Misinformation and contradictions regarding food and nutrition are prevalent in the media. By dispelling three of the most common nutrition myths, you can have more energy, eat guilt-free, and even save money.
Myth #1: Carbohydrates Will Make You Fat
Carbohydrates have been stigmatized by the media’s claims that they promote fat storage by enhancing insulin resistance. Many health and fitness “experts” claim low-carb diets are the key to weight loss. This is not necessarily true. Carbohydrates do not cause weight gain. Excessive calorie intake of any kind will pack on the pounds. In fact, a study published by the American Dietetic Association found that a low carbohydrate diet was linked to increased risk of overweight or obesity. Those at lowest risk of obesity consumed around half of their calories from carbohydrates. This supports the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans which recommends around 45-65% of daily calories come from carbohydrates.
It is important to note that not all carbohydrates are equal. Refined carbohydrates such as pasta, white bread, baked goods and candy should be eaten sparingly. This type supplies quick energy to the body in the form of glucose which can lead to energy crashes. It’s best to focus on eating complex carbohydrates. These can be found in minimally processed foods such as dairy products, fruits and whole grains. In addition to carbohydrates, these foods provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fiber is essential to proper bowel function, creating a feeling of satiety after a meal in addition serving other beneficial roles in the body.
Key Message: Carbohydrates are an excellent source of energy for the body. They will not cause weight gain as long as you make wise food choices and do not eat to excess!
Myth #2: Eggs Are Bad for Your Cholesterol
There are many misconceptions surrounding eggs and whether or not they can be part of a healthy diet. This stems from the fact that eggs are high in cholesterol. Though this is true, dietary cholesterol does not have a whole lot to do with raising blood cholesterol levels in the body. Only a small amount of cholesterol found in food actually passes into the blood. Saturated and trans fats have a much greater effect on cholesterol levels. Foods high in these types of fats should be eaten sparingly; especially for those who with heart disease or high cholesterol. Fortunately, eggs are low in saturated fat!
Eggs are a great source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. One large egg is only 60 calories and contains a whopping 6 grams of protein. If you think that tossing the yolks is a healthy choice you’re wrong. The yolks contain about half the protein of the entire egg and are packed with B-vitamins, minerals and healthy Omega-3 fats. According to the American Heart Association a whole egg per day can be a part of a healthy diet.
Key Message: Don’t sacrifice your morning eggs on behalf of health! They are a wonderful source of nutrition and can play a key role in a healthy diet when eaten in moderation.
Myth #3: Organic Produce is More Nutritious than Conventional
Organic food is all the rage with natural grocery stores popping up on every street corner. It is defined by the USDA under the 1990 Farm Bill as that which is produced by farmers who practice sustainable agriculture, environmental conservation and avoid use of conventional pesticides, antibiotics or growth hormones. Despite the perception that organic foods are healthier than conventional there is little evidence to support this. Research by Stanford’s Center for Health Policy and published in the journal, Annals of Internal Medicine, found that there is very little difference between organic and conventional foods in relation to health.
While there is no significant difference in the nutritional value of organic vs conventional, it’s important to choose your produce wisely. What makes the biggest difference in nutrients is the length of time produce sits on the shelf and whether or not it is in season. For example, spinach loses about half of its folate within a week on the shelf. Choose produce (organic or not) that has been grown locally and is in season. It will be fresher and at its nutritional peak as opposed to produce that has been grown in unnatural conditions and flown across the country to reach its final destination. And if pesticides are of concern to you check out the Environmental Working Group’s Shoppers Guide to Pesticides. Their “Clean 15” list names fruits and vegetables that are least likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues.
Key Message: Organic does not necessarily mean healthier. Be mindful of where your food comes from. Buy locally and eat with the seasons.
Nutrition myths are prevalent in the media. As a healthcare professional and consumer it is important to be conscientious. Do your research before forming opinions on nutrition and health. Check out a few reputable sources from the experts on nutrition: www.choosemyplate.gov and www.eatright.org.