Why Healthy Eating May Not Be So Healthy

By Charlotte Mines, Intern at BetterPT


When it comes to a healthy diet, many misconceptions exist. The online world has only fueled the spread of various myths and rumors about what healthy eating is all about.

You’re told only to eat vegetables; don’t touch sugar; steer clear of all cholesterol and fats. But does this really make sense?

In reality, your body needs a variety of healthy fats along with these nutrients and compounds to function properly and to heal injuries. Sometimes, a so-called ‘clean eating’ meal plan tends to eliminate foods you need and create nutrient deficiencies that aren’t good for you. Nutritional deficiency can lead to prolonged healing time and can put you at risk for future injury.

In honor of March being Nutrition Month, we’re going to set the record straight on healthy eating. Let’s uncover the truth about heart-healthy foods and what a balanced diet actually entails.


Myth #1: A Healthy Diet Means Eliminating Sugar

It’s true that the average American diet consists of too much sugar. Heavily processed and fatty foods often contain a ton of it, and sugar is likely a driver of the national obesity epidemic. However, another major cause of obesity is portion sizing: People are generally eating too much food.

However, a balanced diet doesn’t mean eliminating sugar entirely. The body prefers to use sugar as its primary fuel source. As a result, a whole array of processes go haywire when you fully take sugar out of the equation. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a lot can go wrong when your body intakes too much sugar. Healthy eating habits are all about finding a balance.

For instance, sugar from fruits and whole foods – which are generally healthy food to eat every day anyway – is much better than consuming it with polyunsaturated fats in that daily donut or muffin. From these naturally-derived sugars, you receive both other healthy nutrients and your body processes it better.

Instead of eliminating sugar as you transition to a heart-healthy diet, assess the sources where you are getting your sugar from. Focus on what healthy food options feel good when you eat it. For example, eating too much sugar probably doesn’t feel great on your stomach. Listen to your body and healthy eating will come easier than you think.

Myth #2: Maintaining a Clean and Balanced Diet Means Getting Rid of All Harmful Foods

When someone talks about a ‘healthy’ eating plan many people often automatically think of a ‘clean’ eating meal plan. This frequently means no processed or pre-packaged foods. It also involves organic and all-natural varieties. Yet, a new eating disorder is on the rise: It’s called orthorexia nervosa’.

Orthorexia is an eating disorder where the individual is obsessed with eating clean and avoiding toxins. They systematically eliminate ‘unclean’ or ‘unhealthy’ foods. They try restrictive diets and juice cleanses in order to maintain their presumably healthy meal plans. Sometimes, it goes hand-in-hand with anorexia-like symptoms or OCD behaviors. Complications include malnutrition and extreme weight loss. In severe cases, cardiac issues may arise or even, death may occur.

Most experts agree that a healthy eating plan should consist of a variety of foods in moderation. Processed foods should be limited, but restrictive behaviors are unhealthy and may lead to obsessions.

For example, have that glass of wine at your boss’s retirement party or savor that piece of cake at your best friend’s birthday. There are also healthy fast food options available if you’re looking to indulge but not take it to an extreme. As long as these events don’t become daily habits, you’re likely doing just fine in maintaining healthy eating habits.

Myth #3: Eating Late at Night Makes You Gain Weight

Eating more calories than you expend makes you gain weight; it’s not related to eating later on in the day. Also, everyone has a different body: One person may prefer to eat later in the day and into the evening. Another person may eat right when they wake up and have dinner as their last meal. With this in mind, healthy eating habits mean doing what feels right to you. If you’re hungry at 8 PM, eat a portion of nutritious, heart-healthy food to satisfy you.

For example, peanut butter and jelly sandwich is an excellent nightcap, full of both healthy fats and filling fiber and protein. Peanut butter contains an amino acid that can be converted to melatonin, which makes you sleepy – perfect for right before bed!

Myth #4: Cholesterol and Fat Are the Downfall of a Heart-Healthy Diet

Cholesterol and fat have a bad reputation when it comes to what constitutes a healthy diet. It all started decades ago when a study emerged concluding that cholesterol and fat cause heart disease. Yet, it was soon found out that this study was funded by the sugar industry to take the heat away from the inflammation that sugar and other substances could cause.

Here’s the thing: You need cholesterol and fat in your balanced diet. Cholesterol makes up cell membranes, hormones, bile acids, and fat-soluble vitamins. Healthy fats are further necessary for energy, to help absorb certain nutrients, and to maintain your body’s temperature.

The type of fat does matter. Healthy fats include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. ‘Bad’ fat consists of saturated and trans fats – dietary guidelines show you should limit these types of foods. Be sure to read the labels as you’re buying healthy foods to eat. These can provide you with the insight you need to make healthy eating choices.


Healthy Eating Comes Down to Balance and Moderation

The rule of a balanced diet essentially comes down to eating everything in moderation. It’s about learning what healthy meal plans work for you and your body and which don’t. If a particular, heart-healthy food doesn’t sit well with you, don’t eat it; it’s that simple.

At BetterPT, we believe in balance, as well as health inside and out. We believe that taking care of an injury includes physical therapy AND proper nutrition. So, from all of us here, we wish you a happy Nutrition Month as you embrace healthy food options and a balanced diet.

Are you looking to improve your total physical being and eliminate your body’s aches and pains? Book your next appointment with the BetterPT website or BetterPT mobile app today. Find the physical therapist you need near you for total body health.

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