Diets are terrible.
Almost starving yourself to lose weight, yet seeing minimal results in the mirror is disheartening for anyone.
But, here’s the thing: maybe you’ve been dieting all wrong.
This article will look at some common diet mistakes people make.
Here are 15 nutrition pitfalls to avoid.
1Don’t Fear Healthy Fat From Real Food
The mainstream media have demonized fat for far too long.
Many people replaced fat in their diet with carbohydrate from foods such as bread, rice, pasta, and juice.
These foods quickly break down into glucose and excessive amounts of carbohydrate can spike levels of both glucose and insulin, which over time can do damage.
However, there is nothing inherently dangerous about dietary fat. For instance, there are many known benefits to low carb diets, including improved health markers and weight loss.
A typical low-carb diet is below 100g carbohydrate per day or less than 50g if you want to see results quickly.
- A meta-analysis of low-carb versus low-fat trials found that the low-carb diet had greater improvements in weight loss and CVD risk (1).
- A meta-analysis of 53 randomized controlled trials found that low-carb has an advantage over low-fat for weight loss. The study authors commented that: “Health and nutrition guidelines should cease recommending low-fat diets for weight loss given the clear absence of efficacy” (2)
Of course, some fat is bad for you and best avoided.
The key is to eat naturally occurring fat from foods like olive oil, avocados, dairy, fish, meat, and nuts.
The avoid list: margarine, vegetable oils, and just basically fat manufactured in a factory.
2Avoid Industrially Manufactured Fat
You should avoid trans fat and margarine.
Vegetable oils are still clinging on to their “heart healthy” reputation, but more and more people are waking up to the harm that these oils do.
A typical mistake many people make is believing margarine spreads are better for you than butter.
Here are a few reasons why you should stay away from them:
- A 2015 study found that soybean oil was more obesogenic than fructose, a simple sugar. The results of the study also indicated that soybean oil was damaging to our metabolic health (3).
- Vegetable oils are full of omega-6, and negatively impact the ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6. Higher weight gain, inflammation, and chronic disease risk are the result (4).
- In a recent study investigating the impacts of a diet high in vegetable oil, the participants all had lower cholesterol levels – but significantly higher rates of mortality from heart disease (5).
Most processed foods contain these fats.
3Sugar Promotes Obesity and Disease: Cut it Out
Sugar may be sweet, but it’s not so sweet for your health.
Excessive amounts of sugar rapidly raise blood glucose levels, stress your liver, and cause metabolic damage throughout your body.
In addition, many people feel that it’s addictive too.
Some recent studies revealed just how damaging sugar is for health.
- The authors of a 2015 study found links between sugar consumption and heart disease risk factors, diabetes, fatty liver disease, and inflammation. They labeled fructose as “a weapon of mass destruction” (6).
- The inflammatory pathways of sugar in western diets increase the risk for cancer (7).
- In a review study, the weight of evidence from over 30 individual studies suggested that added sugar is associated with weight gain and obesity (8).
Want to lose weight and get healthier? Priority: avoid or seriously cut down on sugar.
4High Carb, High Fat is Bad News
As mentioned earlier, excessive carbohydrate intake may result in weight gain (2).
If you know you are currently eating too many carbs; then you should consider making some dietary changes.
The first step would be to replace refined carbohydrates such as bread, white rice, and sugar.
Take baby steps; instead of eating a donut, have a handful of nuts.
Replace milk chocolate with dark chocolate (more nutrients and healthy fat, less sugar)
Instead of bread, go with a more nutrient-dense choice like a sweet potato. Or perhaps replace it with a side such as guacamole.
5Optimize Nutrient Density
Choosing healthy food options is all about selecting foods that maximize nutrient-density and minimize empty calories.
An example of this is half an avocado versus a slice of white bread.
They have a similar calorie count, but the avocado is packed with healthy fats and beneficial minerals.
A recent study found that the micronutrient profile of a diet is much more important than the caloric content concerning stimulation of hunger (9).
Eating this kind of food keep you fuller for longer, more satisfied, and tends to result in natural weight loss.
6Don’t Drink Liquid Calories
Sugar-sweetened beverages are related to all sorts of health problems.
Weight gain, obesity, diabetes, heart disease – you name it, and there’s a link.
When we drink pure sugars, they are digested almost instantly. The result is sky-high blood glucose levels, raised insulin, and weight gain.
Just a small daily intake of soda is associated with:
- An increased risk of cardiovascular heart disease, after all other lifestyle factors are accounted for (10).
- 26% higher chance of developing diabetes (11).
- For each 12oz can of soda consumed daily, there was a 60% greater chance of obesity at follow-up in children (12).
There you have it: sugar is linked to weight gain, obesity, and disease.
If you are still drinking it, there’s only one piece of advice – stop!
7Don’t Gorge on Fruit (But Don’t Fear It Either)
The idea seems strange, doesn’t it? We’ve been taught our whole life that fruit is amazingly healthy for our body.
Firstly, compared to vegetables, fruit isn’t so nutritionally impressive. It has fewer micronutrients and a lot more fructose.
However, this doesn’t mean it’s bad for you or that you should avoid it.
But what I am saying is if you’re eating portions of high-sugar fruit throughout the day, every day, then it makes weight loss incredibly difficult.
When choosing fruit, there are some really great options that are lower in sugar and high in nutrients. A few of my favorites include:
A recent study also found that focusing on fruits high in beneficial flavonoids (such as berries) is associated with less weight gain (13).
8An Avocado a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
Maybe you’ve heard this saying about an apple.
However, an avocado might be better due to the incredible range of nutrients it offers.
Just one avocado provides:
- 17g fiber
- 88% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C.
- 40% of the recommended daily value of vitamin E – something many people are deficient in.
- Significant amounts of micronutrients – especially potassium, magnesium, and copper (14)
9Beware of Low-Fat Products
The unscientific fearmongering over dietary fat created an entire industry of low-fat food products.
This development was probably one of the most damaging events for human nutrition.
The reason? These products tend to be low in nutrients, and full of refined carbohydrate, sugars, preservatives and other additives.
Low in fat but low in anything beneficial too.
An excellent example of this is low-fat dairy. Many people drink low-fat milk believing it to be the healthy choice, but what the science says is completely different.
A large study involving 26,930 individuals and a follow-up period of 14 years found that full-fat dairy decreased diabetes risk. On the other hand, those who consumed low-fat dairy had no reduced risk (18).
Furthermore, two recent studies found the very same conclusion: higher dairy fats in the blood are related to lower incidence of diabetes (19).
10The Dangers of Packaged Food
Real food comes from farms, from the land, or maybe from the sea.
No food is grown in a factory, though – it is created there.
Huge companies make these foods, and their primary goal is profit, and unfortunately, that sometimes comes at the expense of your health.
When you buy packaged foods from the supermarket, there’s a chance you’re eating trans fats, and it’s almost certain that you’re eating added sugar.
In fact, 68% of all packaged food contains added sugars (20).
The problem is that some people eat these foods blindly, multiple times per day, every day of the week.
11Listen to Your Body
No one diet is suited to every person.
So no matter what kind of diet you’re attempting if your body isn’t responding to it then listen to what your body is telling you.
We all have different food preferences. And a food that’s perfect for one person may cause digestive issues in another.
On this note, a study coming out of Israel in late 2015 suggested that if 800 people all have the same meal, each person would have a very different blood-sugar response (21).
Do you always feel bad after eating a particular “healthy” food? Then it’s most likely not healthy for you.
12Eat Fatty Fish For Omega-3
It’s well known that modern humans eat way too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3.
Alaskan salmon, North Atlantic mackerel, sardines, anchovies, and fresh trout are all great choices.
These fish have some of the highest omega-3 contents, and the least amount of mercury (22).
You may ask, what about fish oil?
Personally, I prefer to get nutrients from food rather than supplements, and I’m a little wary about fish oil. Several recent studies have shown fish oil on store shelves to be highly oxidized (23, 24).
If you do want to supplement with fish oil, research the product you buy. There’s a big difference between cheap brands and the reputable ones.
13The Dangers of High Heat Cooking
It’s not just what you eat, but also how you cook.
Cooking foods at high temperatures can have several adverse effects on your food.
The proteins become denatured, vitamin and mineral contents plummet, and worse still – carcinogens can be created through the chemical reactions that occur.
When cooked at high heat, meat produces probable carcinogens called heterocyclic amines – the formation of which depends on cooking temperature and technique (25).
If you’re eating food cooked at extreme heats every day, then you might want to consider implementing different cooking styles like braising, steaming, boiling, stewing and baking.
If it’s only once in a while, just forget it and enjoy your food.
14Toxic Cookware is Damaging to Health
As we just saw, it’s not just what you eat but also how you cook.
And what you cook it in.
If you don’t already have one, get yourself a cast-iron pot or pan – they’re great and one of the safest forms of cookware you can use.
It is probably better to stay away from Teflon cookware.
A recent study found that even tiny doses of the Teflon chemical are more of a threat to public health than previously thought. A report on the research went on to say that federal guidelines on safe levels of the chemical are “hundreds or thousands of times too weak” (26).
Aluminium cookware is another product with similar health concerns.
15Listen to Experts – but Decide For Yourself
The last nutrition pitfall that many people fall into is listening to experts or food bloggers.
There is nothing wrong with this of course; getting free information from someone with knowledge on the issue is great.
BUT… you shouldn’t blindly trust someone just because they have an education or experience in the area.
Why? Simply because everyone has different ideas on what is or isn’t healthy, and their position might not be the right one for you.
There are some reasons why;
- Some people may be heavily biased toward a dietary system that doesn’t suit you.
- Some have a heavy bias toward veganism due to ethical concerns rather than a balanced consideration of the evidence.
- Despite their best intentions, sometimes people just make mistakes.
Of course, this goes for this website as well as any other. If you find something you find useful, then use the informational as a tool.
Research it more and see if it works for you.