Spring Cleaning: 3 Diet Myths To Toss

The field of nutrition is a relatively new one, which means there is tons of seemingly contradictory information floating around, much of it with science to back it up! This can be incredibly confusing and frustrating to someone just looking to get healthy and eat well. Though there are several different approaches to eating that can be equally beneficial to different people with varying body types, activity levels, and needs, there are definitely some major diet myths and trends that everyone can stand to cut out in spring 2012, along with last year's harem pants and formaldehyde-ridden keratin treatments.

DIET MYTH #1: All calories are created equal.

The biggest problem with most calorie-counting diets is that they are based on the premise that a calorie is a calorie — and less calories equals greater health. There is so much wrong with this principle. Eating a 2,000-calorie diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and clean proteins is not the same as eating the same number of calories in "low-cal" snack foods, refined carbs like pizza and pasta, and saturated fats from meat.

Yes, lowering your overall caloric intake will help you lose weight, but it is your intake of powerful micro and macronutrients that will help you lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and cancer risk while staying slim and healthy long-term.

Low-calorie snack packs and other diet foods that allow you to eat smaller portions of unhealthy foods do absolutely nothing for your health, and may even thwart your efforts at losing weight by feeding your body empty calories (i.e. calories without any nutritional benefit) that don't really satisfy your hunger.

DIET MYTH #2: Carbs are the enemy.

Carbohydrates are finally starting to come back after their widespread blacklisting through the dark times of high-protein diets, but there are still so many people out there who avoid carbs like the plague. The problem with this approach is that it holds healthy whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat to the same negative standard as refined, bleached flours and starchy foods. While processed carbs like cookies, pastries, and other white-flour foods are definite diet-busters, whole grains are loaded with fiber, protein, and minerals, and are actually a major ally in weight loss!

Eliminating all carbs and grains from your diet often times leads to serious cravings, nutritional deficiencies, and digestive problems — that is totally not the answer. Try to cut the white carbs, but feel free to adopt a more balanced diet with some whole grain breads, brown rice, and even quinoa pasta!  

DIET MYTH #3: Fats cause weight gain.

Fats are another food group that have gotten a terrible rap over the last few decades. The truth is, America's obsession with low-fat food has had no small part in the obesity epidemic and distorted relationship with food that grows more and more serious each year.

Fats are a vital part of a healthy diet, and are super important for energy, brain, and heart health, weight management, and even healthy skin and hair! But as with carbs, not all fats are the same. Saturated fats found in meat and dairy need to be eaten in moderation, and trans fats found in processed and fried foods are terrible for your health, leading to more than just ballooning waist lines. Healthy, mono- and polyunsaturated fats found in nuts, avocadoes, fish, and olive oil, on the other hand, are wonderful foods that keep you fuller longer, and help you live a longer, healthier life.

The bottom line is that a restrictive, unsatisfying diet is not the answer for long-term, sustained weight loss. As with all things in life, the key with healthy eating is balance. Although every body is different, with different needs regarding caloric intake and protein (not to mention varying levels of sensitivities to foods containing dairy and gluten), a safe bet across the board is to opt for a balanced, whole-foods diet full of brightly colored vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats. Restricting your diet or eliminating an entire food group may shock your system into losing weight initially, but it also deprives it of vital nutrients, satisfaction and long-term stability. Forget these diet myths, and make 2012 your healthiest year yet!

This guest blog post comes from Zeel Expert Natasha Uspensky, CHHC, AADP

— StacyAtZeel, Zeel.com