3 Big Myths that are damaging our health

We seem to be bombarded with contradictory health messages every day. To cut through the clutter and clear up the confusion, Channel 7’s The Daily Edition invited Dr Helena to provide answers that were based on sound scientific research. Here is a transcript of their conversation.

1. Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?

No! Delay breakfast for as long as possible. Leave at least 12 hours between dinner and breakfast – the longer the better. We need time off from eating in order to:

  • Clear out damaged and dysfunctional cells
  • Turn on repair genes
  • Reduce the risk of cancer and dementia
  • Use up our fat stores

The reason that 12 hours of not eating is the magic number is because it takes 12 hours for our body to use up stored glycogen in our muscles and liver and switch to fat burning. This is called ‘flipping the metabolic switch’. And the longer the gap between dinner and breakfast, the more fat you’ll burn and the healthier you’ll be.

If you eat the the same foods and number of calories in an 8 hour window – eg from 10am to 6pm – you will have less body fat, a stronger immune system and lower risk of diabetes – than if you eat the exact same foods and calories stretched out over 14 hours eg between 6am and 8pm. So the message is to eat dinner earlier and breakfast later.

If you have children, give them breakfast before school if they’re hungry. Meanwhile for yourself pack a nutritious meal to have after you arrive at work or when you get a mid-morning break. 

2. Is it better to eat 5 small meals a day or 3 large meals?

Eating fewer meals – 2 or 3 a day – is much healthier than grazing or eating 5 small meals a day.

This was one of the worst pieces of dietary advice anyone ever came up with. The logic was that every time you ate, you sped up your metabolism and it would stop you over-eating at mealtimes. 

The opposite is true. The boost to your metabolism after a meal is negligible and the more times you eat, the more calories you consume and the hungrier you get. 

3. Are you saying that snacking actually increases our appetite?

Yes! Snacking is the worst thing we can do for our health and our waistline. Why?

Whenever you eat something – especially refined carbohydrates like breakfast cereals, muesli bars, white rice, white bread or pasta –  the food is broken down to release a flood of sugar into your blood. Sugar in your blood damages blood vessels and nerves so your pancreas responds by releasing a hormone called insulin. Insulin’s job is to remove sugar from your blood and store it in your muscles, liver and fat cells. So if you’re constantly snacking, you’re constantly producing insulin and your body is constantly STORING fat instead of burning fat.

The result is that you become fatter while at the same time you feel hungrier because you are not able to use your fat as fuel. The insulin stops you burning fat. It’s like having money in the bank but not being able to withdraw it. Hence you feel hungry all the time.

To watch the interview click here

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