Now days, information is readily available at our fingertips, allowing us to search for answers to all of our questions and this is great as it allows us to make informed choices as well as empower us to be healthier. But with so many self-proclaimed “nutritional professionals” out there, mixed messages and myths are on the rise, and instead of being educated on basic, healthy nutrition principles, many of us land up being more confused than ever over the finer details while neglecting the essential basics. Here are a few facts about common nutrition misconceptions:
- I have to eat less food/skip meals to lose weight. FALSE! This simply slows down your metabolism! One should eat around 5-6 small, frequent meals to keep ones metabolism as well as energy levels up
- I can eat whatever I want as long as I exercise. FALSE! Have you ever heard of the saying that Abs are made in the kitchen?…well that’s not the only thing, Healthy eating and exercise go hand in hand to allow effective use of the food we consume to form healthy lean body mass as well as keeping the fat percentage down
- Eggs are not allowed if you have high cholesterol. FALSE! For someone with high cholesterol levels, dietary cholesterol should be restricted to 300 mg per day. One whole egg contains approximately 210mg cholesterol, however it is important to note that dietary cholesterol has very little effect on plasma cholesterol found in the blood. Therefore an EGG A DAY IS OK! And for pregnant women 2 a day is ok. There are actually many benefits of eating eggs: they are nutrient dense, contain choline for fetal brain development, lowers the risk of cancer, prevents cataracts, reduces cholesterol absorption, lowers blood pressure and is actually protective against heart disease and strokes
- Cheese should be avoided in you have high cholesterol. TRUE AND FALSE! Many cheeses are high in fat and cholesterol, such as cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. However, low-fat cottage cheese and ricotta cheese can be used freely in energy-restricted or low-cholesterol diets, due to their low cholesterol and low fat content
- Olive oil is not fattening. IT DEPENDS! Olive oil, used in moderation, is not fattening. However, olive oil per ml has the same amount of kilojoules as all other fats. Olive oil should be used in moderation in salad dressings and over roast vegetables and should not be heated to a very high temperature.
- There is no significant difference between 2% and fat-free milk. IT DEPENDS! The amount of milk that you drink daily will determine how significant the fat content is. If you only use milk in your two cups of tea per day, this would amount to 50 ml of milk per day. However, if you consume two glasses of milk per day, the difference becomes more significant.
- Popcorn is free from calories. FALSE! Popcorn is in actual fact made from corn and commercially made flavoured popcorn is as fattening as potato crisps, since it contains up to 21 grams of fat and 2 600 kilojoules per 100 grams. The healthiest way to enjoy popcorn is to make it the old-fashioned way (in a large pot on the stove with a small amount of heated oil) or pop them in a brown paper bag in the microwave oven.
- Fruit juice is great for weight loss. FALSE! Fruit juice, although high in vitamins and minerals, is highly concentrated in natural fruit sugars and lacks one thing that you can get from fresh fruit…fibre! If you are watching your weight, rather eat fresh fruit and drink water. Take note that one glass (250 ml) of grape juice (590 kJ) contains more kilojoules than a glass of cola (417 kJ).
- Brown sugar is better for you than white sugar. FALSE! Brown sugar contains molasses which gives it its’ characteristic caramel aroma and flavour, whereas white sugar has been refined to remove the molasses, which is really the only major difference between the two, brown sugar may contain other small amounts of nutritional compounds however, they would have to be eaten in large amounts to reap the benefits. In actual fact, both brown and white sugar provides the same amount of energy (kilojoules), so the truth is that your body can’t really tell the difference.
- People living with Diabetes are not allowed to eat sugar. FALSE- IN CONTROLLED PORTIONS! Many people with diabetes are told to avoid eating sugar, but science has shown that this isn’t necessary. All carbohydrates (e.g. bread, rice, pasta, starchy vegetables) are broken down to sugar which is absorbed into the blood stream. Rather than avoid sugars, people with diabetes should choose carbohydrates that are slowly broken down, and spread these carbohydrates evenly across the day to help control their blood sugar levels. Many different factors such as the type of food, type of processing of the food and the amount of dietary fibre in the sweetened food will determine how high the blood sugar levels will be after eating the food. The best choices are low GI carbohydrates.
The South African Diabetes Association states that diabetics should “Limit sugar intake because sugar (cane sugar) has a medium GI rating and so having diabetes does not mean a total ban on sugars. It means you can eat small amounts without making your blood glucose levels rise excessively. However, eating too much sugar is not a good idea as it adds to your total carbohydrate and energy intake and will replace the nutritionally better and more filling carbohydrate foods. Diabetics can use moderate amounts of sugar as part of their diet prescription but this should be set out by a dietician to ensure correct amounts, timing etc.
- Sugar causes hyperactivity. FALSE! There is no research that shows hyperactivity is linked to eating too much sugar. Often, children eat foods that are high in sugar, such as candy, cold drinks, and cake at celebrations like birthday parties, family gatherings, sleepovers and play time with friends. These are some common situations where foods that are high in sugar falsely appear to cause hyperactivity, however, it is the situation, not the food that affects a child’s behaviour, the excitement of the celebration and getting the treat is normally misinterpreted as hyperactivity caused by sugar. Of course, that doesn’t mean sugary foods are healthy! Foods that contain high amounts of sugar are considered ‘empty calories’ because they are often poor in nutrients and therefore should be limited to leave room for healthier foods. As a parent, you want to do the best for your child so set a good example by eating healthy and being physically active with your children. They will learn that a healthy lifestyle is both important and fun.
- A daily multivitamin is necessary to keep kids healthy. FALSE! Many parents view multivitamins as ‘insurance’ or a way to ‘top up’ their kids’ diets, however, they can’t replace a healthy diet. Some studies have shown that nutrients in supplements sometimes do not provide the same benefits as a diet rich in those same nutrients as well as not providing them with other nutritional benefits that food can give them, for eg: fibre. Teaching children to get their nutrition from a pill tells them that food is not important. Try offering your child a variety of foods from all the food groups and in all different colours. Although children tend to be picky eaters, just remember, foods eaten in one single day or at one single meal do not determine a child’s health. Instead, foods eaten over several days add together to provide the nutrients the child needs.
- One beer is equal in kilojoules to a whole loaf of bread. FALSE! 1 beer (375 ml) = 645 kilojoules WHILE 1 loaf of bread (700 g) = 6 510 kilojoules, therefore 10 beers are approximately equal to the kilojoules in a loaf of bread
To get accurate Nutrition related information be sure to either visit a dietician, read articles written by Dieticians or ones where Dieticians are consulted. Google Scholar is a great internet portal for looking up evidence-based articles and be sure to visit the FutureLife website at www.futurelife.co.za to ask a Dietician your question or read up on some articles written by them.
Information proudly brought to you by Lara De Santana (RD @futurelifeza )