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Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Try to Guess: Myth or Fact

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People lifting weightsJust about every day some new nutrition advice is in the media or magazines, or your friends tell you they’ve heard something from the guy at the gym. Confused about who to believe?  Here are five things you may or may not have heard of, but I’m here to set the record straight on some of these myths and facts.

Myth vs. Fact #1: Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper

Fact:

Eating regularly throughout the day helps keep your metabolism going. When you skip meals, your body slows down and conserves calories. When you eventually do get to eat, you’ll likely make the wrong food choices and eat more than you normally would (partly because you’re likely eating too fast, too).  Follow the saying: "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper." Your body needs calories in the morning to kick start the metabolism and replenish what you burned overnight.  Eat less at dinner when your activity slows down and comes to a halt on the couch.  Try to match the energy you’re burning with energy coming in.

Myth vs. Fact #2: You should only eat when hungry

Fact:

One of the most common mistakes I see that keeps people from reaching their goals is being afraid to get hungry. Intense hunger, which is when you can't concentrate, you're irritable, and you want to shove the first thing you see into your mouth after a long day at work, doesn't feel good. Mild hunger is normal, and it's something you should be experiencing about four times a day. It's a signal that your metabolism is working, that you've used up or burned off the previous meal and that it's time to refuel for the hours ahead.  But don’t wait too long--my rule is to eat something within 15 minutes of your stomach growling. If it isn’t time for a meal, have a snack--or what I like to call a “bridge” to get you to your next meal. Knowing the difference between hunger and boredom is extremely important. Hunger is the body’s physiological need for food and you should fuel your body when it needs it. Go DO something (other than reach for the pint of ice cream) if you’re bored.

Myth vs. Fact #3: Anything you eat after 7 PM turns into fat

Myth:

This is a giant myth! People have different schedules and some have to eat later in the day. Just because someone eats dinner at 7:00 pm, that doesn’t mean it will automatically turn to fat. Weight and fat gain are dependent upon you eating more calories than you burn.  If you eat too much at one sitting, it is more likely to turn to fat--whether it’s 9 AM or 9 PM. This myth started due to the fact that most people eat a lot of calories and make poor food choices later in the evening (pizza, sweets, alcohol, etc). These late night junk food binges push you over your caloric needs for the day (plus you’re likely sitting and not burning it off). To date, there has not been an enzyme identified that causes fat storage after a certain hour of the day. If you’re really hungry at 7 pm, it likely means you did not eat enough calories earlier on in the day.

Myth vs. Fact #4: Spinach is brain food

Fact:

Harvard Medical School researchers found that women who ate the most vegetables—especially green leafy vegetables (i.e. spinach, romaine lettuce) and cruciferous vegetables (i.e. broccoli and cauliflower)—experienced a slower rate of cognitive decline than women who ate the least vegetables. Spinach has been linked to preventing dementia in women. A study has proved that middle-aged women who ate spinach and other green vegetables, delayed cognitive decline by 2 entire years. Spinach is literally brain food and feeds the brain vital nutrients and enzymes that it needs to strengthen synapses and produce healthy levels of neurotransmitters. Spinach also keeps up folic acid. Low levels of folic acid have been linked to memory decline and heart disease. To keep your folic acid levels and your brain function intact, eat spinach regularly!

Myth vs. Fact #5: Spicy foods help you lose weight because they speed up your metabolism

A little of both:

Spicy foods contain the chemical compound, capsaicin that kicks the metabolism into high gear. Eating a tablespoon of chopped red or green chili pepper can indeed boost your metabolic rate, but the effect is likely temporary.  If you eat spicy foods often, the benefits may add up, but not likely enough to result in significant weight loss. A more effective way to boost your metabolism and burn more calories is by doing regular exercise, especially strength training exercises that build muscle mass--now that’ll rev up your metabolism! Muscle burns more calories than fat, so if you want to burn more calories while you’re sleeping then hit the weight room!

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MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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