The information has been passed on through the generations – but is it accurate? A panel of experts and MDs speak up on the common myths that affect your health.
A panel of doctors and health experts blow the lid off the information and beliefs you swear by. While the truth may surprise you, you’ll be more fully equipped to take better care of yourself.
MYTH: Muscle Weighs More Than Fat
FACT: One pound of muscle actually weighs the same as one pound of fat: They each weigh one pound! There are, however, two important differences between muscle tissue and fat tissue that are important to recognize.
For one, fat tissue is more bulky than muscle tissue, so it occupies more space under the skin. Thus, one pound of fat tissue actually has more volume (and will appear larger) than one pound of muscle tissue. For this reason, a 170-pound woman whose body is composed of 25% fat tissue will appear much leaner than a woman weighing the same but whose body fat percentage is 45%. Therefore, individuals need to assess their weight management efforts using a wide variety of body measurements and health parameters – focusing solely on the number on the scale can conceal real and important improvements in body composition. Aim for the look and the feel – not just a number.
Secondly, muscle tissue utilizes more calories than fat tissue. What does that mean? Let’s take the two 170-pound women mentioned above. The woman with 25% body fat has more muscle tissue, so her body needs more calories to keep its systems running. Thus, she burns more calories – even when she is just sitting around – than does her 45% body fat counterpart. As a result, the leaner woman can actually eat more calories each day and maintain her weight as compared to the woman with more fat tissue.
If you want to appear leaner and be able to consume more calories without gaining weight, be sure to incorporate regular strength training into your exercise program to promote muscle development.
By Katie Rickel, PhD
MYTH: Carbohydrates are bad for your health
FACT: In the recent past, no-carb and low-carb diets have demonized carbohydrates in the eyes of the public. It’s time to take a new look at carbs! First of all, carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for the body. Without them, we would have a very difficult time functioning and moving about our day-to-day activities.
In their simplest form, carbohydrates break down into glucose, or sugar, which our cells use for energy. But, not all carbs are created equal. There is a big difference between refined carbohydrates, such as pastries, cookies, white pasta – and those that are not processed, like whole grains, fruits and starchy vegetables.
Whole grains contain multiple vitamins and minerals. They are also rich in fiber, which can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, support optimal digestion, and stabilize blood sugar levels. Fiber helps prevent constipation, while also creating a feeling of fullness, which prevents us from overeating – good news for anyone who is looking to drop some pounds in a healthy way. Some examples of whole grains are oatmeal, wild rice, buckwheat, corn, quinoa, barley, as well as whole wheat breads, crackers, pastas and cereals. Also, whole grains are low in fat and have been linked to lower risks of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Refined grains and added sugars, however, are stripped of their nutrients and fiber; not only are they missing key nutrition, but these foods can spike our blood sugar and make us crave more food, while putting us at risk for developing diabetes. Refined carbs and added sugars to avoid: white flour, baked goods, white rice, white bread, soda, juice and candy.
Starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots are also rich in numerous health-boosting minerals and vitamins. Fruit is an excellent source of fiber, phytochemicals and antioxidants; keep in mind, fruit does contain natural sugar, so should still be eaten in moderation.
By Mao Shing Ni, L.Ac., D.O.M., PhD
MYTH: Eating at night will make you gain weight.
FACT: While eating later in the day means you don’t have as much time to burn off excess calories, what dieters really want to do is focus on how many calories are consumed throughout the entire day. Eating 3500 more calories per week than what you can burn will cause you to gain 1 pound and it really does not matter when these calories enter your body during the day.
MYTH: Frozen fruits and veggies are never as good as their fresh counterparts.
FACT: Frozen fruit and veggies are frozen at peak ripeness so it all depends on when you are purchasing and what season we are in. For example, in northeast Ohio in the summer, we can easily get blackberries locally, but in the winter, our options if we eat fresh are to purchase berries that have traveled from far away to reach us. Each day of traveling means loss of nutrients. In the summer, fresh blackberries are the best, but in the winter, frozen rules. You’ll get more nutrients from the frozen versions.
MYTH: Twelve-grain breads or multigrain breads are the best bread options for fiber and healthfulness.
FACT: Just because the label says it has lots of grains does not mean they are all 100% whole. Whenever shopping for bread, you want to make sure that all ingredients constitute a whole grain source. That will provide the best bang for your nutritional buck when it comes to fiber intake and lowering your risk for metabolic syndrome. Look for a percentage of 100% on the bread label and find breads that provide ideally 3 grams of fiber per serving.
By Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD
MYTH: Eating eggs will raise your cholesterol
FACT: You can enjoy eggs in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Chances are, if you tuned into nutrition advice in the ‘80s and ‘90s, you remember caveats to steer clear from eggs because they are “high in cholesterol and could trigger high cholesterol and heart disease.” And while people with existing heart disease are still advised to limit dietary cholesterol to 200 milligrams a day (one egg has about 185 milligrams), if your cholesterol levels are normal, eggs may be something you can welcome back to your shopping list.
The reason for the confusion? The cholesterol molecules found in eggs are not the primary driver of higher LDL (bad) cholesterol in your own bloodstream. Rather, the real dietary culprits that can raise our body’s own cholesterol production are certain saturated fats and trans fats that we eat (in things like fried and baked foods, red meat or that side of bacon), leading to higher cholesterol levels and heart disease.
In my opinion, eggs are hands down one of the best values in the grocery store: 1 egg has just 70 calories, but packs 6 grams of high quality protein, more than a dozen vitamins, minerals, and nutrients like choline (important for a healthy brain and nervous system). Plus, the latest 2010 USDA nutrition data found that the average egg in America now contains 64% more vitamin D than it did in 2002, likely due to differences in the diet of the chickens.
Fire up the skillet from time to time, but skip the butter and sauté eggs in olive oil or canola oil for a heart healthy boost. For zero added fat, enjoy poached eggs on whole grain toast or hard boiled eggs with some fresh fruit for a delicious snack.
By Kate Geagan, MS, RD
MYTH: People can “tough out” depression and get better on their own
FACT: Clinical depression is an illness characterized by clear diagnostic criteria – sad mood or anhedonia for two weeks or longer and then 5 or more symptoms ranging from loss of appetite to sleep disturbance to feelings of worthlessness.
Sadly, we still view this as something that a person can “control” – and they often get feedback like “Get over it,” “Cheer up,” “Toughen up,” or “Man up.” A person with depression often already feels ineffectual; hearing this can often just push them deeper into the shadows and less willing or able to seek help.
Can you imagine if someone just got a diagnosis of cancer, or MS, or diabetes and were told to “Get over it”?
The research is clear that untreated depression can lead to significant worsening of symptoms, greater occupational and social impairment, and poorer treatment outcomes. The stigma a person feels when they are told they should “Just get over it” may hamper them from seeking therapy. Depression is a very real condition, and while therapy is hard work for the client, it is not just about getting over it, but often taking medications, engaging in the work of therapy, and being prepared for future symptomatology.
A great place to start is with your regular doctor who may be able to start meds or provide referrals to mental health services. Therapy should be delivered by a licensed mental health practitioner – a psychologist, licensed master’s level therapist (e.g. an MFT), social worker or psychiatrist. Some people may find it useful to turn to a religious leader such as a pastor, priest or imam and ideally should consult with someone who has some background in mental health. HMOs will provide mental health services as part of their coordinated care. Finally, low cost options can often be found at hospital outpatient training clinics, university training clinics, state hospital outpatient clinics, and local social service agencies. It is critical that you feel comfortable with whomever you choose; it is perfectly fine to keep going and seeking second opinions until you feel comfortable.
If you want to approach a family member who is struggling with depression, the key is to be empathic and supportive. Sometimes it just helps them to know that someone is witnessing their struggle. Keep in mind that sometimes depression can result in a person being more irritable than usual; take a moment to consider whether this is a change from his or her norm and consider depression as a possibility. Consider your audience when offering up help – older adults may not feel as comfortable with seeking “therapy” and a good place for them to start may be their regular physician. Reassure them that help will actually “help” and allow them to move forward. Stress that you will be there for them as they move forward through this process.
By Ramani Durvasula, PhD