There is a LOT of hype, fad, and basic misconceptions about the food we eat. Here are five of the most common diet and digestion myths.
1. The Paleo/Keto/Raw/Vegan (insert your favourite here) diet is the best one to follow.
What you eat is a choice based on personal preference, food availability and what you believe. I often get asked what you know about XYZ diet or a particular super food. The reality is there is no perfect eating plan or diet and a lot of the most popular ones are based on a mixture of quasi science and misconception about how the human digestion actually works. There has been a lot of research into the different nutritional components of different foods, which is very helpful to know which are useful for maintaining health. But that’s it. So now you can stop feeling guilty that you aren’t eating XYZ and just get on with focusing on eating food that is good quality and fresh where ever possible.
2. Meat rots in your gut.
It’s a great emotive statement isn’t it! Makes you think of piles of stinking rotting flesh putrefying in your guts. It’s not true, any more than you have vegetables rotting in your gut. Human digestion is perfectly capable of breaking down the protein, fats and carbohydrates of our food. Yes meat takes a little longer to digest, because protein is a little harder to break down. It’s nothing to do with rotting. This myth is often perpetuated by those who believe eating meat is bad. Sorry, it’s not true. While some of us (OK, many of us) would benefit from reducing the total amount of meat we eat in our diet, eating meat in itself is not a bad thing. Meat is a good source of protein, fats, iron and minerals, in particular vitamin B12, creatine, vitamin D3, carnosine, DHA (form of Omega 3), iron and magnesium. Some of these nutrients can only be derived from animal products.
3. You need to cleanse your body of toxins.
This beauty has been going round for a while. Again the human body has evolved to eliminate all our waste products. That’s why we poo and wee. All these so called toxins are usually gut bacteria, that we have a lot of, (and need to help us stay healthy) that have their own life cycle and get eliminated when they have died. Having a cleanse, which usually means having a big bowel clear out may be of benefit if you have been constipated, but otherwise, why not just have a fresh kiwifruit or some figs?
4. Raw is better than cooked food.
Err no. Fresh raw foods do taste absolutely yummy and are very good for you and there are some fabulous recipes around using raw ingredients. But some foods benefit from being cooked to make their nutrients more available to us. Whilst not personally a fan of raw meat, I do like sashimi sometimes. Same goes for veggies. Do I really want to munch my way through a kilo of raw carrots? Eating a kilo of cooked carrots takes far less time (and energy) and allows the food to be instantly available for digestion. So while including more raw food in your diet is healthy, excluding all cooked food as a health benefit is a myth.
5. Sugar is bad for you.
There are all sorts of books around at the moment on this, expounding the benefit of eliminating sugar from your diet. Well I guess many of us would benefit from having less sugar in our diet, especially as it is often sneakily added to processed foods that we are unaware of. But being told to replace bad white sugar with brown sugar/maple syrup/honey etc. makes as much sense as only eating brown eggs and not white, because they are healthier for you. It’s still sugar. And yes having too much sugar in our diet is not good as it can add unnecessary kilojoules and put us at risk of obesity and type-two diabetes. We get sugar from fruit and some vegetables and they are a normal component of a healthy balanced diet.
So next time you hear someone telling you, you should be going High carb/low protein or High protein/lo carb, or Paleo or Raw or anything else, just remind yourself. That is their belief or opnion and you don’t have to share it. It’s good to be a healthy skeptic sometimes. Just check the validity (beyond a glossy website) and scientific basis of what they are saying.
Humans are omnivores, which is fabulous as it means we can pretty much eat anything we like, so long as it’s not toxic. Eating healthily is about including all the food groups to ensure you get the right balance of all our essential nutrients.
So lets take the guilt away and focus on choosing those foods that will keep us happier, healthier, to live and work well.