We talk a lot about being informed, and understanding what you’re eating. But that doesn’t mean that meals should be complicated nor should you “stress out” over what’s being served. Still, you want to serve your family healthy meals when you can, and it’s hard with so many nutrition “myths” floating around out there.
We’ve all heard them – eggs will give you high cholesterol, high fructose corn syrup is bad for you, or eating carbohydrates makes you fat (see why these are myths below). Why do some nutrition myths continue even in the light of solid scientific evidence disproving them?
To start, most of the popular nutrition myths actually have a kernel of truth behind them, so we tend to believe them. For example, eggs do contain some cholesterol in their yolks (more on that later), but does that mean eating them will increase the cholesterol in your blood? The short answer is “no.”
Second, according to Keith-Thomas Ayoob, Ed.D., professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, “Myths and misinformation can be much more seductive than the truth. A balanced diet, enough sleep and regular exercise are usually the best way to stay healthy, but that’s just not interesting to many people.”
So, here are 7 of the most popular nutrition myths, along with the actual science, so you can tell myth from truth when planning meals for your family:
Myth 1: Eating eggs will raise your cholesterol. As we said earlier, egg yolks do contain some cholesterol. But, a number of studies have shown that most healthy adults can eat an egg a day without any adverse effects. Most of the cholesterol we eat – in eggs or other foods – doesn’t really have much impact on our blood cholesterol. When healthy people eat more cholesterol, then the body simply produces less of it to compensate. The truth: Most people can eat eggs as part of a balanced, healthy diet.
Myth 2: High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is bad for you. In fact, HFCS was created to mimic sucrose, which is what simple table sugar is. It’s composition is nearly identical to sucrose, and calorie-wise, it’s identical. Studies show that the body’s reaction to HFCS is no better or worse than its reaction to regular sugar too. The real problem is that people consume to much sugar of all types. Because HFCS is found in so many processed foods, it has become the “poster child” for increasing obesity and diabetes rates. The truth: Limit consumption of all sugars, including HFCS.
Myth 3: Eating carbohydrates makes you fat. The real problem is not with carbohydrates, but with calories in general. Unfortunately, carbohydrates like cakes, cookies, pastas, doughnuts taste good, so we often eat too much of them. Studies comparing low carb diets with low fat or other diets have found that many people initially lose a bit more weight on the low carb diet. But, they also find that they lose the weight because low carb diets are so restrictive, which limits the total calories dieters can eat. The truth: Eating too many calories without enough exercise can add weight.
Myth 4: Using a microwave oven harms food. This one goes back to our fear of radiation. Radiation is bad, and microwaves are a type of radiation, so therefore, microwaves must be bad too. What most people don’t understand is that radiation is all around us all of the time. Radio waves and visible light are also forms of radiation. The way a microwave oven “cooks” food is by simply using microwaves to heat the water molecules in the food. The truth: Microwave cooking is really no different than any other cooking method that applies heat to food.
Myth 5: Grazing on smaller meals throughout the day is healthier. It is true that our body’s metabolism revs up each time we eat so that we can process the foods we consume. And that does burn some additional calories, but the difference is insignificant. Some other chemicals in the body spike during mealtime too, but if you eat a balanced, healthy diet, these minor spikes can be handled by your normal body processes. Some people can benefit from eating more, smaller meals throughout the day. But, other people find it difficult to keep these extra meals “small.” The truth: Choose an eating pattern that fits your lifestyle and that works best for you.
Myth 6: Calories eaten at dinner are more fattening than those eaten during the day. Your body processes calories the same way at all times of the day or night. No one time is better for eating than any other time. What is important is the total number of calories you consume, along with the type and variety of foods you eat. The problem is that we tend to eat calorie-dense foods at dinner, so we consume more calories more quickly in the evening. The truth: Calories are calories are calories.
Myth 7: Anyone can benefit from a gluten-free diet. Gluten and gluten-free diets are all over the news these days. Some people have even linked the elimination of gluten in the diet to reductions in autism. There is simply no scientific evidence to support these conclusions. Some people suffer from Celiac disease or gluten intolerance. For these people, maintaining a gluten-free diet is important. But for the general population, there is no proven benefit. The truth: Unless you suffer from Celiac disease or you have gluten intolerance, a gluten-free diet won’t hurt, but it likely won’t help either.
To learn more about how to get your kids to eat healthy, check out our FREE ebook, Do You Wish Your Kid’s Ate Better? It’s available on our website.
Remember, healthy choices you make each day can transform your family for generations! What choices will you make today?
You may also want to read: Should There Be a “Fat Tax?”, How to Stay Healthy on Vacation