By Simon McNeil

The growing interest in nutrition has seemingly elevated nutritional experts to the level of demigods in our culture. People are willing to believe any piece of information that could potentially hold the key to better living, and unfortunately this willingness has led to a number of misconceptions about nutrition. So here are some frequently asked questions followed by answers to help you debunk some health mysteries.

11 Questions About Eating Right Slideshow


Should I be taking a vitamin and mineral supplement if I eat well?

By eating a balanced diet that incorporates all four food groups with consistent servings of fruits and vegetables, you will consume all the vitamin and minerals your body requires. A vitamin supplement will provide no additional benefit to your health unless you're suffering from some kind of deficiency. As well, people who do not follow a good diet (those who eat an abundance of dairy, bread and meat) should take a supplement to help offset some deficiencies. One must remember that these pills cannot replace all the nutrients that come from food. And for your body to function properly, you need to make a concerted effort to eat more vitamin-rich foods like vegetables and fruit.


What are some healthy snacks besides fruits and vegetables?

When preparing a snack, try to choose from one of the four food groups: grain, vegetable and fruit, dairy, or meat and high protein alternatives. Some great options include a cut-up banana wrapped in a pita with peanut butter on it. Mixing some granola with yogurt also makes for a healthy snack. Basically anything you can come up with to incorporate as many of these groups is a healthy alternative to anything you find in the snack aisle of the supermarket.


Will eating late at night lead to weight gain?

The common assumption is that eating late at night will not give your body the chance to burn off the calories and you will gain weight. The truth is that your body processes calories the same way at night and during the day. The problem with late-night eating is that people tend to indulge in junk food rather than something healthy and that is what leads to weight gain.


Can carbohydrates make me fat?

Yes and no. With a number of very trendy diets preaching the merits of cutting carbohydrates from your diet, the world now seems to think that they are the source of all fat. The misconception arises because generally, carbohydrates turn to glucose in your body. Any glucose not used by the cells gets converted and stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver, and the excess is converted into fat. So while carbohydrates are not terrible, they should be consumed in moderation.


Should I have a protein shake after training?

Much like with vitamin supplements, you need to examine your protein intake and whether or not it is adequate. The average male requires around 59 to 65 grams of protein per day to remain healthy. If, however, you are interested in increasing your muscle mass or gaining weight, then adding more protein to your diet via a shake is one way to do so.


Is soda bad for me?

Nutritionists will tell you over and over again that weight gain is the result of high caloric intake and low physical activity. Most sodas are filled with sugar, which ultimately means high calorie content, and in order to burn those calories you have to exercise. If you don't, the calories will be stored as fat and you will start to gain weight.


Should I stop drinking coffee?

Coffee has become a vice that everyone wants to be rid of in theory, but with no real motivation to quit. The only real negative side effect of coffee comes from the consumption of caffeine. Ingesting large amounts of the stimulant can cause an increase in alertness, heart rate, and blood pressure, not to mention it can lead to sleep deprivation. Other than that, no tests have shown any problems related directly to the drinking of coffee. But watch your calorie intake when it comes to gourmet coffees, iced coffees, and caf au laits, as they have high levels of sugar and cream.


Are foods labeled 'low-fat' better for me?

The label itself serves as more of a marketing tool than a health service. You should not assume that "low-fat" equates "healthy" -- especially considering that low-fat products tend to be high in carbohydrates. If you are trying to lose weight, however, the low-fat or fat-free option of a product will generally contain less calories than the regular edition. But that shouldn't give you an incentive to consume double the portion.


Is it healthy to eat red meat?

Red meat is one of those things that doctors recommend we cut from our diet as we get older and in recent years, it has been stigmatized as a trouble food. In reality, it is loaded with nutrients including iron and protein, which are essential for muscle growth. Eating lean meat in moderation is part of a healthy diet.


Is it better to eat small meals every 2-3 hours rather than three big meals per day?

The answer to this question really depends on your goals. If weight loss is your objective, then the five small meals throughout the day may be the best way to do it. This will help jump-start your metabolism and increase your body's ability to burn fat.


Is drinking tea good for me?

This question is still in the early stages of receiving a proper answer from scientists. Currently, studies are generally reporting that drinking tea is good for the body. Its main nutritional benefit comes from "antioxidants," which help prevent cholesterol in the blood from becoming oxidized, which is believed to lead to heart disease.

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These questions reveal that the secret to good nutrition and eating well is remarkably simple: Be careful of your calorie intake and eat lots of fruits and vegetables. There is no shortcut to a healthy lifestyle; we all know what it takes to eat right, and we all know that just a little discipline will help get us there.