmeal has been touted as heart-healthy because oat bran reduces cholesterol,” says Dr. Hyman. “However, there is often a ton of sugar in instant or microwavable oatmeal, and it spikes insulin and blood sugar, which makes you hungrier.” He says that even if you choose sugar-free oats or steel cut oats, your blood sugar, insulin, and stress hormones will still spike, leaving you hungrier and more likely to eat more the rest of the day.

Nothing says weekend brunch better than oatmeal buttermilk pancakes.

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Food Myths, Egg Yolkphoto credit: shutterstock

Egg yolks raise your cholesterol and cause heart attacks

Contrary to popular belief, the cholesterol in the food you eat has virtually no impact on the cholesterol levels in your blood. It’s sugar and carbs that trigger production of bad cholesterol. “The 2015 Dietary Guidelines officially exonerated egg yolks, finding no link between dietary cholesterol and heart disease,” says Dr. Hyman. Plus, the yolk contains choline, which is essential for proper cell function in your body.

Upgrade your breakfast sandwich with these sheet pan eggs.

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Food Myths, Sodaphoto credit: shutterstock

Diet soda is a better choice than regular soda

It’s disappointing news for soda lovers, but this just isn’t true: “Artificial sweeteners are hundreds to thousands of times sweeter than regular sugar, and they activate our genetically programmed preference for sweet taste more than any other substance,” explains Dr. Hyman. “They trick your metabolism into thinking sugar is on its way. This causes your body to pump out insulin, the fat storage hormone, and that increases your belly fat.”

This is the real reason why you’ll never want to drink diet soda again.

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Food Myths, Red Meatphoto credit: shutterstock

Red meat is bad for you

Contrary to popular belief, red meat can be good for you. “It’s full of protein, iron, zinc, and B vitamins,” says nutritionist and holistic health coach, Jennifer Silverman. “Did you know, you need to eat 3.5 cups of kidney beans to get as much protein as 6 ounces of grass-fed beef will provide?” She says it’s important to always aim for grass-fed and let your meat serve as a condiment on your plate (3 to 7 ounces). “Organic vegetables should make up the rest.”

4 ways to eat cheese-stuffed Italian style meatballs.

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Food Myths, Breakfastphoto credit: shutterstock

Breakfast in the most important meal of the day

Despite research indicating there’s no difference in weight or general health between breakfast eaters and those who skip the morning meal, Silverman and other experts stress that you should listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry. “Our morning routine sets the tone for the day ahead, and shovelling a bagel or even an omelet into your mouth for breakfast if you’re not hungry is ludicrous,” she says. Many people don’t wake up hungry, and they can feel fine about skipping breakfast, she advises.

In need of a quick breakfast on-the-go? Try this 5-minute almond, date & espresso shake.

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Food Myths, Honeyphoto credit: shutterstock

Honey or agave is a better source of sugar than high-fructose corn syrup

Sugar is pretty much sugar, and it doesn’t help anyone to think that honey, agave, brown sugar, Stevia, or coconut sugar are healthy. “From a weight-loss perspective, honey and agave are caloric,” says nutrition and weight-loss specialist Adrienne Youdim, MD. “In the case of honey, it even has a similar glycemic index to high-fructose corn syrup — meaning there will be a rise in blood sugar following ingestion. The goal is to curb the use of sweets, not replace sweets when trying to lose weight.”

Here’s why agave nectar may just change your sweetener game.

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Food Myths, Cleansephoto credit: shutterstock

Cleanses help rid your body of toxins that cause weight gain

If you’re looking to cleanse, instead of drinking nothing but juices – which are almost always high in sugar and devoid of fibre – focus on loading your body with fresh produce and lean protein. “We don’t need juice cleanses to get rid of toxins; our bodies do that for us automatically,” says Dr. Youdim. “Worse yet, prolonged cleansing actually hampers weight loss because it results in loss of muscle mass which adversely affects metabolism.” Don’t be fooled by the short-term benefits, you will pay for them in the long-term.

We’re obsessed with these juice bar cookbooks.

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Food Myths, Small Mealsphoto credit: shutterstock

Eat several small meals to lose weight

Some health experts argue that eating every two to three hours will keep your metabolism working at a high level. For many people, eating too often only makes them hungrier. “We end up consuming more calories than we need,” says Silverman. “Waiting longer periods between meals, even fasting, can reset your system, give you more energy and promote weight loss.”

Every question you have about intermittent fasting – answered.

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Food Myths, Milkphoto credit: shutterstock

Choose skim or fat-free dairy products

Want to know why avocados are so beloved by health experts? Fat doesn’t make you fat! “Fat is not the problem,” says Dr. Hyman. It may be the solution, he says: “Without the beneficial fat in food, it tastes pretty bad; most low-fat foods like low-fat yogurt and milk are filled with sugars to make them taste better, and sugar we now know is the driving force behind most disease and weight gain.” Because dairy proteins are tough to digest, Dr. Hyman doesn’t recommend eating much except for a little bit of goat cheese, ghee, or grass-fed butter. But if you want milk or yogurt, skip the low-fat versions.

Is dairy-free milk damaging your brain?

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Food Myths, Carbsphoto credit: shutterstock

No sweet tooth? You don’t have to worry about sugar

Not so fast: Sugar — in the form of simple carbohydrates — can be savory too! “White flour products like bread and pasta are just a different form of sugar,” says Brooke Alpert, MS, RD, CDN, founder of B Nutritious. “That’s why it’s so important to watch your portion sizes of these foods and make sure to always pair them with a fat or a protein to help slow down the absorption of the savoury sugar.”

25 reasons why cutting back on sugar could benefit your health.

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Food Myths, Winephoto credit: shutterstock

A glass of wine at night can help you sleep better

It might be easier to fall asleep when you have a glass of wine, but as your body metabolizes alcohol sleep can become fragmented, leading you to wake up multiple times throughout the night. “The quality of your sleep declines and this can lead to everything from weight gain to brain fog,” says Alpert.

Here are 4 natural wine producers you should try now.

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Food Myths, Gluten-Freephoto credit: shutterstock

Gluten-free food is healthy

A sugar cookie is still a sugar cookie, even if it’s gluten-free. “I’ve seen so many patients who can’t drop weight despite going gluten-free,” says Dr. Hyman. “Stick with foods that are naturally gluten-free, like veggies, proteins, and healthy fats.” Note that most gluten-free foods tend to be low or free of fibre (especially packaged ones). Fibre is essential for keeping you feeling full longer, so unless you have a medical reason for going gluten-free, take a pass on this diet strategy.
Love all things gluten-free? Then you will love these two ladies.

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Food Myths, Will Powerphoto credit: shutterstock

Weight loss requires will power

“The reason people binge on bad food isn’t because they lack self-discipline or are weak-willed,” says Dr. Hyman. “They’re biologically addicted to sugar, and willpower doesn’t work here.” In fact, he says, willpower becomes useless when processed, sugar-laden junk food is in charge of your brain chemistry. “Optimizing nutrition by eating enough of the right kinds of foods, managing stress, and getting enough sleep and exercise can all lead to better food choices.” There’s a reason some health experts want sugar regulated like a drug.

This 10-second daily habit could be your secret weapon for weight loss.

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Food Myths, Low Caloriesphoto credit: shutterstock

Low carb is the only way to lose weight

Dr. Hyman has something surprising to say: Carbs are the single most important thing you can eat for health and weight loss. In fact, he often says his plan is a high-carb diet. “Carbohydrates encompasses a huge category. A hot fudge sundae and cauliflower both fall into the ‘carbs’ category, yet they are entirely different foods!” In fact, almost all plant foods are full of carbohydrates. “Plant foods are what I refer to as slow carbs, which are low-glycemic and don’t spike your blood sugar or insulin. These slow carbs come loaded with nutrients, fibre, and amazing molecules called phytochemicals. So eat slow carb, not low carb.”

Yes, you can still eat large portions and lose weight – here’s how.

Originally Published on Reader's Digest