Health facts vs fiction

Health facts vs fiction teaser
You've probably heard a lot of 'facts' about various areas of health that you should follow. How do you know what's true and what's not? Let's take a look at some of them and bust some myths!


1.Sugar causes diabetes

While sugar needs to be limited if you have diabetes, sugar consumption does not in fact cause diabetes.
The main risk factors for diabetes are:
  • genetic pre-disposition
  • age
  • different cultural backgrounds
  • women who give birth to large babies
  • women who have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)
  • overweight and obesity (can be caused by excessive sugar consumption)
  • lack of physical activity
  • smoking
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol

2. All fats are bad

Not all fats are equal… There are both unhealthy and healthy fats. Our bodies do need some healthy fats to promote good health and integrity of our cells. Unhealthy fats or saturated and trans fats increase our risk of heart disease, while healthy fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, help to protect us against heart disease. All fats, however, if eaten in large amounts can lead to weight gain.


3. Brown sugar is better than white sugar

Yes, brown sugar contains the most minute amount of minerals, however unless you are eating tonnes of sugar the difference between brown and white sugar is insignificant. Sugar is sugar no matter the colour.


4. Starchy foods like bread, pasta and potatoes are fattening

Many low carbohydrate diets do not actually provide enough energy for our body to function. Our bodies will then start burning energy stored in muscles leading to a release of water. This is the initial weight loss that is associated with these diets. Including high protein snacks and protein with meals can help to reduce caloric intake and curb your appetite, however we still require high fibre carbohydrate foods for health and ongoing healthy weight loss.

5.Skipping meals can help lose weight

Although you may be eating less by skipping meals, you are also putting your body into starvation mode. Your body then slows your metabolism to compensate for the reduced energy intake. Therefore your body is burning less energy and more likely to store energy gained from the food and drink you consume. Skipping meals can also lead to larger portions later on.


6. Coconut oil can aid weight loss and help reduce our risk of heart disease.

Let us address the first part of this statement… ‘Coconut oil can aid weight loss’. Coconut oil is essentially a pure fat extracted from coconut flesh. Fat is very high in calories so when eaten in large amounts can contribute significantly to daily energy intake. To lose weight you need to be burning more calories than what you are consuming. Therefore including pure fat, an extremely energy-dense food, into your diet on a regular basis could make it difficult to achieve this energy deficit.
Now the second half of this health claim… Coconut oil can help to reduce our risk of heart disease. There are healthy and unhealthy fats in our diet. Healthy fats are unsaturated while unhealthy refer to both saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats are known to increase bad cholesterol and increase risk of heart disease. Coconut oil is made up of 92% saturated fats… more than butter! Yes a high percentage of the saturated fat is a fatty acid called Lauric acid which is similar to unsaturated fats in that it can increase our healthy cholesterol. However it also increases bad cholesterol.
So where does that leave us? Current evidence shows that coconut oil just doesn’t measure up to the healthy unsaturated oils that help to increase our good cholesterol but also reduce the bad!

7. Rock salt is healthier than table salt

Similar to sugar… Salt is salt. The only difference between these salts is the crystal size. Both have the same effect in your body. If too much is eaten salt can lead to increased blood pressure.

8. Aspartame (artificial sweetener) causes cancer

Aspartame is one of the most thoroughly tested ingredients in foods. Research carried out in Canada, UK, France and Europe confirms that aspartame is safe for consumption. Food Standards Australia & New Zealand therefore have allowed for it to be used in food and drink products as a sweetener.


9. Raw vegetables are better than cooked vegetables

Not necessarily! Yes the amount of nutrients in vegetables can differ depending on how fresh they are and how/ if you cook them. Cooking vegetables can lose some nutrients, however it can also make more nutrients available for absorption in the body. For example more of the antioxidant, lycopene, found in tomatoes is released through cooking.
Boiling vegetables can cause some loss of nutrients in the water such as Vitamin B and C as these can dissolve in water. If vegetables are boiled too long more nutrients are lost. Steaming, stir-frying and baking can help retain these nutrients. The key message… Whether cooked or raw, vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet so aim for your five serves of vegetables daily.

10. Snacking late at night causes weight gain

Snacking at midnight doesn’t necessarily mean that those calories are going straight to the thighs. You gain weight by eating more calories than your body is burning. Therefore it is the amount of snacking throughout the day and evening, as well as the meals we eat that will determine whether we gain weight.

11. Sit-ups / crunches will result in a flat tummy

Abdominal exercises will improve the tone and strength of the abdominal muscles, but your six pack will remain hidden if it is covered by extra body fat. Cardiovascular exercise combined with strength training and a healthy diet will help to reduce your body fat. By reducing your body fat, you will be able to show off your crunching work.


12.Low intensity exercise is the best for weight loss

During exercise, the body uses two sources for fuel – fat and glucose (carbohydrates/sugars). At a light to moderate pace the body uses more fats as its fuel choice; however the amount of calories burnt is also moderate. When exercising at a higher intensity, the body uses more glucose as fuel, but burns calories at a faster rate. Science proves time and again that the reality is “calories in vs. calories out” (regardless of the fuel used) is more important when trying to lose weight.

13. Strength exercises will lead to a bulky body

Heavy weights promote increased muscle strength and mass – but ladies, relax, we have too much oestrogen, and not enough testosterone, in our hormone make-up making it impossible for most women to look too bulky. Besides, many of us aren’t lifting weights heavy enough (body weight exercises included) to even risk a bulky appearance. Strength exercises play an important role in weight loss as increasing muscle mass will lead to increased calories burnt throughout the day. Therefore, they help with speeding up metabolic rate whilst reducing some effects of ageing. If you do feel like you are gaining too much muscle from your strength workouts (genetics can play a role) then complete your exercises with a lighter weight and higher repetitions as this is still a good option for improving muscle tone.

14. Skinny people don’t need to exercise

It’s not all about body shape, size and appearance. Skinny people can also be diagnosed with heart disease and diabetes. Exercise can help to prevent and improve high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which are associated with heart disease. Exercise also helps to control blood glucose levels and therefore assists in the prevention of diabetes. Hence, the external image isn’t the be all and end all; it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

15. More sweating means more calories burnt

Sweating is related to temperature regulation and is merely your body’s way of cooling itself. Sweating more doesn’t necessarily mean you’re burning more calories, it’s purely because your body is at a higher temperature. Sweating can be affected by the temperature, exercise intensity and how many sweat glands you are born with (between 2-4 million).

16. Warm ups should include stretching

It is importance to ‘warm up’ muscles prior to exercise, perhaps a light walk or progressive dynamic movements, but stretching ‘cold’ muscles can lead to increased risk of injury in muscles and tendons. Static stretching (the most common form) prior to exercise may also lead to a decrease in power, strength and speed in some athletes. On the contrary, post-exercise stretching has great benefits in increasing flexibility, improving circulation and reducing lactic-acid build up.

17. Exercise machines effectively count calories burnt

The amount of calories you burn during a workout depends on your age, gender, BMI and other variables. Cardio machines don’t always ask these specifics and therefore cannot be relied upon for a true indication. Rather than focusing on how many calories you have burnt, consider focusing on improving you fitness level through monitoring your time, repetitions per minute or speed instead.

18. Exercise increases appetite

Exercise has been shown to reduce appetite and due to the stabilising effect on blood sugar/insulin levels it also helps to reduce cravings. We must listen to our body as an increased appetite when starting a new exercise regime is sometimes a psychological one or can be due to commencing a new “diet regime” at the same time. Remember thirst can also be misinterpreted at hunger and often after exercise we are dehydrated. 

19. Exercising on an empty stomach burns more calories

Exercising in a fasted state (8 hours since the last meal) results in a greater proportion of fat being used as the exercise fuel compared to doing the same workload after a carbohydrate-containing meal or snack. However, it is possible that you may be able to exercise harder and for a longer period if you consume carbohydrates before exercise. Overall, this will result in greater energy use and a better contribution to the negative energy balance that is needed to cause fat loss. To make a decision about eating before your workout, it is useful to consider the goals of the session. If your goal is to improve performance, have something to eat before exercise. If your goal is weight loss, and you will do the same amount of exercise regardless of whether you eat or not, save your meal until after the session.

20. Fat will convert to muscle

Let’s get this straight, muscle is muscle, fat is fat. They are not interchangeable. Often people ask whether weight lifting will turn their fat into muscle, and yes, weight lifting can increase muscle mass and help to decrease fat mass, but the technical, literal, direct conversion of fat into muscle is not possible. Fat is comprised of triglycerides and fatty acids while muscles are made up of muscle tissue, glycogen, water and some intra-muscular fat. So although weight lifting can both build muscle and induce fat loss, these should be viewed as two separate results and not one being the result of another.
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