To carb or not to carb? That’s one of the questions that baffles many people trying to lose weight. With all of the conflicting nutrition info out there, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. In honor of National Nutrition Month, we spoke with board-certified internist Dr. Nancy Zamora – a SENSA® medical advisory board member – to get the truth behind some common nutrition myths.
1) “Carbs cause weight gain.”
Carbs themselves do not cause weight gain. In fact, “your diet should be about 50% carbs, but that should come from complex carbs like whole-wheat pasta, fruit and brown rice, as opposed to simple carbs like sugar, cake and candy,” says Dr. Zamora. “Carbs are digested rapidly and ultimately changed to glucose for energy use.”
That said, Dr. Zamora notes that the glucose you do not use is stored as fat in your body. So if you eat a lot of carbs, you will ultimately store more fat if you don’t burn them off. Ultimately, the key to eating carbs comes down to moderating how much you eat, making sure you go for the complex carbs, and making sure you at least 30 minutes of physical activity at least 3-4 times a week.
2) “It’s better to snack throughout the day than have three main meals.”
Contrary to popular belief, snacking throughout the day is not necessarily superior. “There’s no evidence that snacking throughout the day helps you lose more weight than having three main meals,” says Dr. Zamora. Unfortunately, there is no magic number of meals or snacks you should eat per day. It really comes down to your individual eating habits.
On the one hand, if you choose to eat three meals a day, Dr. Zamora notes that waiting too long between meals can cause you to overeat. But so long as you space your meals accordingly, “you can keep your glucose and insulin balanced, as well as your metabolism,” explains Dr. Zamora. Meanwhile, if you prefer to eat five or six smaller meals a day, make sure your meals have no more than 300 or 350 calories, and beware of the tendency to graze mindlessly.
3) “Eating after 8 p.m. causes weight gain.”
Rest assured: It does not matter when you eat but how much you eat. “There are no conclusive studies that indicate that eating late causes weight gain,” says Dr. Zamora. “However, if people eat when they are tired, they sometimes end up eating more and choosing the wrong foods.”
So as long as you keep an eye on nutrition and portion sizes (or use SENSA® to help you do it), you can enjoy a late-night meal or snack without wreaking havoc on your waistline.
4) “Red meat is bad for you.”
According to a recent study that’s been generating lots of buzz, we should all give up red meat entirely. But Dr. Zamora says that you don’t need to cut out all red meat from your diet. “There is an undeniable correlation between red meat and cardiovascular disease, as well as colorectal cancer,” notes Dr. Zamora. “But I do believe that red meat does have some nutritional benefits such as iron, protein and vitamins when it is eaten in moderation.” She recommends consuming a limited amount of red meat, in conjunction with a diet that is balanced with fiber, fruits and vegetables. Make sure you check with your physician regarding the amount of red meat you are allowed per week. Overall, if eaten, it should be on a very limited basis.
5) “Fasting can help you lose weight quickly.”
Ignore all of the hype: Fasting is not an effective way to lose weight. Although the number on your scale may slightly go down from it, this is only due to the fact that you’re losing water weight, explains Dr. Zamora. Further, fasting can even slow down your metabolism, so that once you go back to your normal eating habits, you’ll put on weight faster.
Another misconception about fasting is that it cleanses your body of toxins. “Your organs rid your body of toxins and, as long as you take care of your body, your body will take care of you,” says Dr. Zamora. If you eat nutritious foods like vegetables and fruits with phytochemicals, your body will have the ability to do this daily.”
Bottom line: Don’t believe everything you hear! When it comes to weight loss, remember that it all boils down to the age-old mantra of calories in vs. calories out. As with everything in life, moderation is key! SENSA is a great tool to help you recognize when you need to stop eating, so don’t forget to sprinkle!
Thanks for reading!
Dr. Zamora, M.D., Board Certified Internist