We are what we eat. That’s why it’s so important to understand what’s true and what’s false when it comes to food gossip. The below falsities may have fooled you before, but you can now consider these eight famous food myths officially debunked.
1. Myth: Wheat bread is better for you than white bread.
We’ve heard that white bread is bad, that it’s high in sugars and refined carbohydrates. We’ve been told to swap our white for wheat in order to boost health benefits. As it turns out, wheat won’t cut it either. Studies show that there is no significant difference in glycemic indexes of white and wheat bread. This means if you’re trying to cut back on sugar, both are equally unhealthy.
The real benefits lie in breads labeled “whole grain” or specifically “100% whole wheat.” The difference between these varieties and the white/wheat are the makeup: the breads made from unrefined wheat have much higher fiber content, and they will also deliver more potassium and magnesium.
2. Myth: Anything labeled ‘natural’ is the healthier choice.
Despite the seemingly positive meaning of the word “natural,” its placement on food labels is incredibly confusing.
Although the public assumes (understandably so) that a product branded with “natural,” contains no GMOs (genetically modified organisms), or has only the best ingredients, the term actually has very little meaning.
The United States FDA (Food and Drug Association) has not established a definition for “natural” when it comes to food labels. If a product contains no artificial or synthetic ingredients, “natural” it is. This is very vague, and it does not mean that the food is better for you.
3. Myth: An egg’s cholesterol is detrimental to heart health.
While an egg (particularly the yolk) does contain high amounts of dietary cholesterol, this has little correlation with your body’s cholesterol levels. In truth, the word “cholesterol” can refer to two things: dietary cholesterol (like that found in eggs) and cholesterol that’s made by your own body (mostly by your liver).
It’s actually the foods that are high in trans and saturated fats that you have to watch out for: these will negatively contribute to your body’s production of cholesterol, making you more vulnerable to clogged arteries and heart attacks.
4. Myth: All high-calorie foods are bad.
This is simply not true. Your body requires certain nutrients to function properly, and it also burns a certain amount of calories in a day. You should be conscientious of calorie intake, avoiding consumption that surpasses your metabolic rate (don’t eat what you don’t burn).
However, you shouldn’t avoid high-calorie foods because some offer highly beneficial vitamins and minerals. Instead, cut items from your diet that offer no nutritional value, such as candy, chips and soda. Here are some foods that, while high in calories, are also high in fiber, protein and other nutrients:
- Dried fruit
- Smoothies/protein shakes
- Peanut butter
Remember that, while these foods offer nutrients, everything serves you best when consumed in moderation.
5. Myth: Carbohydrates are the cause of weight gain.
There are carbohydrates in almost everything. When you aim to cut carbs from your diet completely, you eliminate whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables – all of which provide necessary nutrients to the body.
It’s advised that one eliminates the sugary foods loaded with refined carbohydrates, like white bread, pasta, cookies and crackers. These items don’t contain the fiber, vitamins or minerals that are found in natural, good carbohydrates. So don’t blame carbohydrates in general for weight gain – blame refined carbohydrates, along with calories and sugar.
Myth: You shouldn’t eat after 6pm.
We’ve heard that eating in the evening is bad, that those calories will turn to fat if we’re sleeping soon after consuming them. Dr. John Foreyt, director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine says, however, that a calorie is a calorie. The time at which you eat is irrelevant. Good news for all of us living on more of a European dining schedule!
7. Myth: Eating 5-6 small meals through out the day is better for your metabolism than three bigger meals.
Just as eating in the evening doesn’t make you fat, eating small meals throughout the day doesn’t make you skinny. Calories in versus calories burned is what counts. While some argue that eating smaller portions more frequently keeps one’s metabolism running at full power, others say that eating when hungry (in regular intervals) is all it takes to keep the body’s natural burn going.
Across the board, however, medical professionals agree that skipping meals negatively impacts metabolic rate.
8. Myth: Red wine is the only alcohol that’s good for your heart.
People have been under the impression that the antioxidants in red wine were what benefited the heart. While that may be so, it turns out that alcohol alone carries its own advantages.
According to Eric Rimm, ScD, associate professor of nutrition at the School of Public Health at Harvard University, it’s the ethanol that raises the body’s good cholesterol. This, in turn, helps to fend off clogged arteries and thus lowers the risk of heart problems.
Don’t take this as a reason to binge, however; alcohol should be consumed in moderation (one or two drinks per day at most) in order to be beneficial.
There are many food myths out there. Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments below!