7 food myths that I wasted 10 years of my life on

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“Where’s my bubblegum?” I asked with wide, bright eyes.

"We didn’t get you any, Fatty. Go walk and get your own. You need the exercise anyway,”

...my elder cousin replied as he tossed a rupee coin at my chest. Nearby, my other two cousins started chuckling.

Their laughter brought tears to my eyes and I didn’t know how to respond. I hated being called ‘Fatty’ by my cousins. I loathed the nickname. After all, I knew I was fat. Their constant reminders did nothing to help and only made me feel worse about my weight.

I picked up the rupee coin from the floor before turning to my elder cousin. “I’ll get it myself, then. Where do I get bubblegum?”

“You have to go down Karimnagar and then keep going straight until you see the bazaar,” he responded as the three of them turned and began to walk away.

I really wanted the bubblegum. I briefly considered calling after them, but knew my efforts would be futile. Instead, I decided to suck it up and walk all alone. The journey was roughly a kilometer and was made worse by the fact I had no company. The whole way there and back, I cried.

Being a fat girl was painful

Until the age of 14, I was extremely overweight. Not a single day went by that I was not reminded of how fat I was. Every family party I attended, my aunts and uncles chastised me, repeatedly telling me I needed to lose weight or else “no one would marry me” when I was older. Doctors visits meant being told how being overweight was unhealthy and that I needed to lose weight. My days at school were spent envying my friends’ normal bodies and daydreaming that I could look like them.

I cried myself to sleep frequently. I was always on the verge of tears thanks to my heavy frame.

I didn’t want to be fat. I hated being fat! But try as I might, I had no idea how to fix my weight. I felt trapped in my own body, imprisoned by my weight issues. It all seemed very hopeless and I was lost, unsure of what to do. I knew that something needed to change but I didn’t know where to even begin.

Then, one day, it all changed.

I was on a 3 month trip to Israel with my mom during the summer. My mom is a consultant, so she frequently travels around the world for her work. At that time, she had been working in Israel for almost a year and had invited my younger sister and I to live with her for the summer. We stayed in a beautiful resort near the beach so close to the ocean, the waves would sing you to sleep.

I had finished all of my summer homework in a day, so I had all the free time in the world to play. My days quickly fell into a routine: Mom would leave for work at 9am and come back at 5pm before taking us out for dinner. While she was gone, my younger sister and I were on our own. We had hours to do whatever we wanted at the resort.

And what did we do with all that time?

We would usually eat breakfast and then rush down to the pool. Our swimming was only interrupted by lunchtime--we spent hours in the pool, splashing around in the water. Even though I loved swimming, I hated that I had to wear a bathing suit. I despised how I looked in them, so much so that I would avoid even looking in the mirror.

Meanwhile, we were surrounded by beautiful Israeli girls with perfect bodies. Looking at them ate me alive on the inside. They looked beautiful in their swimsuits and I doubted they had trouble looking at themselves in the mirror.

It was 3 months of mental torture. Every day, I stared at beautiful women and dreamed of a body like theirs. Finally, the strain of it all was enough to motivate me to make a change. I decided that the day I returned to America, I would begin my weight loss mission.

After returning home, I made good on my promise. Over the course of the next 6 months, I went through a physical transformation and lost almost 50 pounds. During that time, I learned a lot about health and nutrition. 

I also made tons of mistakes.

There are so many nonsensical food myths the mainstream food industry shoves down your throat. During my weight loss journey, I fell for so many of them. In hindsight, I could have saved 10 years of trial and error had I not fallen for these food myths. Hell, I could have saved myself a lot of pain and suffering had I known what I know now!

I still meet people all the time who wholeheartedly believe popular food myths. Frankly, it eats away at my soul when I hear people believe these falsehoods as truth. Honestly, though, I can’t blame them. Unless you’re a health nut like me, most people don’t think to challenge what the mainstream food industry teaches them about food. And why would they? We are taught these myths as complete truth and there’s no reason to question the so-called ‘experts’.

What I’m about to tell you in this post is not revolutionary or even unheard of. If you do a little research among reputable sources, you can probably find all this information for yourself. Be warned: there is a lot of junk out there! But I’m writing this post for my friends, family, and followers who don’t have the time to do all the heavy research themselves and are just looking for answers. I want you to be able to make the right food choices without feeling like it’s a burden.

I won’t get into the nitty gritty details of all 7 myths below, but I will link my favorite research and articles. If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out the links below to read more for yourself.

Note: I am always open to feedback! If there is anything here you disagree with or find faulty, please let me know. I am here to spread the truth, not lies.

Myth 1: “Fat is bad for you” 

How many times have you been told that fat is bad and a low-fat diet is good for you?

Don’t believe it: “fat is bad” is nothing more than a widespread lie.

I believed this myth for years. Every time I went to the grocery store, I’d try to buy only “low-fat” or “nonfat” options.

I remembered my mom telling me that my body needs fat to survive, but I refused to listen. In my head, fat was the devil. Even the slightest bit of oil on my food made me scared to eat for fear I would balloon like a beachball.

“I’m going to get fat,” I would whine to my mom every time she’d pour the slightest bit of oil into a pan. I would fixate on any oil or butter added to my food (even during cooking), trying to mentally calculate the extra calories.

My mom would always sigh and give me a smile. “Preethi,” she would say, “You need a little bit of fat. It’s good for you.”

But I was stubborn. I didn’t listen to her because I thought I knew better. After all, the internet told me to avoid fat.

For years, I took the low-fat route to lose weight. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that following a low-fat diet did nothing to help me lose weight. Research even shows that people who eat a moderate or high fat diet lose just as much or more weight than people who eat a low-fat diet.

By eating a low-fat diet and losing all of my body fat, my body was starved for energy. Processes that were once functional stopped functioning. For example, I messed up my body’s ability to regulate hormones. As a result, I lost my menstrual cycle for many years. It’s been a painful journey over the last year repairing the damage I did by depriving my body of fat.

Fat is not bad for you. Your body needs fat!

Every cell in your body has fat. Even your brain is 60% fat! Fat plays a crucial role in regulating our hormones, body temperature, immune function, reproduction, insulin signaling, and nutrient absorption. Without fat, we wouldn’t have the energy our bodies need to survive.

Introducing fat back into my diet has been instrumental to regaining my health. My hormones are finally regulating properly again. I feel alive and healthy—really healthy—once more.

Don’t make the same mistakes that I did and skimp on fat. If you’re going to skimp on anything, skimp on carbs.

“But wait,” you might be thinking.

“Doesn’t the fat I eat convert to body fat? If I want to lose weight, shouldn’t I eat less fat?”

No! That’s a false assumption.

Dietary fat does not automatically convert to body fat. While it’s true that fat contains more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates (protein and carbs have 4 calories per gram while fat has 9 calories per gram), not all calories are the same. Calories from fat or protein take much longer to burn that calories from carbs. As a result, your body not only uses more energy to burn fat and protein in the process of digesting food, you also feel fuller longer. You might be eating more calories in the short term, but you’ll likely end up eating less calories in the long term because feel less hungry.

“Okay. But doesn’t too much fat lead to heart disease?”

False again!

There have been many studies showing that it’s actually carbohydrate intake which correlates to higher mortality risk while fat intake correlates to lower risk. There is no proven correlation between fat intake and heart disease. In fact, saturated fat has even been shown to protect against strokes.

Bottom line: screw the low-fat nonsense! Eat healthy fats and if you’re going to skimp on anything, skimp on carbs.

“Alright, alright. But what fats are healthy?”

Frankly, it can be tough to answer this question. Every food and nutrition expert will likely give different advice. I went crazy trying to find the answer myself before landing at a minimalistic set of only 3 rules:

  1. Do not eat trans fat
  2. Do eat whole foods that contain healthy fats (e.g. fish, red meat, nuts)
  3. Only cook with oil that contain healthy fats (e.g. butter, olive oil, avocado oil)

Myth 2: “Vegetable oils are good for you”

Even just typing this myth makes me angry!

Vegetable oils (e.g., canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, rapeseed oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil) are all terrible for you. Nevertheless, vegetable oils have been a staple of the American diet since 1970 because of bogus public health recommendations made incorrect by bogus health experts.

As a result, the average consumption of vegetable oils has drastically increased from 4 lbs per person to 25 lbs from 1970 to 2000 in the US. Unfortunately, vegetable oils are one of the worst things you can put in your body. They are highly processed and contain chemicals and antioxidants that act as carcinogens—i.e., consumption of these vegetable oils can cause cancer. They are especially bad to our endocrine and immune systems and also lead to inflammation in the body, which can lead to all kinds of chronic diseases.

Need I say more?

You may be wondering why vegetable oils are so bad for us. Both vegetable and seed oils are overflowing with Omega-6 fatty acids. The ideal ratio for Omega-3 vs Omega-6 fatty acids is 1:1. In other words, you should consume the same amount of both in a healthy diet. An unbalanced ratio of Omega-3 vs. Omega-6 fatty acids is known to promote cardiovascular disease, cancer, inflammation, and autoimmune disease. Yet the Western diet is ridden with food that contains an excess of Omega-6 fatty acids in relation to Omega-3 fatty acids (hint: a lot of the time, vegetable oil is the culprit!). As a result, Westerners consume an average of 15:1 Omega-6 vs Omega-3 fatty acids! Disgusting.

We were sold a myth that we should substitute vegetable oils for saturated fats, but consuming vegetable and seed oils only worsens our diets. In order to maintain a healthy fatty acid balance, you should steer clear of the following oils:

  • Corn
  • Canola
  • Soybean
  • Peanut
  • Safflower
  • Sunflower
  • Cottonseed
  • Rapeseed

Frankly, I’ve found it quite the chore to avoid vegetables oils. They’re in literally everything! Next time you go shopping, look at an ingredient list and tell me what oils you see. I bet that 99% of the time, it will be seed or vegetable oils.

My simple rule of thumb is to stick to butter, olive oil, or avocado oil. There is a catch, though: many olive oils on the market are fake olive oils. They only contain a small amount of olive oil and the rest is usually rapeseed oil. But because they contain trace amounts of olive oil, they can be marketed as such! If you’re looking for a good olive oil, make sure you buy a trusted brand made of 100% olive oil.

Myth 3: “Red meat is bad for you”

Gosh! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had friends or family try to tell me that I shouldn’t eat too much red meat because I’ll get heart disease or cancer. I’ll get straight to the point: stop believing this nonsense right now! This myth has been debunked over and over so many times.

If that’s not enough to convince you, think about this: Hong Kong has the highest meat consumption in the world. They also have an average lifespan of 84 years. If red meat really kills people, then shouldn’t people of Hong Kong be dying sooner? Here’s more on the subject:

Up until the 1970s, HK people had shorter life expectancy and poorer health index than Americans. Back then, HK people ate a lesser amount of red meat than Americans. Year by year, dietary statistics show that as HK people ate more red meat and seafood, the longer increase in their life expectancy and better health index. As Americans eat less red meat, the slower increase in life expectancy and their health index gets worse.” (Source)

I personally abstained from red meat my whole life until I started dating a guy who only ate red meat (and occasionally fish). Despite him preaching the benefits of red meat, it still took me a long time to get over my fear of red meat. Only after reading research myself and experimenting with red meat in my own diet did I realize that I was in the wrong. Red meat is not only not bad for you, it is also an amazing source of protein because it contains saturated (i.e, healthy) fats and also provides you with loads of essential nutrients like zinc, niacin, selenium, phosphorus, and vitamins B6, and B12.

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(Source)

If you’re worried about red meat containing too much fat, simply stick to lean cuts. I myself now eat red meat at least 4 or 5 times a week. The result? I feel stronger! 💪

Myth 4: “Brown rice is better for you than white rice”

We’ve all heard this myth. Brown rice is supposed to be better than white rice because brown rice:

  • Is higher in nutrients (e.g. fiber, vitamins, minerals)
  • Helps control blood sugar levels and increase blood antioxidant levels
  • Reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer

Meanwhile, white rice has tons of bad publicity floating around. According to popular food myths, white rice:

  • Is a source of “empty” calories and carbs with very few essential nutrients
  • Could actually increase the risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Does nothing to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer

Sorry to break it to ya, but that’s all a load of baloney. All of the statements above overlook the fact that rice has very marginal amounts of nutrients in the first place!

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(Source)

As we can see on the chart above, the one micronutrient brown rice does contain is large amounts in manganese—but white rice still contains a good amount. The other noteworthy nutrient brown rice contains is magnesium, but the amount isn’t significant enough to consider brown rice a “great” source of magnesium. There are many more foods that contain more magnesium than brown rice. For example:

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(Source)

Relying on rice—whether it’s brown or white—to serve your micronutrient needs is just silly. You may as well stop deluding yourself into thinking that eating brown rice will help fight diabetes, cancer, heart diseases and whatever else just because it “has more nutrients” and “is healthier” for you. You’re better off meeting your nutritional needs with other sources that will give you more bang for your buck like fatty fish, leafy greens, and red meat.

Eat white rice for what it is: an amazing source of carbs. If you’re looking for nutrition, look in other places.

Myth 5: “Egg yolk is bad for you”

Egg yolks have cholesterol and cholesterol is bad for you… so egg yolks are bad for you, right?

Wrong!

I was told this myth by my friends and family for years. Every time I would make an omelette, my mother would caution me: “Don’t have too much yolk.”

Of course, this meant I grew up being scared of egg yolks. But the myth that egg yolks are bad for you is far from the truth.

For starters, we don’t have much evidence to show if eggs actually increase blood cholesterol. What studies there are have yielded somewhat mixed results. Some studies show that eating eggs doesn’t increase blood cholesterol in healthy people while other studies indicate eating eggs increases blood cholesterol in only some healthy people. Overall, we can’t draw any hard conclusions.

The effect of dietary cholesterol intake on circulating cholesterol levels is small and not clinically significant. A meta‐analysis of cholesterol feeding studies which included both healthy and unhealthy population groups, using a variety of sources of dietary cholesterol (including eggs), showed that for every 100 mg per day increase in dietary cholesterol intake, circulating levels of total cholesterol increased by 0.06 mmol/l, high‐density lipoprotein (HDL) increased by 0.008 mmol/l and the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL‐cholesterol increased by 0.020.” (Source)

To put it simply, the cholesterol you eat doesn’t seem to translate over to blood cholesterol. Therefore, the idea that eggs are associated with an increase in cholesterol (and thereby an increase in cardiovascular risk) is flawed. 

Don’t be afraid to eat eggs! You’re not going to have a few egg yolks a day and suddenly die of high cholesterol, heart disease, or even diabetes.

Myth 6: “Eat lots of fiber”

Fiber is one of those myths that took me a long time to overcome. There are countless articles and advertisements telling us that eating more fiber is crucial for our health. Here’s one example:

Those who ate the most fiber reduced their risk of dying from cardiac disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and/or colon cancer by 16% to 24%, compared to people who ate very little fiber.” (Source)

In reality, the opposite is true. The myth about fiber “reducing colon cancer” is nothing more than that—a myth. Multiple studies have shown that fiber does not have any notable protective effects against colon cancer. Despite this, we see high-fiber foods marketed everywhere.

Take this Quest protein bar for example.

It has 14 grams of fiber which gets me my recommended 56% of daily fiber. Yet every time I eat one of these, I feel like shit. My stomach gets bloated, my digestion is off, and I feel disgusting.

I experience similar effects whenever I eat other packaged foods that claim to be “high in fiber”.

Whenever I cut out all sources of extra fiber, I suddenly feel a lot better. No more bloating and my digestion returns to normal. Hmm, wonder why? 🤔

Maybe it’s because the whole “eat loads of fiber” propaganda is just a myth!

Let’s quickly learn why.

There are two different types of fiber: dietary fiber and functional fiber. Dietary fiber comes naturally from plants while “functional fiber” is isolated or extracted from a plant or animal. Most of the packaged food you eat which claim to be high-fiber are full of added functional fiber. Fiber is a carbohydrate, but it’s different from other carbs (e.g. starch and sugar) in that we can’t directly digest or absorb it. This is why it’s called a “non-digestible carbohydrate”.

If you do some Google searching on fiber, you’ll find a lot of conflicting ideas on different types of fiber and what each does to your gut. I’ll save you some time and cut to the chase: the research of what type of fiber is beneficial is still murky. According to Chriss Kresser, too much insoluble fiber can actually be bad for you because it prevents the absorption of nutrients and even protein. In other words, it can have an anti-nutritive effect—the exact opposite of what we want. On the flip side, he also argues that eating soluble fiber is good for you because it has been shown to feed the good bacteria in your gut.

After reading the various sources of research on fiber, I’ve concluded any claims about fiber are “best guesses” at this point. Rather than trying to navigate the maze of right or wrong, I’ve resorted to the simple option: eating a whole food diet. I don’t go out of my way to get more fiber because a whole food diet will naturally supplement you with enough fiber. In other words, if you’re eating a diet of whole foods (e.g. not processed), you will naturally get plenty of fiber. This is because whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts contain fiber, naturally. There’s no need to overdo things. In fact, your gut might hate you if you try. 

Myth 7: “Too much protein is bad for you”

I spent many years eating a low-protein diet because I had heard too much protein is bad for your kidneys and liver. Instead, I replaced protein with lots of vegetables, fruit, and dairy.

Honestly, this was a giant waste of time.

There is not yet sufficient evidence to show if high-protein diets have harmful effects on the bones or kidneys.

Not eating enough protein made me unnecessarily hungry all the time. I was always thinking about when my next meal would be because my previous meal was too low in protein (and fat!) to last me until my next one. Not only that, but I spent many years working out really hard (2+ hours per day) and not consuming enough protein. As a result, I was always extremely sore and tired with no idea why. I also saw zero gains. I was skinny, losing hair, and fatigued.

These days, I eat somewhere between 80g to 100g of protein a day and I feel fantastic! I feel full for several hours after each meal and don’t feel the constant need to daydream about food. Moreover, I can work much harder in the gym and see results much faster. What more could I ask for?

Parting thoughts

I hope this post saves you even a fraction of the time I wasted believing these myths. The amount of incorrect food and nutrition advice out there is nauseating. You could literally go crazy trying to read all of it and figure out what’s accurate and what’s bullshit. Frankly, most of us simply don’t have enough time to catch up with the latest and greatest research. I tried to keep up myself and realized it was an endless rabbit hole. 

There are infinite “studies” available with conflicting motivations and it’s easy to get super technical and hope to understand all the minute details. And despite all the scientific research, when we actually stop to take a look around, we don’t seem to be making any progress. In fact, sometimes we find ourselves backsliding.

My methodology has been to forego the details and stick to the basics:

1) Eat whole foods

It’s nearly impossible to be unhealthy if you only eat whole foods. I realize that can be easier said than done, but it’s the truth. It is really, really hard to overeat when you’re eating whole foods. Just try eating too many baked potatoes, apples, grilled steaks, or pan-seared asparagus—you simply can’t! Even if you do manage to over-indulge on whole foods in one sitting, you won’t be hungry for hours so it’ll wind up balancing out. The same cannot be said for processed foods: you can eat an entire bag of potato chips or gummy bears and still be hungry half an hour later.

Next time you’re about to eat food that is processed and/or packaged, think about how you could replace it with something that comes directly from the earth. It’s not easy to make the switch when we’re surrounded by processed food 24/7, but no one said healthy eating was easy. It’s a choice you have to consciously make and it takes guts. Whether or not you have the guts to make the right choices is entirely up to you.

2) Drink lots of water

I can’t tell you how many times I thought I was hungry, but forgot about food for another hour or two after drinking a liter of water. Dehydration leads to hunger.

Before you eat your heart out because you feel hungry, try reaching for water. Chances are, you will no longer feel the need to eat right away.

3) Eat enough fat

As some of you know, I love working hard. But when I don’t eat enough fat, I can’t work because my brain is only operating sub-optimally. I need a certain amount of fat to fuel my brain and body. When I don’t get enough, my brain and body crave it.

Your body also needs fat to function and especially to function optimally.

Don’t deprive your body of an essential ingredient it needs to function. Stick to healthy fats (as noted in Myth #1 above) and you’ll be just fine.

4) Read the ingredients label

The majority of people living in the world have a poor understanding of nutrition and frankly, I don’t blame them. For thousands of years humans have been alive, we felt no need to understand nutrition. We didn’t have an abundance of food so it didn’t matter what we ate because we couldn’t overeat. Moreover, there was no processed food that could “fuck us up.”

The modern day food environment if very different, however. We are surrounded by processed foods at all times and it’s now up to us to have self-discipline and self-awareness. We have to filter out the junk and only consume food that’s good to put in our body. Next time you go to the grocery store, check out the ingredients label of every item you’re thinking of purchasing. Only buy it if you are okay with every single thing on the list going into your body.

5) Trust your gut

Your gut tells you everything you need to know about your health and listening to your gut is a powerful way to get in tune with your body. If you’re feeling bloated after eating something, you probably shouldn’t eat it again. If you’re not going to the bathroom every morning (or if your poop looks and/or feels abnormal), it’s time to figure out what in your diet is causing problems.

In short, your gut is your first reliable source of nutritional information. It’s always going to be honest with you and it needs you to listen to it.

Conclusion

I realize that this is a lot of information to take in at once. I also know how hard it can be to make the right food choices when you’re surrounded by bad ones every day. Trust me, I’ve been there.

I also know how rewarding it is once you start making the right food choices. You not only look better physically, you also feel better both mentally and spiritually. When you both look and feel healthy, you experience a taste of heaven. All the things holding you back vanish and you can’t imagine having it any other way again.

With this post, you now have the foundational knowledge to go out there and acquire your own taste of heaven—now it’s just up to you to make it happen. I believe in you!

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Why am I sharing my travel stories?

Founder & CEO of TruStory. I have a passion for understanding things at a fundamental level and sharing it as clearly as possible.

Preethi Kasireddy
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