Nutrition

6 Nutrition Myths We'd Like to Clear Up

8 min read

We're calling BS on these common nutrition myths. Let's dive into the truth about healthy eating.
We're calling BS on these common nutrition myths. Let's dive into the truth about healthy eating.

Is it just us, or has “healthy” eating gotten a little overcomplicated? Trends, myths, and other noise have made it easier to focus on the wrong things, which means that the science of what matters is often overlooked.

The good news? Knowing where to call BS is the first step to making healthful food choices and building good habits—and we’re here to help clear things up. From the truth about shopping organic to the importance of exercise, consider these 6 nutrition myths debunked.

Nutrition Myths to Debunk

Myth

Exercise is more important than diet.

Fact

Diet doesn’t totally win out either, by the way—in reality, it’s tricky to say that one is more important than the other. “The combination is most beneficial—the whole is more than the sum of its parts for promoting health and providing support in later life,” says Dr. Nima Alamdari, PhD, Ritual’s Chief Scientific Officer.

Myth

You can definitely always get all the nutrients you need through diet alone.

Fact

Not quite. When it comes to meeting your daily nutrient needs, a lot of factors come into play: Your dietary preferences, your genetics, and even your age. While most experts (including our in-house science team) will recommend that you prioritize a well-varied diet of nutrient-rich foods, even the top among us might have certain nutrient gaps.

The majority of Americans have trouble meeting their vitamin D levels, for example—and a lot of adults fall short when it comes to getting enough omega-3 fatty acids through their diets. Vegans and vegetarians might have a tough time getting enough vitamin B12 through diet alone. The bottom line? This is where a multivitamin might come in handy.

Myth

Nutrients are essential for your health, so a more-is-more approach can’t hurt.

Fact

Nutrients are essential for your health—but your body prefers a careful balance. The truth is that overdoing it on one nutrient may impact the intake or absorption of another, which is why it’s a good idea to stick to the ballpark of recommended daily values when it comes to getting your nutrients. Consider calcium, for example: Many people meet their calcium needs through their diets, and recent large-scale studies show that supplementing with more calcium may actually have a negative impact.* (1) In other words? When it comes to your multivitamin, less is more.

Myth

Eating healthfully involves a lot of overcomplicated rules.

Fact

Good news! It’s actually probably simpler than you think. While it’s a good idea to limit certain things like sugar, saturated fats, and other processed foods, aiming for variety on your plate is a pretty good rule of thumb to follow—that’s the best way to get a rainbow of nutrients in your daily diet. In practice, that means embracing a good balance of macronutrients (carbs, protein sources, and healthy fats) and prioritizing whole foods, which are an ideal dietary source of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). This rings true whether you're vegan, have certain food allergies, or eat a little bit of everything.

That also might mean tuning out highly-restrictive diet trends, by the way. “They really have no evidence basis and likely won’t do us good in the long run,” says Dr. Nima. “It may not sound sexy to follow a nutrient-dense and balanced diet, but truth lies in that data, and the data points us here.”

Myth

A vegetable is a vegetable is a vegetable—where it comes from doesn’t matter.

Fact

Not so: Paying mind to where your food comes from is a good idea for both your health and the health of the planet. There are many things that can have an impact on the nutritional content of your food, from soil quality to farming practices. In fact, in a landmark comparison of produce grown in 1950 and 2004, scientists found an overall decline in nutritional value. The culprit? Modern agricultural practices have depleted the nutrient content of the soil where our fruits and vegetables are often grown.(2)

On the flip side, studies have linked organic produce with a higher nutritional value—as well as a decrease in nutritional value when they’re out of season and/or shipped a long way. That’s why making food choices like shopping your local farmer’s market or CSA is a great way to support local agriculture, reduce your environmental footprint, and potentially get the most bang for your nutritional buck. (3,4)

Myth

Your nutrient needs will stay the same throughout your life.

Fact

To the contrary, your life cycle definitely plays a role in your specific nutrient needs. Iron is a great example: Men and postmenopausal women can usually meet their iron needs through diet alone, but menstruating women generally need a little extra iron—and if you’re pregnant, you’ll need even more. That’s why it’s a good idea to look for a multivitamin designed for your age and life stage—the right one should keep all these factors in mind.

References:

  1. Li, K., Wang, X.-F., Li, D.-Y., Chen, Y.-C., Zhao, L.-J., Liu, X.-G., … Deng, H.-W. (2018, November 28). The ... calcium supplementation: a review of calcium intake on human health. Retrieved from National Institutes of Health.
  2. Davis, D. R., Epp, M. D., & Riordan, H. D. (2004). Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(6), 669–682. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2004.10719409
  3. Crinnion, W. J. (2010). Organic foods...for the consumer. Alternative Medicine Review.
  4. Wunderlich, S. M., Feldman, C., Kane, S., & Hazhin, T. (2008). Nutritional quality of organic, conventional, and seasonally grown broccoli using vitamin C as a marker. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 59(1), 34–45. doi: 10.1080/09637480701453637

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Meet our experts

This article features advice from our science team.

Science Thumb — Nima

Dr. Nima Alamdari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer

Dr. Nima Alamdari is Chief Scientific Officer at Ritual. He was previously faculty at Harvard University where he researched muscle metabolism in health and disease. He received a PhD in Muscle Physiology and a First Degree in Biochemistry from The University of Nottingham in the UK. He has authored many original articles in top international peer-reviewed journals and presented at world-leading international conferences.

Science Thumb — Nima

Dr. Nima Alamdari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer

Dr. Nima Alamdari is Chief Scientific Officer at Ritual. He was previously faculty at Harvard University where he researched muscle metabolism in health and disease. He received a PhD in Muscle Physiology and a First Degree in Biochemistry from The University of Nottingham in the UK. He has authored many original articles in top international peer-reviewed journals and presented at world-leading international conferences.