Friday, 25 October 2013

Myth Busting: 5 food myths that are keeping you fat

As the Rocktober Challenge groans to a close, I'd like to debunk some of the more common weight loss myths to help keep us on track during the final stretch.

1. I can eat as much healthy food as I want
Many people believe that because certain foods are healthy, for example nuts and fruits, they can eat unlimited amounts of these without gaining any weight.  Sadly, this isn't the case.
 Nuts and seeds are fantastic, high in good fats and protein.  However, they are also high in calories so you should limit these to one or two handfuls a day.  Fruit is high in natural sugar and makes a great alternative when the sweetie craving hits.  But eating too much fruit means any excess sugar converted to glycogen that isn't used up by our muscles will eventually be stored as fat.  The rule of thumb should therefore be, everything in moderation. 

Tip: Most vegetables, apart from the starchy ones, are very low in calories yet high in fibre and vitamins and make a great between-meals snack.

2. Carbs are the enemy
Carbs are the black sheep of the food family.  Loved and loathed in equal measure, they are, unfortunately, completely misunderstood.  With more and more diets touting the weight loss benefits of a carb-free or, at least, carb-restricted lifestyle, it is easy to get caught up in the hype.  But are carbs really all that bad? The answer is, it depends.  Simple carbs are highly processed and are nothing more than sugar.  They get broken down and absorbed quickly, raising blood sugar levels dramatically, signalling to your body that there is a food surplus so it should start storing fat.  They also give you a temporary energy boost which drops quickly, leaving you feeling hungry.  Think of those children on sugar highs at parties.  And how they crash and burn a few hours later.  Yup.  Those are simple carbs for you. 

Tip: Avoid processed carbs like sugars, white bread, white pasta and white rice.  Instead, opt for high fibre, whole grain foods like wholemeal bread and sweet potatoes, which leave you feeling fuller for longer and keep your blood sugar level constant.  

3. Low fat = Low Calorie

Low fat foods are just that. Lower in fat.  But, because fat is the taste highway, many of these foods use added sugars or starchy thickeners to make them taste better and, as a result, they can have as many calories as, if not more than, their full-fat compadres.  

Tip: The main exception to this rule is low fat milk. For the rest, look for healthy, unsaturated fats such as found in olive oil, avocados and oily fish. Your body needs fat so don't be tempted to cut it out completely. 

4.  Eating late at night makes you fat

Its not when you eat that matters, but more, what you eat.  More often than not, late night eating does not invoke visions of a spinach binge. The foods we like to eat vegging out in front of the TV tend to be of the high fat, high calorie variety, usually after already having eaten dinner.  Even taking this into account, if the total calories you consume are less than the calories you burned during the day, it doesn't matter whether you sneak down at 3am to polish off the last piece of chocolate cake.  You will not gain weight.  This myth is based on the premise that your metabolism slows down at night. Although this is true, you still continue burning calories at night. you may wake up feeling bloated but this doesn't mean that those late night snacks have automatically converted into fat, just that you still have a full stomach. 

Tip: This is NOT carte blanche to go out and have a midnight feast.  It is still best to eat more earlier in the day and gradually decrease your meal sizes as the day progresses.  This is simply because, in general, you need less and less energy the closer to the end of the day you get.

5. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie

Ok, if being thin is your SOLE aim, then it doesn't matter whether your calories come from a high fibre, natural food diet, or a pizza, ice-cream and beer diet.  But what's the point of being thin if you're dying on the inside? An unhealthy diet is a one-way ticket to heart attack city. It can cause numerous health problems such as high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes. 

Tip: Healthier diets are generally lower in calories, meaning you get to eat more food. Dudes, eating rocks. 

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