NZ dietitian, performance nutritionist and health expert. Dave does his best to make sense of what we eat.

Dave Shaw: 9 nutrition myths debunked

Eating well is simpler than it seems, says Dave Shaw. Don't be confused by common diet myths and fallacies - we debunk a few of the biggest.
Dave Shaw debunks some diet myths. Photo / Thinkstock
Dave Shaw debunks some diet myths. Photo / Thinkstock

1. Eating fat makes you fat

Our fear of fat is slowly melting away as evidence clearly shows higher fat diets, balanced in calories, won't cause weight gain. Although, this doesn't give you license to go out and buy greasy hot chips everyday. A healthy diet is one that is includes a variety of animals and plants eaten in moderation. However, there's no harm in adding more healthy fats to your diet by including foods like salmon, nuts and olive oil.

2. Six mini meals are better than three large ones

Eating small and often is great if you are mindful of how much and what you're eating. But it is all too easy to turn a mini meal into a mini feast. Snacking is often out of habit, not hunger. This can be made even worse when we consider the types of food we tend to nibble on. For a lot of people, eating just three main meals is enough to power their day. For those of us who find it hard to control how much we eat, it's probably the best meal method.

3. Dairy is dangerous

Dairy is often in the firing line of harsh health remarks, even when the evidence does not warrant the abuse. Milk, yoghurt and cheese are powerfoods. Some native tribes even use milk as a major source of nutrients and calories. It's packed full of protein and calcium - a healthy addition to any diet, unless you're lactose intolerant or have a cow's milk allergy.

Photo / Thinkstock

4. All calories are equal

This is not the case at all. Consider if you were to eat 500 calories of salmon and broccoli or 500 calories of bread - what goes on inside your body will be totally different. Choosing foods based on their calorie content will not necessarily guide you towards healthier options. Good calories come from foods high in fiber, protein, healthy fats and essential vitamins and minerals - like fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, beans and legumes.

5. Margarine is a health food

Margarine is not good for you. It's a pharmaceutical creation used to replace butter because of the belief that saturated fat will cause heart disease. The problem is, the first batches of this 'hydrogenated vegetable oil' spread came full of trans fats, which can be disastrous for our health. Fortunately, food manufacturers have figured this out and found ways to make it more trans fat friendly. But we still have the debate of whether margarine is healthier than butter.

6. Coffee is bad

Photo / Thinkstock

Coffee is either good or bad for us depending on who you talk to. It's true, caffeine can mildly elevate blood pressure in the short-term, but long-term drinkers may reap some health benefits. You may also be surprised that this hot beverage is loaded with antioxidants. But don't choose coffee to rehydrate as some people may experience a diuretic effect. Water should continue to be your major source of fluid.

7. Multivitamins give you more energy

For most people, dietary supplements are unnecessary and a waste of money. They can even be harmful when taken in high doses. A well balanced diet provides our bodies with all the nutrients we require. Even better, real food provides a complex combination of chemicals in the perfect amounts to nourish us that supplements will never be able to achieve. There are some people who may require supplements. Learn more here.

8. One diet fits all

Wrong. Throughout history, humans have thrived off many diets, with most having no resemblance to the processed food we eat today. So when you're trying to find the best diet for you, always approach any marketed fad with skepticism. If you're in doubt, stick to wholefoods - you can't go wrong.

9. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

Photo / Thinkstock

Eating breakfast is vital for a good start to the day, but it doesn't mean it's the most important meal. There are still two other main meals and a heap of snacking occasions that contribute to your diet. Keep in mind, though, breakfast eaters are more likely to have a healthy body weight and make better food choices throughout the day. So, even if you are in the habit of skipping breakie, it's likely you will benefit from a nutritious morning snack.

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NZ dietitian, performance nutritionist and health expert. Dave does his best to make sense of what we eat.

Dave works in public health and alongside some of New Zealand’s top athletes. Whether it's for vitality, performance, identity or spirituality, Dave loves the way food brings people together. He believes that no one diet is the cure for our growing rates of chronic disease, but a diet based on wholefoods is the perfect start. Always keeping up-to-date with current evidence and food trends, Dave is a relentless researcher for how we should eat and likes to challenge what we may think about nutrition.

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