We asked health and nutrition experts from across the web for their best examples of the worst nutrition advice they’ve encountered–and what truly useful advice they would prefer to provide readers. From low-carb/no-carb to zero-fat diets, these experts are fed up with poor, potentially counter-productive advice perpetrated on a trusting public.
Here, we’ve assembled advice from some of the top nutrition and health experts in the industry.
The worst advice I’ve heard is: To lose weight, you should cut out carbohydrates (aka carbs).
This is not only untrue, but if you cut out carbs, you do yourself a disservice. Carbs are found in some of the healthiest foods around: fruits and vegetables. These are low in calories and high in fiber and vitamins and minerals. A perfect combination for weight loss.
Healthy carbs are also found in whole grains, beans, legumes, and dairy.
The carb-rich foods I do suggest you skip are sugar, candy, and refined grains (think white bread and bagels.) Cutting these out, along with practicing portion control, will help you lose weight.
Eating carbohydrates makes you fat!
My Recommendation: Cutting carbs from your diet may have short-term weight loss benefits due to water loss from a decrease in carbohydrate stores, but eating carbs in moderation does not directly lead to weight gain. The body uses carbs for energy, and going too long without them can cause lethargy and further slow down the metabolic rate.
The worst advice I’ve heard is “avoid anything white”. While I understand the notion behind it, there are actually some really nutrient-dense foods that are white. First, onions and garlic–the often forgotten superfoods–are loaded with disease-fighting properties and antioxidants. Mushrooms are another white food that are like undercover agents for fighting disease. Potatoes, I personally believe, are a good choice for a balanced diet when eaten in moderation.
Cauliflower is another amazing white vegetable! In addition, bananas are still full of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Eggs are technically a white food that are a good source of protein and minerals. Lastly, white beans and lentils are excellent sources of plant-based protein and fiber. So, please, eat white foods.
The worst nutrition advice I received was to cut out food groups for health. And not just one food group, but usually a whole number of them, one after the other, which didn’t leave very many options. This is totally the wrong approach to health, as we know that eating as wide a variety of foods as possible is important!
The more variety of foods you eat the more variety of nutrients you give your body, and the more variety of food you’re feeding your gut bacteria. And yes, that can definitely include some chocolate if you want it to!
The absolute worst advice about eating and nutrition that I’ve seen in my lifetime is the Low-Fat Diet.
It has been a colossal failure. Study after study… shows that low-fat diets produce shockingly few results on any metric studied, particularly weight loss. The entire structural foundation of the low-fat diet was based on research by Ancel Keyes— long since debunked—which purported… to show that people who ate the most fat had the most heart disease.
His data has been picked apart, reanalyzed, and debunked… more times than I can count, but the legacy was a diet that elevated carbs to an exalted and completely undeserved level, demonized fat, and basically tracked with the current epidemics in metabolic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and… even Alzheimer’s disease.
Saturated fat, in particular, has been completely exonerated of any causal role in heart disease, in quite a number of studies published in major journals since 2010. A number of review papers have concluded… the recommendations made by major health organizations are not supported by the science.
Fat is the one macronutrient that has no effect on blood sugar or insulin (which are, in turn, at the root of most metabolic diseases). Yet our diet [experts suggested] filling up on empty (and physiologically unnecessary) carbohydrates, which have the most dramatic (and negative) effects on the hormones (insulin, leptin, etc.) that are out of whack in metabolic diseases. Meanwhile, they demonized fat, which is absolutely essential as an energy source, and for the absorption of critical vitamins (A, D, E and K, etc.), and as a wonderful source of fuel for the brain (ketones).
The low-fat diet— [characterized by] the egg-white omelette— is surely the… most destructive dietary advice ever given by the establishment.
I think the worst advice I got was “never eat olive oil” and “switch to corn oil”. Olive oil has been used for thousand of years and, I believe, if anything has been that long without showing side effects, [proving] it is safe to eat. The countries that use olive oil in their diet –The Mediterranean countries– have lower incidences of heart disease, stroke and cancer. Actually, study after study shows that the Mediterranean diet, which is high in olive oil, is the healthiest diet. Side note: Olive oil is also good for the health of the skin and that is why people from the Mediterranean are famous for their skin.
As you can see, our experts have encountered plenty of bad advice over the years. Often based on misinterpretations of basic research–or virtually no credible research at all–this sort of misguided nutrition advice takes on a life of its own. In the worst case scenario, it becomes a sort of craze that sweeps the nation. Witness the no-fat/low-fat craze of the ‘80s. Instead of making us healthier, this ill-advised advice prompted food manufacturers to load their products with harmful sugar and salt, making matters worse, not better.
The takeaway? Eat plenty of whole plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and olive oil. Limit red meat, and add in some fish. Enjoy wine in moderation, and avoid added sugars. It’s really just that simple.