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Are your attempts at eating healthy doing more harm than good?
Everyone wants to eat healthier but, as anyone who’s tried will tell you, this is easier said than done – especially if you’re always busy. With daily life seemingly working against you, making the most out of every opportunity to eat healthy is important and sometimes health myths can get in the way.
With the goal of discovering how to eat healthier in mind, let’s bust some myths.
1. Frozen food has less nutritional value than fresh.
This is one of those myths that hangs around because it seems to have some strong pseudo-logic to it. Fresh is always better, right? Not so much. Actually, given that fresh veggies may sit in a store and then in your house for a few days before they’re finally used, chances are that frozen veggies will provide more nutrition.
2. Fat makes you fat.
In the beginning, there was the chicken (or was it the egg?) and the ‘fat makes you fat’ myth. Out of all the common grocery items myths on this list, this one might be the worst simply because it’s been around for so long. It’s 2015, trends have come and gone and yet for some reason the ‘fat makes you fat’ myth, along with mohawks and wearing socks with sandals, is still going strong.
‘Fat’ just got the short end of the stick when the macronutrients were being named, that’s all. In truth, your body needs fat just as it needs protein or carbohydrates and low-fat or fat-free diets can actually be quite harmful. Fat is necessary for brain processes, the bodies absorption of vitamins, and healthy skin – dry, flaky skin is a tell tale sign of fat deficiency. Be warned, though, not all fats are created equal: healthy fats can be found in all kinds of nuts (yes, that means peanut butter is a go), oils such as coconut or olive, and avocados – meanwhile, unhealthy fats, like trans fat, come crammed in fried foods and baked goods.
Let’s all say it together one time: fat does not make you fat. Want to know what does make you fat?
3. Carbs are evil.
If the ‘fat makes you fat’ myth is the father of all common grocery items myths, then the ‘carbs are evil’ myth is its eldest child.
Now, to be fair, carbs can be evil. I’m talking really really evil. They know when you’ve had a long day at work and then they know when your will power is at its weakest. That’s when they’ll tempt you, smiling at you harmlessly from the top of the pantry covered in sugar from head to toe and wrapped in a shiny wrapper. Sugary carbs will make you fat.
But, just like ying and yang, for every evil carb there is a good one. Good carbs include brown rice, lentils, cous cous (the food so nice they named it twice), and quinoa. Carbs are essential for many everyday bodily processes. Your body uses them to make glucose: the body’s main energy source. Nearly all low-carb diets stem from the excitement over the immediate loss of weight that accompanies a low intake of carbs; don’t be fooled, this is only water weight.
4. Eggs are on a mission to clog your arteries.
This myth dates all the way back to the start of the 1900’s and continued into the cholesterol witch hunt of the 80’s and 90’s. At the time, anything and everything with high cholesterol, like eggs, was demonized because it was linked to high blood pressure and clogged arteries. What had been known for some time but didn’t become widely accepted until after was that only certain types of cholesterol are bad for you.
Nearly all of our cholesterol comes in two forms: HDL (high density lipoprotein) and LDL (low density lipoprotein). The consensus now is that LDL is the “bad” form of cholesterol. This is what is being referred to when you hear the phrase “clog your arteries”; high levels of LDL has been shown to have a strong link with cardiovascular disease. Certain types of cholesterol heavy foods can be very good in moderation and, you guessed it, eggs are one of them.
5. ‘X’ diet is the best diet.
Far from being unique to just nutrition, there will always be someone willing to believe that there is an across the board best diet, workout, morning routine … and the list goes on. Unfortunately, there is no one diet to rule them all although there are quite a few of them these days: paleo, vegan, Mediterranean.
Problems begin to arise when people go on these magical diets and fail to acknowledge how their bodies are responding. ‘X’ diet can work wonders for your friend but perhaps isn’t suited best for you. A basic principle of dieting and proper nutrition is to take notice of what foods work and what foods don’t. Then, you adapt.
6. You <3 wine, but is wine good for your heart?
This myth has been the go-to for anyone that enjoys an occasional glass of wine or two … or five. It’s been up for debate for some time and even still draws scrutiny. A glass of wine has been proven to slightly raise HDL (the good cholesterol) levels. Now, things start to get fuzzy when you delve into how much after one glass you can drink without actually starting to be unhealthy. Interestingly enough, chocolate is in a similar position.
You love wine, wine knows you love wine, so wine decided to compromise with your heart and allow you a glass a night while still remaining healthy. Thanks, wine.
7. Local is always better.
Ah, more seemingly sensible pseudo-science (try saying that five times fast). I mean, it’s grown right down the road, it has to be healthier than those distant factories and fields, right? Not necessarily. Unless you’re privy to the actual process that local producers go through, it could be exactly the same or potentially worse. Just because they’re local doesn’t mean that they’re less likely to take shortcuts with food quality.
As a rule of thumb, you should look into all brands with the same amount of scrutiny. Be aware of what you eat!
8. Microwaving food takes away nutrients.
This myth carries on in the minds of those who are unaware of how microwaves actually work … which is quite a lot of people including Jennifer Lawrence:
Microwaves target and excite water molecules in your food which then begin to spin at high speeds. This is why your food is cooked so quickly! Microwaving is healthier way of cooking than boiling, steaming, and frying when it comes to retaining nutritional value.
9. Organic food is better. Period.
There are quite a few myths circling around about organic food so let’s just tackle the big one. Namely, that organic food is more nutritious. Undoubtedly, some organic foods can have advantages over non-organic. However, research has been riding the fence on this one for a while. Organic food has yet to establish a definitive edge over non-organic as far as nutrition goes. As of now, it’s still quite situational.
10. Milk is crucial for strong bones.
The myth that milk causes strong bones has to have been the magnum opus of some marketer’s career. There are other milk related myths but this is the big one. I mean, really, we grew up on this myth. Kids then and kids today still hear it everywhere they go, so let’s put this to rest.
Milk is a highly inefficient source of calcium for your bones and the calcium it does provide is barely absorbed by the body. Contrary to popular belief, drinking milk can actually weaken bone strength. There’s a reason that calves and every other mammalian species on the planet stop drinking milk after they’ve been weaned.
And the moral of the story is…
Don’t believe everything you hear, especially when it comes to food. No matter how many nutrition myths you bust another one is sure to pop up, kind of like whack-a-mole. There’s just too much confusion when it comes to eating healthier and making healthy grocery lists. Stick to what you know and do your research on what you don’t.
Know any other food myths? Please share in the comment section.