Nutrition Myths that Can Cause Weight Gain

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apples and peanut butter

When it comes to nutrition and your health, you're constantly bombarded with information. It can be hard to figure out what info you can trust, and what you should ignore. So we went to nutritionist Rania Batayneh, MPH, to help dispel some of the more common nutrition myths we've heard.

1. Going vegan will help you lose weight:
"While various research shows that vegetarians and vegans, on average, consume fewer calories and less fat than omnivores (a 2009 Oxford study found that vegetarians weigh 3 to 20 percent less than their meat-eating counterparts, and a National Cancer Institute study found that subjects who consumed four ounces or more of red meat weekly were 30 percent more likely to die of any cause than those who ate less), these numbers may be misleading," says Rania Batayneh, MPH, a certified nutritionist and owner of Essential Nutrition for You. Going vegan solely for weight loss can backfire, big time. If you aren't vigilant with a vegan diet, it's easy to lack in vital nutrients, vitamins, and proteins, which give you energy and help keep your metabolism stoked. Many first-time vegans may also find themselves reaching for more processed foods like vegan cookies, chips, or even 'ice cream' more often with such a restricted diet, and many end up packing on the pounds instead.

If you do decide to adopt a vegan diet, be sure to keep the 'treats' to a minimum and plan balanced meals (we love 'Domestic Vegan' Diva Jessica Olson's tips for "going veg"). "Aim to get about 10 to 20 percent of your calories from protein (or about 1 gram per kilogram of body weight), replacing animal protein with healthy plant proteins, like those found in beans, legumes, eggs, nuts, seeds, low-fat dairy, and soy products," Batayneh says. "And, whether you are vegan or not, eating more green, leafy vegetables is great for your health and your waistline."

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2. Cut all carbs to cut pounds: Your body needs 'carbs' for energy, and many carbohydrate foods are rich in essential vitamins, nutrients, and dietary fiber that help you stay full and fuel your workouts. "Eliminating carbohydrates not only reduces whole grains, B vitamins, and a good source of fiber, but it also reduces your body's feel-good capacity (it's no wonder that most comfort foods are carbohydrate based)," Batayneh says. Plus, cutting out food groups may only make you crave them more, and you may find yourself finishing off an entire bag of chips in a moment of weakness. "Starches and carbs are actually an important tool in weight management," Batayneh says. "They provide belly-filling fiber, complex carbohydrates to keep your engine running all day, and they stimulate the production of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter that regulates mood."
Stay healthy, full, and happy while dropping the lbs. by swapping out processed carbs for fiber- and nutrition-filled foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

3. Fruit has too much sugar to eat for weight loss: With all the sugar that is added to processed foods, the sugar in fruit is the least of your worries. Getting rid of fruit means you are losing out on valuable vitamins and nutrients that your body absorbs easily since they're found in their natural, whole state. "Eliminating fruit from your diet when trying to lose weight makes no sense," Batayneh says. You'll miss out on a whole lot of filling fiber, which studies have directly linked to long-term weight loss, and you may be more likely to reach for other processed, empty food items instead.

4. Eating After 8 p.m. makes you fat:
Eating after a certain hour won't necessarily mean you'll pack on pounds, just as staying out after midnight won't turn you into a pumpkin. This Cinderella-esque fat fairy tale continues to exist, but the bottom line is that your metabolism doesn't know what time it is, Batayneh says. Skip the mad rush to consume as much food as you can before the clock strikes 8:00. "Calories are calories, no matter when you eat them, but what does matter is what and how much of it you eat. Late-night snacking gets a bad rap because often the foods that are consumed late at night are calorie-dense foods (chips, ice cream, pizza, and other junk food) and may be in excess calories to your daily caloric needs, which translates to weight gain."

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5. You'll burn more fat if you don't eat before a workout: Exercise normally burns away your glycogen (carbohydrate) reserves, and when you're done burning those, you'll start dipping into your fat stores for energy. It's true that when you're already running on empty, you burn fat right away, but you'll likely run out of steam before your workout is over or end up ravenous and grabbing whatever food you can find in an attempt to refuel afterwards, Batayneh says. "Energy comes from calories. A study from the University of Birmingham compared two groups of cyclists-some ate before their workout and the others fasted. While the group who fasted did end up burning more fat, the group who ate cycled at a much higher intensity than the fasting group, and burned more calories. A person needs fuel to run, just like a car, so find the foods that give you the energy to work out at your hardest."


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