Sometimes it seems that there is more nutrition misinformation floating around than actual truth. It is hard to distinguish between what is fact- and what is mere fantasy. Read on for the debunking of some of the more common food myths.
1. You will gain weight if you eat after 8 pm.
The bottom line for weight loss: calories in must be less than calories out. It doesn’t matter when you eat the calories. The problem with late night eating is that most people eat the appropriate number of calories during the day and then go overboard at night, especially when eating in front of the television. So feel free to eat at night- just keep your total number of calories in check.
2. Fat-free foods are healthy.
Not all fat-free foods are healthy. In fact, sugar is the quintessential fat-free food and nobody would dare say that sugar is healthy. Many fat-free products actually contain more calories than the original. To maintain flavor, anufacturers have to add something back when they take out the fat, and that something is usually sugar. Be wary of fat-free snacks and always look at nutrition labels.
3. You should not eat carbohydrates if you want to lose weight.
Carbohydrates are a part of a healthy diet! However, some carbohydrates are healthier than others. Whole grains, like brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and whole wheat bread, can help facilitate weight loss by keeping you full. Diets that don’t include any carbohydrates often fail because dieters get too hungry and feel deprived, increasing the likelihood of a binge!
4. Some foods have ‘negative calories’.
It is a commonly-held belief that chewing and digesting certain foods burns more calories than the foods actually contain. It is said that you can lose weight by eating these foods. These purported miracle foods include cucumbers, celery and grapefruit. Unfortunately, this is not true. No food truly has ‘negative calories’.
5. Decaf coffee has no caffeine.
Decaffeinated coffee contains caffeine; it just contains less caffeine than regular coffee. A cup of regular coffee has 100-150 mg of caffeine while a cup of decaf has 8-32 mg of caffeine. You are better off drinking herbal tea with is truly caffeine-free.
6. Margarine is healthier than butter.
Neither margarine nor butter is healthy. Butter has saturated fat that can increase LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, increasing the risk of heart disease. Margarine, however, often contains trans fats which not only increase LDL but also lower HDL (good cholesterol) and can increase the risk of heart disease even more! I recommend using a little bit of heart-healthy olive oil instead. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fats which are proven to decrease the risk of heart disease.
7. Bananas are fattening.
One medium banana has only 105 calories and is full of fiber, magnesium and potassium which can help manage blood pressure. Bananas also contain vitamin B6 which helps with immune function. It is true that, per serving, bananas may have slightly more sugar, carbohydrates and calories than some other fruits. But they are still a very healthy part of a balanced diet.
8. Cooking veggies destroys their vitamin content.
Cooking vegetables actually increases your body’s ability to absorb the nutrients in certain vegetables. Tomatoes are a great example of this. Lycopene, a phytonutrient that helps prevent cancer, is much stronger in cooked forms of tomatoes than in raw tomatoes. It is true, however, that overcooking some vegetables in large amounts of water can decrease their vitamin levels by allowing the nutrients to slip out of the vegetables into the water. To prevent this, do not overboil veggies. Try to steam, roast, or microwave vegetables with as little water as possible and keep cooking time to a minimum.
9. High-fructose corn syrup is more fattening than regular sugar
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and table sugar (sucrose) contain similar amounts of fructose. The two most commonly used types of HFCS are HFCS-42 and HFCS-55, which are 42 and 55 percent fructose, respectively. Sucrose is almost chemically identical, containing 50 percent fructose. The bottom line: there is no evidence to show any differences between these two types of sugar. Both will cause weight gain when eaten in excess.
10. Salt causes high blood pressure and should be avoided
The truth is that restricting salt in people with high blood pressure can help lower blood pressure. But that doesn’t mean that salt causes high blood pressure in normal individuals. There is no reason for people with normal blood pressure to restrict their sodium intake.