Much of what we believe about food is nor more than gossip – and just as dangerous.
Scrolling through social media, reading a magazine, or listening to popular podcasts barrage you with endless information, opinions, judgements and flat-out misconceptions about nutrition and health — much of which is marketing hype designed to sell products.
Even qualified health professionals, including doctors and dietitians, are to blame for spreading misinformation about nutrition to the public, adding to the confusion.
Here are seven common misunderstandings debunked.
Myth 1 – If you want to be healthy, don’t eat the egg yolks
Yes, egg yolks contain cholesterol, but that doesn’t mean you should toss them. It is estimated that three-fourths of the population has minimal or no response to dietary cholesterol. And your risk for heart disease is way more complicated than cholesterol numbers. Systemic inflammation, cholesterol particle size, and blood sugar matter just as much – or more. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans no longer lists cholesterol as a nutrient of concern because available evidence does not show a relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol.
If you’re still anxious about cholesterol in foods, here are a few more facts:
- In fact, a 2018 study showed that the cholesterol in whole eggs is poorly absorbed, and does not acutely affect cholesterol
- As a source of fat and protein, multiple studies have shown eating eggs actually helps control blood sugar
- Studies have shown that 1-3 eggs a day may increase HDL – the so-called “good” – cholesterol
- There are tons of nutrients in the egg yolk that are note-worthy. The yolk contains more than 40% of the egg’s egg’s protein and contains vitamins D, K and A plus, B12, zinc, choline and lutein
Myth 2 – You’ll sabotage your health if you eat after 8 pm
Many people struggle with eating concerns at night. And it quickly gets complicated as to why snacking happens after dinner. One of the most common reasons is not eating enough during the day – especially protein. If you skimp on food and protein-rich foods, your body will choose other sources until it gets enough protein or you will be ravenous at night and make poor food judgement calls. The problem is undereating (especially protein) during the day, not “overeating” at night.
If you’re hungry before bed, eat a snack! Generally it’s recommended to pair a source of carbohydrate with something that contains fat and/or protein. An example would be an apple slice with some nut butter. Depending on your genes, for some people a small snack before bed may actually improve sleep.
Myth 3 – Fresh is always better than frozen or canned
On the contrary – frozen foods can sometimes be healthier than fresh! As fruits and vegetables ripen, their sugar content rises and their nutrient content deteriorates. Often, fruits and vegetables are frozen quickly after harvest, which prevents all of this, and actively preserves the nutrients.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are made by flash-freezing produce immediately after harvesting. Because the produce is preserved at peak freshness, there may actually be more nutrients than in fresh, depending on the season. Canned fruits and vegetables are preserved by heating in salt water (vegetables) or syrup/juice (fruit) to kill off and prevent growth of bacteria. Do note that canned and frozen vegetables may sometimes have added sugar and salt, so if those are a concern to you, make sure to read labels.
If choosing frozen or canned makes it more convenient or tastier to eat vegetables, that’s a healthy choice for you.
Myth 4 – Low-Fat is always healthier
Contrary to log-held opinion, a low-fat diet is not a necessarily a healthier one. While you may choose to reduce dietary fats, the important thing is not to cut out fat entirely. Fats are important for satiety, for hormone regulation and to process nutrients. Just make sure that you’re eating a variety of different fats while avoiding trans fats (listed as partially hydrogenated oil” on food labels).
Typically, unsaturated fats are preferred, but that doesn’t mean you need to avoid saturated fats altogether. ISome people do just fine with all types of fats and some don’t. Much of the ability to digest fats and the types of fats that ‘work” best for you depends on your unique genetic makeup. Trans fats, found in many fried foods and fast-food meals, are shown to contribute to greater risks of heart disease and dementia.
Myth 5 – Eating carbs will make you fat
Carbohydrates provide energy for muscles and, depending on activity level and genetics, some people need more than others. This macronutrient comes in two forms: refined and whole. Whole foods which are high in complex carbs, contain fiber – a much-needed type of “macro” that helps with glucose regulation, weight management and elimination. Not only are these higher in fiber but they are also packed with essential vitamins and minerals. Complex carbs include whole grains – which some people (including me) avoid, vegetables, beans and fruits.
Myth 6 – You need to avoid all processed foods to be healthy
This is a tough one. First, consider the definition of a processed food – any food that is processed from its natural state. This includes anything cooked, canned, frozen, preserved, packaged or fortified. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, anything that has been crushed, cut, chopped, diced, sliced, pitted, blended, pureed, juiced or dried is considered processed.
In our busy lives, who has the time and luxury of preparing all food from scratch? There is certainly a place for simply processed foods in any healthy eating plan.
Instead of swearing off all things processed, pick your processed foods wisely. Frozen and canned foods provide a quick, healthy way to eat more fruits and vegetables. With that said, be sure to read labels to limit added sugars, sodium and excess preservatives, coloring and flavors.
Myth 7 – Granola and yogurt is a healthy breakfast
While granola and yogurt might be healthier choices, it depends on the products being used. Often granola and yogurt are both loaded with sugar. Opt for plain, full-fat Greek yogurt for a protein punch without added sugar, and choose a granola that has no added sugars. Add fresh fruit for sweetness and a bit of fiber.
Tips for Spotting Nutrition Myths
- If it sounds too good to be true, it almost definitely is.
- Ask yourself, “Who says so?” Is the person making the claim biased? Are they trying to sell a product? Is the information based on just one small study?
- Do the promoters promise a quick-fix, miracle, break-through ?
- Is there a money-back guarantee offered ?
- Is there a claim of research being “underway?”
Thanks for reading!