It’s not a modern day phenomenon: food and health myths have been ingrained in our society for centuries, but it hasn’t been until recently that we finally have the science to put these fables to rest, once and for all. We’re dispelling 10 pesky food misconceptions, so you can eat with greater dietary freedom and pleasure, all in the name of better health and great taste.
Myth: You Should Avoid Fat
Fats – good fats – are needed to support a healthy body, promoting satiation, proper brain function, hormonal stability and more. A balance of unsaturated and saturated fats are ideal, so load up on good-for-you choices like avocados, nuts, chia seeds, olive oil, pasture-raised eggs and grass-fed butter. Low-fat or fat-free prepared foods often replace fat with refined sugars and unpronounceable additives, which you should avoid.
Myth: Vegetarian and Vegan Diets are Always Healthier
There are many plant-based eaters who pay great attention to their nutrition, but not all take such care. Vegetarian and vegan diets with a focus on produce, whole grains, beans, legumes and nuts benefit from the array of nutrients these real foods deliver. However, processed mock meats, refined carbs and peanut butter sandwiches can also be part of a plant-based diet. So skip the processed ready-made meals, and choose real-food sources instead.
Myth: All Calories are Created Equal
A calorie from a cookie is different from a calorie from an apple or salad. Seeing all calories as equal ignores how those calories are digested and used by the body for energy, and disregards a food’s nutritional profile. For instance, a sugary beverage may have fewer calories than a pear, but its glycemic index (its blood sugar raising attribute) will be higher because it has no fibre; the pear, containing fibre, will raise blood sugar levels gradually. When the body is constantly being fed high glycemic foods, even lower calorie ones, it can cause insulin resistance, leading to type 2 diabetes. Some calories, like good fats, also work to keep you full for longer.
Myth: Detoxes and Cleanses are Necessary
The body naturally cleanses and detoxifies itself every minute of the day, so extreme (even dangerous) juice cleanses won’t “clean” your body. Instead of these strict regimes, eat a varied, healthy, unprocessed diet every day. Of course, freshly pressed vegetable juices can be a delicious and healthy addition to your diet, offering an array of nutrients, but they’re not a meal replacement.
Myth: Carbohydrates Will Cause Weight Grain
Like calories and fat, there are different types of carbohydrates. Refined carbs, like those found in sweets, soda and white bread, spike blood sugar quickly, leading to greater hunger, mood swings and overeating. Slow-digesting carbohydrates achieve the exact opposite, leveling out blood sugar and keeping you full for longer. Plus, carbs go beyond just bread and flour – fruits and vegetables are also a source, but give you an energy burst, not an energy downfall. It’s too many calories from refined carbs, or too many calories in general, that will cause weight gain, not an isolated nutrient. Diversify your diet and balance your carbs with protein and fat.
Myth: Eggs are Bad for Your Heart
Eggs are a source of dietary cholesterol, which, in the past, was thought to raise blood cholesterol. It’s now shown that this is not the case. Eggs actually have little to no impact on raising blood cholesterol, and most healthy people can eat 1 to 2 per day with no negative consequences. Foods that are bad for your heart and contribute to arterial plaque include refined carbohydrates, commercial baked goods, hydrogenated fats and fast food. Genetics also play a big role in cholesterol levels and heart health, so check with your doctor about dietary changes if you’re concerned.
Myth: Frozen Produce is Less Nutritious Than Fresh
Frozen vegetables and fruit are generally harvested in season within hours of being picked from the field, locking in their nutrition. Produce that is out of season and flown in from afar can actually have far less nutrition than their frozen form. Choose local and in-season varieties, and keep your freezer stocked with frozen vegetables and fruit (plain, unsalted, unsweetened) for times when the fridge is empty or the season is off.
Myth: Late-Night Eating Causes Weight Gain
When you eat has little to do with weight gain, it’s what you eat and how much you eat that does. Focus on eating the majority of your calories when you need the energy and brainpower – for most people, that’s midday (this Vietnamese noodle bowl is a filling option for lunch). If you’re eating late at night because it’s a habit, or out of boredom, and you’ve already had enough calories during the day, this can definitely lead to weight gain, but it has nothing to do with the clock.
Myth: Microwaving Food Kills Nutrients
It’s not the type of heat that you’re applying to food, but the heat itself that can lead to nutrient leaching. Microwaving a meal doesn’t take away any more nutrients than the stove top or oven, and can actually help to retain nutrients due to its fast cooking time. One thing you shouldn’t do is microwave in a plastic container containing BPA, which can transfer into food when heat is applied – stick to glass or ceramic containers instead.
Myth: Skipping Breakfast is Bad for You
Skipping breakfast is not bad for most healthy adults – some folks just aren’t hungry first thing in the morning. A loaded bagel or drive-thru breakfast sandwich doesn’t make breakfast a healthy choice, so it really matters what you’re eating first-thing. If you do notice you’re eating more throughout the day because you skipped breakfast, consider a small meal mid-morning – you’ll be surprised by how much a little boost earlier in the day can curb overeating later on. Listening to when your body is hungry is important not only at breakfast, but lunch and dinner, too.