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11 Nutrition Myths That Can Cause Weight Gain

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Myth: Going Vegan Will Make You Lose Weight
 

“While various research shows that vegetarians and vegans, on average, consume fewer calories and less fat than omnivores (a 2009 Oxford study found that vegetarians weigh 3 to 20 percent less than their meat-eating counterparts, and a National Cancer Institute study found that subjects who consumed four ounces or more of red meat weekly were 30 percent more likely to die of any cause than those who ate less), these numbers may be misleading,” says Rania Batayneh, MPH, a certified nutritionist and owner of Essential Nutrition for You.

Going vegan solely for weight loss can backfire, big time. If you aren’t vigilant with a vegan diet, it’s easy to lack in vital nutrients, vitamins, and proteins, which give you energy and help keep your metabolism stoked. Many first-time vegans may also find themselves reaching for more processed foods like vegan cookies, chips, or even ‘ice cream’ more often with such a restricted diet, and many end up packing on the pounds instead.

If you do decide to adopt a vegan diet, be sure to keep the ‘treats’ to a minimum and plan balanced meals (we love ‘Domestic Vegan’ Diva Jessica Olson’s tips for “going veg”). “Aim to get about 10 to 20 percent of your calories from protein (or about 1 gram per kilogram of body weight), replacing animal protein with healthy plant proteins, like those found in beans, legumes, eggs, nuts, seeds, low-fat dairy, and soy products,” Batayneh says. “And, whether you are vegan or not, eating more green, leafy vegetables is great for your health and your waistline.”

Myth: Cut All Carbs to Shed Pounds

Your body needs ‘carbs’ for energy, and many carbohydrate foods are rich in essential vitamins, nutrients, and dietary fiber that help you stay full and fuel your workouts. “Eliminating carbohydrates not only reduces whole grains, B vitamins, and a good source of fiber, but it also reduces your body’s feel-good capacity (it’s no wonder that most comfort foods are carbohydrate based),” Batayneh says.

Plus, cutting out food groups may only make you crave them more, and you may find yourself finishing off an entire bag of chips in a moment of weakness. “Starches and carbs are actually an important tool in weight management,” Batayneh says. “They provide belly-filling fiber, complex carbohydrates to keep your engine running all day, and they stimulate the production of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter that regulates mood.”

Stay healthy, full, and happy while dropping the lbs. by swapping out processed carbs for fiber- and nutrition-filled foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

Myth: Diet Drinks are a Great Way to Cut Calories

You may think you’re doing yourself a favor by sipping artificially sweetened drinks, but recent research says you may just be setting yourself up to crave sweets even more. ‘Fake’ sugar can trick our bodies, since we aren’t actually providing it with any calories to back up the sweetness, causing a vicious cycle of cravings. “Artificial sweeteners tend to trigger your appetite—making you want more and more sugar—but without actually satisfying a desire for sweets like normal sugar does,” Batayneh says. “Diet soda-drinkers may end up eating tons of sugary and fatty snacks in order to satisfy their cravings.”

Case in point: One University of Texas study found that people who drink diet soda regularly (more than two per day) had a 70 percent greater waist circumference than those that don’t. Not to mention, diet sodas are also often loaded with additives, including caramel coloring, which is made by reacting sugars with ammonia and sulfites, resulting in two compounds that have been found to cause lung, liver, and thyroid cancers in mice, Batayneh says.

Next time a diet soda craving strikes, sub in one of these healthy alternatives or sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon or lime.

Myth: Fat-Free Snacks are Better for Your Waistline

“Reduced-fat versions of snacks typically have been stripped of one quarter of their original healthy monounsaturated fats, and to replace that flavor, the brand adds in fillings, additives, and sugar—all for the same amount of calories,” Batayneh says. “Picking reduced-fat products may even end up hurting your waistline: in one study, average-weight participants ate 22 percent more calories if the food was labeled ‘low fat’ and overweight participants ate up to 50 percent more.”

Your body needs fat to absorb vitamins, and it may also help you shed pounds—a recent Stanford University study found that people on a moderate-fat diet lost twice as much weight as subjects eating a low fat diet.

So skip the highly processed, fat-free snacks that are basically empty calories and fill up on healthy, whole foods that will help you stay satisfied on a lower-calorie diet such as avocados, nuts, and coconuts.

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