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5 lies you've been told about eating healthy

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that we’re all encouraged to eat a well-balanced diet, get at least 30 minutes of exercise three to five times a week, and try to drink more water. For the most part, this has included common tips like avoiding fried, fatty foods or sugary drinks. Sounds like common sense, right? But what if we told you that some of the things many of us think are “sound dietary advice” are not true? You might have been following these five myths — and it’s time to stop.

Lie #1: Being vegetarian or vegan is instantly healthier

Stack of multi-colored assorted vegetables, cabbages, pods, and leaves
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Lies. All lies. Yes, opting not to eat red meat every day and beefing up (no pun intended) on your vegetable intake is more healthful in general. Plant-based diets have been proven to help reduce the risk of heart disease or diabetes. But not all vegetarians and vegans reform their dietary ways beyond cutting out meat or animal byproducts.

For the record, a common issue many vegetarians and vegans face is a nutritional imbalance as they learn to create a diet that replaces all of the essential nutrients they need now that they’re skipping either one or two food groups. This can especially be an issue for vegans who don’t eat any animal products, meaning that critical vitamins may need to be supplemented.

Lie #2: Weight loss requires a diet you hate

Up close photo of stack of plain rice cakes on a sheet of wax paper
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We’ve all been there: It’s after the holidays, or you have a beach vacation coming up and you want to lose some weight. You decide that to reach your goal weight, you need to cut out every dish you love and spend the next few months existing on kale chips, rice cakes, and water. This is extreme — the truth is, you can still eat the things you love and lose weight.

The trick is to practice moderation. Instead of eating a heaping portion of mac and cheese or french fries, keep your intake of those foods smaller than more healthful options. So go ahead and indulge in a small scoop of mac and cheese. Just make sure that the rest of your plate is loaded with healthful options like veggies and lean protein like fish or chicken.

Lie #3: Eggs are bad for your heart

Eggs prepared sunny side up served over greens with salt and pepper
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The poor “incredible edible” egg has gone back and forth from being bad to good for you to now being considered a superfood. So why were eggs considered a no-no? Well, that’s because, for a long time, people associated the egg’s higher cholesterol with the risk of increasing a person’s overall cholesterol. But now we know that even though eggs do contain more cholesterol than foods of a similar size, they’re incredibly powerful at helping the body naturally reduce bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and improving good cholesterol levels (HDL).

This staple food is also a great source of protein and provides critical nutrients such as iron, phosphorous, selenium, and a myriad of vitamins including A, B2, B5, and B12. But to get those benefits, skip the egg white omelets as most of the nutritional benefits are in the yolk.

Lie #4: Margarine is more healthful than butter

Bread and yellow margarine on plate with knife for spreading
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For the longest time, butter was getting the short end of the stick. It was often maligned as a bad topping that would increase cholesterol and your risk for common issues like high blood pressure and heart disease. As a result, margarine rose in popularity as a heart-healthy alternative that still gave you that “buttery” flavor but without all the guilt. However, now we know better.

Yes, butter does contain cholesterol-raising fats which, if consumed in excess, will adversely impact your health. But while you shouldn’t over-indulge in butter, margarine might actually be worse. We know that the butter alternative can also be high in trans and saturated fats, which can be just as bad for your health and cholesterol levels. If you’re concerned about your cholesterol levels, your best bet is to skip both butter and margarine.

Lie #5: All carbonated drinks are bad for you

Up close view of glass of soda, with sparkling carbonation bubbles and ice cubes
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In recent years, there’s been a push to get people to drink less soda and swap at least one glass of soda for water per day — and with good reason. Ingesting sugary drinks all the time is a great way to get diabetes and help your dentist buy a new house. But does "carbonated" always mean "sugary"? In this case, the answer is no. While you should cut down on your sweet soda intake, there’s nothing wrong with drinking sparkling waters or naturally fruit-flavored seltzers that don’t contain added sugars and are sodium-free. Plus these healthful carbonated alternatives will count toward your daily water intake goals.