There is no dearth of health and nutrition information in today’s Internet-driven world. But that doesn’t mean every piece of information floating around is accurate or reliable. There are certain myths that just don’t die even when they’ve been ambushed by scientific tests every now and then. Some of these myths actually have a tinge of truth that keeps them alive. They could seem reasonable and logical, even if there’s no science of approval to them. Unless we peruse the original research material, believing what the fitness and health gurus preach isn’t that difficult, even if research indicates other things.
Unlike before, food-related information now spreads easily and quickly thanks to the Internet and particularly social media and the ubiquitous smartphone. There are some truly ludicrous claims doing the rounds. And it’s not that easy to separate such facts from fiction as one would believe. Therefore, before coming to conclusions based on the things we read or hear, we must check the sources for authenticity. Nutrition information is expanding constantly, and fresh studies are being continually carried out to throw more light on widespread misconceptions. The following pointers should help quash certain misconceptions that don’t die despite contrary evidence presented against them.
We prefer organic items
The organic food industry is thriving since it’s believed to be much healthier for consumption and also good for the environment in general. One among the major reasons we choose organic goods is they are devoid of synthetic pesticides. The pesticides used on organic products are, in fact, natural. However, these natural pesticides have not gone through any major tests and, therefore, it’s not exactly clear whether they are side effects-free.
Does organic eating result in better health? Unfortunately, there is not much research correlating the two. However, this doesn’t imply organic food is bad for us. A British Journal of Nutrition’ review reported significantly lower pesticide levels and higher amounts of antioxidants in natural produce.
However, analysis carried out by Stanford scientists discovered minor discrepancies between the nutrients found in organic and traditional produce. Buying organic could decrease human exposure to synthetic produce, but it’s not scientifically proven that it would lead to better health.
We consume foods carrying the “all-natural” label
Food labeling is mostly misleading. Consumers invariably fall prey to certain labels such as “all-natural”, even though the labels don’t mean much. These labels on a product’s package are usually just marketing tactics to boost sales and profits. The FDA doesn’t officially define “natural foods”. Also, it has no issues with the liberal use of the terminology by companies, provided the product being marketed doesn’t contain synthetic substances, artificial flavors, or added colors.
Several “all natural” products have fructose-rich corn syrup and genetically-engineered ingredients. For instance, a raisin bran could be sold as natural even if the raisins were soaked in sugar and corn syrup. Foods with all natural’ labels could still be significantly loaded with calories, sugar, sodium, or fats. We should therefore confirm that the products marketed as all natural’ are truly natural before a purchase. These natural products are typically on the expensive side and paying more for something that isn’t certain to be healthy is not wise, financially.
We believe gluten-free diets are pro-health
The modern consumer views gluten-rich products with a lot skepticism and paranoia. Gluten may be bad for people with celiac disease, a condition that can be diagnosed with a blood test. Intolerance to gluten could be diagnosed when abdominal issues and fatigue happen frequently after gluten consumption and after it’s been confirmed that celiac disease has had no role to play in it.
If there isn’t a medical reason behind staying away from gluten, science doesn’t state eliminating gluten from the human diet would help improve one’s health. According to research, when whole grains are eliminated from our diet, our cardiovascular disease risks go up. Gluten is found in several carbohydrate-rich foods such as rye, wheat, and barley. Some food items that contain these ingredients, such as cakes, biscuits, pies and pastries, could be unhealthy. This probably explains the bad press surrounding gluten. Long story short, we need not fear gluten if we have no health issues.
We purchase low-fat items
Gaining weight due to fat consumption sounds logical, but things aren’t that straightforward. In a study carried out in 2008 by the New England Journal of Medicine, it was found that people eating little to no carbohydrates lost body weight 62% more than those cutting fat out from their diets. Several misconceptions about fat’s role in the human diet have been tackled in the last 10 years.
We opt for low-fat items because we think they are a much healthier option. However, we fail to realize that manufacturers invariably add lots more unhealthy ingredients such as sugar, stabilizers and flavoring to the low-fat items so that they taste better. The need of the hour is eliminating unhealthy fats and leaving healthy fats untouched.
Our bodies require unsaturated fats. These fats have been linked with lower cholesterol levels and are available in avocado, nuts, oily fish, seeds, and oils.
We consume fruit juices
Fruit juice could offer vitamin C and several other nutrients, but they also are laden with sugar and high in calories. In fact, at times the fruit juice you drink could contain more sugar and calories than a typical soft drink. The vitamins and antioxidants found in the juice do not offset the excessive sugar content.
The fruit juice we buy isn’t always what it’s meant to be. High-quality fruit juices could be labelled completely pure, but they could have been warehoused in oxygen-deficient containers or tanks. Flavour packs could be added to them to restore the natural flavour lost during processing.
The sub-par fruit juices are only a notch higher in quality compared to flavoured sugar water. The phytonutrients and fiber found in raw, fresh fruit are usually missing in fruit juices. It’s, therefore, much better to consume any fruit in its natural form or drink water with fresh fruit pieces thrown in.
We believe natural sugar is healthier compared to processed sugar
All sugar we ingest gets broken down inside our bodies as glucose, which then gets used by our cells for energy. A form of sugar, fructose is also used as an energy source since it gets converted to glucose and lactate in the liver. Fructose-rich corn syrup, which is usually considered unhealthy, isn’t significantly different compared to table sugar, at least when viewed through the health prism.
Quite clearly, the only major difference between sugar that goes into our tea and fruit-based sugar is the added minerals and vitamins that the fruit comprises.
What truly counts is the sheer amount of sweets we consume. Consuming too much agave syrup or honey could lead to the same health problems, despite there being nothing “processed” about them.
Stick to fruits- and vegetables-based sugar since they comprise maximum nutrients. Steer clear of sugar additives as much as possible.
We side with brown shelled eggs
An eggshell’s colour and size depends on the hen’s breed. Hens with white feathers usually lay white eggs. The brown feathered chickens lay brown eggs. Raising white feathered chickens is inexpensive as their feeding requirements are low. This is the reason why white chicken eggs are a lot more common, and brown eggs sell for a slight premium.
Research studies have not found any major difference between white and brown eggs as far as their nutritional values are concerned. Most researchers believe there isn’t any difference between the two.
A brown egg’s yolk may look and taste different, which is primarily due to the chicken’s feed. Irrespective of the different colors of hens’ feathers, their yolks would be the same color if they happen to eat the same food.
We consume energy bars
An energy bar is invariably the food most people resort to when they’re looking for a healthy, quick snack. These bars can be usually found in a grocery store’s health foods’ section. We may believe energy bars are healthier than regular chocolate bars. However, that isn’t necessarily the truth since the ingredients that go into these “energy” bars are not necessarily healthy, such as sugar. Also, you will find these health bars coated with chocolate.
The health profile of an energy bar invariably boils down to its ingredients. The ones containing nuts and fruits could qualify to be considered “healthy”. Some bars could be low in sugar and saturated fat and high in fiber and protein content. These could turn out a satisfying, nutritious snack. A high-calorie energy bar is fine if you are using it to replace a meal. If not, stick to bars that are 200 calories or lesser.
We consume sports drinks
You don’t require a sports drink if you’re not training for an hour at least. Sports drinks are designed to help athletes who work out for extended time periods; they aren’t made for recreational athletes. If you exercise at moderate intensity for more than 60 minutes at a stretch, you may need a sports drink. However, kindly note that the drink comprises almost 50% of the calories a regular soda or sugary fruit juice contains.
Consume sports drinks excessively and you’ll see your calorie consumption meter go up quickly. The drink at times even nullifies the benefits of exercising. A drink with over 6 to 8% of carbohydrates could slow down the speed with which food and liquids exit the stomach, causing cramps, diarrhea and nausea. Water is fine if you are not training for more than an hour. There are flavored fitness watery drinks that offer necessary replenishing without spiking the calorie count.
We purchase imported produce
Some people believe imported produce is superior to local produce. Though true at times, it is not always the case. A locally grown orange in a natural environment is much healthier compared to an imported orange.
The imported fruit’s harvesting could have been carried out off-season and then the fruit shipped globally, depleting the amount of nutrients in the fruit in the process. Imported fruits usually do not contain the nutrients typically found in locally grown fruits.
Buying local produce lets buyers reap the benefits of seasonal diversity. When a fruit or vegetable is harvested at the right time and consumed quickly after its harvest, it tastes magical. Local produce doesn’t travel too long to come to you, which means it’s environment-friendly as well.
The likelihood of local produce getting contaminated is lower too. With imported products, you must consider the item’s importer, manufacturer, product type and storage dates.
We eat granola
Granola seems like a healthy food option, since it has whole grains, nuts, oats, seeds, etc. that sugary cereals cannot boast of. However, the issue with granola is that its makers may add good amount of sugar to it to taste it no lesser than a dessert, thereby diminishing the value the healthy ingredients offer.
A granola bowl is usually rich in calories. Since we believe it’s healthy, we consume it in huge quantities, overlooking the instructions on the packaging that state a serving should be no more than a quarter cup. Granola is rich in iron and fiber, but the artificial constituents and sugar it contains render the food unhealthy.
Try to avoid granola if fructose-rich corn syrup, sugar, or honey shows up in the top five items of the product’s ingredients list. Limit portion size and consume it as a yogurt accompaniment and not as a full-sized, dedicated meal.
We assume all calories are the same
Is counting calories the only weight loss determinant? The calorie-based weight loss blueprint has its foundation in the notion that weight loss occurs when the amount of calories burned is more than the calories consumed. However, this theory has several limitations. For starters, low ‘high-value’ calories could be confused with low ‘low-value’ calories. For instance, eating 500 grams of chicken isn’t the same as feasting on 500 grams of cake. With its vitamins and minerals, chicken satisfies the nutritional requirements of our bodies better.
Calories also vary with cooking techniques. For example, a fried egg comprises 66 calories more compared to a boiled egg. Long story short, calorie-counting shouldn’t be purely mathematical. The focus should instead be more on the calorie source.
Our calories require substance. Our diets should, therefore, be low in processed and refined foods, and rich in high-quality proteins and whole grains. Fish and other lean protein sources are healthy proteins.
We consume dried fruit
Dried fruit is robbed off moisture, which makes it smaller and energy-packed. Consuming dried fruit could heighten our intake of vitamins, fiber, antioxidants and minerals. However, the caveat is dried fruit is rich in sugar and calories as it contains fructose and glucose. The sugar content in a commonly found dried fruit is usually high enough to cause weight gain and several health issues. Dried fruit’s healthiness also varies with the circumstances under which it’s made. Certain producers add preservatives since it preserves the dried fruit and mitigates discoloration, thereby giving the fruit a lot more visual appeal.
This primarily applies to raisins, apricots, and other brightly colored fruits. Some of them are coated with sugar or syrup before the drying happens. Fruit not handled or stored properly could be contaminated. Like several other foods, there are pros and cons to dried fruit. You must, therefore, consume it in moderation.
We consume yogurt
Yogurt is a nutrient-rich, convenient snack a lot of us eat for breakfast and at work. Not all yogurts are the same. Some comprise beneficial bacteria, and their labels usually bear the phrase live active cultures’. These bacteria assist with improving your gut bacteria balance, thereby prompting several health benefits. Also, yogurt offers us calcium, protein, minerals (such as magnesium and potassium), and B vitamins. Not all yogurts are beneficial and if you don’t make the right choices, the food could cause major harm. There are different yogurt kinds to select from, such as reduced or full fat, and unsweetened versus sweetened.
Grocery stores usually sell flavored or sugar-rich yogurt. These could help unhealthy bacteria thrive in your gut, since bacteria and sugar go hand in hand. Choose unflavored Greek yogurt and stay away from sweetened yogurts with fruit purees or flavorings.
We order salads when eating out
A salad comprising spinach, veggies, tuna and yogurt dressing is a potentially nutritious, healthy meal. Salad is a low-calorie, nutrient-rich dish. However, if a salad has crispy chicken, bacons, a ranch dressing and cheddar, then it’s more a burger than a salad.
Salads by themselves are healthy and low in calories. It’s the meat, nuts, avocado, bacon, creamy dressings, and fried chicken strips in them that cause the calorie meter to rise.
If you fancy a healthy salad, start with leafy greens, colorful veggies, beans and fruits. If possible, go with fresh herbs and dark leafy greens, such as spinach, as base salad ingredients. Add carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms, cabbage, broccoli and/or cabbage. And throw in some lean protein and avocado or some nuts to boost the salad’s healthy fat quotient.
We consume peanut butter
In its ideal form, peanut butter comprises peanuts in the form of a paste along with some salt. It’s fat content is certainly high, but when you consider its nutritional profile, it falls more in the “healthy food” category.
Vegetarians would find peanut butter an easy way to throw in healthy fat and protein to their diets. Also, peanut butter has monounsaturated fats, or the pro-heart fats that help with weight loss.
The drawback is that peanut butter isn’t just peanuts. The peanut butter sold commercially could be heavily processed and infused with sugar and trans-fatty oils. These ingredients increase heart disease risks.
Eating high-quality peanut butter in moderation doesn’t cause any issues. It’s relatively nutrient-rich and a decent protein source. Things turn for the worse when we consume too much of peanut butter, particularly the highly processed ones.
We consume dark chocolate
As per studies, dark chocolate has polyphenols that help bring down blood cholesterol levels, enhance cognition and possibly decrease diabetes risk. This encourages even the extremely health-conscious folks to indulge in chocolate, which is traditionally not considered a healthy food.
Much of the positivity surrounding chocolate is courtesy cacao. If the cacao presence in chocolate is less than 70%, chocolate’s health benefits diminish or cease to exist. The more processing chocolate undergoes, the lesser is its polyphenol content.
Portion size is critical too. The possibilities of overeating and becoming overweight outweigh the pro-health attributes of dark chocolate. And since chocolates can be extremely tempting, overeating risks are almost inevitable. Eating a piece or two of chocolate after meals is perfectly fine. But the antioxidants found in a chocolate could be sourced from elsewhere, particularly if you cannot resist the temptation.
We can consume healthy food to our heart’s content
Many people who consume only healthy food may still have trouble losing weight. Nuts, oatmeal and avocados are solid food choices, but their calorie content is fairly high. Eating 200 calories of nuts is any day better than consuming 200 calories of ice cream, but this doesn’t imply you can go overboard with the former. Nutritious or otherwise, quantity matters.
Most of us know that ice cream or cake should be consumed in moderation, but a lot of us have this misconception that fruit, grains and healthy fats can be consumed without restrictions. When our plates get loaded with healthy food, such as berries, nuts, avocados and quinoa, we should be wary of the fact that our calorie consumption is going through the roof.
Those who find it difficult to limit their portions should resort to portion-controlled food packages. Replacing the big tubs with mini sizes would also help manage your calorie intake.
We believe fresh food items are the best
Fresh produce is bound to attract most of us since the sound of it is so much better compared to frozen food. Fresh food ripens in transit or is picked and sold ready-to-eat at a farmer’s market or farm stall. Frozen food matures on the plant and goes through processing prior to freezing.
Some fruits and most vegetables are subjected to hot water so that the active enzymes in them go dormant and the produce’s color, smell, flavor and nutritional value remain stable for long.
While there are certain discrepancies between frozen and fresh produce, their nutrient contents are fairly identical. At times frozen food could be healthier since the produce goes through freezing right after the harvest, which helps preserve the nutrients. Fresh vegetables and fruits are ideal for consumption when they are the freshest, but that doesn’t mean frozen food is bad. Having frozen veggies at your disposal is quite convenient, which means you are more likely to cook and eat more vegetables.
We require protein drinks right after a training session
The notion that ingesting protein immediately after a training session helps build and repair muscles is quite widespread. And scientifically speaking, it is actually true – protein does help with muscle repair. When we train, particularly at high intensities, we must make sure our protein intake is sufficient.
However, what counts the most is our everyday protein consumption. Consuming 20 to 40 grams of protein within an hour post-exercise certainly helps, but it’s our protein intake throughout the day that matters the most.
Our bodies are designed to metabolize only specific protein amounts at a time. Therefore, protein overloading is pointless. A lot of us consume enough protein during the day even without the protein shake coming to the aid. If you have to take the protein drink, limit its consumption to right after you train so that it gets optimally used for muscle-building and repair.
We consume small, frequent meals
Most of us have been told eating small but multiple portions would help boost our metabolism. Digestion does assist with metabolism. However, several closed-group studies in which a group eating several small meals and another group consuming the same food in larger quantities but fewer times showed zero difference between the two groups.
It was concluded that smaller meals usually didn’t help with satiety, increasing the chances of people eating more. Our meal size determines our metabolism fluctuations. When eating larger, fewer meals, our metabolism spikes significantly. Provided the number of calories is equal, how many meals you eat in a day doesn’t matter.
Meal frequency has minimal to no effect on our metabolism – but the calories we consume has an impact. Besides, when we are on a fast for a period, a cellular process happens inside our body that helps eliminate waste products and rejuvenate our cells.
We believe salt is detrimental to our health
We’ve been taught that eating salt excessively can cause harm to our bodies. As per studies, excess salt consumption leads to high blood pressure levels, kidney disorders and heightened risks of cognitive deterioration.
On the other side of things, salt is essential for our overall well-being, and our bodies require this mineral. Most of us think salt in itself is bad, which is incorrect. Salt turns bad only when you consume it in increased amounts. Both extremely high and very low salt intake is linked with cardiovascular issues.
Decreasing the quantity of salt in food helps people with increased blood pressure problems. At times, people don’t really know the quantity of salt they are ingesting since the processed foods they eat contain salt in large quantities. These people would invariably benefit by adding more unprocessed foods to their diet as that would decrease their salt consumption significantly.
We believe eggs are not good for us
Egg yolks contain a good amount of cholesterol, which is why most people stay away from eggs. However, according to experts, labeling eggs as anti-health is incorrect.
Studies show most healthy folks can consume an egg daily without any issues. For most people, the cholesterol we consume doesn’t significantly influence our blood cholesterol levels. Our bodies, in fact, compensate for the eggs we eat by making less cholesterol inherently.
Eggs are rich in nutrients. A fairly large-size egg has two grams of no trans-fats and saturated fat. These fats are known for increasing your blood cholesterol. Limit your egg consumption to two or three eggs a week if you have heart problems, diabetes, or have crossed a certain age.
We believe late-night snacks cause weight gain
Many people think snacking late in the night could make them fat. There are a couple of reasons why late-night eating could hinder weight loss – both having connections with increased calorie intake. The first reason basically is snacking before going to bed is consuming calories we actually don’t need. The second reason is we eat when fatigue creeps in.
Late-eating doesn’t directly induce weight gain, but the snacking quantity does. Studies do exhibit a minor fat-loss benefit in early eaters. However, the advantage isn’t too significant. The truth is it doesn’t matter when we eat, but what and how much we eat counts.
If we skip our lunch, we usually compensate for that later in the evening by overeating. Therefore, it’s important you don’t go not eating anything for four hours straight, and keep a check on your food portions.
We consume bottled water
We usually drink bottled water under the pretext that it’s healthier than tap or non-bottled water. When the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) reviewed bottled water for a period of four years, it discovered that bottled water wasn’t any healthier or safer compared to tap water. A University of Geneva study confirmed this finding too.
Some portions of the water that was tested was later found to be filtered tap water. Bottled water manufacturers are increasingly incorporating BPA-free plastic into their production lines, but the plastic bottle could comprise certain other chemicals that may leach into the water when the bottle is exposed to heat or the water stays in the bottle for too long.
In developing nations, bottled water could be necessary, and one cannot deny how convenient bottled water can be, particularly when you’re traveling and there is no drinking water source in the vicinity. However, in the final assessment, tap water was found to be cheaper, a lot more environment-friendly, and as safe (if not more) to drink as bottled water.