You probably won’t be surprised to hear that there is a huge number of health food myths doing the rounds today – and they come from all directions. Everyone from health magazines to food shops, TV experts and friends are repeating the information, and it can be very hard to work out what’s true and what’s not. Here’s the top health food myths – debunked by a bunch of amazing nutritionists and scientists that know exactly what’s true!
How many times have you heard this one? On the one hand we have gym staff and exercise magazines recommending an egg-heavy diet, and on the other, a possible heart issue. It’s true that eggs do have a large amount of cholesterol contained in the yolk, with the average large egg having 211mg. The health food myths start when people equal that with the cholesterol that blocks arteries and causes heart attacks. While eggs might be high in cholesterol, a healthy body will respond by producing less. The type of cholesterol that an egg contains is also wrong – it’s trans and saturated fats that cause heart problems, and eggs contain around 2g of saturated fats. An egg a day is considered perfectly healthy for the majority of people.
You can almost understand the logic behind this myth, but it’s not true. High Fructose Corn Syrup, or HFCS, was manufactured to be an artificial version of sucrose (or sugar). It’s composition mirrors sugar almost exactly, and it contains the same number of calories. Tests have even shown that HFCS and sugar have the same effects on blood levels of glucose, insulin, satiety hormones and triglycerides. So it really doesn’t matter if you are consuming HFCS or sugar – but both should be in moderation.
This myth has been flying around since the first Dr Atkins book was released in 1972. Various low carb and no carb diets have claimed that carbs cause weight-gain since then, but there is no scientific evidence to back these claims up. In fact, if you cut down on carb rich foods such as bread, grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, you remove your body’s main source of fuel. Studies show that dieters following a low carb diet do lose weight slightly faster in the beginning, but the weight loss levels out quickly, and low carb dieters are also more likely to pile the pounds back on. Instead of cutting carbohydrates out, try swapping refined carbs for good carbs instead.
We’ve all been told about the benefits of raw vegetables. The fact is, raw food is unprocessed, so nothing has been added or taken away. It’s also true that cooking vegetables above 118 degrees Farenheit inactivates plant enzymes. But the myth comes when people believe those enzymes are necessary – they prolong the survival of the plant, and are vital when it’s alive, but are not needed in the human body. Therefore, cooking vegetables is no problem. More than that, some people believe that consuming plant enzymes prevents the body from running out of human enzymes. You’ll make enzymes throughout your life, and produce an infinite amount, so you don’t need plant enzymes. At all. Ever. Enjoy that cooked veg!
Amino acids are complicated things. In short, there are 20 amino acids in total, and the human body can make 11 of them. The other 9 need to come from food. Animal-based proteins such as meat and eggs tend to contain all 9, whereas plant foods tend to lack one or more. It used to be believed that we needed to consume complementary plant foods, such as rice and beans, in the same meal to get all of the amino acids. Now we know that all the amino acids are stored together, and can be consumed at any point in the day to be valuable. As long as you get a variety through the day, you don’t need to serve your rice with beans.
This is often quoted in diet books and programs, but factually, there’s no truth in it. Calories are the same whatever time you eat them, whether it’s first thing in the morning, right before bed or in the middle of the night. What does matter is the total number of calories that you consume over the 24 hour period. If you are a late night snacker, keep some calories in your daily target free for that time, or you’ll find you frequently go over your aim. As long as you have the calories to spare, you won’t get fat.
How many times have you heard a friend/family member/celebrity put their weight down to a food intolerance? Wheat, gluten and milk are the prime choices, with more and more claiming that they can’t process these foods. Unfortunately, if they really were intolerant, it would have the opposite effect. If you are unable to process a food, you can’t metabolize it – and therefore can’t access its calories. It would cause weight loss, not weight gain. It’s easy to see where these health food myths came from, though, with people finding it easier to lose weight if they cut out whole food groups. It’s simple to see why. If you reject dairy completely, it takes a whole range of desserts, drinks and foodstuffs off the menu.
While some of these health food myths can cause dieters untold stress, they tend to be invented with the best intentions – it’s just that once they’ve been tested and repeated over and over, it’s very easy to accept them as true. Kickstart your diet without the myths, and you are much more likely to be successful! What health food myths make you laugh? I’d love to know!