Here are three of the biggest lies about nutrition I was fed as a kid:
Low-fat foods are always better for you than high-fat options. Drinking more milk makes your bones stronger. And you're only properly hydrated once your pee comes out clear.
Nope, nope, and nope.
I didn't know this at the time, but some of the "facts" about healthy eating that I absorbed as a youngster were clever marketing tactics dressed up as expert guidance about what to eat. Other pieces of advice have since been debunked by scientific research.
Here are a few dozen nutrition myths many of us were told as tots that simply aren't true.
MYTH: Low-fat products are better for your waistline than high-fat versions of the same foods.
It may seem counterintuitive, but eating less fat can actually make your body fatter.
"Fat consumption does not cause weight gain," doctor Aaron Carroll wrote in his book "The Bad Food Bible." "To the contrary, it might actually help us shed a few pounds."
This is because people who skimp on fat (something our bodies need to function properly) are more likely to fill up on sugar and refined carbohydrates instead, and that can lead to measurable weight gain over time. Studies of people around the globe show this to be true time and again.
Fat molecules help our body's cells stay healthy, and they aid us in absorbing nutrients in the other foods we eat. So if you prefer whole milk to skim, there's no reason to feel guilty about that.
MYTH: You should "refuel" with electrolytes after a workout.
Sorry, Gatorade-lovers, but electrolytes and performance drinks don't do anything special for your body.
"Athletes who lose the most body mass during marathons, ultramarathons, and Ironman triathlons are usually the most successful, which suggests that fluid losses are not as tightly linked to performance as sports drink makers claim," science journalist Christie Aschwanden writes in her 2019 book, "Good to go: What the athlete in all of us can learn from the strange science of recovery."
Aschwanden explains that your brain is perfectly capable of regulating electrolytes like salt in the body on its own.
"You need enough fluid and electrolytes in your blood for your cells to function properly, and this balance is tightly regulated by a feedback loop," she said.
MYTH: Your pee should be clear, and you should drink eight glasses of water per day.
If your pee is clear, you'll probably need to find a toilet soon, because you're over-hydrated.
The truth is, the body has a "thirst center" in the brain that helps regulate how much fluid we need, and it's impressively tuned (though it tends to become less effective as we move into old age). So the most important way to stay hydrated is to listen to your thirst and drink when you feel like it.
Don't ignore itchings for water or confuse them with hunger, and you'll generally be fine. And don't worry too much about the color of your urine, either. A light yellow or straw-like color can indicate you're well hydrated, but darker urine isn't necessarily a reason to panic.
"Dark pee might mean that you're running low on fluid, but it could also mean that your kidneys are keeping your plasma osmolality in check by conserving water," Aschwanden said.