In Good Taste: 5 Food Fallacies
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Advice about healthy eating is all around us, but how sage is this wisdom? Is there a kernel of truth or is it all just hearsay? Here, local dietitians debunk common food myths to help you separate fact from fiction.
1. Myth: Eggs are bad for your heart.
Truth: Eggs are a very nutritious food—“they’re a good source of iron, zinc and also choline, which is important in a number of metabolic functions,” says Melody Steeples, MPH, RD, from Woodland Clinic Medical Group, a service of Dignity Health Medical Foundation. As for their impact on your heart health? It’s outdated advice. Blood cholesterol levels are influenced much more by genetics than by diet. “Because of this, more recent government advice does not set limits for dietary cholesterol nor egg consumption,” she says.
2.Myth: All carbs are evil.
Truth: The fact is that what causes us to get fat is simply eating more calories than the body can burn, Steeples says. “One of the reasons carbs have a reputation of being ‘bad’ for us is that they’re often the major component of foods we find easy to overeat, like pasta, bread, tortillas, crackers, sweetened cereals, cookies, cakes and pastries,” she says. “But don’t confuse the role of whole-food carbs—like those from vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains and baked or boiled potatoes—with processed carbs. Whole-food carbs raise blood sugar more gently and supply a wealth of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that their stripped-down second cousins don't contribute.”
3. Myth: Low-fat is healthier than full-fat.
Truth: Nutrition is not one-size-fits-all, explains Chelsea Britton, RD, who’s on the Diabetes Nutrition and Education team at Marshall Medical Center. “Science does support limiting saturated fats and trans fats,” she says. “Most fats are a blend of different kinds of fats. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats—our body does not make them, so they’re essential to our bodies, [and] we need to eat regular sources. Ground flaxseed, chia [and] hemp seeds are highest, then fatty fish like salmon, herring and sardines, as well as greens. Many of my patients test for a high need of essential fats, and would benefit from increasing their olive, avocado and oil intake.”
4. Myth: Frozen/canned fruits and vegetables aren’t as nutritious as fresh.
Truth: Lucky for busy people, all fruits and vegetables have value—no matter how they're processed. “In fact, frozen produce often has more nutrients than fresh, since it’s picked at the peak of ripeness and then frozen quickly to retain the high nutrient value,” says Kirsten Ransbury, MS, RD, CDE, lead registered dietitian at Kaiser Permanente Roseville. “Freezing has negligible effects on nutrients and can effectively preserve produce, so it can usually last at least six-to-nine months.” Canned vegetables also offer an advantage when there’s limited refrigeration. Though vegetables are often higher in sodium, reduced sodium varieties are available, and canned fruits aren’t usually high in sodium, she says.
5. Myth: Microwaving zaps nutrients from food.
Truth: The best cooking method for retaining nutrients is one that cooks quickly and preserves the integrity of the food. Microwaving is convenient, heats food for a short time, and uses little to no liquid. “Microwaving steams food from the inside out and keeps in more vitamins and minerals,” says Ann Wallace, RD, CDE, registered dietitian at Kaiser Permanente Roseville, adding that “it’s important to use microwave-safe glass, ceramic or plastic, as not all containers or wraps are safe for use in the microwave. Never reuse disposable plastic containers, like old margarine tubs, since some particles from the plastic may enter the food and not be safe to consume.”