Happy Monday! Today is Day 29 of my Whole30, and I am so excited! Aside from a few really strong cravings for pizza — all of which came between Friday and Sunday — these past 28 days have been fairly smooth for me, and I’m feeling fantastic!
Let’s talk about some Sunday things before we jump into the meat of this post. I really just want to share these pictures from my run yesterday. It was absolutely gorgeous, so I made sure to pack my running clothes for once I got done with work. I was suuuper slow, but I got over three miles done and I’m slowly getting back into the running habit. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have views like this!
Anywho, today I want to talk about food myths. In case you couldn’t tell, food is a pretty big interest of mine (no wisecracks please 😉 ), and I spend a lot of time reading about nutrition, scrolling through #foodporn on Instagram and looking up new recipes to try. Over the past several years, I’ve spent more time thinking about what I’m putting in my body and why. There always seems to be a new trend in the diet-sphere but, rather than blindly following, I think it’s important to understand the why behind any new nutrition fad.
I believed a lot of food myths for a long time. Fat = bad. Low-fat = good. Salads = healthy. Potatoes = unhealthy. Drink milk for strong bones. Eggs wreak havoc on your cholesterol. Some of these myths were based on incomplete information, but some of them are just marketing techniques to sell you some engineered “health" food product that is actually not much better for you than the real thing.
So I’ve rounded up my 10 “favorite” food myths that I choose to ignore, and am much happier because I do:
*I am not a nutritionist or dietician, just someone with a strong interest in nutrition and food. Consult with an expert before making any drastic changes to your diet.
1. Fat is bad for you
Sometime in the 1980s or ‘90s (I don’t actually know because I was barely conscious back then), someone came up with the idea that fat is bad for you. And I used to fall for this no problem. If you don’t want to get fat, you probably shouldn’t eat fat, right? Sure, certain kinds of fat are bad for you, but all-in-all, fat is a necessary part of a healthy diet. Weight gain is not directly caused by eating only fats. In fact, any excess calories your body doesn’t use will be converted into body fat.
Foods that label themselves as low-fat or fat-free, but are naturally fatty, usually replace the flavor lost by the removal of dietary fat with extra sugar or salt, which can actually be doing you more harm than good. Besides, fats are naturally dense in calories, which can help you stay full longer. Think of avocados, nuts and oils. These are all great additions to your diet, and all are healthy fats. Besides, reduced-fat cheese is just sad.
2. Labels tell the whole story
Citing my point above about "low-fat” and “fat-free,” not all labels are created equal. Just because something says it’s “natural” or “multi-grain" doesn’t mean it’s not chock-full of sugar and additives. The FDA does not define a lot of healthy-sounding terms that companies use on their packaging, so as long as the food does not contain added coloring, artificial flavors or synthetic substances, it’s fair game. I recommend looking at the ingredients of anything you buy and, at the very least, avoiding things with ingredients you can’t pronounce.
3. Egg yolks are bad for you
"The U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advice Committee recently dropped its recommendation to restrict cholesterol," reports Rodale's. The cholesterol you eat has very little to do with the cholesterol in your blood, so eat those egg yolks! They're packed with protein and much tastier than the egg white alone.
4. Organic is automatically better
The problems with this myth are two-fold. First, many people believe that organic food is more nutritious than conventionally grown food; it isn’t. Second, an even larger share of people believe that organic farming means no pesticides; they’re wrong. Not only is organic produce no better for you than conventional produce, but organic farmers do use pesticides — only natural ones, rather than synthetic varieties. In either case, you’re unlikely to be really affected by the use of pesticides; they are highly regulated and have little affect on consumers. You’re better off saving your money. (I do still prefer to buy organic meat and eggs for ethical reasons).
5. All salads are healthy
Sure, you’ve got your heap of lettuce there… somewhere… under a mound of cheese, nuts, creamy dressing and dried fruit. Maybe you’ve got some buffalo strips on there I DON’T KNOW YOUR LIFE. I just know that most people are heaping up their salads with junk and calling it a healthy lunch and, honestly, salad is not even that worth it to me, so I’ll be over here eating some chicken and roasted broccoli, or maybe a hearty vegetable soup, and feeling superior. Seriously, I hate salad.
6. Going gluten-free is beneficial for everybody
I will not deny that going gluten-free works for plenty of people. Of course people with gluten sensitivities should limit their exposure to it. And as we (I) know from my Whole30 experience, gluten can be inflammatory and cause issues even if you are not dealing with something like Celiac’s disease. However, this is not going to be the case for everyone. A good way to gauge whether or not you might have a gluten sensitivity is to remove it from your diet for a period (I’m clearly doing this for 30 days) and then reintroducing it to see how it might affect you. As for me, I’m really hoping I’m good to go with gluten because bread is life.
7. Milk is the best source of calcium for bone health
This myth was born when the dairy industry decided it would help them sell more milk. The fact is, a lot of humans have a hard time digesting dairy — as many as 60 percent of people are lactose intolerant — and the consumption of milk and other dairy products has not been proven to increase bone health. Calcium consumption is necessary to maintain strong bones, but you can find calcium in more easily digestible foods such as spinach, kale, collard greens, beans and legumes. These also have the benefit of not coming with the saturated fat you get from dairy. Listen, I love cheese, but I'm not kidding myself that I'm growing stronger bones when I pile a boatload of fresh mozzarella on my pizza.
8. Everyone should drink eight glasses of water per day
In 1945, the Food and Nutrition Board recommended that people needed 2.5 liters of water per day. What people ignored was the note that most of this water came from prepared foods. You can get water from fruits, vegetables, juice, beer, tea, and even coffee. You just don’t need to consume all your water by drinking it.
9. Juice cleanses help reset the system
Nothing gets me more riled up than cleanses, and juice cleanses in particular. What is it exactly you’re trying to get rid of? Toxins exist, sure, but your body — kidneys and liver in particular — have the “cleansing” processes pretty well handled on their own. There is no need to “rest” your stomach. There is no evidence to suggest that any type of juiced food will “flush” your body of toxins. You essentially paying for 5-7 days of starvation and lack of nutrients, which can’t be all that great for you in the long run.
10. Potatoes are bad for you
Potatoes often get lumped in the “bad carb” category, but they are actually a great choice for otherwise healthy individuals. They contain a healthy mix of vitamins and minerals — potassium, Vitamin C, Vitamin B-1, Vitamin B-6 and folate — as well as fiber. Certain individuals, however, like those with diabetes, should limit their consumption of the vegetable because of its high starch content. But if you don’t fall into this category, potatoes, as long as they are prepared healthily, are definitely a good carb.
What food myths do you love to debunk?
Which ones have you believed over the years?
I was all about the low-fat trend. I ate low-fat or no-fat everything. And my life was just a little bit sadder.