How safe are baby carrots? Just how damaging is yo-yo dieting? Are there specific foods that cause cellulite? There are still many common questions about dieting that leave many confused. TODAY nutrition and diet editor Joy Bauer helps separate fact from fiction:
Myth No. 1: Baby carrots are soaked with a toxic chemical and are unsafe to eat
This myth has been widely circulated through e-mail chains and seems to resurface every couple of months. The truth is that cut baby carrots, like bagged salad mixes and other “ready to eat” fresh vegetables, are rinsed in a dilute chlorine solution to inhibit bacterial growth. However, the trace amount of chlorine used is carefully regulated by the FDA and not harmful. In fact, this process protects your health by preventing the spread of foodborne illness. By the way, that white blushed color your baby carrots get is not caused by the chlorine. It’s just discoloration that naturally occurs as the carrots lose moisture.
Myth No. 2: High-fat and high-sugar foods cause cellulite
Nope, not true! Cellulite is pockets of body fat located just beneath the surface of the skin. When this fatty tissue pushes up against the connective tissue that binds skin together, it produces a bumpy, dimpled texture, most often in the hips, buttocks and thighs. And while genetics plays the strongest role in determining who gets cellulite and where, there are some factors you can control.
When it comes to diet, it’s important to understand that no specific foods cause cellulite. That said, overindulging in high-calorie foods (often laden with sugar and fat) leads to weight gain, which can make cellulite more noticeable. While slimming down and toning your lower-body muscles certainly won’t make cellulite disappear, it can help to minimize its appearance and make you more comfortable in your skin.
Myth No. 3: Dairy is bloating
Dairy is only bloating for people with lactose intolerance ... and, in some instances, for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If you don’t fall into either of these groups, low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese should not cause bloating or discomfort. Even among individuals with lactose intolerance, some dairy products may be tolerated without symptoms. For example, hard cheeses (such as Cheddar and Swiss) and yogurts that contain live active cultures are usually easier to digest than straight milk or ice cream. Experiment with your diet before you give up on dairy altogether.
Myth No. 4: Alcohol turns to sugar in the body
Contrary to what most people think, alcohol does not act like a sugar, significantly raise blood sugars, or get stored in the body as sugar. In fact, alcohol is a completely separate entity; it’s not digested in the same way as the carbs, fats and proteins that enter our system. Alcohol is metabolized strictly by our liver, while carbs, proteins and fat are broken down by a slew of enzymes in our intestines and then absorbed.
In fact, hard liquors like rum, gin and vodka don’t contain any sugar or other carbohydrate whatsoever (all of their calories come from pure alcohol). Of course the mixers we douse them with are another story altogether! Mixers like sour mix, simple syrups, margarita mix, tonic and juices are loaded with simple sugars, which contribute major calories and can spike your blood sugar levels. Wine and champagne contain a very small amount of carbohydrate — about 3 grams per 5-ounce glass (that’s just 12 calories of carb out of 120 calories for the glass). Beer has the most carbohydrates — about 12 grams per 12-ounce bottle (that’s 48 calories of carb out of 150 calories for the bottle).
Keep in mind: While alcohol doesn’t act like a sugar, it does contain calories and can contribute to weight gain (not to mention bad decisions!) if consumed in excess. So while alcohol may be misunderstood, the extra calories coming from alcohol — just like those from carbs, fat and protein — will be stored by the body as fat and pack on the pounds.
Myth No. 5: Yo-yo dieting kills your metabolism
“I’ve been on so many diets, my metabolism is shot!” Yup, I’ve heard that one before. Fortunately, studies have shown it’s simply not true. Though your resting metabolic rate does slow down a bit when you restrict calories, the drop is only temporary, so dieting won’t cause any permanent damage to your metabolism or make it impossible for you to lose weight in the future. However, there may be some other serious negative side effects. A handful of studies have shown that “weight cycling” is associated with low bone density, which could place yo-yo dieters at higher risk for fractures. If you have a long history of dieting, it’s all the more important that you incorporate resistance training into your routine to prevent further bone loss (and take in adequate calcium and vitamin D from food and/or supplements).
Most importantly, chronic dieting can have a negative impact on psychological health. Weight loss followed by weight regain can squash self-esteem and promote feelings of failure. This mind-set makes it difficult to maintain a healthy relationship with food. With that in mind, take care of your body and your psyche — avoid crash dieting and instead stick with a program you can sustain long term.
Find out if Joy's Life Diet is right for you at JoyBauer.com