Nutrition advice continues to be riddled with misinformation. Here are 10 myths that should be put to rest in 2012.
Myth #1: High Fructose corn syrup is no worse than sugar.
This myth is probably the most controversial. According to the Corn Refiner’s Association, sugar and high fructose corn syrup have the same number of calories and both contribute 4 calories per gram. They are also equal in sweetness. Sugar and high fructose corn syrup contain nearly the same one-to-one ratio of two sugars-fructose and glucose: Sugar is 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose. High fructose corn syrup is sold principally in two formulations – 42 percent and 55 percent fructose-with the balance made up of primarily of glucose and higher sugars. Many believe the body cannot tell the difference. Not if you’re a rat. A Princeton University research team has demonstrated that all sweeteners are not equal when it comes to weight gain: Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same. Whether this applies to humans remains to be seen. However, the more I read about sugar and health in general, the more I become concerned about its consumption in our diets.
Myth #2: Sea salt is a healthier version of regular salt.
Regular salt comes from a mine- it has 2300 mg sodium. Sea salt comes from evaporated seawater – it has 2300 mg sodium. Traditional salt is fortified with iodine. Sea salt gives you zero iodine. The real differences between sea salt and table salt are in their taste, texture and processing, not their chemical makeup. Bottom Line: virtually identical
Myth #3 Diet soda is harmless.
Research shows that aspartame and sucralose increased food intake and calories in animals. People who only consumed 3 diet sodas a week were more than 40% more likely to be obese. A new study found that when people had a diet soda every day, they experienced a 61% higher risk of vascular events (stroke, myocardial infarction, and death) than those who reported drinking no soda. This appeared to be the first of this association. The study involved 2500 people who were followed an average of 9.3 years. Previous studies have suggested a link between diet soda consumption and the risk for metabolic syndrome and diabetes. This was not a proven casual relationship, however, just an observational study. This may be just a wake-up call and further research will help to verify the preliminary results.
Myth #4 Trans-fat free is not trans-free fat.
Food manufacturers can claim 0 grams of trans fat but can have 0.5 grams per serving. So if you eat more than the serving indicated on the products, you could very easily eat more than 1 gram. The recommendation is zero. Check ingredient labels for “partially-hydrogenated oils” – this indicates the presence of some trans fats in that product.
Myth #5 Egg yolks raise your cholesterol.
Dietary cholesterol has almost nothing to do with blood cholesterol in healthy people. Thirty egg studies (at least) found no link between egg consumption and heart disease. Eating eggs for breakfast (high in protein) could help stave off hunger pangs later in the morning. Discuss with your doctor whether your cholesterol is high enough to limit egg consumption.
Myth #6 Chocolate is bad for you.
I’m sure by now you have heard or read about the health benefits of chocolate. Cocoa is rich with flavonoids (antioxidants). And chocolate contains a healthier kind of saturated fat called stearic acid. Stearic acid’s neutral effect on blood total and LDL cholesterol levels implies that this long-chain saturated fatty acid may not increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. Milk chocolate is higher in sugar – instead look for dark chocolate with 60% or more cocoa.
Myth #7 Granola is good for you.
Granola is oats with added sugar and baked in oil for crunch. One cup of Quaker Natural Granola with Oats, Honey and Raisins has 420 calories, 26 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of fat. You could switch to plain old oatmeal or Quaker Instant Oatmeal with Raisins, Dates and Walnuts where 1 serving contains 140 calories, 2.5 grams of fat and 11 grams of sugar.
Myth #8 Organic Foods are more nutritious.
No evidence shows that this is true – the information is based on biases. Organic foods are the best bet for young children and pregnant women, however and have other benefits like no genetically modified foods or ingredients added. Antibiotics in animal foods are more of an issue and organics are far better for the environment.
Myth #9 Meat is bad for you.
There have been 20 studies that found that meat’s link to heart disease exists only with processed meats like bacon, sausage, and deli meats. Unprocessed meats that are not smoked, cured and chemically preserve and had a zero risk. A recent study found that lean beef can be part of a healthy diet and does not raise the “bad” cholesterol, LDL in humans. A word of caution – meat can be healthy with a diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.
Myth #10 Low-fat foods are better for you.
Low fat is associated with salt and refined carbohydrates. When fat is removed, sugar is added for taste. People who ate low-carb diets or low fat diets lost about the same amount of weight over 2 years, but it appears that lower carbohydrate diets have a more beneficial effect on cardiovascular health.