Food & Nutrition

5 nutrition trends: fad or fact?

We’ve done some serious myth-busting to set the record straight!
Published 11 September 2017

5 popular diet beliefs vs the facts

1. "Saturated fat is good for you"

The popularity of butter, bacon and coconut oil soared after some studies showed that reducing saturated fat in the diet doesn't necessarily reduce the risk of heart disease to the extent once believed. So, the message that saturated fat may not be as bad for your heart as first thought took hold - but that’s very different to saying that eating it is actually good for you.

In fact, recent research still proves that saturated fat raises levels of LDL, or ‘bad’ cholesterol, builds more fat and less muscle than polyunsaturated fat and may influence the expression of a person’s genetic obesity risk. So cutting down on saturated fat is good for your health – which is one reason why foods that are higher in saturated fat tend to have a greater Points value. Just remember to replace saturated fat with ‘good fats’, especially the polyunsaturated variety found in nuts, oily fish and vegetable-based oils, which raise levels of HDL, or ‘good’ cholesterol. Problems come when saturated fats are replaced with poor-quality carbs, which also increase the risk of heart disease.

2. "Paleo is the best way to eat"

Paleo is all the rage and followers are adamant it’s the healthiest diet around – and great for weight loss to boot! But, while the paleo way of eating does score well in some categories – promoting the consumption of fruits and vegetables, and focusing on unprocessed foods – it falls down in others, like the omission of grains, legumes and dairy.

Plenty of research shows the benefits of eating grains and legumes for heart and gut health, and dairy products are a core source of calcium. Also, there’s the question of whether a paleo diet today is anything like our paleolithic ancestors’ diets. But if eating paleo works for you, then great! However you don’t have to eat paleo for optimum health. The WW program accommodates any eating style, including paleo, if that's what you choose.

3. "Sugar is toxic to humans"

With books like David Gillespie’s Sweet Poison and other programs touting the benefits of giving up sugar completely, it’s easy to understand why people are panicking. But books like that don’t always offer the whole picture.

Research shows that eating too much sugar can have negative effects on a whole raft of health factors – just like if you eat too much fat or overall energy. And people who cut sugar from their diet do tend to lose weight, thanks largely to the foods that get eliminated along the way as they cut back on sugar, like sugary drinks, cakes and chocolate, and the fact that what gets introduced in their place, are more nutritious foods.

The good thing that’s come out of sugar being put under the spotlight is that people have become much more aware of how easy it is to overeat it – the fact that it’s added to so many everyday processed and junk foods, mean a lot of us eat too much sugar, often without even knowing it. The great thing about points is that the formula is calculated to nudge people towards more nutritious food choices that, amongst other things, are lower in sugar.

So, the message is to keep added sugars low but you don’t need to worry as much about the naturally occurring ones in fruits and vegetables.

4. "Eat high protein for weight loss"

This one definitely has a ring of truth to it. While protein isn't essential for weight loss (creating an energy deficit will do that) eating a high-protein diet while losing weight has two major benefits – it keeps you feeling fuller for longer and helps you retain more muscle. And that matters because when you lose weight, you lose a mix of both fat and muscle, but it’s a good idea to do what you can to keep as much muscle as possible. Why? Because muscle is metabolically active tissue, which means it burns energy, so you’ll be more likely to maintain the weight loss on more food. So eat your protein! And the algorithm behind points encourages you to eat high-protein food, so it’s a no-brainer.

5. "Kilojoules don't matter - just eat clean"

‘Clean eating’ has become synonymous with being healthy and lean but this isn't the whole truth. We’re all for eating nutritious foods, but the ‘clean eating’ principal ignores a fundamental law of physics: to lose weight you need to be eating less energy than you burn. While you’re less likely to overeat when you’re eating ‘clean’, your body doesn't care if the kilojoules come from a greasy burger or a ‘clean’ burger – if you’re eating too many of them you’ll put on weight. Stick to unprocessed foods but also keep an eye on energy intake to control your weight – that’s what your points budget is for!