Myth: We’ll lose weight if we follow a low fat diet.

Fact: Not necessarily. These days a lot of ‘low fat’ processed foods contain calorie rich sugar. And they may not contain the nutrients and fibre in whole foods, meaning you’re likely to start feeling hungry again soon and be tempted to start eating again.

Myth: Feed a cold and starve a fever

Fact: There’s no solid evidence for this. Cold and fever are usually caused by viruses, which typically run their course over a cycle of 7 – 10 days. Rest and plenty of fluid are recommended, to help your immune system fight off the virus.

However, small scale tests by scientists in Holland in 2002 suggested that different approaches (liquid only, water only and regular food) appeared to activate different types of immune cell.

Myth: Saturated fat and cholesterol are bad for us

Fact: The Masai consume 65% saturated fat and a lot of cholesterol (through red meat and fermented dairy products) but aren’t obese and have a good lifespan. Fat helps us absorb a large proportion of the nutrients we need, boosting the immune system and protecting our organs from disease. Cholesterol is an important nutrient, which the body uses for calcium metabolism, hormone function and cellular structure.

However, to stay healthy aim to eat ‘good’ fats (like monounsaturated), don’t overeat and take plenty of exercise.  

Myth: Consuming plenty of dairy products ensures healthy bones.

Fact: Dairy products are useful here and should form part of our diet – but for healthy bones we also need vitamin K (from dark leafy vegetables) and magnesium (for instance from potatoes, oats, almonds).

Myth: All calories are the same if we’re trying to lose weight.

Fact: Some foods require more work to eat and so burn more calories while they are being digested. Vegetables, whole grains, fruit and lean cuts of meat are good examples. Conversely, soft, easy to eat foods require less effort to eat and therefore consume fewer calories, so are likely to mean you add more weight.  

Published 27/07/2012, Review date August 2014