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Video: Diet myths revealed

By
TODAY
updated 7/21/2008 10:11:25 AM ET 2008-07-21T14:11:25

Do carbs really make you fat? Diet and nutrition myths have an odd way of sounding like the truth and sticking in people’s minds. It is not always easy to separate fact from fiction.  Samantha Heller of Health magazine reveals the real truth about six popular diet myths that have had a lot of staying power.

Myth: Fiber cancels out calories
In general, high-fiber foods like whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables tend to be lower in calories and healthier for you. Fiber contributes to satiety (feeling full) and keeps the GI tract running smoothly. However, adding wheat germ and walnuts to your hot fudge sundae or beef and cheese to your three-bean chili will not cancel out the hundred of calories or the bad saturated fat! Shoot for 20-30 grams of fiber a day. Most of us only get about 15 grams.

Myth: All-natural means it’s healthy
We believe that “all-natural” means healthy, safe and good for you. We think of rolling hills, wild flowers and acres of farm-fresh vegetables. The truth is “all-natural” foods can still be high in bad saturated fat, sugar, sodium and calories and low in fiber, vitamins, minerals, photochemicals and antioxidants. Remember, dirt and arsenic are all natural but you don’t want to eat them.

Myth: Eating late at night is bad
With today’s crazy schedules, people often do not get a chance to eat until 7 or 8 p.m.. It's a myth that the food stays in your stomach all night and then turns immediately to fat. Your body does not turn off when you go to bed. There is no magic time of day that your body starts storing fat and stops digesting food. Gaining weight happens because over time you eat more calories than you expend. The hazards of late-night eating include being starving by the time you eat dinner and overeating, and if you eat a big meal before you go to bed it may interfere with your sleep. So if you are time-challenged and must have late suppers, eat light at night.

Myth: Low-fat means you can eat as much as you want
Sodas and low-fat ice cream are “low” or “no” fat but they can still cram in a lot of calories.  Low-fat peanut butter has the same number of calories as the regular version because the healthy fats were removed, and sugar added. The no-fat cookie craze still has people believing they can eat a whole box of cookies and not worry about calories. Of course this is not true.  We need to keep an eye on how much of everything we eat, even if it is low-fat or healthy.

Because of low-fat trends, people have become fearful of fats. But healthy fats that come from plants, like olive, canola, walnut and peanut oils, and fish are good for you. They are necessary for a healthy heart, immune system and brain function and help satisfy your taste buds.

Myth: Carbs make you fat
Let's finally dump this erroneous notion. Carbohydrates do not make you fat. Nor does fat. Eating more of any kind of food than your body needs will make you fat. Carbohydrates are the primary and preferred source of energy for your working muscles and brain. Choose whole grains like whole-wheat breads and pastas, beans, fruits and vegetables to fill your fuel tank.  If you go low on carbs you will not be feeling very energetic or alert.

Myth: Women who weight train will become bulky
Women like cardio because we want to burn fat. Unless women are engaging in heavy-duty weight lifting it is doubtful that bulking up will be a problem. With the right amount of weight and strength training exercises you’ll tone and strengthen. Men can bulk up with proper training but that is in part due to their much higher levels of the hormone testosterone.

In addition, as we get age we lose muscle mass and gain fat. Strength training helps stave off the aging process by helping us stay fit, lean and strong.

For more on diet myths, visit www.health.com.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

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