National Nutrition Week 2018: Two Nutritionists bust common diet myths

By: Dr. Vinita Deshpande and Fatema Attarwala

Published On: September 07, 2018

For national nutrition week, we talk to nutritionists about the common nutrition myths doing the rounds and they give their expert opinion on the same. Read on! 

India is becoming health conscious like never before. Look around you; you will see dudes and dudettes lifting heavy weights in the gym and the elderly giving youngsters something to cry about, by running marathons at the age of 60. According to this report, nearly 48% stated ‘leading a healthy lifestyle’ as their main aim last year, followed by better time management.

indians-exercisingAside from losing calories on the treadmill, Indians are also bidding farewell to excess weight by opting for diets such as Keto diet, crash diet, intermittent fasting etc. But how good or bad are they for the body? Are we really having a “nutritious meal” daily in its true sense? 

For National Nutrition Week 2018, we have a chat with nutritionists who bust some common nutrition myths.

Dr. Vinita Deshpande

Vinita Deshpande is a consulting physician with a BHMS degree, who has specialized in preventive approach in metabolic syndrome and lifestyle diseases. She has been practicing since 11 years and also has expert knowledge in sound yoga and naturotherapy and Diabetes Mellitus. 

Myth: Nutrition is all about good food

Fact: Nutrition is good food combined with other essentials such as sunlight, water etc.


Vinita says: 

“Nutrition does not only mean having good food. It’s a process of obtaining substances essential for any living organism to achieve health and to work in optimum capacity at ease. 

It's also the ability to acclimatize to surroundings. Nutrition consists of food, sunlight, water, and the activation of inner storage (within the body). Nowadays, when we think of nutrition, we only think of food. But nutrition is a lot more than that.” 

Myth: It is essential to have the same meal everyday for a balanced diet 

Fact: You need to keep experimenting with food for a balanced diet


“A nutritious meal broadly consists of two parts- macronutrients and micronutrients. Micronutrients are further classified into three- carbohydrates, proteins and fats. An ideal diet is a balanced diet with all these nutrients and one should get a good amount of all three.

For a balanced the diet, it’s not compulsory that if you are eating chapati one day, then you should be having chapati everyday. The next day you can have a ragi roti, a bajra roti etc. One should keep experimenting and changing their meal.” 

Myth: Your body can survive only on protein

Fact: Your body needs other nutrients such as fats, to be able to digest protein


There’s this fad about taking proteins through Keto diet. I need to clear up something; whenever you are having any protein, absorption of protein is also very important. When you are having excessive amounts of protein, you need to have excessive amounts of fat to burn the protein.

You need to have equal amount of fibre too because when you eat protein, it becomes very difficult to digest and it can carry constipatory tendencies. So for that purpose, fats and fibres should go in equal amounts. 

When you ingest proteins, the after effect of it is that you get some amount of phosphorus, absorbs calcium from your body. So when you are having proteins, you need to have a good amount of calcium; you can have spinach, pista, drumsticks, etc. 

Vitamin C is also a very essential nutrient. For Vitamin C, you don’t need to go for only fruits. You can have lemons, tamarind, etc. 

Myth: Carbs and sugar are bad for health 

Fact: Carbs and sugar in their natural form are good and essential for the body

Image result for people eating fruits

“Every nutrient is good, it maybe carbs, proteins or fat because nature has created it and it is her responsibility to nourish us. No nutrient is bad as such, as long as we take it in moderation. But if your body is responding to a nutrient in a negative way, it’s a signal to stop.  

It’s essential to remember that any nutrient in its natural form is good for the body. For example- sugar found in fruits, and any nutrient that is processed, such as white sugar, is not good for health. But sugar overall is essential as its a natural fuel for our body.”

Myth: Dal primarily has proteins 

Fact: Only 20-30% of dal has proteins, the remaining is carbohydrates

Image result for indian dal 

When we talk about dal, or our pulses, the general assumption is dal contains only protein. Dal has 20-30% of proteins and remaining part is carbohydrates. It also has some of the micronutrients. 

Any kind of vegetable has all the nutrients that are required by the body. You should therefore consume nutrients according to your age and body requirement. For example; we can digest carbs when we are young as we keep moving about. 

But as we grow older, our carb intake needs to reduce as it becomes difficult for our body to digest them. So our protein intake should be more as we grow older. 

Nowadays we lead a sedentary lifestyle and carbohydrates contain sugar which can’t be burnt out. After 50, the absorption capacity of sugar goes down.  

Myth: Dieting can harm your body 

Fact: Unsupervised dieting can harm your body

Related image 

“All diets are good. But it depends on whom it is being charted for. I’d advise that if people have to opt for a diet, it should be under proper guidance and supervision. Diet is basically a restriction of some nutrients and it can continue for months, years or a lifetime.

So, it needs to be handled by an expert. People can’t just blindly follow whatever they see on Whatsapp and YouTube otherwise dieting can severely harm your body and result in deficiencies.” 

Myth: Organic substances are better than natural substances 

Fact: Both are equally good


Image credit: The Hindu 

“It is not necessary for people to go for organic foods. Going for natural substances is more than okay. Most people have a confusion in mind about organic and natural. It takes a long time for something to be made into an organic substance. 

Natural substances are good and it’s not expensive. Whatever nature gives; coconut oil, sesame, flax seeds etc are good for the body. Avoid processed foods altogether.”

Myth: Salads are good for the body 

Fact: The pesticides found in vegetables is causing harm to our bodies

Image result for salads “There is a common belief that is salads our good for the body. However I would advise people to avoid salads. This is because most vegetables are sprayed upon by pesticides that harm our body. Anything in the cooked form is good for the body. 

People are drinking water gourd juice these days. But they are suffering from food poisoning because most of these vegetables have chemicals and pesticides and water gourd consists of seeds that are poisonous for the body.”

Fatema Attarwala

Fatema Attarwala is a renal dietician, working under nephrologist Dr. Bharat Shah in his private clinic. She has been practicing since 3 years and is also associated with NGO Narmada Kidney Foundation. 

What an ideal Indian meal should be like according to Fatema 

“There needs to be salad in every meal. The meal also should have protein content that is chicken, daal or soya. There should be curd or buttermilk and a roti. This is an ideal meal for an Indian population.”

Myth: All kinds of diets can suit everyone 

Fact: All diets need to be customized according to the client

Fatema says: 

Image result for people consulting dieticias

“The recent upcoming nutrition fad is Keto diet. There is also a crash diet (a week-long diet to lose weight quickly), which people mostly prefer. Another diet that people are following these days is the starvation diet. There’s a detox a diet where they drink only water. There are other diets such as meal replacement, fat burner etc. 

I believe that a normal balanced diet is appropriate for every human being and if people want to diet, they should consult a nutritionist or a dietician, who is qualified. It needs to be an individualized plan according to the person’s body structure. 

Every diet has to be customized according to the person. I have to check a person’s medical history; whether they have diabetes, any metabolic complexities, whether they have high BP, obesity or thyroid, so according to that you can modify the diet and give it.” 

Myth: Consuming complex carbs are better than normal carbs 

Fact: It all depends on the time in which you consume carbs

Image result for people eating bread“Complex carbs are anyday better than simple carbohydrates. The time and the quantity matters meaning that if you are eating carbs in the morning, it is better you have complex carbs rather than having simple carbs. 

But as the day progresses, having simple or complex carbs is equally harmful as the energy won’t release and it will be stored in your body. Hence, it might harm you. It is advisable to have protein and fibre in the evening. 

Myth: Processed sugar is bad for the body 

Fact: It all depends on the quantity of sugar a person consumes

processed-sugar “I would never tell anyone to stop sugar; I would instead ask them to focus on the quantity of sugar. The most frequent form in which people tend to have sugar in India is in their tea. Having sugar in tea twice a day is okay. 

But people don’t have tea just two times a day; in an office set up, tea breaks are very frequent and they tend to have a lot of cups of tea. I would then advise people to reduce the quantity of tea.”

Myth: Having ghee or cheese is bad for health 

Fact: They are an excellent source of protein


“I never stop my patients from having cheese or ghee, because they are excellent source of protein. It again depends on the quantity of the nutrient. 

40 gms of these things per day is okay and because they comprise of saturated fats, they are important, but excess of it is bad. One tbsp of ghee per day is okay but nothing more than that. 

Foods one should avoid at all times 
“People should avoid processed foods, these include your packaged foods like Knorr noodles, diet bhel, multigrain and brown breads etc. All these foods have a lot of flour, which contains salt that can result in high blood pressure.” 

Myth: Organic food has more nutritional value than normal food

Fact: Both are equally nutritious 

“If you can afford organic food, then great. But if you can’t, you can have organic substances such as  ragi flour from your normal store too.

Ofcourse the processing in organic foods is better, but there is no difference between the nutritional value between natural ragi flour and organic ragi flour.”

-As told to Rukmini Chopra

We suggest you also read: 

National Nutrition Week 2018: Understanding Malnutrition in India  

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