Eating Habit Myths: Debunked

From social media to health blogs, nutrition myths are all over the internet. If we look around us, many unhealthy eating myths across the world are just different cultural eating habits.

NAP FIRST, FOOD SECOND

In many countries across the world, having a late-night dinner is very common. In Spain, many restaurants close in the afternoon during the summer. The owners go home, and just like everyone else, have Siesta (a 1-2 hour afternoon nap), because it’s simply too hot to be doing anything else. At night, the cities come back to life and everyone goes out to have a nice meal. Having a big meal this late or eating before bed has been a controversial topic for years, but let’s take a look at the facts.

There are no physiological reasons that eating before bed would cause weight gain. There’s also no evidence that calories count more before bedtime than throughout the day,[1] according to several studies from PubMed Central. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with eating at night. The important part is what you’re eating and the nutrition value of the foods you’re consuming. It is easy to get hungry at night, but if it becomes a habit to reach for high-calorie foods, it can cause weight gain, simply because it becomes a bad habit.[2] Reaching for fruits when hungry at night is a better alternative.

BREAD, PIZZA, CARBS, OH MY.

When we look to Central Europe, Germany and France—together with most of their neighbouring countries—are all about bread, and tend to eat a lot of it. Germans love their cold cut sandwiches. Bread is served with breakfast, lunch, and as a snack when out having a beer with friends. Then there are the Italians, who enjoy their fair share of pasta and pizza. But aren’t all those carbs fattening?

“It’s the type and quantity of the carbs you eat—not the carbohydrates themselves—that cause weight gain. Many carbs do contain excess calories and sugar,” says Julia Zumpano, a nutrition counsellor at Cleveland Clinic.[3]Complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, do not make you put on weight, compared to “bad carbs” like white flour and sugar.

So, which carbs are the healthier ones? High-fibre carbs such as whole grains, veggies and fruits, and high-protein carbs, like yogurt and milk, generally have a better nutritional value than low-fibre carbs, like sweets and refined grains.

This doesn’t mean that high-carb foods are bad for you—they can still be of nutritional value. Potatoes, for example, consist of a lot of potassium, vitamin C and fibre. Nutrition counsellors advise to still eat different types of carbs, just in moderation.[4]

DAIRY

Bread isn’t the only thing the Europeans like. Dairy products are a big favourite on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Dutch people have always consumed a lot of dairy as the landscape in the Netherlands is perfect farmland for cows. Back in the day, any leftover milk would be used to make cheese. To this day the Dutch are famous for their cheeses. Eating all this dairy has made them some of the tallest people on earth.[5]

But what does dairy do to your body? The European Commission says protein, calcium, magnesium, and several other essential nutrients are all present in dairy products, except for Vitamin D. Because of this, milk and dairy products are excellent for good bone health at a young age.

There is a lot of scepticism around dairy and the effects it has on the rest of your body. Too much dairy is said to cause cancer, however, a study from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) reports that consumption of dairy products might actually protect us from certain types of cancer, such as bladder cancer and breast cancer. Apart from that, many studies about dairy causing specific types of cancer are inconclusive.[6]

With the internet at our fingertips, it’s easy to be confused by what is deemed “healthy” eating habits and what is not. Eating times, carb intake, and daily dairy consumption are all things considered; but when we look to different practices around the world, it’s clear there are some misconceptions.


[1] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/eating-before-bed#Eating-Before-Bed-May-Lead-to-Unhealthy-Habits

[2] https://share.upmc.com/2016/08/nutrition-myths-facts/

[3] https://health.clevelandclinic.org/good-carb-bad-carb-dont-buy-into-4-myths/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CPeople%20often%20say%20that%20carbs,your%20body%20to%20release%20insulin.

[4] https://health.clevelandclinic.org/good-carb-bad-carb-dont-buy-into-4-myths/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CPeople%20often%20say%20that%20carbs,your%20body%20to%20release%20insulin.

[5] http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20200823-why-are-the-dutch-so-tall?fbclid=IwAR1Fc6pIHJYC0AKafbCVItJ7pL-c0Uu7vaRswzJ6mxXWOpfq46XK8oaKhkM

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5122229/