Myth Or Fact? Eating Fat Makes You Fat (And Other Nutritional Beliefs)

25/05/2017 14:49 BST | Updated 25/05/2017 14:49 BST

It's not uncommon to hear completely opposing facts about nutrition. One person might say carbs are evil while another person says they're a necessary energy source. With such conflicting information, it can become increasingly difficult to make sense of this well-meaning advice. Let's debunk a few of the most common nutrition myths.

EATING FAT MAKES YOU FAT

Fat got a bad name during the low fat, high carbohydrate era that focused solely on "calories in versus calories out", mostly because we get nine calories of energy for every gram of fat where both carbs and protein only yield four calories per gram. Unfortunately, for the majority of the population, cutting out or eating less fat didn't make them healthier or slimmer; for a multitude of reasons. Yet, fat still hasn't quite shaken off its bad PR from all those years ago.

While calories are a component of successful weight-loss or weight management, they are certainly not the only factor that influences your body's ability to burn stored body fat. Some fats are essential for good health. Studies have shown they can help to protect us from a range of diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Without fat, the human body is unable to absorb a large percentage of the nutrients needed to survive; most of the vitamins critical to many biochemical processes are fat-soluble. Our body absorbs them better in the presence of fat. So, adding avocado or olive oil to your vegetables or lightly sautéing them can enhance your absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins they contain such as vitamins A, D, E and K. Additionally they are very satiating and assist with managing our appetite.

Healthy fats include monounsaturated fats, found in food such as nuts and seeds, olives and olive oil and avocados as well as saturated fats such as those found in coconut. They also include omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseed and oily fish. As our bodies cannot produce omega-3 fatty acids we must obtain them from food. Healthy fats have been shown to support healthy cholesterol levels, while omega-3 fats in particular have many other beneficial health properties, including; helping to reduce blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease and supporting optimal brain function.

Plus, they have a powerful anti-inflammatory action and inflammation is important to counteract for most people today.

EATING EGGS WILL RAISE YOUR CHOLESTEROL LEVELS

The myth that people with a high blood cholesterol level aren't supposed to eat eggs because they contain large amounts of dietary cholesterol has been around for a long time. Still today, despite this myth having been debunked, too many people with high cholesterol continue to go out of their way to avoid eggs.

The body's blood cholesterol level is influenced by a number of factors, predominantly how much the liver is producing and also how efficiently this amazing organ is able to help clear cholesterol from the body. 80 per cent of the cholesterol in your blood has been made by your liver. The diet contributes about 20 per cent.

Most of the cholesterol in the body is concentrated in the brain and it plays many important roles there. Plus, cholesterol is the building blocks of steroid hormones, which include testosterone, progesterone and estrogen, all of which play a critical role in energy, vitality, reproductive health, strength and happiness.

If blood cholesterol levels are elevated, it can, amongst other things, be a sign that your liver needs some additional support and that you would do well amping up your intake of plants, particularly green leafy vegetables. This will be a much more valuable approach to lowering cholesterol than ceasing to eat eggs.

EATING DINNER AFTER 8PM SLOWS YOUR METABOLISM

The (incorrect) idea is that if you eat too late and go to bed on a full stomach, your body's metabolism will slow down and instead of burning off the food you just ate, you'll turn it all into fat and gain weight. Your body digests and uses calories via the same pathways morning, noon and night. Food eaten after 5pm doesn't magically turn into fat. Many people feel physically better and sleep better when they have a smaller meal at night and eat earlier but that's a personal preference.

The factors that have a major effect on your metabolic rate include your muscle mass and thyroid function. Building muscle mass is essential from the age of 30 onwards, to counteract the natural losses that will otherwise occur.