4 Common Nutrition Myths Debunked

With the conflicting dietary tips making the news each day, it is easy to get carried away by simplistic headlines touting all kinds of benefits and risks. To clear your doubts, here are four common nutrition myths debunked.

1. Going gluten-free is a good choice for everyone

Not many dietary patterns have experienced a rise in popularity quite like this one. But unless you are diagnosed with celiac disease, it is not a good idea to eliminate gluten from your diet. 

"Gluten-free foods often have less dietary fiber and other micronutrients, making them less nutritious and they also tend to cost more," said Geng Zong, Ph.D., and research fellow at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In a study published last year, Zong and his research team examined gluten intake in nearly 200,000 participants. Those ate less gluten also consumed less cereal fiber, which put them at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to their counterparts.

2. Soy causes breast cancer, feminizing effects in men

This myth seems to have emerged due to the presence of a compound in soy which bears chemical similarities to estrogen, albeit at a much weaker level. "Soy will not cause feminizing effects in men, it is safe and healthy for children to eat, and it does not cause or promote cancer," said Ginger Hultin, dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Indeed, some studies have actually found a protective effect.  "There is evidence that it is good for bone health and the cardiovascular system and it is a nutritionally dense, protein-rich food source," Hultin added.

3. In order to lose weight, you should stop eating carbs 

"Low-carb and no-carb diets have not been shown to be more effective at weight loss than a balanced diet," said Stefanie Mendez, a practicing dietician at NY nutrition group and co-founder of Matriarch.

Rather than cutting them out, it is advisable to consume the right type of carbs in the correct portion size. Avoid the refined varieties (which tend to be low in fiber and other nutrients) and opt for whole grains, fruits, starchy vegetables, and legumes.

4. Coconut oil can be beneficial for your heart health

Coconut oil contains a significantly high amount of saturated fat. An estimated 82 percent of its fat content is saturated, which is almost a third more than the amount you would find in butter.

Diets high in this kind of fat have been linked to higher cholesterol levels — this can be a risk factor for heart-related problems such as coronary heart disease and stroke.

Wondering what you should be using as a cooking oil? Extra virgin olive oil, a healthful component of the Mediterranean diet, is your best option according to dietitians.