Have you ever done a health search on the internet, spoken to a fitness person, or simply glanced at health headlines in the news? If so, you will quickly see many contradictions about what to eat.
The fitness expert recommends "X", your doctor recommends "Y", and the news says "Z" and they all say each other is wrong.
In today's world, we are bombarded with information. Unfortunately, not all of this info is good or even supported by any facts whatsoever. Much of what people think are hard truths and facts are actually just myths or outdated info from the past that we simply just keep perpetuating.
What we all have to remember is that even well-meaning people who have all the education in the world can still get it wrong. In our education systems, we are very often taught to memorize and repeat information, instead of thinking critically and questioning what is true or not.
This can lead to all kinds of mistruths and or flat-out lies being kept in circulation decade after decade. It happens to all of us at some point because we are all learning from one another. This isn't necessarily a "bad" thing, it is just helpful to know so that we all grow and get better.
One example of how these old stories continue on today comes from the United States Department of Agriculture (the USDA). The USDA is designed to oversee agriculture, food production, and nutrition but throughout the decades they've blurred the lines of what is healthy and which products they want to recommend to the public.
In the 1930's it was thought that protein deficiency was the big issue of the day due to some of the unexplained conditions that doctors were seeing. A disease called Kwashiorkor was discovered by Dr. Cicely Williams and she concluded this disease, which is a form of malnutrition, was caused by protein deficiency. This resulted in the USDA more than doubling the protein recommendations as compared to what is currently recommended today.
The USDA decided to help the dairy industry at the time which had a giant postwar surplus of dried milk that they needed to sell off. This is when milk and dairy products began being pushed on the US public in larger amounts as a necessary health food. This all heavily influenced the following 100 years of nutrition science that is largely based on this one false premise that a lack of protein was the issue.
Later on in Dr. Cicely Williams' life, she went on to debunk her own discovery, as she realized there was no basis for protein deficiency. The protein recommendations eventually changed years later but the protein myth continued on.
More often than not people aren't trying to trick anyone or be deceptive, they simply just don't know because they are just being handed down the old information that they then are teaching to each new generation. This can all be very confusing for anyone and people in the fitness industry are no different.
However, when we start to gather more and more of the hard facts, we have to be willing to open up to what those facts point to. This is especially true when it comes to our health because what we eat becomes a part of our culture, which becomes a part of our identity, and then we fight to maintain that identity even if it's harmful to us.
So something like drinking cow's milk, for example, can become a staple in a population simply because a governmental body like USDA encouraged it. Not because it is actually good for us or healthy.
Still to this day the fitness industry pedals protein powders and animal products with protein as "health foods" necessary to live a healthy life. It is very common today to see claims for the need for more and more protein.
However, there is no actual evidence to support any of these claims even though nearly all the modern-day marketing we see today continues to boldly state this century-old myth.
But there's good news!
Right now the world at large is in the middle of one of those big changes where we are letting go of old myths and outdated information. We are collectively emerging into a whole new way of seeing health and wellness on this planet.
In fact, we are in the middle of a revolution in understanding how our bodies function at a much deeper level than we've ever known before. Our modern nutritional science is only about 100 years old. So we still have a lot to understand, which means a lot of opportunities to grow.
After 16 years of being a part of the wellness industry and digging through all this information to help ourselves and others to get real-world results, we can now tell you a deeper truth beyond all of the old myths surrounding health and wellness. Why? Because we love feeling good and helping others feel good too!
So let's get to the bottom of these top 3 myths about food once and for all, shall we?
Myth #1: Sugar is bad
Truth: Our body runs on sugars, called carbohydrates!
We are carbon-based life forms (carbo) made of 70-80% water (hydrates) hence the need for carbohydrates. The optimal source of carbohydrates comes from plants like fruits and veggies. It’s the artificial sugars, chemical substitutes, and preservatives that are harmful to our health and should be avoided or at least greatly decreased.
These artificial harmful ingredients are found in many commonly consumed products like sodas, sports drinks, and nearly all pre-packaged foods. We also consume many artificial sugars and sweeteners that we add to coffee and tea that many routinely drink each day.
Plants on the other hand are loaded with nutrients, enzymes, compounds, and minerals along with the sugars that we thrive on! Not to mention our brain is made of mostly sugar and water, which is why we all reach for sugary treats instinctively. Sugar isn't bad, we just need to get real sugar from sources that help us instead of consuming the kind that harms us.
Our bodies all crave carbohydrates not just for day-to-day energy but to thrive for a long, healthy life. Optimal sources of carbs come from things like bananas, apples, oranges, potatoes, squash, arugula, and many other plants found at your local grocery store.
Myth #2: We need a lot of protein to get lean and healthy
Truth: Protein is important, yes, but we don't need that much!
We can get all of our protein from fruits and veggies because everything has protein in it. In the modern western diet, we have excessive protein consumption, and this is a big reason people are experiencing more and more health problems each year.
Animal protein is not better than plant protein, but it’s also not harmful either unless you eat excessive amounts as most people tend to do in the modern world. Most people don’t need more than 4-8 oz of animal products per day generally speaking, which is about the size of the palm of your hand. And that is if you decide you want to even eat meat at all as it isn’t necessary to be healthy. If you enjoy animal products, then go ahead and enjoy them, just know it isn't a requirement as so many believe today.
Protein from animals tends to also have very high levels of fat, even in lean cuts. That is why you can take even the leanest cut of meat and when you cook it fat will always melt out. The food labels don’t tell you this as they are highly incorrect. Each food label also does not contain the correct amount of calories either as they are essentially just giving an educated guess. Studies show that food labels can be off by nearly 20% according to the FDA and in some cases more.
Lastly, industrial meat (meat from industrialized farming practices instead of humanely raised organic pasture-raised farming) has very high levels of toxins, antibiotics, and hormones that damper our health and vitality. So if you do opt for animal products steer clear of industrial meat as this isn’t good for you or the animals.
Some basic tips for selecting a healthier meat option is to choose certified humane, organic, and pasture-raised meat products. Also try to eat less meat in general and/or eat more organic plant-based proteins such as beans (pinto, black, kidney), lentils, peas, chickpeas, nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts), seeds, and quinoa.
Myth #3: Healthy fats are good, especially in large amounts
Truth: Healthy fats are better, but again we don't need that much!
Healthy fats such as avocados and coconut oil are better than unhealthy fats such as canola oil and trans fats. However, too much of any fat intake is harmful in the long term just like with protein.
High fat intake can lead to increased occurrences of diseases like prediabetes and type 2 diabetes as fat can block our ability to transport glucose and nutrients into the cells making us insulin resistant. This is something very misunderstood but for those that have reversed their conditions, it is a life saver.
Many can experience weight loss and might even reverse medical issues on a high fat/low carb diet such as the keto diet. However, this isn’t a long-term solution if the goal is to be well and thrive throughout your life.
It is important to realize when people say “low carb” what they really mean is removing processed carbs like cookies, chips, and other prepackaged items. Remember carbohydrates are good when coming from fruits and veggies as we already covered above!
Our bodies thrive on carbohydrates, not fat, although we can use fat as a source of energy. Just like our body thrives on water but can use soda or coffee to get by even though we know this isn’t optimal. Just because our body can do something doesn’t mean it should or that it’s healthy or optimal for our wellness over the long haul.
Bonus Tip: Even with knowing about all the proper healthy foods, what matters most is how you think and feel about yourself and the food you are eating.
People get so hyper-focused on food and exercise and forget about their inner state of being, which is how they feel and what's going on within themselves. This is always most important as we are much more than just our bodies and the food we eat.
We have all seen the person who eats all the right foods, exercises, and seems to be very healthy only to suffer from an illness or worse. There's more to the story like stress, the role our emotions play, and our overall outlook on life.