Busting Food Myths

By Hayley Cimring (RD)(SA) Registered Dietician

There are always more myths than truths when it comes to health and nutrition. To keep you on track here are the 10 top food myths busted for 2021

1)High-fat foods are unhealthy and people should opt for ‘less fat’ or ‘low fat’

Take a trip to your local grocery store and you’ll find a variety of products labeled “diet,” “light,” “low fat,” and “fat-free.” While these products are tempting to those wanting to shed excess body fat, they’re typically an unhealthy choice.

Research has shown that many low fat and diet items contain much more added sugar and salt than their regular-fat counterparts. It’s best to forgo these products and instead enjoy small amounts of foods like full fat yogurt, cheese, and nut butters.

2)Non-nutritive Sweeteners are best for your health

The rising interest in sugar-free foods has led to an increase in products that contain non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS). While it’s clear that a diet high in added sugar significantly increases disease risk, intake of NNS can also lead to negative health outcomes.

For example, NNS intake may increase your risk of type 2 diabetes and lead to negative changes to gut bacteria.

3)White potatoes are super bad for you!

Often labeled as “unhealthy” by those in the nutrition world, white potatoes are restricted by many people wanting to lose weight or improve their overall health.

While eating too much of any food – including white potatoes – can lead to weight gain, these starchy tubers are highly nutritious and can be included as part of a healthy diet. White potatoes are an excellent source of many nutrients, including potassium, vitamin C, and fibre.

Plus, they’re more filling than other carb sources like rice and pasta and can help you feel more satisfied after meals. Just remember to enjoy potatoes baked or roasted, not fried.

4)Weight loss is so easy! And fast!

Losing weight is not easy. This does not mean that successful weight loss and keeping the weight off is impossible. However, it is most likely when using a comprehensive approach that includes changing eating habits, increasing activity levels, and making changes to lifestyle habits that can be continued long term. 

Fad or crash diets are a popular way to reduce food intake to bring about weight loss. Most often these diets require radical changes to eating patterns which are not healthy, practical, or affordable in the long-term, which means they become unsustainable.

A healthy eating pattern is the best method to control how much energy from food and drinks is consumed to assist in losing weight. 

5)Carbs make you gain weight

Well pretty much anything will make you fat if you eat too much of it. But that’s the wrong way to think about it. Starchy carbohydrates come in two forms: refined and whole. The latter are the ones to go for – higher in fibre and full of other essential vitamins and minerals. In fact, far from making you gain weight, eating high-fibre foods will help to keep you feeling full, which means you are less likely to overeat.

Instead of cutting carbs out, make some smart switches and cut down on the more unhealthy carbs, like highly refined flour products.

6)Skipping meals can help you lose weight

When you skip a meal, your metabolism slows down, so the food you eventually eat isn’t burned as efficiently. In addition to feeling sluggish, by the time the next meal comes around, it’s common to overeat due to a ravenous type of hunger. Your best bet is to eat consistent, healthy meals and/or snacks throughout the day.

7)A detox diet will clean toxins out the body

There’s very little evidence that dietary cleanses do any of the things they promise. The fact is we don’t need to cleanse our bodies. Our liver, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract do a good job of detoxing it every day. If you’re looking to rejuvenate your body, focus on eating more whole foods, drinking water and removing highly processed foods from your diet. Long-term detoxing will deprive your body of the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients it needs to function. Choose an eating pattern that promotes health.

8)Going gluten-free is super healthy

While there are legitimate reasons to avoid gluten, for example if you have coeliac disease, there’s often a minimal benefit from avoiding gluten. Gluten itself isn’t typically unhealthy but often gets a negative outlook due to its presence in so many things, many of which are unhealthy, think biscuits, cakes, pies and pastries.

You can find gluten in a huge number of different foods. And avoiding it completely, has minimal benefit for most people, and can even be a hindrance to creating a balanced diet.

9)Fresh is better than frozen

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.

What this means is that frozen vegetables can sometimes be more healthy than fresh ones!

10)You need protein shakes if you go to the gym

It is true that our muscles need protein for growth -especially if you’ve done anything particularly high intensity. However, most people get plenty of protein from their regular diets. What is important, is the timing of that protein intake, which should ideally be within an hour of exercising. Your body can only metabolise a certain amount of protein at a time, so overloading on the protein shakes is completely pointless.

The goal should be to limit our protein intake to shortly after exercise so that our bodies can use it to help our muscles build and repair, rather than overdoing it on the protein shakes.

The bottom line

Although the nutrition world is full of myths separate fact from fiction and don’t fall for these nutrition myths!

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