Busting Food Myths
Every day an onslaught of news on diet and nutrition informs our decisions on what we put in our bodies. We’re told it’s wise to drink wine, but only one glass a day, and indulging in chocolate is allowed, if it’s of the dark, cacao-rich variety.
Quite often we base our diet on these bits of advice—but how can we tell the truth from the latest nutritional hype? First, consider the source. “When it comes to diet and health, everyone’s an expert. Whether the advice comes from your cousin or co-worker, your personal trainer or a magazine, what people hear often sounds convincing,” says Christie Naze, a clinical dietitian for Oregon Health and Science University’s Center for Women’s Health.
The trick to separating nutrition fact from the fiction is to start seeking out information from reputable professionals who are trained to provide science-based information. These individuals include registered dietitians and health organizations such as the American Heart Association and the American Dietetic Association.
Then, read through this helpful list of diet facts and myths.
Myth: Healthy food is too expensive.
Sure, the McDonald’s dollar menu looks thrifty in comparison to a $6 salad at Whole Foods. But healthy food can be affordable—you can purchase a fiber-rich apple for the price of a candy bar, and a five-pound bag of potatoes for less than a can of processed Pringles. To eat healthy on a budget, follow Naze’s advice: Purchase local and seasonal foods, and look for deals in the frozen fruit and vegetables aisle. Buy nonperishable items like oatmeal in bulk, and plan your meals around store specials. And finally, substitute meat with economical beans whenever appropriate.
Fact: Frozen and canned foods are nutritionally equal to their fresh counterparts.
Canned and frozen products are often just as good for you as fresh fruits and veggies because they are picked and processed to preserve their nutrients. Just make sure to scan the nutrition labels of canned goods before you buy them, paying careful attention to their sodium and sugar content. Look for low-sodium versions, and avoid products that list high-fructose corn syrup or fruit puree concentrate as main ingredients.
Myth: If the packaging says “trans-fat-free,” it is.
One need only to scan their favorite box of crackers to see that its trans-fat-free claim does not mean the snack is completely void of trans fat. (Trans fat occurs when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil to increase the shelf life.) “What people don’t know is that the [trans-fat-free-labeled] product can still contain hydrogenated oils and up to .5 gram of trans fat per serving. So it’s important to not just go by what the front of the package says, but to always read the ingredient list and check for the words hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated,” says Naze.
Myth: Eating fat makes you fat.
“Not only are some fats good for the heart and for health in general, researchers are providing evidence that these health benefits can occur without also promoting weight gain,” says Naze. Experts attribute this to fat’s satiety factor. A snack of a high-fat and high-calorie food like peanut butter is more filling and satisfying than a so-called diet-friendly food like rice cakes. So you eat less food, less often and don’t see weight gain.
Fact: There is a healthy solution to dieting.
The magic solution is simply to listen to your body. “Women need to learn to trust themselves and their bodies. If you listen to your appetite, you will eat the right number of calories for you,” says Naze. It also helps to teach yourself to pay attention to portion sizes, to eat fresh, healthy foods, to decrease your intake of high-processed foods, and to eat when you are hungry and stop before you are overly full. That is the “magic formula.”