From why not all calories are equal to the shocker that having a glass of orange juice for breakfast is actually a bad way to start the day, we debunk the most common weight loss myths.
Myth 1 – All Calories Are Equal
The idea that all calories are equal, despite the form of food or drink in which they come in, is simply not true. For example both a handful of raw nuts and three chocolate biscuits may contain 200 calories, but there is a big difference in the way in which these two foods affect your appetite, energy and health. For example, protein takes twice as much energy to be processed as carbohydrate. In other words the body uses twice the number of calories in digesting and metabolizing it. The result? Half the amount of calories left to be potentially stored as fat.
Take home message: Your body will absorb the most calories from refined carbohydrates and sugary foods, so these should be avoided when trying to lose weight. Instead choose complex high-fibre carbohydrates such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, and good sources of protein such as fish, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds.
Myth 2 – Fat Makes You Fat
This myth just isn’t going away, but the reality is that fat is not the enemy. Healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in foods such as olive oil, avocado, oily fish, nuts and seeds have a wide range of very important roles in the body. They are vital for our brain, skin, hair and nails; and are also required for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. From a weight loss point of view they help to keep you full and can actually boost the metabolism. That’s right – eating fat can help you burn fat!
Take home message: We need fat and including healthy fats as a regular part of our diet will not make us put on weight.
Myth 3 – “Low Fat” Products Are A Healthier Option
Low-fat products don’t always mean low-calorie or low-sugar. When food manufacturers take out fat from a food, they have to replace it with something else to make it taste good. And unfortunately this “something else” is usually sugar. Also, fat is very important for satiety (keeping us full and satisfied), and studies have shown that consuming low-fat products can often lead to over-eating later on in the day.
Take home message: Always check the label for the sugar content of low-fat products – anything over 15g sugar per 100g is considered high. In most cases you are usually better having a smaller portion of the full-fat option – you will enjoy it more and it will keep you fuller for longer.
Myth 4 – Crash Dieting Or Fasting Works
In the very short term this may be true, but over time these types of diets will actually hinder weight loss. Crash dieting not only removes fat, but lean muscle too. This loss of lean muscle can actually result in a slowed metabolic rate, meaning that when you stop dieting you will be more likely to put on weight eating fewer calories than before.
Take home message: Crash diets will slow down the metabolism, and actually lead to weight gain over time.
Myth 5 – “Diet” Drinks Will Help You Lose Weight
Despite being low in sugar, or even sugar-free, diet drinks are not the answer to weight loss. Diet drinks contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, and according to a study published in the journal Obesity in 2008; individuals who regularly consume artificial sweeteners are more likely to gain weight. Gram for gram these sweeteners can be up to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar , driving sweet cravings that can lead you to eat more.
Take home message: Avoid diet drinks completely. Instead opt for still or sparkling water infused with fresh fruit.
Myth 6 – A Glass Of Orange Juice Is A Good Way To Start The Day
A 500ml bottle of shop-bought orange juice typically contains around 50g of sugar (the equivalent to around 12 teaspoons). This is because all the fibre is extracted from the fruit, leaving behind a very concentrated form of fruit sugars. A bottle of orange juice contains the juice of over 10 oranges, but you wouldn’t eat 10 oranges in one sitting would you? And what does your body do with excess sugar? It converts it to fat.
Take home message: Always opt for a piece of whole fruit rather than a glass of fruit juice. Even better, choose domestic, seasonal fruits which have the lowest sugar content.
Naomi Mead is a professional nutritional therapist from Healthspan.