20 Nutrition Facts That Should be Common Sense (But Aren’t)
Common sense is surprisingly rare in nutrition.
All sorts of myths and misconceptions are being spread around, even by so-called experts.
Here are 20 nutrition facts that should be common sense (but clearly aren’t).
1. Artificial Trans Fats Are Not Suitable For Human Consumption
Trans fats are nasty.
Producing them involves high pressure, heat and hydrogen gas in the presence of a metal catalyst.
This process turns liquid vegetable oils into a thick, toxic sludge that is solid at room temperature.
You have to wonder what was going through the head of the person who actually thought of putting this stuff in food and selling it to humans. It is baffling, really.
Of course, trans fats are more than just unappetising. Studies have shown that they are incredibly harmful as well, linked to a drastic increase in heart disease risk (1, 2).
2. You Don’t Need to Eat Every 2-3 Hours
You really don’t need to be constantly eating in order to lose weight.
Studies have actually looked at this and found that smaller, more frequent meals have no effect on fat burning or body weight (3, 4).
Eating every 2-3 hours is inconvenient and completely unnecessary for the majority of people. Just eat when you’re hungry and make sure to choose healthy and nutritious foods.
3. The Mainstream Media Should Never be Trusted For Nutrition Information
The mainstream media is part of the reason for all the nutrition confusion out there.
It seems like every week there is a new study making headlines, often contradicting another study that came out just a few months earlier.
These stories often get a lot of attention, but when you look past the headlines and read the actual studies, you find that they are taken way out of context.
In many cases, there are other higher quality studies that directly contradict the media frenzy (which rarely get mentioned).
4. Meat Does Not Rot in Your Colon
It is completely false that meat rots in the colon.
The human body is well equipped to digest and absorb all the important nutrients found in meat.
The protein gets broken down in the stomach by stomach acids, then the rest of it gets broken down in the small intestine by powerful digestive enzymes.
All the fats, proteins and nutrients are then moved past the digestive wall and into the body. There is simply nothing left to “rot” in the colon.
5. Eggs Are Among The Healthiest Foods You Can Eat
Eggs were unfairly demonized because the yolks are high in cholesterol.
However, studies show that cholesterol from eggs doesn’t raise blood cholesterol in the majority of people (5).
New studies that include hundreds of thousands of people show that eggs have no effect on heart disease in otherwise healthy individuals (6).
The truth is, eggs are among the healthiest and most nutritious foods you can eat.
Almost all the nutrients are found in the yolk, and telling people to avoid the yolks (or eggs altogether) is one of the biggest mistakes in the history of nutrition.
6. Sugary Drinks Are The Most Fattening Aspect of The Modern Diet
Added sugar is a disaster, and getting it in liquid form is even worse.
The problem with liquid sugar, is that your brain doesn’t compensate for the calories by eating less of other foods (7).
In other words, these calories don’t get “registered” by the brain, making you eat more calories overall (8).
Of all the junk foods, sugar-sweetened beverages are the most fattening of all, and that is saying something.
7. Low-Fat Does Not Equal Healthy
The “low-fat” diet promoted by the mainstream nutrition guidelines is a miserable failure.
Numerous long-term studies show that it doesn’t work, neither for weight loss or disease prevention (9, 10, 11).
What’s more, it led to a plethora of processed “low-fat” foods to be brought to the market. Because foods taste bad without the fat, the food manufacturers added a whole bunch of sugar to them instead.
Foods that are naturally low-fat (like fruits and vegetables) are great, but processed foods with “low-fat” on the label are usually loaded with unhealthy ingredients.
8. Fruit Juice is Not That Different From Sugary Soft Drinks
A lot of people believe that fruit juices are healthy.
It seems to make sense, because they come from fruit.
However, fruit juices contain just as much sugar as sugary soft drinks like coca cola (12)!
There is no fiber in them and no chewing resistance, making it very easy to consume massive amounts of sugar.
A single cup of orange juice contains just as much sugar as 2 whole oranges (13, 14).
If you’re trying to avoid sugar for health reasons, then you should avoid fruit juice as well. It is just as bad, and the small amounts of antioxidants do not make up for the large amounts of sugar.
9. Feeding Your Gut Bugs is Critical
Did you know that you are actually just 10% human?
The bacteria in the intestine, known as the gut flora, actually outnumber human cells 10 to 1!
In recent years, research has shown that the types and number of these bacteria can have profound implications for human health, affecting everything from body weight to brain function (15, 16).
Just like your body’s cells, the bacteria need to eat, and soluble fiber is their preferred fuel source (17, 18).
This may be the most important reason to include plenty of fiber in your diet, to feed the little guys in the intestine.
10. “Cholesterol” is Not The Enemy
What people generally refer to as “cholesterol” isn’t really cholesterol.
When people talk about the so-called “bad” and “good” cholesterol, they’re actually referring to the proteins that carry cholesterol around.
LDL stands for Low Density Lipoprotein and HDL stands for High Density Lipoprotein.
The truth is, cholesterol is not the enemy. The main determinant of heart disease risk is the type of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol around, not cholesterol itself.
11. Weight Loss Supplements Almost Never Work
There are tons of different weight loss supplements on the market.
The problem is that they almost never work. They are claimed to lead to magical results, but fail when put to the test in actual studies.
Even the ones who do work, the effect is too small to really make a noticeable difference.
People who promote magic solutions like weight loss supplements are actually causing harm, because this distracts people from the things that actually matter.
The truth is that the only way to lose weight and keep it off, is to adopt a lifestyle change.
12. Health is About Way More Than How Much You Weigh
People focus way too much on just weight gain/loss. The truth is that health goes way beyond that.
Many obese people are metabolically healthy, while many normal weight people have the same metabolic problems associated with obesity (19, 20).
Focusing just on body weight is counterproductive. It is possible to improve health without causing weight loss, and vice versa.
It appears that the area where fat builds up is important. The fat in the abdominal cavity (belly fat) is associated with metabolic problems, while the fat under the skin is mostly a cosmetic problem (21).
Therefore, reducing belly fat should be a priority for health improvement, the fat under the skin and the number on the scale don’t matter as much.
13. Calories Count, But You Don’t Necessarily Need to Count Them
Calories are important, that is a fact.
Obesity is a matter of excess stored energy (calories) accumulating in the form of body fat.
However, this does not mean that people need to track or count calories, or monitor everything that enters their bodies.
Although calorie counting works for a lot of people, there are many things that people can do to lose weight, without ever having to count a single calorie.
For example, eating more protein has been shown to lead to automatic calorie restriction and significant weight loss. Without restricting calories (22, 23).
14. People With High Blood Sugar and/or Type 2 Diabetes Should Not be Eating a High-Carb Diet
For decades, people have been advised to eat a low-fat diet with carbs at 50-60% of calories.
Surprisingly, this advice was extended to include people with type 2 diabetes, which can not tolerate a lot of carbs.
People with type 2 diabetes are resistant to insulin and any carbs they eat will cause a big rise in blood sugar levels.
For this reason, they need to take blood sugar lowering drugs to bring their levels down.
If anyone benefits from a low-carb diet, it is diabetic patients. In one study, a low-carb diet for only 6 months allowed 95.2% of patients to reduce or eliminate their blood sugar medication (24).
Although the advice is changing (slowly), many “mainstream” organizations around the world are still telling diabetics to eat a high-carb diet.
15. Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat, but Neither Does Carbohydrate
Fat has often been blamed for obesity, because fat contains more calories per gram than protein and carbs.
However, this doesn’t really have any practical meaning.
People who eat a diet that is high in fat (but low in carbs) actually end up eating fewer calories than people on low-fat, high-carb diets (25, 26).
This has conversely led many people to blame carbs for obesity, but this is a mistake as well. Plenty of populations have eaten high-carb diets but remained healthy.
As with everything in nutrition, this depends on the context.
Fat can be fattening, carbs can be fattening. It all depends on the rest of the stuff you are eating and your overall lifestyle.
16. Junk Food Can be Addictive
In the past 100 years or so, food has changed.
People are eating more processed food than ever, and the technologies used to engineer foods have become more elaborate.
These days, food engineers have found ways to make food so “rewarding” that the brain gets flooded with dopamine (27).
This is the same mechanism employed by drugs of abuse (28).
For this reason, some (but definitely not all) people can become addicted and completely lose control over their consumption (29).
Many studies have looked at this and found similarities between processed junk foods and drugs of abuse (30).
17. Health Claims on Packaging Should Never be Trusted
People are more health conscious than ever.
The food manufacturers are well aware of this, and have found ways to market the same old junk to the health conscious people as well.
They do this by adding misleading labels like “whole grain” or “low fat” on their foods.
You will now find all sorts of seriously unhealthy junk food with health claims on the label, such as “whole grain” fruit loops and cocoa puffs.
These labels are almost always misleading, and are used to trick people into thinking that they’re making the right choice for themselves (and their children).
If the packaging of a food tells you that it is healthy, then it probably isn’t.
18. Refined Vegetable Oils Should be Avoided
Vegetable oils, like soybean, corn and canola oils, are extracted from seeds using harsh processing methods.
These oils contain large amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids, which are biologically active and humans never consumed in large amounts during evolution (31).
Studies show that these oils can cause oxidative stress and make the LDL lipoproteins in the body become oxidized, potentially contributing to heart disease (32, 33, 34).
19. “Organic” or “Gluten-Free” Does Not Equal Healthy
There are many health trends in the world these days.
Organic food is popular, and going gluten-free is trendy.
However, just because something is organic or gluten-free, it doesn’t mean that it is healthy. For example, you can make all sorts of junk foods out of organic ingredients.
Foods that are naturally gluten-free are fine, but gluten-free processed foods are often made with seriously harmful ingredients that are even worse than their gluten-containing counterparts.
The truth is, organic sugar is still sugar and gluten-free junk food is still junk food.
20. Blaming New Health Problems on Old Foods Doesn’t Make Sense
Heart disease didn’t become a problem until about a hundred years ago.
The obesity epidemic started around 1980 and the type 2 diabetes epidemic followed soon after.
These are the biggest health problems in the world, and it seems pretty clear that diet has a lot to do with them.
For some very strange reason, the health authorities started blaming them on foods like red meat, eggs and butter.
But we’ve been eating these natural foods for thousands of years, while these health problems are relatively new.
Doesn’t it make more sense to suspect all the new stuff instead? Such as all the processed foods, added sugar, refined grains and vegetable oils?
Blaming new health problems on old foods simply doesn’t make sense.