Truth or Trash Part 2: Breaking Down Internet Health Myths

We’re back with part 2 (check out part 1 here) to help you make sense of the hundreds of health myths thrown on our newsfeeds every day. Is the sugar in an apple really the equivalent of eating a candy bar? Does gluten-free really mean it’s healthy?

In this “Truth or Trash” series, our RD breaks down common internet health claims to help you combat this information overload.

1. You lose a pound of fat for every 3,500 calories you burn.

We’re throwin’ it back with this one, a theory dating back to 1958. This all stems from the calculation that one pound of fat stores 3,500 calories. Anyone who’s tried the “cut 500 calories per day to lose 1lb per week” knows this theory should have gone out with frosted tips. Soon enough our body will hit a plateau and the lbs will stop dropping. Why? We don’t only burn fat when we lose weight, we’re constantly breaking down and rebuilding muscle and lean tissues.

The bottom line: Eating less will help with weight loss, but we are burning both stored fat and lean tissues (protein) for energy. Strength training and a balanced diet (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) with a slight calorie deficit will help to balance metabolic hormones, making your body more efficient at burning fat instead of muscle for energy.

2. Fruit is as bad as candy.

In a world fear mongering sugar and carbs, apples and bananas have been compared alongside Snickers and Reese’s. Bananas contain about 14 grams of sugar, the same amount as an ounce of dark chocolate, but how this sugar is metabolized is drastically different. Fruit contains fiber that slows the digestion of sugar, keeping you feeling full longer.

The bottom line: Some fruits have more sugar than others, but all fruit gives us essential vitamins and fiber we won’t get from that Hershey’s bar. Our body is better prepared to metabolize natural sugar, so pair fruit with protein or fat for a balanced snack.

3. BMI is the best predictor of your health

So what is your BMI and what does it mean exactly? Body mass index (BMI) was first introduced as a way to quickly evaluate body composition. Taking only height and weight into account, BMI may be a useful tool for the general public but doesn’t take muscle into account. If two people weighed 195 pounds at the same height, but one was 30% body fat and the other 15%, they would have a similar BMI although their body composition is drastically different.

The bottom life: BMI can be a useful tool for the general public, but for a full view of health, height, weight, percent body fat and blood work shows your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

4. Lifting weights will make women bulky

If lifting weights makes you bulky, cardio must be what makes you skinny. The benefits of resistance training, including using dumbbells, resistance bands or your own body weight, go well beyond weight loss. Muscle is metabolically active, meaning the more muscle you have the more calories you burn, even just sitting on the couch all day. This increased calorie expenditure not only translates to weight loss but also a reduced risk for obesity-related illnesses. 

The bottom line: Ladies, don’t avoid the weight room. If you’re looking to “tone,” lifting weights is key. Diet and genetics play a major role in how “bulky” you may appear, but the benefits of strength training will have you hooked. 

5. Gluten-free foods are healthier

To start this one off, let’s compare a gluten-filled oreo (double stuff obvi) with the angelic gluten-free counterpart. Two Double Stuff Oreos have 140 calories, 7g of fat, 1g protein, 21g carbohydrate (less than 1g fiber) and 13g of sugar. Comparable to Oreos, gluten-free cookies have 120 calories, 5g fat, less than 1g protein, 20g carbohydrates (less than 1g fiber) and 11g sugar.

When comparing gluten-free snack foods, a gluten-free cookie is still a cookie. If we were to compare this gluten-free oreo to one cup of baby carrots with 2 tablespoons of hummus, the carrots and hummus take the cake for higher fiber and lower sugar, yet both are gluten-free. It all comes down to the types of food we’re eating – when in doubt go for a serving of nutrient dense veggies balanced with protein.

The bottom line: It depends on the gluten-free food. Just because a cookie is gluten-free, doesn’t mean the entire box is free game. Broccoli, strawberries, and chicken are gluten-free AND they provide our body with essential vitamins and minerals. If you are able to tolerate gluten, whole grains provide fiber, B vitamins, and quality carbohydrates.