Fad Diets - Food Myths and Facts
By Manisha U. Vaidya, MS, RD, LD
Marketing ploys, clever phrases, wishful thinking, pseudo-science, media hype and celebrity testimonials are often used to attract the consumer to different foods. The consumer has to be aware of facts versus fallacies. Here are some common and enduring food myths.
Weight loss has always been a battle for many, however in recent years the internet is a source for a number of weight loss diets. The word ‘FAD’ diet is very common. A fad diet is a type of regimen where the user follows a provisional diet or unusual mixture of foods for a short time which results in some weight loss. However, upon giving up this diet, the pounds pile back up again. As I was thinking about writing this article, I surveyed some FAD diets on the internet and came across over Top 10 popular Fad Diets. Some of the names were very interesting - The Cereal Diet, Chocolate Diet, Blood Type Diet, The
When it comes to FAD diets, here are some facts and fictions. Let us consider some common food groups and the myths and facts about each of them:
- Myth: Margarine has fewer calories than butter.
Fact: Regular stick margarine and stick butter contains the same number of calories - about 36 calories per teaspoon.
- Myth: A rich, chocolate sundae before bed time is more fattening than the same sundae eaten at lunch time.
Fact: Time has no direct effect on how your body uses calories. What you eat, not when, makes the difference. No matter when they are eaten, excess calories can add up to extra body fat.
- Myth: Potatoes and bread are fattening.
Fact: By themselves potatoes and bread are not high in calories - 88 calories for a medium potato and 70 calories for an average-size slice of bread. Both potatoes and bread are great sources of carbohydrates.
- Myth: Excess carbohydrates, not fats, cause weight gain.
Fact: Excess carbohydrates are no more fattening than excess calories from any source, i.e. fats, carbohydrates or proteins. Too many calories from any source are stored as body fat.
- Myth: Body weight is a reliable indicator of a healthful diet.
Fact: No two people have the same body composition. The measure of a person’s diet and overall health is a combination of factors, weight being just one many.
- Myth: Eating carbohydrates causes weight gain.
Fact: Calories cause weight gain. Excess carbohydrates are no more fattening than calories from any source. Despite the claims of low-carbohydrate (sugary or starchy food) in diet books, a high-carbohydrate diet does not promote fat storage by enhancing insulin resistance.
- Myth: Eating just before bedtime is fattening.
Fact: What you eat, not when, makes the difference; calories have the same effect on the body no matter when they are consumed. Evidence does suggest that eating regular meals, especially breakfast, helps promote weight loss by reducing fat intake and minimizing impulsive snacking.
- Myth: Eating sugar causes diabetes.
Fact: Diabetes is caused by a lack of insulin in the body. Since foods that are high in sugar are often high in calories, over eating those foods can lead to weight gain. Research shows people who are overweight and obese are at increased risk for diabetes.
- Myth: Occasionally following a fad diet is a safe way to quickly lose weight.
Fact: Many fad diets are developed by people with little science or medical background; hence some fad diets can even be considered harmful to people with certain health problems. When trying to lose weight, consult a Registered Dietitian.
A Word on Fad Diets
Be cautious of Fad diets or for that matter any diet that encourages limiting or leaving out essential food groups (Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, Dairy, and Meats/Beans). No single food or food group can supply all the nutrients needed to stay healthy. Figure 1 illustrates a food guide pyramid (also called My Pyramid). The importance of grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy and meats/beans for a well-balanced diet form the base of the pyramid. The tip of the pyramid conveys oil and fat consumption in very limited amounts. As further illustrated in the figure, diet accompanied by exercise produces the best results.
Figure 1. Food guide pyramid (MyPyramid)
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