Nutrition is an important issue that affects us all. But do you sometimes feel that there is such a flood of information on the subject that you can hardly keep up? In this article, we debunk the 15 most persistent myths about diet.

Thomas Ellrott, a physician and specialist on nutrition, knows exactly what keeps people from healthy enjoyment: “Nutrition myths disrupt our sensible relationship with food.” In this article, we debunk the 15 most persistent myths about diet.

1. Eating late in the day makes you fat

Many diet books advise not eating after 6 p.m. because the long break between your last meal in the early evening and breakfast is supposed to encourage your body to burn fat. But there is no definitive evidence for this. What’s important is not the time at which you eat, but the total amount of calories you consume over the entire day.

2. The source of the calories doesn’t matter

Smoothies, fruit juice, or caramel-flavored coffee – these are all foods that have quite a few calories, but don’t really make you feel full. Calorie for calorie, solid foods satisfy your hunger better than liquids. The risk of overweight and diabetes rises when a large share of your daily energy intake is drunk and not eaten, because this increases the likelihood that you will consume more total calories than necessary.

3. Potatoes make you fat

This isn’t necessarily true – it depends on how they are prepared. At less than 100 calories per 100 grams, boiled or baked potatoes count more as low-calorie foods. A further advantage is that they leave you feeling full, because potato protein is particularly satisfying. If potatoes are cooked with a lot of fat, however, as in fried potatoes, potato wedges, or french fries, you should be more careful – this can make the calorie content up to six times higher.

4. Beware of ice cream

Ice cream is not usually a calorie bomb, especially since we usually only eat a small serving. Many types of ice cream only have around 100 calories per serving. Sherbets and sorbets contain fewer calories than ice cream.

5. Chocolate makes you fat

It depends on how much you eat. A study conducted in Spain with almost 1,500 young people showed that the amount of abdominal fat and its percentage of the overall body fat of the test persons was lowest when they ate 43 grams of chocolate per day, around half a chocolate bar. Nutritionists recommend eating dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate, since its intense flavor and high cacao content satisfy our chocolate cravings more quickly.

6. Reduced-sugar cookies are better for you

In this case it’s important to watch out for hidden calories. The sugar is often replaced by ingredients with similar properties, like fruit sugars or syrups. They might sound healthier, but often contain just as many calories.

7. You can only lose weight by following a strict regimen

If you set yourself strict rules and restrictions, you are more likely to fail. And above all, there is a danger of completely abandoning your resolutions when you eat something that was not in the diet plan. It is also frustrating and bad for your self-esteem when you fail, because you internalize the message of “I messed up again.” Plus there is a danger of uncontrolled hunger attacks which lead you to consume a large number of calories.

8. Organic meat does not contain antibiotics

Whether you buy organic meat or shop at a discount grocery store, animal products are rarely completely free of any traces of medicines. Even in organic agriculture, animals are allowed to be given antibiotics if they are ill. But on organic farms, there are stricter rules regarding the waiting period for milk or meat. This means there will be fewer traces of antibiotics in organic meat.

9. Artificial sweeteners are dangerous

Chemical sweeteners such as aspartame and cyclamate were long suspected of causing cancer, headaches, allergies, or epilepsy. In addition, people used to think artificial sweeteners indirectly encouraged weight gain because consuming them would increase our cravings for “real” sugar and we would eat more afterwards than we would have without the sweetener.

These suspicions have been disproven in the meantime, but there is still a maximum amount that you should not exceed. A person weighing 70 kilograms should not drink more than 4.5 liters of diet soda per day, for example. Diarrhea is only caused by sugar substitutes such as xylitol or isomalt, by the way.

10. Fructose is healthier than regular table sugar

Table sugar (saccharose) is made up of 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose. Glucose causes blood sugar levels to rise rapidly, whereas fructose hardly affects them. So people thought that fructose is more tolerable and healthier.

In the meantime, researchers have found that this only applies to very small daily amounts. In large amounts, fructose can even be problematic – it can lead to fatty liver disease, which can result in insulin resistance, a precursor to type-2 diabetes. Glucose does not exhibit such effects.

11. Sugar causes diabetes

The role of very high amounts of fructose is what people are talking about here. A research team in Potsdam, Germany under Hans-Georg Joost conducted a long-term study to investigate the effects of diet on the development of diabetes. It found that eating meat is associated with an increased risk, whereas consuming whole-grain products and coffee is associated with a lower one. Table sugar had no impact.

 12. Eggs raise cholesterol levels

Eggs do in fact contain a lot of cholesterol. However, approximately three-quarters of the cholesterol in our bodies is made by the body itself. The blood cholesterol level depends on factors such as physical activity, genetics, and nutrition. A study performed in Spain examined the cholesterol levels of around 14,000 students who ate more than four eggs per week. No effects were found. Animal fats found in meat have a greater impact than high-cholesterol foods such as eggs and shellfish.

13. Preservatives are harmful

This is not true, because these additives actually prevent illnesses such as meat poisoning as well as cancers caused by the waste products of certain fungi. However, many believe they can cause headaches, nausea, or diarrhea in some people. But the only way you can completely avoid preservatives is if you don’t eat any processed food at all.

14. Glutamate additives are bad

Monosodium glutamate is used as a flavor enhancer and is often blamed for making people ill and for being unhealthy. This has never been proven scientifically, however.  The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have classified it as a safe food ingredient.

15. Fruit juice is better for you than soda

Fruit juice contains vitamins, minerals, and trace elements – but it also has a lot of calories. If you compare it with a soft drink there is hardly any difference, except for the calories come from the fruit’s own sugars in the one case, and from sugar beets in the other. It is better to drink fruit juice diluted with water.

We hope we have been able to clear up some confusion and debunk some of these myths!