National Nutrition Week: Sifting fact from fiction

Sugar makes you fat. Carbs are bad. Proteins are not found in vegetarian diets… It is difficult to fathom what comprises a healthy diet with the amount and kind of information we are bombarded with when it comes to what to eat and what not… Let’s bust some popular food-related myths to help you make the right choices…

Carbs alone cannot make you gain weight: Luke Coutinho

According to Luke Coutinho, Adviser of Integrative Lifestyle and Nutrition at, these are the five nutrition myths trending in the food world:

National Nutrition Week: Sifting fact from fiction

1. Coconut oil is full of saturated fat and raises cholesterol.

Although the content of saturated fat is high in coconut oil, it isn’t full of it. Mother's milk consists of saturated fat too but it is known to be the healthiest. We need to break free from the concept of saturated fat increasing cholesterol levels. It’s actually chronic inflammation that leads to a deranged lipid profile. South India has been living on coconut oil since years and if consumed the right way and in the right quantities with other lifestyle changes, coconut oil turns out to be a medicine.

2. A vegetarian diet is protein-deficient.

There are several vegetarian food items that are rich in protein. These include tofu, lentils, yoghurt, green peas, sattu, beans, quinoa, mushrooms, oats, seeds, nuts, and the list goes on. One needs to understand how to pair foods (cereals and pulses) for a complete amino acid (building blocks of protein) profile.

3. Plant-based diets are the healthiest.

Often, one comes across sick vegetarians and healthy non-vegetarians too, so there is no data that proves that vegetarian diet is the healthiest. Food matters, but what really matters, is lifestyle as a whole.

4. Carbs make a person gain weight.

Carbs alone cannot make you gain weight. Weight gain or obesity is a result of an unhealthy lifestyle, lack of exercise, unhealthy diet, overeating of carbs and at the wrong time, greed, gluttony, lack of self-discipline and more.

5. Food supplements are not effective.

This myth needs to take a backseat. They are extremely effective and especially beneficial for those who cannot maintain a balanced diet.

A food fad that troubles his celeb clients: Everyone thinks fats are bad as they are associated with weight gain and increased cholesterol. However, not all fats are bad. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are good fats and must be included in the diet. Sources of these fats include avocados, nuts, eggs, seeds, fatty fish etc. Trans fats, found in baked sweets, fries, margarine and junk food, on the other hand, can cause harm to the body and must be avoided.

Sugar alone cannot make you fat: Dr Siddhant Bhargava

Dr Siddhant Bhargava, Fitness and Nutritional Scientist, Co-Founder, Food Darzee, lists five popular sweet-related myths:

National Nutrition Week: Sifting fact from fiction

1. Sugar is addictive and should be treated like a drug.

Sugar does not cause any real dependence. It triggers the release of dopamine in the reward centre of the brain causing one to feel good when consumed. No one likes not feeling good, hence one craves sugar. So, control is the key.

2. Sugar will directly cause diabetes.

It is one of the factors responsible for causing insulin resistance along with various others like weight gain, genetics, poor lifestyle etc. However, quitting sugar is not going to prevent you from getting diabetes if you don’t pay attention to the other signs.

3. Sugar from fruits is good.

Fruits contain fructose and glucose. Keeping in mind the fibre and antioxidants a fruit provides, we do end up pardoning the part of the sugar content in a fruit, but fruits that are very high in sugar must definitely be avoided or can be had as a treat sometimes and not as a staple.

4. All artificial sweeteners are bad.

Certain sweeteners were linked to cancer and destruction of gut microbiome (good bacteria) but others like stevia, monk fruit or even erythritol are relatively harmless and great sugar substitutes.

5. Sugar will make you fat.

Sugar alone cannot make you fat. Consuming extra calories will make you put on weight, and these calories can come from a fat source, sugar source or even protein for that matter. Cutting down on sugar is a good way of cutting a few calories but don’t see it as the only factor that drives weight gain.

A sweet notion popular with his celeb clients: “For most people, dried frozen berries is a quick snack. Since berries are supposed to be good for health, they end up having a lot of them. But frozen or dried berries are sugar concentrates and extremely high in sugar (net content wise, they lack water to dilute it). So always consume fresh berries for their true benefits.”

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