Heart of the Matter – Busting the Biggest Diet Myths

By June Shannon Nutrition News   |   8th Oct 2018

Our expert dietitian Sarah Noone, busts some of the biggest dietary myths

At the Irish Heart Foundation, we aim to provide accurate and evidence-based information on heart health to help you make informed decisions about your health.

From myths about carbohydrates to mistruths about snacking and coconut oil, our expert dietitian Sarah Noone has outlined some of the biggest dietary myths she wants you to know about.

Myth 1: Carbs pile on the pounds

Wrong. However, as we all know it can be easy to eat too much carbohydrates and eating too much of any food leads to weight gain. We also tend to add high fat fillings and toppings to our carbs – such as creamy sauces on pasta and butter or cheese on bread or potatoes which can make them high in calories. Choose wholegrain versions which are full of fibre and keep you fuller for longer. Try swapping white for wholegrain bread, white for brown rice or swapping to a whole grain pasta.

Myth 2: We should not snack

To snack or not to snack? Healthy snacks can help keep you going between meals, control your appetite and help you get the variety of food you need. The key is what you are snacking on and to remember snacking should be seen as a way to keep your hunger at bay it is not a meal. Fruit, vegetables, a cupped hand of nuts, seeds or a low-fat natural yoghurt are all great choices.

Myth 3: Honey is healthier than sugar

Natural alternatives, such as honey and syrups, are often seen as healthier options, but they are still sugar in liquid form. Why not try dried fruit, cinnamon or nutmeg to give that sweetness.

"There is no single food that acts as a magic wand to get rid of toxins and many of these diets will not provide all the essential nutrients that your body needs,"

Sarah Noone, Dietitian , Irish Heart Foundation

Myth 4: Coconut oil is good for you

Coconut oil is actually very high in saturated fat which we know increases both bad (LDL) cholesterol in the blood and the risk of heart disease and stroke. There has been speculation that saturated fats present in coconut oil may be better for us than other saturated fats, but so far there is not enough evidence to recommend it for heart health. It is best to choose oils that are high in good fats such as olive or rapeseed/canola oil but to keep all oils to a minimum.

Myth 5: Cleanses and detoxes are healthy

Wrong. There is no single food that acts as a magic wand to get rid of toxins and many of these diets will not provide all the essential nutrients that your body needs. The liver, kidney, lungs and gut are constantly working to remove toxins from our body. There is no evidence embarking on a specific detox diet will speed up this process.

Myth 6: Skipping breakfast will help you lose weight

Wrong. Skipping meals, especially breakfast, can make you feel tired and hungry and more likely to reach for high-fat, high-calorie snacks later. In fact, people who eat breakfast are more likely to maintain a healthy weight than those who don’t.

Myth 7: I need to go on a restrictive diet to lose weight

If you eat nothing but celery or oranges all day long for a week you will, of course, lose weight. But fad diets that drastically cut calories will quickly become boring and will not be effective in the long run. It is not necessary to starve to lose weight – making small changes that you can stick to is the key to long-term success.

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