Fact Or Fiction? An Expert Debunks 10 Popular Nutrition Myths

Two sides to every story.

By Edie Horstman

We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: we love a wellness moment. Experimenting with trend-setting products, habits, and rituals is written in our ethos (we’ll never turn down a bit of market research). However, we’re equally passionate about taking a sustainable, balanced approach to eating—gentle nutrition without sacrificing the dishes we crave. There’s health in the in between. But across the internet, there’s no shortage of conflicting info. Take a quick scroll on social and just about every ingredient is either championed or villified. So, where’s the truth? Today, we’re setting the record straight. Or at the very least, encouraging you to read between the lines. Let’s dive into nutrition myths for the sake of your mental and physical health.

Featured image of Kelly LeVeque by Claire Huntsberger.

woman reading magazine in comfy chair nutrition myths
Image by Teal Thomsen
Edie Horstman
Edie Horstman

Edie is the founder of nutrition coaching business, Wellness with Edie. With her background and expertise, she specializes in women’s health, including fertility, hormone balance, and postpartum wellness.

We’re All Bio-Individuals

Before we unveil nutrition myths, it’s important to understand that at the root of it all, we’re bio-individuals. Meaning, we each have unique nutritional needs, circumstances, lifestyle preferences, and accessibility. All of these factors contribute to our health and wellness goals. Ultimately, there’s no universal approach to health and nutrition. Someone else’s truth isn’t automatically yours. Instead, we’re all different in our biological makeup. Your requirements aren’t the same as mine—nor your partner’s. Embrace this! We can’t expect to be our healthiest selves by following the same rules, paths, and expectations of others. Use this knowledge to your advantage.

woman preparing granola breakfast nutrition myths
Image by Suruchi Avasthi

Be Your Own Health Advocate

There was a time when a doctor’s word was the foundation of unquestionable wisdom. And while trusting our providers is important, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for questioning. In recent years, there has been a solid, steady push toward patient empowerment. As conscious beings, we’re waking up to the value of our own health care. We’re beginning to advocate for ourselves. We’re getting involved in the decision-making process. And there are countless benefits to this: increased confidence in your health-related decisions, improved medical literacy, and hopefully, better wellbeing outcomes. Make 2023 the year you actually become your own health advocate.

woman sitting on couch with laptop nutrition myths
Image by Belathée Photography

A Nutrition Consultant Weighs In: Busting 10 Nutrition Myths

When it comes to nutrition, err on the side of curiosity. Meaning, don’t take every nutrition factoid as a must-do. There is nuance in everything. It’s also important to remember that the science is ever-evolving. For example, eggs were once touted as poison for those with heart issues. Modern-day research shows otherwise.

Last but not least, take wellness content on social media with a grain of salt. Does the influencer showing #WhatIEatInADay videos have credentials? Are you being fear-mongered as opposed to empowered? You get the gist.

1. Weight Loss Is Only Calories In Vs. Calories Out

Truth is, even strict calorie calculations don’t yield uniform results. How your body burns calories depends on a number of factors. Like, your body’s metabolism and the type of organisms in your gut. Two people can eat the exact same number of calories and have very different outcomes. Although food tracking can be a useful tool, it’s not right for everyone.

What’s more, being overly preoccupied with tracking calories is associated with an increased risk of disordered eating tendencies. Instead, build your meals around quality protein (chicken, fish, tofu, etc.), non-starchy vegetables, and healthy fats. Furthermore, prioritize keeping blood sugar balanced and incorporate resistance training. If weight loss is a 2023 goal, know that there’s no need to obsess over your calorie intake.

apple cider vinaigrette green salad
Image by Michelle Nash

2. A Detox Diet Is Necessary To Remove Toxins

Considering a detox? After a winter of holiday eating, a detox might seem like the way to kickstart better habits. But are these trendy programs and products healthy—or just a bunch of hype? There’s little evidence that dietary cleanses do any of the things they promise. The fact is, you don’t need to purchase a detox supplement or sip detox tea to cleanse your body. If your liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract are functioning properly, they’re doing a substantial job of detoxing—every day.

If you’re looking to rejuvenate your body, focus on eating more fiber-rich foods, adding more leafy greens and herbs, drinking filtered water, and removing highly processed foods from your diet. Otherwise, consider working with a health coach, functional medicine doctor, or gastroenterologist.

3. You Need To Eat Small, Frequent Meals To Be Healthy

Eating small, frequent meals throughout the day is a method thought to boost metabolism and support body composition goals. While a few studies support these recommendations, others show no significant benefit. In fact, some research suggests it may be more beneficial to stick fewer, larger meals. Ultimately, you want to find what works best for you. Not sure where to start? Consider wearing a continuous glucose monitor to track how your blood sugar responds to what you eat. This personalized data will help steer you toward fewer, larger meals or smaller meals and snacks. As mentioned, we’re all different.

woman stretching
Image by Michelle Nash

4. HIIT Is The Most Effective Form Of Exercise

The most effective form of exercise is the one you look forward to doing. Said differently: you’ll reap the benefits of a healthy heart, lean muscle mass, optimal digestion, body confidence, and balanced hormones when you move your body—regularly. And no, that doesn’t mean daily HIIT (high intensity interval training) classes.

Most schools of thought encourage focusing on things like dumbbells, resistance bands, resistance machines, and bodyweight exercises to build a strong, healthy body. Ideally, your weekly workouts should engage all major muscles. But for the sake of overall wellbeing, exercise is less about the intensity and more about commitment—honoring time (even if it’s 10 minutes) to walk, stretch, jog, dance, etc. At the very least, find joy and power in the way you move.

5. Bananas Have Too Much Sugar

Is fruit healthy? Reading that, you might be thinking, of course fruit is healthy! But others look at a banana and only see what diet culture sees: sugar and carbs. Fearing fruit is just another example of how diet messaging impacts our ability to make perfectly nutritious and wholesome choices for our bodies. The truth is, fruit is healthy—no matter how diet culture tries to spin it. Mother Nature knows what she’s doing. Yes, bananas contain natural sugars, but they come wrapped in other nutrients, like potassium and fiber. They’re also great for PMS! When possible, pair a banana with protein and fat. This slows the release of sugar in the blood stream (for more stable energy). Think: nut butter and hemp seeds, a hard boiled egg, chia pudding, or Greek yogurt and ground flax.

green pasta_nutrition myths
Image by Suruchi Avasthi

6. Carbs Are Unhealthy

Unfortunately, the low-carb diet trend continues to make an appearance in the health and fitness world. It gives carbohydrates—like fruit and whole grains—a bad reputation. There’s even such thing as carbohydrate phobia (sigh). At the end of the day, any diet or eating program that eliminates an entire food group gets a red flag. You’re missing out on vital and essential nutrients.

For almost all health goals, cutting complex carbs is not the answer. Especially for women. Beyond instigating disordered eating habits, significantly reducing carbs shifts serotonin levels, progesterone, and insulin metabolism. And we need serotonin, progesterone, and adequate glucose for everything from sustained energy to hormone balance. When in doubt, pair carbs with protein and fat.

7. Supplements Are A Waste Of Money

Even if you focus on consuming a nutrient-dense, well-rounded diet, supplements—when used correctly and in the right form—can be beneficial in many ways. They’re like a catch-all. Particularly due to industrial agriculture methods, we aren’t getting the same nutrients we used to from the soil. Supplements like iron, magnesium, fish oil, and B vitamins can be especially helpful (for omnivores and plant-forward eaters, alike). For women who are pregnant, taking a prenatal supplement is highly recommended. At any stage of life—even infants—supplements can help round out nutrient deficiencies.

woman eating pizza sitting on counter nutrition myths
Image by Michelle Nash

8. Cut Gluten To Heal Your Hormones

Eating to heal your hormones? If so, you’re probably confused about gluten. After all, gluten gets a bad rap in the wellness world. While gluten is associated with leaky gut and inflammation—and inflammation is a top root cause of hormonal imbalance—is gluten to blame? Outside of a true gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, there isn’t significant research to prove that avoiding gluten is beneficial for hormone balance. Rather, it’s more important to think about the quality of gluten you’re consuming.

When in doubt, choose organic, sprouted grains. Opt for packaged loaves with minimal ingredients and no added sugar. Removing grains may help hormones balance in the short term (by means of lowering acute inflammation), but it may not necessary in the long term. Most women can work on rebalancing their gut microbiome so that they can consume grains as a part of a healthy, well-rounded diet.

9. Avoid Midnight Snacking If You Want To Lose Weight

Eating at night is often blamed for weight gain. However, this likely has less to do with the clock and more to do with what’s being consumed. After all, we tend to choose less-healthy, higher-sugar foods late at night—ice cream, cookies, chips, etc. Most of us aren’t chomping on celery sticks and carrots before bed.

That said, there may be a metabolic benefit to extending our overnight fast. Some research suggests that a longer overnight fast may help lower blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and help with weight loss (if that’s a goal). Ultimately, what we eat is far more important than when we eat. And, it’s also important to consider why you’re eating. Are you physically hungry? Bored? Tapping into mindful eating can help.

kitchen countertops nutrition myths
Image by Teal Thomsen

10. Eating Healthy Is Expensive

Not the case! Eating healthy doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, it can actually be cheaper than buying overly processed, additive-laden packaged food. Unfortunately, the general population believes that healthy equals expensive. Part of the issue is that we confuse ‘healthy’ with other labels—i.e., gluten-free. Just because a bag of artificial candy is gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s nutritious.

The other issue is that healthy food is often associated with higher-priced health food stores. In reality, a nutritious diet is built on whole, unprocessed foods. It may take some planning and time in the kitchen, but eating healthy on a budget is possible. See our tips and tricks to help you get started.