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Debunking three common dieting myths

(Collegian File Photo)

It seems like the health fad of today is to be carb-free, cholesterol-free, fat-free and just about everything else “free.” But do these trends actually yield any real results? Or are they just placebos for weight-loss?

Most often, people will assume that certain diets are healthy, and without consulting a professional or doing a bit a research, they will jump right into a plan. In reality, many of these common dieting hacks are actually dieting myths.

One of the most controversial debates in the health world surrounds the infamous carbohydrate. Many people tend to believe that carbs are bad for your waistline. Hence, if you cut down on carbs, you will lose weight. Contrary to this popular belief, you actually need carbs as energy to live.

The suggested daily intake of carbs is 130 grams per day. Many low-carb diets recommend far less than this, which can be insufficient. The misunderstanding in this myth is that the only way to consume carbs is through bread, cookies and cake, among many others. The truth of the matter is that the majority of foods contain carbs.

Humans need carbs to survive. Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy, so if you cut them out, you run the risk of becoming nutrient deficient. But just because you need carbs in your diet, does not excuse you for filling that void with sweets and unhealthy foods. It is important to consider the quality of your carb intake.

In fact, fruits and vegetables are carbs. Foods such as bananas, apples, cherries, broccoli, spinach, blueberries and sweet potatoes are just a few of many foods that are high in carbs but much healthier than junk food.

Another common myth is that eggs are harmful. This myth has led many to avoid eating whole eggs, switching instead to only eating egg whites. This move is unnecessary. Although eggs were once deemed unhealthy because of their high cholesterol levels, the American Heart Association (AHA) has since revoked this warning.

Many studies have proven that cholesterol in food is not as dangerous as was once believed. Saturated fats have been proven more dangerous in foods than cholesterol.

Eggs are actually extremely healthy and have many benefits. The yolks of eggs contain many nutrients that are lacking in the egg whites alone, such as calcium and iron. They are high in protein and contain many disease-fighting nutrients. Egg consumption has also been proven to reduce the risk of blindness in older adults and can promote brain function.

One of the most common dieting myths is that we should avoid eating fats. This is also untrue. Humans need fats in our diet.  And it is not the actual “fats” themselves that can cause weight gain, but rather eating excess calories or the wrong kinds of fats.

Most foods do contain some level of fat in them. Fats help humans store energy. They are also necessary in promoting brain function and maintaining healthy skin. Even though fats are good for you and essential in a balanced diet, not all fats offer the same benefits.

Fats that are present in junk food, such as saturated fats and trans fats, should be avoided as a source for fat intake. Instead, you should focus more on consuming monounsaturated fats which can be found in nuts, avocados, peanut butter and olives. Polyunsaturated fats are good as well and can be found in foods such as salmon, trout, soybeans and sunflower seeds.

These few dieting myths are just a handful of the many others circulating around. It is important to do your research and know the whole story before deciding to start a diet or change up your eating habits. Know what foods you are putting in your body and what they can do for you. Fueling yourself with the right kinds of foods will help you live a healthier and longer life.

Jessica Chaiken can be reached at jchaiken@umass.edu.

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