We are always on the lookout for easy ways to get back on the healthy track but, more often than not, these shortcuts sabotage our plans faster than we can celebrate our newfound wholesome lifestyle. Correia Claudia, a dietitian from Raffles Hospital, puts five of the most common weight-loss and nutrition myths to bed once and for all.
Myth #1: We do not need to eat food rich in carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are used by the body mainly as a source of energy. The Health Promotion Board recommends that around 50 percent of our caloric intake comes from carbohydrates; however, there are different types of carbohydrates: refined and unrefined.
Unrefined carbohydrates are a valuable source of vitamins, minerals and fibre. They are rich in vitamin B complex, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin B6, all of which are crucial for the good functioning of the energy metabolism for growth, to tissue repair, to maintain normal function of nervous system, etc. Dietary fibre is crucial for the gut health and is associated with the prevention of certain cancers. Examples of foods that contain unrefined carbohydrates are wholemeal grains such as brown rice, wholemeal bread, noodles, pasta, soybeans, kidney beans, oats, fruits, dairy products, etc.
Refined carbohydrates are normally found in sugar-sweetened beverages, desserts, candies, cakes and other sweet processed food. These foods have a low nutritive value and they are normally called empty calories, because they are depleted of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Plus, its consumption is highly associated with diseases such as diabetes and obesity. We should refrain from eating these foods. The World Health Organisation is currently preparing to review their recommendations to reduce the intake of sugars to less than five percent of the total energy intake per day. This will mean that in a 1,800kcal diet, we should only have less than 23g of sugar (around 5 teaspoons) in a day.
Myth #2: Vitamin supplements are essential.
A diet that includes foods from all four food groups from our food pyramid will provide all the nutrients necessary for optimal health. Only in very certain conditions – pregnancy, for instance – will it be more difficult to meet adequate amount of vitamins and minerals with a normal diet. Some people even believe that taking multivitamin supplementats will reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Last year, a systematic review of evidence for the benefit of vitamin and mineral supplements in community-dwelling, nutrient-sufficient adults for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer concluded that there is very limited evidence of the benefits of the multivitamin supplements. Before starting on multivitamin supplements, you may want to check with your doctor or dietitian.
Myth #3: People diagnosed with diabetes should only eat specialised products for their condition.
Not necessary. Besides being more expensive, some products specially designed for diabetics with lower sugar content have higher amounts of fat on order for the food to taste good. Furthermore, the ideal diet for a diabetic does not differ from what is recommended by several organisations such as American Association of Diabetes and the Health Promotion Board for healthy population: small and frequent meals; preference for wholegrain products; vegetables and fruits; low in fat; and reduced intake of processed foods rich in sugar and fat. Therefore, a person with diabetes does not need to go for specialised products.
Myth #4: To lose weight, we only need to reduce calories. The type of foods we choose doesn’t matter.
There is some truth in this statement. The formula for weight loss is basically that the amount of calories consumed must be lower than the amount of calories that are spent. Sometimes I hear people say they are counting calories to lose weight; so, if they have their breakfast at a fast-food restaurant, they will refrain from eating more during the day. Foods are more than just calories, they contain nutrients that play a crucial role in our metabolism and health. Foods should be chosen according to their nutrient density instead of just their caloric content. When we refer to nutrient density, we are talking about the amount of fibre, vitamins and minerals, and the antioxidants. Foods that are normally nutrient-dense are low in calories. Examples include vegetables and fruits. In contrast, we have foods like fast food that are dense in calories but very low in nutritional value. Nutrient-dense foods will assist with weight loss because they increase satiety, regulate your bowel movements, and support energy metabolism. In order to reduce your calories while still following healthy eating, follow the Raffles Healthy Eating Plate.
Tips to eat healthily:
- Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables (e.g. salad, leafy vegetables, brinjal, carrots, broccoli)
- Fill one-quarter of your plate with whole grains like brown rice or whole-wheat pasta.
- Fill one-quarter of your plate with proteins like a lean meat or fish
- Have one serving of fruit on the side. It is recommended that you have at least 2 servings of fruit per day.
- Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages. Opt for plain water instead.
Myth #5: We should detox every now and then.
There are plenty of detox diets – they normally involve following a very restricted plan that is low in calories. These diets do not have any scientific evidence, do not follow a healthy diet and they may cause serious illnesses if taken to the extreme.
The liver, kidneys, lungs are already normal detox agents of our body hence we do not need to follow detox diets to do that. The only “detox” we should be following is the one that allows us to go back to healthy eating.
You will feel the difference from a sedentary lifestyle with food that is rich in animal and processed fat (saturated and trans fat) and sugar from soft drinks and sweets when you adopt a healthy lifestyle of which you hydrate yourself with water, eat wholegrain foods, vegetables and fruits, lean meats or fish, choose healthy oils and have them in moderation and, of course, to exercise regularly.
About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.