11 Diet Myths — Busted!

Diet myths, busted!We all have a friend who swears by the latest juice craze and another who's devoted to a gluten-free lifestyle. So what's the true secret to staying slim? Here, we uncover the truth behind top diet trends.

Myth #1: Fasting is the best way to drop pounds - stat
Fact: Popular across the pond, "5:2" fasting diets, which call for five days of eating whatever you want and two days of following a seriously reduced calorie plan (think: rabbit food) have started sweeping our nation. As tempting as it sounds, the "5:2" way of life isn't exactly foolproof. Binging on the "eat-anything-you-want" days could cancel out any weight loss benefits resulting from the low-calorie days. On the flip side, if you drop weight too quickly, you may actually be losing muscle, not fat.

To hold on to some tone and still shed the fat, you need a more moderate plan that keeps your metabolism chugging, energy high, and tummy full. Fill up on satiating foods, like fruits and veggies, chicken and fish, and whole grains. Good Housekeeping's indulgent, yet light Chicken Gyro Salad is a satisfying choice.

Related: Can Yoga Really Help You Lose Weight?

Myth #2: Carbs will make you fat
Fact: Sure, carbs in the form of ice cream, cookies, cakes, and even processed grains (like white rice) might leave you angry at the scale. But carbs also come in the form of fruits and vegetables, high-fiber beans, and whole-grain versions of breads and pasta.

Swap processed grains for whole grains to help ward off the blood-sugar roller coaster - and the energy slump and unhealthy cravings that come with it. Familiarize yourself with serving sizes of whole grains (1/2 cup cooked brown rice or whole-wheat pasta, one slice of bread) because it's easy to overdo it. Our take on Turkey with White Bean Ragu is chock-full of good carbs in the form of beans and whole-grain quinoa. With its whopping 10 grams of fiber and 41 grams of protein, it's sure to satisfy even a hearty appetite.

Myth #3: You don't have to exercise if you're on a strict diet
Fact: It's true that when it comes to losing weight, your eating habits are more important than your workout. But that doesn't give you a pass to skip the gym and snuggle up for a Homeland marathon. Staying fit is an important part of fending off chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Even if you've hit your ideal weight and you're an all-star eater, you still need to incorporate regular physical activity into your life. The good news: It doesn't take much. One study found that those who exercise 30 minutes or more a day were more successful at losing weight and keeping it off than their non-exercising counterparts.

Related: Stop Making Excuses! Find More Time to Exercise

Myth #4: Once your 30 minutes of cardio is done, you can relax all day
Fact: Incorporating physical activity into your daily routine is an effective way to say "buh-bye" to yo-yo dieting. Though a killer workout session at the gym will rev your metabolism, you can't spend the rest of the day sitting at your desk or lying on the sofa. Studies show that successful weight loss and maintenance is higher among those who make the effort to consistently move around. Find small ways to stay active, especially if you work in an office. Take the stairs, stand while you're on a call, and pace around the bathroom while you brush your teeth. You'll quickly learn that a little effort goes a long way.

Related: Low-Impact Exercises That Anyone Can Do

Myth #5: All calories are created equal
Fact: Yes, in the end, weight loss largely boils down to math - taking fewer calories in typically helps you slim down. But the types of food you fuel your body with have the potential to make or break your success. Eating foods that satisfy your appetite and taste buds will help you lose weight without feeling hungry or deprived. The best hunger-busters are fruits, veggies, lean proteins (skinless turkey and chicken, seafood, and certain cuts of beef), beans, nuts, and whole grains. As for the "tasty" part of the equation, leave that to GH! Try these two mouthwatering recipes: Sweet Chipotle Chicken Stacks and Tuna and Cannellini Bean Salad.

Myth #6: Organic foods are more nutritious
Fact: Organic is not synonymous with healthy. If a product is certified organic, it is free of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals, but not necessarily free of added sugars, fats, or refined carbs. You'll get the same muffin top whether you're devouring an organic cupcake every day or the non-organic version. The same concept applies to organic produce, which many studies have shown is not necessarily any more nutritious than its conventionally farmed counterpart.

That said, buying organic versions of your usual shopping list is never harmful and may ease your mind about the types of compounds introduced into your body. If you can afford to splurge, go for it, but avoid any calorie bombs by incorrectly assuming that organic equals healthy.

Myth #7: "Fat-free" or "diet" foods are the best choice
Fact: This marketing tactic may not tell a food's whole story. Products touting "diet-friendly" claims often contain processed ingredients and artificial sweeteners that lack nutritional benefit and fail to curb cravings. Next time you're tempted to buy a bag of fat-free candy, reach for a nutrient-dense food - an edible that fills you up without making a huge dent in your calorie allowance. Enjoy some Spicy Edamame Dip with whole-grain pita chips to load up on fiber and protein - a dynamic hunger-stomping duo.

Myth #8: You can eat pizza again once you hit your goal weight
Fact: A meal plan, like marriage, is a long-term commitment. People who lose weight successfully continue to use their go-to dieting strategies, even after reaching their goal weight. That's why it's critical to find a lifestyle that you can live with forever. Pizza is like an old boyfriend. It's fun to see him, but every time you hang out, you remember why you broke up! You don't have to sacrifice all the foods you crave in order to lose weight, but you have to ditch the mentality of going off your diet.

Myth #9: There's nothing like a juice cleanse to detox
Fact: While juices may be loaded with nutrients, the human body is an incredible machine that's programmed to clear out toxins on its own. No current research indicates that a liquid cleanse is effective, or even safe, in expediting this process.

If you're toying with the idea of a detox diet, consider this alternative. Commit one day a week to eating completely clean - only fruits, veggies, nuts, beans, healthy fats (like avocado), and lean protein. Skip anything that's processed (including bread, which is, after all, processed from a grain) or has added sugars (dessert, soda, flavored waters); quench your thirst with water, coffee, or tea. See how this affects your energy. (We bet you'll feel great!) Then, add another clean day to the week. This is a much more manageable strategy that will help you put life-long healthy habits in place. Our Skillet Chicken with Plum Balsamic Sauce will show you how delicious clean eating can be.

Myth #10: Gluten-free foods will help you get skinny
Fact: Before gluten was in the spotlight, those adopting a gluten-free (GF) diet would have eliminated most processed foods and opted for naturally GF foods, such as fruits, veggies, beans, non-gluten grains, nuts, and lean protein. It's easy to see how these foods can help you lose weight. Nowadays, those following a GF diet have a wide assortment of sweet and savory snacks to choose from. Chew on this: These snack foods may have just as many calories (if not more!) and as much sugar or fat as the original version.

Myth 11: Anything packed with fiber will help you slim down
Fact: Fiber is famous for its ability to curb hunger and cravings. Once word got out that most of us fail to meet our recommended intake (25 grams of fiber per day), fiber-added bars, cereals, and crackers began crowding supermarket shelves. However, the type of fiber in these products is usually a manufactured variety as opposed to the naturally occurring type found in beans, fruits, veggies, and some whole grains. While the manufactured nutrient, also known as isolated, designer, or synthetic fiber, has been proven to keep you regular, it's yet to be determined whether it also delivers the same nutritional perks - like the feel-full benefits -found in whole foods.

More bad news: Your favorite high-fiber granola bars or breakfast cereals are sometimes loaded with added sweeteners, which rack up the calories. These snacks are fine to eat, but don't rely on them to help you drop a dress size. And remember to balance these convenient munchies with a diverse array of fiber-rich foods.

-By Samantha B. Cassetty, M.S., R.D. and Ann Lokuta

More from Good Housekeeping:
15 Slimming Superfoods You Should Be Eating
12 Ways to Cut Calories Without Sacrificing Flavor
Tone Your Thighs in One Month (Without Killing Your Knees)

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