The idea of “clean eating” has swept the nation. And countless myths about what “healthy eating” looks like have emerged that could put your health at risk.
If I hear someone talk about clean eating one more time, I just might go crazy. Seriously! Is there a more ridiculous term out there? What does it even mean?
Well, to the best of my knowledge, it means a really misguided and narrow view of nutrition. You know, things like you should only drink juices, dine like your prehistoric ancestors, or completely eliminate entire macronutrient sources.
4 Potentially Dangerous Healthy Eating Myths
Here are four of the worst healthy eating myths:
1. Juicing and Juice Detoxes Are Essential
First off, there are no “toxins” floating around your body and altering your pH levels that need to be removed by drinking three to six juices per day.
Unless you’ve been acutely poisoned, your body is toxin-free. It stays this way because you’ve been naturally equipped with a liver, which is a filtration system that removes waste. Your body also naturally maintains normal pH levels. And, if you have been acutely poisoned, seek immediate medical attention. Reaching for a glass of orange juice or a smoothie won’t do a thing for you.
Furthermore, juice also has no fiber in it, which is another huge knock against the healthfulness of juicing. The importance of dietary fiber cannot be overstated. If you’re motivated by the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables, eat them in their whole form, so you can take advantage of their fiber content.
Eating them whole also fills you up much better. And you’ll ultimately end up consuming fewer calories, feeling better, and getting better nutrition overall.
2. Gluten Is Bad for You
Unless you’re one of the estimated one percent of people who have celiac disease, going gluten-free isn’t going to provide you with much in the way of health benefits. People with other gastrointestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease may also experience benefits. But for the vast majority of people, gluten is not harmful.
Data indicates that 25% of people who go gluten free cut it from their diet because they think it leads to excess weight. Another 25% think a gluten-free diet contributes to improved general health. And 40% simply say that it “makes them feel better.”
Gluten sensitivity among non-celiacs has even been discredited by the doctor who “discovered” it. Look; it’s normal to feel a little full after eating—especially if you eat quickly. But at the end of the day, it’s likely not gluten that’s contributing to any health problems you might be experiencing.
Related: Is the Gluten-Free Diet Right for You?
3. Carbs Are Bad for You
People who tell you carbs are bad are basically saying that fruit, vegetables, and whole grains are bad for you. Fiber? Who needs it?
Please. Carbohydrates are essential for good nutrition. And you need them for energy, fiber, and their dense micronutrient construction. Refined carbs like those found in white bread, white pasta, candy, and soda? Yeah, you can do without those. But saying that carbs as a whole are bad? No way.
Related: Dieting and Weight Loss: Do You Need to Cut Carbs and Fat?
4. Microwaves Kill the Nutrients in Your Food
Microwaves are great because they can cook food in a matter of minutes. They are also great because they do the BEST job of keeping the nutrients in your food intact.
Generally speaking, nutrition in food becomes compromised when it is exposed to heat. But, duration—not temperature—is the biggest factor. Therefore, exposing it to a brief bout of high heat in a microwave is much better for its nutrient density than roasting for 40 minutes in the oven or sauteing on the stove. If you’re using the microwave as an excuse not to get your fill of vegetables, better get back to the drawing board!
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Tavernise, S., “Fancy Juice Doesn’t Cleanse the Body of Toxins,” New York Times, April 20, 2016; https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/21/health/juice-cleanse-toxin-misconception.html, last accessed August 4, 2017.
“The dubious practice of detox,” Harvard Medical School, May 2008, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-dubious-practice-of-detox, last accessed August 4, 2017.
“Gluten free craze growing: Only 1% of Canadians are celiacs, but nine million people are on restricted diet, industry expert claims” National Post, November 20, 2013; http://nationalpost.com/health/gluten-free-craze-growing-only-1-of-canadians-are-celiacs-but-nine-million-people-are-on-restricted-diet-industry-expert-claims/wcm/0c2b5ca4-8882-4671-92e6-6b86dc39c6b7, last accessed August 4, 2017.
Zafar, A., “Healthy hearts: Gluten-free diets don’t help people without celiac disease, study finds,” CBC, May 3, 2017; http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/gluten-free-diets-1.4096365, last accessed August 4, 2017.
Biesiekierski, J., et al., “No effects of gluten in patients with self-reported non-celiac gluten sensitivity after dietary reduction of fermentable, poorly absorbed, short-chain carbohydrates” Gastroenterology, Aug. 2013;145(2):320-8.e1-3. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2013.04.051, last accessed August 4, 2017.
“Ask the doctor: Microwave’s impact on food” Harvard Medical School, July 10, 2015; https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/ask-the-doctor-microwaves-impact-on-food, last accessed August 4, 2017.