Nutrition

11 nutrition myths busted

Author: Canadian Living

Nutrition

11 nutrition myths busted

Thanks to the internet, nutritional information is available at the click of a button. But how do you separate fact from fiction? We asked Registered Dietitian Leslie Beck, author of eight nutrition books, to give us the scoop on what myths actually deserve the hype.

Myth: Fat makes you fat
Truth:
"It's true and false," Beck says. While fat itself doesn't create fat, "Fat, whether it's margarine, olive oil, or butter, is a concentrated source of calories. If you eat a lot of fat in your diet, you're going to consume a lot of calories, and yes, that can make you gain weight." 

Before you axe fat from your diet, note that all fats aren't bad. Unsaturated fats, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, are essential for optimum health, and omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Health Canada recommends adults get 20-30 per cent of their daily calories from healthy fats, so choose wisely – your waistline (and heart) will thank you.

Myth: Wine lowers blood pressure
Truth: This myth is likely a case of confusion. "Alcohol can actually boost blood pressure, particularly when you're consuming more than two drinks a day," Beck says. But the days when a good glass of Bordeaux counted as a ‘health supplement' aren't over yet. Beck says wine can help lower your cholesterol, when imbibed in moderation.

Myth: Carbs make you fat
Truth: Brownie lovers can breathe a sigh of relief, for this myth is false. "This is the same principle as the fat question; if you eat more than you need, whether it's fat, carbohydrates, protein, you'll store those extra calories as body fat, period." If you're a carb lover, make friends with the gym; burning the extra calories with regular exercise is the best way to eat a diet high in carbohydrates without losing your waistline in the process.

Myth: Brown eggs are more nutritious than white eggs
Truth: This myth is false. "That just stems from the notion that brown is always better," Beck says. "The nutritional content between brown eggs and white eggs is exactly the same; the difference is just the colour of the shell, and that's only because the brown eggs are laid by a different breed of hen."

The same goes for the old brown sugar/white sugar debate, too: "Brown sugar is just white sugar with some molasses added to it," Beck says, adding the nutritional value of that added molasses is insignificant.

Myth: It's OK to eat whatever you want during pregnancy
Truth: Sorry ladies! While it seems like a logical idea, ‘eating for two' is a myth that's been busted. "Calorie requirements only increase by 300 calories in trimesters two and three," Beck says, which pretty much eliminates any nutritional argument for giving in to each and every craving that strikes. Beck stresses that meeting nutrient needs, like calcium and folic acid, are crucial in pregnancy, and when the hunger does strike, around trimester two, "I tell my clients to focus on getting those calories from protein rich foods, like milk or yogurt, legumes, a little bit more chicken, that kind of thing," Beck says.

Page 1 of 2 -- Are organic foods really more nutritious than regular? Find out on page 2.

Myth: Organic food is more nutritious than conventional fare
Truth: If you don't eat organic, you're not missing out. "Some organic crops that are grown have been tested, and some have higher levels of vitamin C, a little bit more magnesium, some have high levels of antioxidants than conventionally-grown crops," Beck says. "But the difference is insignificant; it's not going to make a difference to your overall nutritional intake, or your health." Nutritionally, what's important is that you eat more fruits and veggies, regardless of how they were farmed.

Myth: You have to take vitamins to be healthy
Truth: The truth depends on your diet. "Most women and men need to take a calcium supplement because they're not getting what they need in their diet, and that is important for health," Beck says, "But it really depends on the person and it depends on their diet because there are lots of people who absolutely do need to take a multivitamin."

Myth: Diet pop is healthier than regular pop
Truth: Diet pop isn't healthier than regular pop, but does have a slight nutritional advantage. "If you have to drink pop it's better to drink diet pop, because you're not getting the 10 teaspoons of sugar that come in a regular can," Beck says. However, she notes that the phosphoric acid in all colas can negatively affect bone density. Recent studies have also suggested that canned pop can have traces of Bisphenol A, so drink at your own risk.

Myth: Alcohol helps you sleep
Truth
: Having a glass of wine in a bubble bath to relax before bed seems like a good idea, but don't be surprised if you end up tossing and turning later in bed. "While alcohol may help you unwind at the end of the day, it is a depressant. It also induces the body's stress response," Beck says. "It starts a hormonal chain of events in your body."

Many studies have shown that using alcohol as a sleep aid will help you sleep soundly at first, but can lead to poor sleep quality, repeatedly waking up from your sleep, sometimes to nightmares. If you drink alcohol, try to keep it to the early evening and avoid going overboard. 

Myth: It's OK to skip meals
Truth: "Don't skip meals to save calories," Beck warns. "It backfires; you end up extra hungry, and you're more likely to overeat later." The best way to chow down without packing on the pounds is to eat a balanced breakfast, lunch and dinner, with two snacks during the day if you can fit them in.

"I do equal size meals; it is true from a metabolism standpoint that dinner should be your lightest meal, but it's not practical for us in this day and age," Beck says.

Myth: Vegetarians are healthier than omnivores
Truth: "If you are a vegetarian that follows a well-balanced diet and you're getting everything you need, certainly research does suggest that vegetarian populations do experience better health in terms of heart health, lower cancer rates and healthier weight," Beck says.

The mistake many vegetarians make is not replacing animal proteins with alternative sources. "You need to add legumes or tofu, or soy products into your diet to replace that meat," she says.

Read more:
Photo gallery: How to boost your metabolism
Learn how to decode a nutrition facts label
Photo gallery: 5 surprising small things that can ruin your diet

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