Myths about nutrition and health abound-even in the 21st
century. Let's take a look at 10 of my favorites.
Myth: Eat a low fat diet.
Reality: While many high fat foods-such as commercially fried foods, sausages and heavily marbled meats-are best eaten rarely, vegetable-based oils are generally healthful. Also, some foods actually need a little fat for their nutrients to be absorbed by the body. For example, the lycopene in tomatoes and tomato sauce, beta carotene in carrots and lutein in greens are nutrients that need fat to complete the process.
Grab 'n Go Raisin Bars
Myth: Raw vegetables provide more nutrition
than frozen or canned.
Reality: Frozen and canned vegetables are usually processed immediately after harvesting, preserving their nutrients. Just-picked veggies from your own garden or from a farmers market also keep their nutrition. But vegetables that have been trucked across the country-or imported-may have sustained some nutrient loss.
Myth: If you don't eat a well-balanced diet, a multivitamin will take care of that.
Reality: Vitamin pills are meant to supplement the diet, not provide all the nutrition needed. Some researchers estimate there are 20,000 nutrients found in whole foods, most of which have not yet been discovered. How many nutrients are in your vitamin pill? Mother Nature knew what she was doing by adding nutrients that work together synergistically in whole, unprocessed foods.
Myth: You can tell a hamburger is done by its color.
Reality: Meat color is not a reliable indicator of temperature and food safety. Surprisingly, ground beef can lose its pink color, but still not be thoroughly cooked. Use a food thermometer to ensure a burger's interior reaches at least 160 degrees Farhenheit.
Myth: Drinking plenty of water improves your teen's (and your) skin tone.
Reality: While water is an important part of anyone's diet, there is no research proving that it helps with the appearance of our skin. What does improve our skin? A diet rich in colorful vegetables and fruits and essential fatty acids such as those found in nuts and oils.
Myth: Reduced-fat peanut butter is better than the full-fat type.
Reality: Reduced-fat peanut butter is missing out on healthful peanut oil, rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids. While it does have slightly fewer calories, it has more sugar and sodium to compensate for the loss of flavor. Luckily, neither variety has any appreciable trans fats.
Myth: Foods rated "100% natural" are healthier than those that are not.
Reality: While the term "natural" was the leading claim made about new products last year, it is largely unregulated and has no real meaning. One exception is for meats. The USDA recently set guidelines that say "natural" meat must now be raised without hormones, antibiotics or animal by-products. However, natural meat and poultry can still be "enhanced" or pumped with up to 15 percent added salt water.
Myth: Sugar-free foods have fewer calories than their sugared counterparts.
Reality: Some sugar-free foods are sweetened with sugar alcohols, which provide just as many calories as the original. Check the Nutrition Facts labels to be sure.
Myth: Multigrain is better than white.
Reality: Multigrain is not necessarily whole grain. It's just more than one grain. According to the Whole Grains Council, "multigrain" may describe several whole grains or several refined grains, or both. A better term to seek out is "100 percent whole grain."
Myth: Chewing gum that's swallowed will stay in the stomach forever.
Reality: Swallowed chewing gum typically passes through the digestive tract and is eliminated in the same way as other foods. However, there have been some case studies reported in the journal Pediatrics, as well as The American Journal of Diseases of Children, of small children who developed intestinal obstructions after swallowing five to seven pieces each day. Children should dispose of gum instead of swallowing it, especially when they chew more than one piece each day.