When it comes to food, everyone seems to have a different opinion and everyone seems to be an expert. Social media, marketing, and even celebrities have come to shape the way we think about nutrition and food. At times, it can be difficult to differentiate between fact and fad. Below are 7 common food myths that are still going around!
Myth #1: Gluten is bad for your health
FACT: Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat and some grains like oats and rye. It helps the dough to rise and contributes to its soft elastic texture. Gluten becomes a problem only if you are truly intolerant towards it. The symptoms can be vague and sometimes mistaken for irritable bowel syndrome. Avoiding gluten when you don’t have a problem may be unnecessary, in fact, some gluten-free products are high in added sugars making them a potentially unhealthy option.
If you have not been diagnosed with coeliac disease or a gluten intolerance, think twice before reaching for a gluten free product!
Myth #2 Frozen foods have less nutrients
FACT: We’ve always been told to opt for fresh foods instead of frozen. However, new research suggests that, in many cases, frozen produce is just as nutritious as fresh produce- and in some cases it can even contain more nutrients! This is because nutrient levels of fruits and vegetables gradually decrease over time (during transit from farm to supermarkets). Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at their peak, when they have the highest amount of nutrients and the process of freezing retains these nutrients and prevents them from breaking down. Remember that whether your food is fresh or frozen, it’s important to consider your method of cooking- this will effect how many nutrients are retained in the food as some vitamins are sensitive to heat or leach out into water.
Myth #3: Legumes are a poor dietary choice
FACT: This is one of the most baffling nutritional myths going around and is completely incorrect. Legumes are high in dietary fibre, have a low GI and are high in protein (making them a great alternative to meat) and the science tells us that legumes are an excellent dietary choice. Aim to include legumes (e.g. kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas and cannellini beans) in your diet at least 2-3 times a weeks.
Myth #4 Carbohydrates are bad for your health
FACT: Carbohydrates have always had a bad reputation when it comes to health and weight loss, but not all carbs are “bad”! Good sources of carbohydrates offer many health benefits. Carbohydrates are also our main source of energy and assist with maintaining stable blood sugar levels. If you are a person living with diabetes, avoiding carbohydrates may increase the risk of experiencing hypos, which can have serious consequences.
It is important that we choose good sources of carbohydrates. Opt for those that are high in nutrients and in their most natural form such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy products.
Myth #5 Sugar is poison and people with diabetes should avoid sugar
FACT: Everyone, including people with diabetes, can consume a small quantity of sugar within the realms of a healthy balanced diet. The key is to look at where your sugar is coming from and be mindful of how much you are consuming. Natural sugars, found in fruits, vegetables and dairy products, come with an abundance of beneficial nutrients (like fibre, vitamins and minerals) and hence should form part of a healthy balanced diet. Added sugars, found in processed and confectionery foods, are often referred to as ‘empty calories’ – as they provide a whole lot of energy without any nutrients, and is therefore best to limit.
Myth #6 Eggs are bad for you
FACT: This is an old myth, which seems to recirculate in the media every now and again despite an extensive amount evidence indicating that eggs are a healthy dietary choice. The myth is based on the fact that people believe eggs are high in cholesterol, which is bad for your heart. Whilst cholesterol is indeed harmful, it is important to understand that only a very small amount of the cholesterol in our bodies actually comes from the food we eat – the majority of cholesterol in our bodies is produced in the liver. The liver produces cholesterol in responses to foods eaten that are high in saturated and trans fat. Therefore, the small amount of cholesterol found in eggs is not a significant problem. Eggs are a very nutrient-dense food and provide good quality protein along with other vitamins and minerals. You can eat up to 6 eggs in a week as part of a healthy balanced diet.
Myth #7 Coconut oil is the healthiest type of oil
FACT: Coconut oil is no healthier than other plant-based oils and may, in fact, be a poorer nutritional choice. Coconut oil, like all oils, goes through a degree of processing to turn the food from which it is derived into an edible oil. The main difference between coconut oil and vegetable-based oils is that coconut oil contains a higher percentage of saturated ‘unhealthy’ fat, which is linked to increases in LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol. We recommend aiming for oils that come from unsaturated fat sources e.g. olive oil and canola oil. These oils raise good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol in the blood.
This article was co-written by Anna Debenham (Leading Dietitian at Hit 100), with the help Adele Wong, who is currently studying her Masters in Nutrition & Dietetics at The University of Sydney.