10 Surprising Diet Myths Debunked

woman eating broccoli

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With so many contradictory fad diets out there, it’s often hard to tell the fact from fiction. Should all carbs be banned? Do mini meals really boost your metabolism? To shed some light on what actually works, we caught up with Kimberly Snyder, a celebrity nutritionist (she’s worked with Drew Barrymore and Kerry Washington) and the author of The Beauty Detox Foods. Here, she breaks down which diet myths are more hype than truth.

1. MYTH: Eating after 8 P.M. causes weight gain.
When it comes to eating at night, the issue is less about a specific time, but more about when your head hits the pillow. Snyder recommends eating dinner at least three to four hours before bed. If your bedtime is close to 11 p.m. or midnight, eating at or a bit after 8 p.m. is reasonable. “My ‘light to heavy’ principle means eating foods that are easy to digest during the day so you don’t get weighed down,” says Snyder. “So at dinner, which is a social time, and when you can slow down to chew well and not have other foods coming later to digest, you can enjoy a sensible dinner.”

2. MYTH: Small, frequent meals boost metabolism.
Eating small meals may temporarily boost metabolism, but Snyder argues that because you’re always digesting, your digestion system will get overworked, using up a lot of energy. “Also, if new foods are constantly coming down the pipeline, you won’t be able to fully digest and fully assimilate the nutrients of everything you’ve eaten.”

3. MYTH: Carbohydrates are the enemy.
There are three types of carbs — complex, simple and fiber — and they shouldn’t all get a bad rap. “It is important to eat carbohydrates in their best forms, rather than blanketing the carbohydrates category as ‘bad.’ Avoid gluten and refined carbs and sugars, and stick to whole food carbs like sweet potatoes and quinoa.”

4. MYTH: The more calories you cut, the more weight you’ll lose.
“Yes, we do want to eat fewer calories in general, but making that a top priority is not going to help shed the pounds. Plus, if you cut calories, not only will you suffer and obsess, but your body will get used to functioning on fewer calories and may still hold onto excess weight. When you give your body quality, fiber-filled and whole foods, you will see your body change in a natural way — and without starving.”

5. MYTH: Diet foods help you lose weight.
Many foods marketed as diet-friendly — frozen dinners, “lite” desserts — may be low in calories, but lacking the nutrients you need. Instead, they are usually filled with sodium and artificial ingredients. “They are acid-forming in your body, and when your body is overly acidic, it may tend to hold onto more weight,” says Snyder. “Plus, they are not really satisfying, and all those fake ingredients will not promote your natural beauty.”

6. MYTH: Eating fat makes you fat.
Just like you shouldn’t rule out all carbs, you should never restrict the entire category of fats. “Eating the right kinds of fats is okay, as they can provide some benefits. An example of a healthy fat is avocados, as they are a great source of ‘good’ fat and are extremely filling,” Snyder says. But like everything else, they should be eaten in moderation. “Fat is slow to digest, and too much of any fat can be congestive.”

7. MYTH: Skipping meals is an effective strategy.
Starving yourself won’t help you drop pounds. “An overly hungry eater will usually make bad food choices when they do finally decide to eat. You’re much better off eating healthy, balanced meals filled with lots of fiber.”

8. MYTH: Drinking more water will help you lose weight.
It’s imperative to stay hydrated, but upping your fluid intake won’t necessarily help you lose weight. Many times when you think you’re hungry, you may actually be dehydrated — so do replenish throughout the day. However, Snyder warns that drinking water during meals should be limited. “Drinking too much water while eating can dilute digestive enzymes, and make digestion harder.”

9. MYTH: Drinking vegetables is better than eating them.
“Not necessarily. Having vegetables in all forms is essential for staying healthy,” says Snyder. Consider blending vegetables into a smoothie rather than choosing a pressed juice. “Blending veggies, like in my Glowing Green Smoothie, is ideal because of all the nutrients and fiber remains. Blending is great because it is a form of ‘pre-digesting,’ breaking down the foods to ensure you can absorb all the nutrients. Most people don’t chew enough. Cooked veggies may lose some vitamins, but are still nourishing and provide lots of fiber, minerals and other phytonutrients.”

10. MYTH: If you exercise, you can eat as much as you want.
“False. Staying healthy is all about balance, eating healthy and exercising regularly.”

Read more: Fact or Fiction? These Fitness Myths Will Surprise You