Yvette d’Entremont Image by: Pedro Paulo Ferreira
Fearless food scientist and blogger Yvette d'Entremont, a.k.a. SciBabe, is calling out the top five food myths circulating the Internet right now.
Low fat, low carb, Paleo, vegan, fat-free, GMO-free, gluten-free—so-called “healthy” food trends are everywhere, and unless you have a background in nutrition or food science, it can feel impossible to know which tropes to follow.
Need some clarity? Cut the clutter and send these five food myths to the curb.
1. You can never eat certain foods. Most people can eat most foods. Unless you have an allergy or some very specific diseases (such as Crohn’s or celiac), most healthy people can eat pretty much everything. You may have noticed articles popping up on your news feed with scary headlines. “Don’t Eat This After Age 30!” “This Is Killing Your Metabolism!” Sound familiar? Yes, some foods are more calorically dense than others, but banishing one food from your diet is not the key to health. Portion control, working with your basal metabolic rate and getting regular exercise are far more effective.
2. Organic food is healthier. Just because food has “organic” on the label doesn’t mean its nutrition profile is any different from conventionally farmed food. Organic is a set of farming standards and doesn’t affect the nutrient profile of the food. It still uses pesticides. The bottom line: Don’t feel pressured into spending extra on organic. The important thing is that you’re eating fruit and veggies.
3. GMOs are dangerous. You may have caught wind of the hearsay that GMOs are slowly but surely turning you into Spider-Man. But as William Saletan documented in this thoroughly researched piece for Slate (he says he spent the better part of a year digging into the evidence), the case against GMOs is wrought with misinformation. GMOs are well regulated and must be proven to be nutritionally indistinguishable from their non-genetically modified counterparts in order to be approved for market. Generally, it takes a decade of research before a new genetically modified crop is approved, and farmers use these genetic modifications for reasons such as dealing with the types of diseases that attack crops. And as much as I’ve been looking, there has yet to be a Spider-Man sighting.
4. You need a cleanse or a detox to be healthy. You’ve seen the pretty juice bottles in health food stores, each with their own distinct detoxing purpose and whimsical name (“Glow,” “Radiance,” the list goes on…). And while the combination of juices may be less bad for you than a combination of deep-fried foods, there’s no proof that you’re cleansing “toxins” out of your system. Your liver and kidneys were doing a pretty good job of keeping you cleansed–that’s their job.
5. If you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t eat it. You’ve heard this one before, right? If your great-grandmother wouldn’t know what it was, or if a third-grader couldn’t pronounce it, it’s bad for you. But nobody’s denying the goodness of quinoa, and how many third-graders can pronounce that? In reality, everything is made up of chemicals (even water has a chemical name: hydrogen oxide). Your ability to pronounce something shouldn’t be a litmus test for its edibility.
So how should you eat? Stick to the old rules: moderation, portion control and exercise, and don’t fall for the fads. Oh, and once in a while, have a cupcake.
What do you get when you combine scientific expertise with candid perspective, Internet savvy, a bit of sex appeal and a penchant for debunking unsupported insights? You get Yvette d'Entremont, known to many as SciBabe, who has emerged as a leading crusader against unproven scientific claims and pseudoscience. Yvette’s been on the speaking circuit, sharing her wit and wisdom and recently visited Canada to speak to the Grain Farmers of Ontario. When she found out she was headed north, she was thrilled because, she says, “Farmers are the nicest people I’ve ever spoken to, and Canadians are the most polite people on the face of the planet.”