Nutritionists go into practice to educate people about how to maintain good health through food. (I know, because I鈥檓 one of them!) It brings our hearts joy to know we鈥檝e imparted advice that helps others reach their goals for weight loss, illness management, or disease prevention. One of the most discouraging aspects of client care for dietitians, however, is seeing how easily people can become misinformed about nutrition. A Google search can yield supporting results for just about anything you want to believe, whether or not it鈥檚 actually true. A friend鈥檚 sudden weight loss or family member鈥檚 newly discovered food sensitivity might also lead you to nutrition conclusions that are, quite simply, erroneous.

It鈥檚 time to set the record straight. According to dietitians, what are some of the top nutrition myths they wish they could clarify? With years of study and professional experience, registered dietitians (RDs) are a resource to be trusted 鈥 much more so than a search engine, your hairdresser, or that neighbor who鈥檚 always trying to sell you smoothies. Here are five false beliefs professional dietitians want to clear up.

A woman shops in a grocery store

1. Carbs are the enemy. It鈥檚 true that going on a low-carb diet can help you shed pounds faster than usual 鈥 and for some people (like diabetics) there may be a time and place for cutting back on them. For the human body in general, though, carbs serve as a vital energy source not to be missed. Lauren Artise, RD of The Nutrition Professionals, weighs in: 鈥淥ne of the biggest myths about nutrition today is that carbohydrates are the enemy and, therefore, should be avoided.鈥

Artise likens eating carbs to fueling up your car, since they break down into glucose, the body鈥檚 preferred source of fuel. Just like you wouldn鈥檛 let your gas tank get empty, you shouldn鈥檛 let your carb stores get too low. All carbs are not created equal, however. Artise recommends choosing complex carbohydrates found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, rather than simple carbs in refined grains and sugary beverages.

2. Quick weight loss is a good thing. Dropping pounds in a flash sounds like a dieter鈥檚 dream. Who wouldn鈥檛 want a swimsuit model body by next week? But the reality is that quick weight loss is typically unsustainable. 鈥淚f a diet or trend promising quick weight loss and instant results sounds too good to be true, it鈥檚 because it usually is,鈥 reminds Artise. 鈥淓ven if we reach our weight goal, we never learn how to eat to sustain the weight loss and, consequently, go back to our unhealthy ways and pre-diet weight, falling victim to the vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting.鈥

Uhling Consulting鈥檚 Aubrey Uhling, RD agrees: 鈥淚t鈥檚 important to remember that the weight didn鈥檛 come on overnight.鈥 She encourages patience with the process and advises clients not to restrict calories to an unhealthy extent. 鈥淢ore often than not, people underestimate their basal metabolic rate or minimum calorie requirements and will restrict calorie intake below their basic functioning demand.鈥 For steady, sustainable weight loss, talk to a dietitian about how many calories your body needs. Strive for losing no more than one half to two pounds per week for better long-term results.

A couple prepares breakfast together

3. Cows鈥 milk is only for cows. In a culture that loves to vilify particular foods, many consumers have begun to fear dairy as much as they fear carbs. Unless a true allergy exists, however, there鈥檚 no reason to avoid cows鈥 milk. 鈥淲e might not need it, but good old regular milk is a nutrient-dense beverage, and some of the products made from it 鈥 especially yogurt and kefir 鈥 have important health benefits,鈥 encourages registered dietitian Anne Danahy.

What about plant milks, like soy, rice, almond, or pea? 鈥淧lant milks can鈥檛 replace the high-quality protein, the naturally occurring calcium, and a range of other vitamins and minerals in regular milk,鈥 Danahy explains. 鈥淎nd people might be surprised to learn just how processed some plant milks are.鈥 When choosing dairy products, Danahy recommends clients stick to local, grass-fed, organic varieties whenever possible.

4. Diet and sugar-free foods promote weight loss. If you鈥檙e on a diet, it only makes sense that you鈥檇 be drawn to foods with 鈥渄iet鈥 in their name. Unfortunately, diet and sugar-free products often do the opposite of what they promise. These foods may remove sugar, but they typically do so by adding other, less-than-healthy ingredients like artificial sweeteners. 鈥淎rtificial sweeteners actually promote weight gain and worsen diabetes,鈥 cautions HMD Nutrition鈥檚 registered dietitian Heather Wolf. 鈥淭hat first sip of diet soda sets off a cascade of insulin release, which promotes weight gain, sugar cravings, and unbalanced blood sugars.鈥 When your sugar cravings need satisfying, stick with a portion-controlled serving of a sweet indulgence in its natural form.

5. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Skipping breakfast can seem like the nutrition equivalent of not brushing your teeth: inexcusable! But research around breakfast eating is conflicting, and some people simply don鈥檛 feel like eating first thing. If you鈥檙e the type who doesn鈥檛 dig breakfast, don鈥檛 get down on yourself. 鈥淭he truth is, eat when you鈥檙e hungry and stop when you鈥檙e full,鈥 encourages Maya Nahra, RD, of Nuuaria Habit and Behavior Change Program. 鈥淲e are bombarded by external food cues. Learning when your individual body is hungry and full is hugely important to your health.鈥

For sound nutrition advice, never hesitate to ask a registered dietitian. Tweet us nuggets from yours @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)