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10 Diet and Nutrition Myths Debunked
Written by Gloria Tsang, RD of
Published in November 2005

  1. Sugar Causes Diabetes
    The most common nutrition myth is probably that sugar causes diabetes. If you have diabetes, you do need to watch your sugar and carbohydrate intake, with the help of your Registered Dietitian, to properly manage your blood sugar level. However, if you do not have diabetes, sugar intake will not cause you to develop the disease. The main risk factors for Type 2 diabetes are a diet high in calories, being overweight, and an inactive lifestyle.

  2. All Fats are bad
    It's a long-held nutrition myth that all fats are bad. But the fact is, we all need fat. Fats aid nutrient absorption and nerve transmission, and they help to maintain cell membrane integrity - to name just a few of their useful purposes. However, when consumed in excessive amounts, fats contribute to weight gain, heart disease and certain types of cancers.

    Not all fats are created equal. Some fats can actually help promote good health, while others increase the risk for heart disease. The key is to replace bad fats (saturated fats and trans fats) with good fats (monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats).

  3. Brown Sugar is better than White Sugar
    The brown sugar sold at grocery stores is actually white granulated sugar with added molasses. Yes, brown sugar contains minute amounts of minerals. But unless you eat a gigantic portion of brown sugar every day, the mineral content difference between brown sugar and white sugar is absolutely insignificant. The idea that brown and white sugar have big differences is another common nutrition myth.

  4. Brown Eggs are more nutritious than White Eggs
    Contrary to a widely believed nutrition myth, eggshell color has nothing to do with the quality, flavor, nutritive value, cooking characteristics, or shell thickness of an egg. The eggshell color only depends upon the breed of the hen.

    According to the Egg Nutrition Council, "white shelled eggs are produced by hens with white feathers and white ear lobes and brown shelled eggs are produced by hens with red feathers and red ear lobes. There is no difference in taste or nutrition content between white and brown colored eggs".

  5. Avoid seafood to lower blood cholesterol
    I still can't believe it, but I heard this nutrition myth from my own doctor! In fact, the dietary cholesterol found in seafood and other meats has little effect on blood cholesterol in most people. Saturated fats and trans fatty acids are the most important factors that raise blood cholesterol.

    Saturated fats are usually found in meat products and packaged foods, and trans fatty acids are found in packaged snack foods, deep-fried foods or firm margarine containing hydrogenated oil.

  6. Avoid carbohydrate to lose weight
    The key message that many low-carb diets convey is that carbohydrates promote insulin production, which in turn results in weight gain. Therefore by reducing carbohydrate intake, you can lose weight. Unfortunately, this is just another nutrition myth.

    Many low-carb diets actually do not provide sufficient carbohydrates to your body for daily maintenance. Therefore your body will begin to burn stored carbohydrates (glycogen) for energy. When your body starts burning glycogen, water is released. Therefore the drastic initial drop of weight at the beginning of a low-carb diet is mostly the water that you lose as a result of burning glycogen.

    The truth is that low-carb diets are also often calorie-restricted! Followers only eat an average of 1000 - 1400 calories daily, compared to an average intake of 1800 - 2200 calories for most people. To lose one pound a week, you only need to eat 500 fewer calories per day in your normal diet. Therefore, it doesn't matter if you eat a high- or low-carb diet, you will lose weight if you decrease your caloric intake to less than needed to maintain your weight.

  7. Avoid nuts as they are fattening
    Yes, it's true that nuts are quite calorically dense. Fifteen cashews, for instance, deliver 180 kilocaleries! On top of that, it is very tough not to overeat these tasty snacks. But if you can restrain yourself from overeating them, nuts can be a part of a healthy diet.

    It's a nutrition myth that nuts should be avoided. In fact, nuts are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (the good fats) as well as plant sterols, all of which have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol.

    In 2003, the FDA approved a health claim for seven kinds of nuts stating that "scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces (45 grams) per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease." Instead of simply adding nuts to your diet, the best approach is to eat them in replacement of foods high in saturated fats.

  8. Eating for 2 is necessary during pregnancy
    Energy requirements vary among individuals. Unfortunately, the idea that pregnancy is an ice cream free-for-all is a nutrition myth. It is generally recommended that pregnant women increase their daily intake by 100 kcal in the first trimester and 300 kcal in the second and third trimesters. An extra snack before bedtime consisting of a fruit, a serving of milk or yogurt, and a few biscuits is often enough.

    A daily prenatal multivitamin supplement is often recommended during pregnancy, but not a daily bowl of ice cream!

  9. Skipping meals can help lose weight
    Many people think that by skipping a meal, they will be eating less food and therefore lose weight. As we now know, this is a nutrition myth. People who think skipping meals means weight loss do not understand how our bodies work.

    If you skip a meal, your body will think that you are in starvation mode and therefore slow down the metabolism to compensate. You then tend to overeat at the next meal. Often, skipping a meal and then eating too much at the next one means that you have a higher total caloric intake than if you just ate more frequently throughout the day. A better approach is to eat smaller frequent healthy meals and snacks to keep your blood sugar balanced.

  10. Red meat is bad for health
    I often hear people saying that they do not eat red meat. When I ask why they don't, or even what they consider to be red meat, the answers vary dramatically.

    It is true that some studies have linked red meat with increased risk of heart disease, partly due to the saturated fat content. In fact, even chicken can contain as much saturated fat as lean cuts of beef or pork. For instance, a serving of sirloin beef or pork tenderloin has less saturated fats than the same serving size of chicken thigh with skin. It is true that poultry like chicken and turkey is naturally lower in saturated fats. But it is only true IF you do not eat the skin.

    It is a nutrition myth, however, that red meat is altogether bad for your health. Instead of excluding red meats, choose leaner cuts of beef and pork. For beef, choose eye of round, top round roast, top sirloin and flank; for pork, choose tenderloin and loin chops.

Men vs. Women : Differences in Nutritional Requirements
Written by Gloria Tsang, RD of
Published in Oct 2006; Updated in Oct 2007

( Women love talking about diet and nutrition. That's probably the reason that most of the diet information out there caters to women. But what about men? Do men need to worry about osteoporosis? Do they need to worry about anemia? Let's take a look at a few major nutrients for men and women.

Nutritional Needs: Women vs. Men
  • Calcium
    Women :Calcium is important for women, particularly in lowering the risk of osteoporosis. A diet high in calcium and Vitamin D has been proven to lower risk of bone fractures. In addition, calcium also plays a role in regulating blood pressure. How much for women? For women under 50 years old, the recommended amount is 1,000 milligrams. For women over 50, the recommendation increases to 1,200 mg.

    Men : Calcium is also important in lowering the risk of osteoporosis in men, but too much of it may be harmful. Studies have shown that men who consumed high levels of calcium from foods and supplements have an increased risk of prostate cancer. How much for men? For all ages, the recommended amount is 800 mg. That is equivalent to not more than 3 servings of dairy per day.

  • Iron
    Women : For an obvious reason, women require more iron than men. This is because of women's monthly menstrual cycles. Signs of iron-deficiency anemia include fatigue, inability to concentrate and difficulty in breathing. If you experience these symptoms, do not self-prescribe iron supplements. Instead, always speak to your doctor. There are different types of anemia and it is not always due to low iron stores. How much for women? For women under 50, the recommended amount is 18 milligrams per day. For post-menopausal women, the amount goes down to eight milligrams. This difference is one of the reasons why it's important to choose an age-appropriate formula if you are taking multi-vitamin supplements. If you are in doubt, speak to your pharmacist.

    Men : Men need iron too, but again not too much. Studies conducted in the 1980s have shown that men with high iron stores were associated with increased risk of heart attacks. Despite that later studies cannot reproduce the same results, it is difficult to ignore the possible association. How much for men? The recommended amount is 8 mg for men of all ages. It is important to choose an age-appropriate as well as gender-appropriate formula if you are taking multi-vitamin supplements. If you are in doubt, speak to your pharmacist.

  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids
    Women : Omega 3 Fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fatty acids, have been shown to help lower triglycerides and increase the good HDL cholesterol. They may also act as an anticoagulant to prevent blood from clotting. Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in almost all fish, but they are particularly high in fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, and herring. They can also be found in nuts and seeds, as well as vegetable cooking oils. How much for Women? There is no official nutritional recommendation on how much omega 3 fatty acids women should eat. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least two times a week. For individuals with high triglycerides,the AHA recommends two to four grams of EPA+DHA per day provided as capsules such as fish oil or omega 3 supplements under a physician's care.

    Men : Omega 3 fatty acids benefit men too, but only the marine kind from fish oil. Vegetable omega 3, also known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) may not be good for men. Although it is still controversial, high intake of ALA has been linked to higher risk of prostate cancer. How much for Men? Until more is known, men should avoid taking concentrated ALA supplements such as flaxseed oil pills.

  • Protein
    Women : Protein provides energy. It is also important in growth and repair. As a result of the high-protein diet hype, many people eat more protein than they require. Excess protein accelerates calcium loss in urine. Therefore, women with a high risk of osteoporosis should be careful not to eat too much protein. How much for women? As a rule of thumb, the average requirement is calculated based on 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For instance, a 130 pound (59 kg) woman would need 47 grams of protein daily. If you are an athlete, your protein requirement will increase.

    Men : Men require more protein, simply because they weigh more. As mentioned above, excess protein accelerates calcium loss in urine. Therefore, men with a high risk of kidney stones should watch their protein intake. How much for men? The same formula applies to men. The average requirement is calculated based on 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight. Therefore, a 165 pound (75 kg) man would need 60 grams of protein daily. In general, both healthy men and women (regardless of body size) will do fine with 60 grams of protein a day. That is equivalent to eight ounces of meat. Again if you are an athlete, your protein requirement will increase.

  • Fiber
    Women : We all know the benefits of fiber! Fiber not only prevents constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticulosis, it can also help reduce the risk for some chronic diseases such as colon and breast cancer. In addition, fiber may help lower bad LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease. Furthermore, fiber can help lower blood sugar to help better manage diabetes. How much for women? Women under 50 require 25 grams of fiber, and those over 50 require 21 grams of fiber. That's equivalent to at least two cups of vegetables and 1 1/2 cups of fruit.

    Men : Men require more fiber than women. Fiber requirements are calculated to provide the greatest protection against heart disease and are based on energy intake. Men in general need more calories, so they need more fiber. How much for men? Men under 50 require 38 grams of fiber, and those over 50 require 30 grams of fiber. That's equivalent to at least three cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit.

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