The fitness industry is constantly inundated with the latest fad of training and nutrition. There is always someone promoting a new superfood or super-product, usually with financial motives behind the promotions.
Two long running health myths are the promotion of reduced fat or low fat products, which are suggested to be better for us; and also the detox myth, popular with people wanting that quick fix to lose weight.
1. Reduced Fat
Whenever you hear this term, hear void of nutrients and usually high in sugar. Fat is an essential part of our diet and has been somewhat demonised by its association with storing body fat. Saturated fats in particular have been given a bad press mainly due to being linked with heart disease.
Recent research has suggested saturated fat does not cause the build up of cholesterol and plaque in arteries that we once thought. Many saturated fats contain the fatty acids lauric and myristic acid. These can significantly boost our immune system due to their anti-microbial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties.
Generally low fat products are high in carbohydrates, as the fat is the product has to be replaced with something, usually sugar. Instead of reducing our fat, should we be looking to reduce our carbohydrate, specifically our sugar intake? By decreasing your carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fat, you can reduce your insulin sensitivity, plus foods high in fat are generally filling, reducing the temptation to reach for those nutrient void snacks.
Research has shown you can lose just as much body fat eating a high fat, low carbohydrate diet as you can with a low fat, high carbohydrate diet; plus with the high fat diet you have the additional benefits of improving metabolism and creating a better hormone balance. Many ready meals claiming to be health products are low fat, which gives you yet another reason to avoid them and prepare yourself fresh produce from scratch.
Advertised as a “body cleansing” type ritual, detoxes generally take the form of juice or smoothie diets. Designed to flush the body of impurities and toxic load which builds up in everyday life, detoxes can be seen as the “cure” to combat poor lifestyle choices. Many people think it is ok to binge drink or eat to excess and then follow it with a juice detox or the like.
When fruit is blended into a smoothie, you don’t get the fibre intake of the fruit. The fibre contained in fruit prevents a mass of fruit sugar entering your blood stream at once and overloading your liver. By juicing or blending fruit, this fibre gets taken away, meaning your body gets a massive hit of fruit sugar all at once. Drinking smoothies or juice usually means you consume way more than you would if simply eating the fruit; you’d be unlikely to eat 5 oranges on the bounce but most people would easily juice 5 oranges for a glass for their juice cleanse.
So you are inputting the sugar of 5 fruits into your system without getting any of the fibrous benefits, plus giving your body a lot of work to do to deal with the sugar hit.
Our body is a clever system. Our liver breaks down chemicals and toxins and then filters them into the blood. The kidneys then allow us to excrete the majority of these, giving our body a pretty effective detox system all of its own. Instead of this quick fix “detox” myth, more important is to have a lifestyle that supports the health of all our major organs. Eating a diet rich in a variety of vegetables and fish gives us plenty of essential vitamins and minerals, supporting our body to be its own detox system and eliminating the need for any of these fad rituals.
In summary, there is no quick fix or easy way to change your body composition of improve health. Health is developed over years of eating a well rounded diet, exercising regularly and feeling happy. Any fad that suggests otherwise is just that; a fad, unlikely to work and can actually be doing more harm than good.