Fitness and health 23.6.2017 01:09 pm

6 Food myths debunked

There is no shortage of conflicting diet advice and, although many of these food myths may be harmless, some could lead to ill health…

Myth #1: Gluten free bread is a healthy alternative

Avoiding gluten is vital for those that have intolerance to it, and for people with gut health problems like crohn’s and coeliacs disease.

Gluten in essence should be kept in moderation because by nature it is inflammatory and all chronic illnesses have a big inflammation component. This has led to the rise in popularity of gluten-free products and the notion is that if gluten is unhealthy then gluten free is healthy.

But when we have a careful look at the ingredients in GF products we see that many (not all) are nothing more than another highly refined carb product, with processed vegetable oils (which also have an inflammatory effect), in addition to various additives and fillers to get a bread like texture and to improve taste. Ultimately you get left with a processed food that impacts your blood sugar and has very little nutritional value.

Gluten free bread is not healthy IF the ingredients are made up of a combination of refined starches and fillers with a low protein and nutrition content.

Myth #2: An apple a day keeps the doctor away

Besides the fact that it rhymes, is there any truth in this statement?

This was first mentioned in the publication Notes and Queries in 1866: “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”

Hundred and fifty years later this expression is still used so there must be something to it! Apples are high in vitamin C which is immune boosting, phytonutrients and quercetin which are powerful antioxidants, pectin which is a fibre that helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and assists in digestive health.

While apples have many valuable health benefits, it is unlikely that eating one a day will prevent you getting sick.

Myth #3: Low fat foods help in weight loss

Now this myth has been around for a long time and widely held opinion is that fat is the enemy. This comes from the misconception that fat makes you fat when in fact it’s actually sugar that makes you fat. The right kinds of fats are good for your heart, skin, hormones, cholesterol and aid in weight loss.

When the fat is removed from a food, it is often replaced with sodium and some form of sugar to make it palatable (since the fat is actually the tasty bit), and chemical fillers like emulsifiers to give it a thicker consistency. This is in addition to whatever chemical process was used to extract the fat. All these substitute ingredients are linked to weight gain. Without fats the body cannot: absorb many vital nutrients; produce hormones; lose weight, or have healthy brain function. 

Low fat foods are processed foods. They are likely to have a high calorie content because of all the added ingredients which leads to weight gain and ultimately ill health.

Unless freshly squeezed, fruit juices are nothing more than processed sugar water with little nutrient value and added risk of diabetes.

Myth#4: Eggs are unhealthy for breakfast

Because eggs are high in fat and cholesterol they have been labelled a bad food for many decades and we have been advised to replace them with cereals since 1950 due to flawed research.

On the contrary, newer research has found that dietary cholesterol from eggs can lead to increases in beneficial HDL (high-density lipoprotein) this is the “good” cholesterol that helps keep cholesterol away from your arteries.

Separate research has shown that only about 20% of your blood cholesterol comes from your diet, the rest is produced by your liver.

Depriving yourself of eggs means missing out on a protein food high in naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, E and B6, copper, calcium and folate, choline (for healthy neurotransmitters), antioxidants and carotenoids for good eye health.

Eggs make for a delicious breakfast that’s high in protein and healthy fat and aids in weight loss because it satisfies hunger in comparison to cereals which are highly processed refined carbohydrates that spike blood sugars and make you feel hungry a short while later.

Myth #5- Drinking 100% fruit juice is the best way to get your daily servings of fruit

Since fruits are packed with nutrients it is perceived that its juice will have the same benefits but in essence, whole fruit is very different to a glass of juice.

Once all the fibre has been removed juice becomes highly concentrated in sugar which causes insulin spikes. The fibre helps to slow the absorption of the sugars and keep a steady blood sugar balance in addition to feeling full for longer.

Juice also has many more nutrients than what you could eat in one serving which would place a burden on the kidneys and liver. This is only if you are drinking freshly squeezed juice.  Box juices have lost most of their nutrient value due to their processing even if they are made from 100% fruit and are highly acidic.

Unless freshly squeezed, fruit juices are nothing more than processed sugar water with little nutrient value and added risk of diabetes.

Myth #6: Milk is most important for calcium

Now here is one of the most stubborn food myths. Dairy has become synonymous with calcium and strong bones, but bone health goes beyond calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin K and magnesium are both important for bone health and are present in dark leafy greens but not dairy.

Milk has also become highly processed, with added chemicals to increase its shelf life substantially, which ultimately has adverse effects on your body. In addition, it is high in hormones and antibiotics that are most often than not routinely fed to the cows.

It is important to include a variety of plant foods in your diet which will have good quality calcium and all the other nutrients needed for healthy bones.

Milk contains a high source of calcium, but is by no means the only important factor to bone health and not necessarily the most bioavailable form.

We all have easy access to diet advice without needing to visit a health expert. Nutrition has many schools of thought and many experts will give conflicting advice.

The bottom line is we’re all different, with different tastes, lifestyles, dietary preferences and genetic makeup and what works for one person will not work for another.  As scientific research continues to evolve and we are left feeling confused, it’s best to keep an open mind and be willing to challenge deep beliefs. There are certain foundational rules that will never change – eat seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables and whole foods that are not processed; avoid refined carbs and read the ingredient labels, at all times avoiding sugar, chemicals and trans fats. Use healthy cooking methods and add a dash of common sense and you will find what works for you.

For further nutritional advice visit: www.desihorsman.com

About the author: Desi Horsman is a nutritionist, speaker and wellness expert.

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.

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