When it comes to health advice, there’s a lot of white noise out there. From health coaches to fit Instagram stars and personal trainers to wellness bloggers, the breadth of health “dos and don’ts” out there can be confusing at best and dangerous at worst.
We asked the professionals – you know, those people who have actually studied nutrition and health – to put to rest the worst health advice they’ve heard.
1. You should eat low fat food options if you’re trying to manage your weight.
“Over the past few decades, fats were seen as the devil. Health authorities and food companies asked us to eliminate fats from our diets and the supermarkets became swamped with low-fat foods. But fortunately, research has shown that our bodies do need dietary fats. Fats play important roles in your body, like helping to absorb certain vitamins, building membranes on every single cell in your body and sustaining nerve function. So instead of going with the ‘no fat/low fat’ option, aim to include a small amount of healthy fats with each meal. Try adding some salmon, slithered almonds and pepitas into your fresh seasonal salad.” – Rebecca Gawthorne, SumoSalad’s partnering Dietitian and Nutritionist
Watch: Dani Venn shows us how to make a delicious quinoa and prawn dish. (Post continues after video.)
2. You need to ‘detox’ your body.
“No matter how much kale, chia seeds or coconut water you add to your morning juice, it won’t detox your body! In fact, no food or fluid can detox your body; that’s the job of your liver, with the help of other organs like your kidneys. By definition, a detoxification or detox for short, is the physiological removal of toxic substances from a living the human body. It’s your liver, not a superfood or magic drink, that will remove toxins from your body.” – Rebecca Gawthorne
“This is a tool that marketers use to help sell diets. The kidney and liver consistently break down any toxins and there is no evidence to suggest that cutting out carbs will help your kidney and liver break down toxins any faster.” – Melanie McGrice, Accredited Practising Dietitian
3. Take vitamin C supplements to rid yourself of a cold.
“Evidence now clearly shows that there’s no benefit to taking additional vitamin C tablets once you have already developed a cold. It’s important to make sure that you meet your vitamin C requirements to reduce the risk of catching a cold, but you can easily meet your requirements just by eating fruit and veg. For example, one orange provides double our daily vitamin C requirements. Vitamin C tablets are unnecessary for most people.” – Melanie McGrice
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4. Coconut oil is the healthiest oil
“While coconut oil does contain a high proportion of medium chain fats, which are primarily metabolised through the liver, it is still fat and fat contains a lot of calories relative to carbs and protein. So if you swap a small amount of oil for coconut oil, yes you are more likely to use this fat as energy. But if you use lashings of oil, and more than you usually would because it is ‘coconut’ oil, you still have to burn all these extra calories coming from fat. This may be fine for a personal trainer burning 2000+ calories a day, but for the average person who spends much of the day sitting, it does not offer the health benefits that Extra Virgin Olive Oil does.” – Susie Burrell, Dietitian and Shape Me founder
5. All sugar is the devil
“Excess sugar, regardless of its source, can contribute to weight gain. However, fruit sugar consumed from the recommended two fruits per day is not a danger as they contribute a wealth of phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and fibre, and are even associated with a reduced risk of multiple cancers.” – Katherine Baqleh, Accredited Practising Dietitian at Health Victory Nutrition Experts
“‘Fruit is bad for you’ – I don’t know what started this rumour but it’s rubbish! Yes, fruit contains fructose. But fruit provides us with so many different vitamins and minerals and fructose really isn’t as evil as everyone thinks. Have the whole fruit so you can get the fibre as well.” – Caitlin Rabel, Accredited Practicing Dietitian at Bites for Health Nutrition and Dietetic Services
Fructose really isn't as evil as everyone thinks. Image: iStock.
6. Eating gluten free foods (when you’re not a coeliac) is not healthier.
“I used to feel sorry for people diagnosed with coeliac disease because the gluten free diet is difficult, and there is a real risk of going short on important nutrients. So you can imagine my surprise when hoards of people started following it for no good reason except that it was trending. Self-diagnosis is rampant and usually some way off the truth. Newsflash: the problems you have are unlikely to be a result of gluten, so see a dietitian and get to the real cause of the problem (if its IBS, the problem is likely to be FODMAPS not gluten). Sorry to disappoint but gluten is not fattening, and gluten-free foods have just as many kilojoules but with the added barb of making you feel better about eating ‘sometimes foods’ like cookies, cakes and muffins.” - Nicole Senior, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist
7. If you want to lose weight, ditch carbs.
“It might even be effective for a while but inflicts significant nutritional collateral damage (protective plant foods like whole grains, fruit, legumes anyone?). Going low-carb also causes severe normality deficit disorder such as to render any social eating occasion a nightmare. Added to that is that most people don’t really know what foods contain carbs and end up practising a very dodgy form of nutritional swaps, whereby they ditch bread, pasta and potato (everyday foods) and still drink juices and alcohol and eat sweets.” - Nicole Senior
“Carbs are the main source of fuel from the brain. You will lose weight if you stop eating carbs, as the body holds on to less water. However, most people will stop losing weight at a point and will regain all the lost weight. A lack of carbohydrates in the diet will also make you feel irritable, anxious, depressed, tired and you will lack energy.” - Katherine Baqleh
8. Skim milk contains more sugar
“Not true — all dairy milks contains naturally occurring sugars, including lactose, they do not have them added and full cream milk actually contains more lactose than skim.” - Susie Burrell
What health question have you always been curious about?