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The Truth Behind 10 Diet Myths

Does Eating at Night Make You Fat? Is Caffeine Bad for You? Get the Facts on These and Other Diet Myths

Myth: To eat less sodium, avoid salty-tasting foods and use sea salt in place of table salt.

Reality: Your sense of taste doesn't always notice sodium, and sea salt or other gourmet salts aren't healthier than table salt.

"Just because it doesn't taste salty doesn't mean that it isn't salty," Rosenbloom says. She says many processed foods contain a lot of sodium -- check the label.

Sea salt, Rosenbloom says, contains slightly less sodium per teaspoon than table salt only because sea salt is coarser, so fewer grains fit into the teaspoon.

Myth: Drinking more water daily will help you lose weight.

Reality: There's no evidence that water peels off pounds.

Foods containing water -- such as soup -- can fill you up, "but just drinking water alone doesn't have the same impact," Rosenbloom says. "Our thirst mechanism and our hunger mechanism are two different things."

Myth: Whole grains are always healthier than refined grains.

Reality: Whole grains are a healthy choice, but you needn't ditch refined grains. "You can have some of each," Rosenbloom says.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's "My Pyramid" dietary guidelines recommend getting at least half of your grain servings from whole grains.

"It doesn't say you have to replace all of your breads with whole grains or all of your foods with whole grains," Rosenbloom says. She adds that enriched grains -- refined grains with certain nutrients added (such as wheat enriched with folic acid, an important nutrient for preventing neural tube birth defects) -- have some perks.

"Enriched grains generally are going to have more folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and iron. The whole grains usually have more fiber, vitamin e, selenium, zinc, potassium -- so there's kind of a trade-off," Rosenbloom says.

Myth: Sugar causes behavioral problems in kids.

Reality: You might want to check your expectations about sugar and children's behavior.

For most children, "the excitement that kids have when supposedly they eat sugar is probably more related to the event and the excitement of the event than it is to actually consuming sugar," Rosenbloom says.

She cites research showing that when parents think their kids have been given sugar, they rate the children's behavior as more hyperactive -- even when no sugar is eaten.

Myth: Protein is the most important nutrient for athletes.

Reality: "It is true that athletes need more protein than sedentary people. They just don't need as much as they think. And they probably don't need it from supplements; they're probably getting plenty in their food," Rosenbloom says.

But timing matters. Rosenbloom recommends that after weight training, athletes consume a little bit of protein -- about 8 grams, the amount in a small carton of low-fat chocolate milk -- to help their muscles rebuild.

"That's probably all you need," she says. "You don't need four scoops of whey powder to get that amount of protein."

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