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Considering that eating is the basic building block of survival, you'd think we'd pretty much have it down by now, yet it's hard to find a subject more prone to bullshit and misinformation than the question of what constitutes a healthy diet. That might be because we really don't like the answer ("Eat mostly plants!"), but also because there are plenty of so-called experts insisting that ...

5
Diet Soda Helps You Lose Weight

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The Myth:

Nobody truly likes artificial sweeteners, but they're an accepted evil, because how else can you replace all the sinks in your home with soda fountains without feeling guilty? Of course, we all know that such freedom comes at a price -- in this case, that price being that they taste horrid, at least for the first few months before your tongue just gives up. What else can we expect when aspartame is concocted by Satan himself from beetle asses and baby tears? And hey, limitless soda, guys!

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"It's like opening a can of freedom!"

The Reality:

Scientists noticed a strange trend: People who drink diet soda do not in fact lose any weight. They reason appears to have something to do with how your body processes sugar.

You see, with the exception of one organ in particular, your body is kind of a dumbass. That's why, when you wash down your meal with a half-gallon of fake sweetness, your gut is all "Dur, sugar!" and tells your pancreas to get all revved up to process said shitload of sugar. Because your pancreas is not the sharpest tool in the shed, it starts cranking out insulin. This is a problem, since there is, in fact, no shitload of sugar to process.

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"I just put straight meth into my coffee now, and I've lost 20 pounds in four hours."

This kicks off a vicious cycle in which your body A) absorbs more of the sugar that you ingest from other foods and B) craves more food, since you got it all aroused with promises of sugar overload and then cockblocked it with a bunch of counterfeit sugar instead. Researchers point out that this "might explain in part why obesity has risen in parallel with the use of artificial sweeteners."

So while you may think you're helping out your diet by allowing yourself some low-calorie (but still sweet) alternatives, chances are you're actually screwing over your waistline in the long run.

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No, see, it's healthy because it has a lemon in it.

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4
Sugar Causes Diabetes

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The Myth:

Sugar has long been the diet bogeyman for kids and adults alike. And besides transforming you into a hyper, sugar-fueled, acne-scarred human blob, a diet with too much sugar carries the lovely side effect of surefire diabetes when you're older.

After all, everyone knows that heavy sugar intake leads to diabetes -- hell, even we at Cracked are guilty of making the occasional joke of the "Have another Snickers, fatty! Enjoy the diabetes!" variety. They call it "high blood sugar" for a reason.

Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
"I'm setting the world record for slowest suicide."

The Reality:

If you get the diabetes diagnosis from your doctor, your first big shock will be that he or she doesn't just tell you to stop eating candy bars -- the recommended diet seems to have you cutting back on everything. That's because, just as a runny nose is a symptom of having a cold, high blood sugar is a symptom of diabetes, not a cause. So saying that eating sugar will give you diabetes is like saying that shoving snot up your nose will give you a cold: It's still a bad idea, but it's really a sign of a larger problem.

Diabetes comes from your pancreas becoming too lazy to get up off its ass and produce enough insulin, the hormone responsible for delivering sugar to your cells. Lazy, good-for-nothing pancreas -- always flopped all up on the couch (the couch, in this case, being your small intestine). So why the widespread idea that eating sugar causes diabetes? Well, people who eat an abnormally large amount of sugar probably tend to eat an abnormally large amount of ... just ... everything, and being overweight is a definite factor in developing Type 2 diabetes.

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You can actually hear his pancreas wheezing.

When you eat too much of anything -- even if you're a glutton exclusively for whole grain, "healthy" foods -- you can exhaust your pancreas, preventing it from producing enough insulin to deliver all that extra glucose you consume to your body's cells. So your pancreas runs out of fucks to give, your blood glucose levels rise, and the next thing you know, your legs have become an endangered species.

Of course, that's just Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes usually develops in childhood or young adulthood and also has nothing to do with eating too much sugar -- it's just a matter of your number coming up in the genetic lottery. Or whatever you call a contest where the winner has to constantly stab herself in the finger with a tiny needle.

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She's smiling because she's picturing you on fire.

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3
Eating at Night Makes You Fat

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The Myth:

It's completely obvious, when you think about it: Your level of fatassness is entirely determined by calories taken in versus calories burned. Drooling on your pillow typically isn't a very physically intensive activity, so when you pork out right before bed, you won't be using up any of those calories you just shoved down your gullet, unless your night terrors are really strenuous that week.

So clearly, eating at night is a true dieting no-no. And if what you choose to eat at night happens to be high in carbohydrates? Whew, don't even get us started on that.

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"What? They're vegetables. Vegetables are good for you!"

The Reality:

Actually, according to a study conducted at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, you're actually better off loading up in the evening than other times of the day. It has to do with how your body regulates when you get hungry.

The study took a bunch of police officers (because doughnuts, duh) and split them into two groups: The first group loaded up on a carb-heavy meal at night, while the second spread their carb intake out throughout the day. The researchers explained that "The idea came about from studies on Muslims during Ramadan, when they fast during the day and eat high-carbohydrate meals in the evening, that showed the secretion curve of leptin was changed." In case you're asking your screen what the hell leptin is right now, it's the hormone that tells your body it's not hungry anymore.

Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images
"Oh, that? I had that removed. Kept interfering with my chocolate."

According to everything our mothers ever told us, the outcome should have been easy to foresee: The "doughnuts for dinner" group should have had to grease themselves up in order to squeeze into their squad cars at the end of the six-month study. But much to the contrary, the researchers found that not only had those officers not gotten fatter, they had actually lost more weight than the control group. That's because the heavy intake of carbs in the evening modified the participants' secretion of hunger hormones in such a way that they felt less hungry throughout the day, with just a single hunger peak in the evening (aka "DOUGHNUT TIME!"). The research suggests that "concentrating carbohydrate intake in the evening, especially for people at risk of developing diabetes or cardiovascular disease due to obesity" could be an effective alternative for people who have difficulty sticking with diets.

Oh, and get this. If you do eat breakfast, go big. Another study found that dieters who ate a high-carb breakfast (with dessert!) were less likely to gain back weight lost while dieting than those who ate a healthier, low-carb (and, sadly, dessertless) breakfast. It's for the same reason: A healthier breakfast is better for you, but also leads to you getting hungrier sooner. And in the long run, any diet that leaves you hungry is doomed to fail.

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This isn't a meal. It's a table full of spite.

And while we're on the subject ...

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2
Eating a Bunch of Mini-Meals Boosts Your Metabolism

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The Myth:

Metabolism is the Magic Word in the diet world. You can't flip past two pages of Men's Health without seeing the M-word mentioned at least three dozen times, and according to approximately 98 percent of guys in gyms with perpetual sweaty pits, eating mini-meals is the only way to go. By eating five or six small meals instead of three big ones, your body's metabolism will be revved up, therefore burning off calories more efficiently. Picture your body as a fireplace: Add small batches of wood more frequently and the fireplace burns brighter; stuff in too much wood at once and suddenly its eyes are stinging from its own bacon-sweat while Jillian Michaels yells at it.

Kris Connor/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

She will goddamn anger your fat off.

The Reality:

Brace yourself, because what we're about to tell you might come as a shock. You know that meathead at the gym, the one who's constantly espousing the virtues of mini-meals? Yeah, it turns out he's no mathematician.

We can't place all the blame on Meathead for perpetuating this idea, though. After all, besides the fact that our entire concept of metabolism is flawed from the get-go, studies from as early as the 1950s have praised mini-meals as the ultimate weight-loss tool. But just as our concept of metabolism is flawed, so too were those studies. How so? Because they didn't control for total calorie intake. And when it comes to fat loss, the total number of calories you take in is what truly matters, not when or how often you intake them.

Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
"That looks great. Now bring me one of these every 15 minutes until it's time for bed."

So the people who did lose weight with a bunch of smaller meals did it because, for whatever reason, eating more often made them eat less. And if eating more but smaller meals happens to make you less hungry for food, then go for it -- managing hunger is what successful diets are all about. But studies show that for the average person, it makes no difference.

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1
The Food Pyramid Is the Bible of Healthy Eating Habits

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The Myth:

Some diet myths are easy to spot. No, eating oysters won't boost your sexual performance; no, putting a banana in the refrigerator won't make it poisonous. But then there are the facts drilled into us by The Man, like the USDA's Food Pyramid, which no one questioned because it came in an official-looking government diagram. You've seen this, right? Grains at the bottom, milk, cheese, and meat higher up:

Via Wikipedia
Wanton desire for inflicting misery somewhere in the middle.

You probably remember it best as a poster plastered all over schools and your doctor's office, but it was much more than that -- for many years, the Food Pyramid dictated how school lunches were put together, and heavily influenced other government-sponsored nutrition programs. So what's wrong with that?

The Reality:

Some of you younger kids know that the Food Pyramid has already been replaced by Michelle Obama's "healthy plate." But unless you're younger than the Obama administration or a time traveler (far more likely), the old Food Pyramid probably had more impact on your dietary habits than you realize. And with good reason -- without a handy guide to tell you exactly how much to eat of each type of food, how else would you know not to sustain yourself on Almond Joys dipped in tubs of lard?

Chris Clinton/Lifesize/Getty Images
"I make every food on the pyramid, just to be safe."

The problem was that the pyramid wasn't based on scientific evidence or research -- it was more about which lobbyists whined loud enough to get their particular product shuffled to a more prominent spot on the chart.

According to the pyramid, fat is bad, so you should eat something else. Like carbs. The extra stupid part of this is that in 1992 (when the pyramid was released), we'd known for 30 to 40 years that it's not fat itself that's bad -- it's that some fats are bad. Yet the Food Pyramid asks you to eat 11 servings a day of carbohydrates so that you can avoid fat at all costs. The kicker is that they counted potatoes as vegetables, so add in up to five servings of those bad boys and you're up to 16 servings a day of starchy, carby deliciousness.

But it wasn't just the wheat and potato farmers who wanted in on this. The dairy industry wanted their cut, even though dairy isn't a dietary requirement. Beef? Sure, there's a nice T-bone in there, right alongside other protein sources such as legumes, assuring you that three servings of steak a day is perfectly (awesomely?) healthy. So avoid all fats, but a cheeseburger is the perfect meal.

Hemera Technologies/Photos.com
We're honestly surprised that fast food restaurants haven't started this marketing strategy.

But now that the USDA has woken up to research from the 1950s with Michelle Obama's healthy initiative, they've instead started emphasizing eating more vegetables, less carbs, and healthy fats. Of course, the healthy vegetable lobby probably had a huge hand in this, so take it with a grain of salt. Not literally, though! Salt is bad. Or at least until someone tells us otherwise.



You can read Ryan J. Leeds' cyberpunk novel that deals with transhumanism and LGBT issues absolutely free on JukePop Serials. You can also follow him on Twitter. Chan Teik Onn writes depressing short stories on Facebook to gather "likes" from his emo friends.



For more eating habits that'll put you in an early grave, check out 8 Health Foods That Are Bad For Your Health. Or discover 5 Ways to Trick Your Brain into Eating Healthy and The 5 Weirdest Things That Influence How Your Food Tastes.

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 4 Foods Renamed So That You Might Actually Eat Them.

And stop by Food For Thought where you can discover the responsible way to manage an all bacon and chocolate diet.

Do you have an idea in mind that would make a great article? Then sign up RIGHT NOW and pitch your first article today! Do you possess expert skills in image creation and manipulation? Mediocre? Even rudimentary? Are you frightened by MS Paint and simply have a funny idea? You can create an infographic and you could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow!

And don't forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr to get sexy, sexy jokes sent straight to your news feed. Are you on Google+? So are we!

We have some bad news: the food pyramid is total crap, the whole '8 glasses of water a day' thing is nonsense and your favorite book sellers are now taking pre-orders for a text book written and illustrated entirely by the Cracked team! Hitting shelves in October, Cracked's De-Textbook is a fully-illustrated, systematic deconstruction of all of the bullshit you learned in school.

It's loaded with facts about history, your body, and the world around you that your teachers didn't want you to know. And as a bonus? We've also included the kinkiest sex acts ever described in the Bible.

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