In today’s world where anyone with an Instagram account can claim to be a health expert, the real experts — people with degrees, certifications and years of experience working with clients — often face slap themselves because of the bogus healthy advice they hear. These myths are repeated over and over, making the already challenging task of figuring out what to eat even harder.
To save you from the headaches of trying to determine what eating advice is truly healthy, seven registered dietitians share the worst tips they’ve ever heard:
Some say lectins can cause so-called ‘leaky gut syndrome’ and negatively impact the immune system. Lectins are a group of proteins found in many plants that bind to carbohydrates — such as beans, peanuts and whole grains.
“Should we worry about lectins? Unless you’re eating raw beans, definitely not!” says Crystal Cascio, RD. “Cooking inactivates most lectins in foods, plus some research shows that low levels of lectins in our diet may be beneficial.” So it’s more than OK to eat foods that contain lectins — just eat them cooked.
“There is no reason to ban cauliflower, potatoes, garlic, parsnips and white beans from your plate,” says Keri Gans, RDN, author of The Small Change Diet. “They are all packed with nutritional benefits, including fiber, vitamin C and potassium,” she explains. It’s more about how you cook these foods. For example, roast potatoes with the skin on with a little olive oil and herbs, rather than peeling and deep-frying them in oil.
“We barely have time to prepare and eat three balanced meals each day,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, author of The Superfood Swap. “So to eat all through the day, often those meals aren’t balanced because it’s too labor-intense, plus a high frequency of eating can end up being too many calories.” Instead, eat three balanced meals and only add one or two snacks between if you are truly hungry, she advises.
“There are articles claiming that drinking water with meals dilutes digestive juices and is bad for digestion. But not only is this a myth, drinking water with your meal can help assist with digestion,” says Jackie Newgent, RDN, culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook.
Water helps prevent constipation by softening your stool, and it helps your body absorb nutrients by helping to break food down. Newgent recommends a cup of water with or immediately after your meal, especially when your meal contains a significant amount of fiber.
“There is no evidence that shows that digestion is better or that there are benefits to eating carbs and protein separately,” says sports dietitian Tara Collingwood, RDN, adding that you should actually combine the two. “Carbs are your body’s preferred source of energy, so they get used up quickly. Protein takes longer to digest and keeps you satiated longer,” she explains. “Eating the two together gives you instant energy and also energy that lasts a little while.”
This myth makes most dietitians’ blood boil. “There is no current research supporting the idea that gluten-free products have any significant health benefits over their gluten-containing counterparts for the general population,” says Georgia Rounder, RD.
Unless you have a gluten allergy or intolerance, you shouldn’t limit whole grains, which are important sources of dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals that help support a healthy digestive system and promote satiety throughout the day, Rounder says. Also, strong evidence indicates that whole grains may help reduce the risk of overweight and obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
There is a teeny bit of science to this, but not enough to prove it really does anything for you. “The skin and pulp of lemons contains pectin — a form of soluble fiber — which can help improve gut health and aid in constipation,” says Rebecca Ditkoff, MPH, RD, founder of Nutrition by RD.
“However, simply drinking the juice from lemon without the skin or pulp may not offer this same benefit, making this an exaggerated health claim.” So go ahead and have your hot water lemon if you like it since water is good for hydration — but don’t be fooled into it will detox you or flush out your system.