image via shutterstock / Studio10Artur
I don’t know about you, but my Facebook newsfeed is constantly filled with endless claims about the latest cancer beating super food or most effective elimination diet. Most of the posts are from friends who want to share a recipe idea or an article from sources that are unlikely to be authorities on the subject of health and nutrition. Because social media makes it possible for anyone to make claims about the best diet to follow or brand of food to eat, many people are promoting food myths without even realising it.
If you’re serious about living a healthy lifestyle, getting reliable nutrition education from trusted sources is critical. We’ve turned to Nutrition Australia to help bust 7 common food myths:
Myth 1: Eating fat makes you fat
Believe it or not, your body actually needs fat to function. You should actually include a small amount of unsaturated fat (“good fat”) in your diet each day. You can get monounsaturated fats from olive oil, avocados and nuts, and omega-3 fats from salmon, lean chicken or soybeans. If you’re concerned about weight gain, remember that weight gain happens when you consume more energy (kilojoules) than your body can burn. Because fat is denser in kilojoules than protein, carbs or alcohol, it takes longer to burn. So the more fat is in your diet, the harder you’ll have to work to maintain or lose weight, so just take it in small amounts.
Myth 2: Eggs are bad for my cholesterol
Eggs do contain some cholesterol, but the amount won’t have a large impact on your overall blood cholesterol level. The biggest impact on blood cholesterol is food that is heavy in saturated fat (“bad fat”). Eggs, on the other hand, provide protein, essential minerals, antioxidants, vitamin B12 and folate – all of which are good for you! So good, that the Heart Foundation assures us that a person with normal cholesterol levels can consume up to six eggs a week.
Myth 3: “Sugar-free” is always better
Beware foods and recipes that claim to be “sugar-free” but make up for it by using manufactured or chemical sweetener, which can end up doing more harm than good to your body. Instead, look for all natural alternatives to sugar, such as 100% honey or 100% maple syrup. While this is good step in the right direction, it’s actually far better to lower your intake of sweetener altogether. Start by halving the amount you add to your coffee or recipes. As your palate starts to adapt, try eliminating it altogether or using the natural sugar in fruit to make up for flavour. Using mashed bananas or pureed apple in pancakes or baked goods is an effective sugar substitute.
Myth 4: Fresh is always better than frozen
Consider how long it takes for a fruits and vegetables to travel from the farm where they’re grown, to the warehouse where they’re stored. Then how long it takes to get from the warehouse to the supermarket, and then from the supermarket to your refrigerator. In the weeks (or months!) that pass, much of the nutrition from the natural food is lost. Sometimes fruit and vegetables that are snap frozen or canned is actually a better option, so don’t rule them out altogether.
Myth 5: Carbs are fattening
Our bodies need carbohydrates; they are our body’s main source of fuel. Nutrition Australia states a well-balanced diet means 45-65% of our energy intake is from carbohydrate foods like whole grain bread, pasta or legumes. Carbs in themselves are not fattening. But when we consume an excess of carbs, which contain plenty of energy (kilojoules), our body stores whatever we don’t burn as fat. It’s important to know that any sources of excess energy are stored in our body as fat, not just excess carbs. That means it’s just as important to maintain an active lifestyle, as it is to watch what you eat.
Myth 6: Sports drink is better than water when I’m exercising
While sports drinks can be really effective for high-intensity, endurance sports, remember they actually contain a lot of kilojoules while water contains virtually none. So water is still best if weight loss is your goal, because it doesn’t give you any extra energy to burn it off and it gives your body the hydration it needs to stay healthy.
Myth 7: Everything I eat needs to be low GI
Glyceamic Index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a carbohydrate food is digested and absorbed into your bloodstream. High GI foods are digested and absorbed quickly, while low GI foods are digested and absorbed slowly and are said to keep you fuller for longer. It’s a good idea to incorporate at least one Low GI snack into your daily diet, and to create meals with a combination of high and low GI foods. But GI is not the only determinant for whether a food is healthy or unhealthy. Some high GI foods (like potato or watermelon) are nutritional, while some low GI foods (like corn chips or chocolate) are high in saturated fat and therefore not particularly healthy.
Check the facts before you share
Anyone can make claims about food, but don’t be so easily persuaded – especialy online. Before you share another post about how beetroots can cure cancer or grapefruits are the next miracle food, check who’s publishing those claims. Only share information from reputable sources like national health and medical research council standards or international institutions. If you can, locate the original article or paper that any claims are based on, and share that instead of (or at least in addition to) a simplified recipe or picture. It might sound like a bit of work, but it can make a world of difference in the way people understand their food and start living healthier lives.