8 Healthy Eating Myths Debunked
1. Myth: Eating at night makes you fat.
Truth: There’s no proof for this myth! Scientists at Oregon Health & Science University carried out tests on 47 female monkeys and found no link between when the animals ate and whether or not they put on weight. Dr Judy Cameron of the study concluded that calories count, whenever you eat them. Nigel Denby of the British Dietetic Association backed the findings ”The bottom line is a calorie is a calorie whenever you eat it,” he told BBC News Online. ”Your body doesn’t really recognize what time of day it is.”
2. Myth: Caffeine is unhealthy
Truth: Moderate amounts of caffeine–about 300 milligrams, roughly three cups of coffee–apparently cause no harm in most healthy adults. Although some people are more sensitive to its effects, including older people and those with high blood pressure. Here are the facts by condition.
At high levels (more than 744 milligrams per day, around seven or eight cups of coffee), caffeine may increase calcium and magnesium loss in urine. But recent studies suggest it does not increase your risk for bone loss, especially if you get enough calcium. You can offset the calcium lost from drinking one cup of coffee by adding just two tablespoons of milk. However, research does show some links between caffeine and hip fracture risk in older adults. Older adults may be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine on calcium metabolism. If you’re an older woman, discuss with your doctor whether you should limit your daily caffeine intake to 300 milligrams or less.
According to the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, caffeine consumption does not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and does not raise cholesterol levels or cause irregular heartbeat. A slight, temporary rise in heart rate and blood pressure is common in those who are sensitive to caffeine–but the rise is minimal and comparative to normal activity like walking up stairs. That said, ff you have high blood pressure talk to your doctor about caffeine intake as some people may be more sensitive to its effects. Also, more research is needed to tell whether caffeine increases the risk for stroke in people with high blood pressure.
According to The New York Times, scientists conducting an international review of 66 studies found coffee drinking had “little if any effect on the risk of developing pancreatic or kidney cancer. In fact, another review suggested that compared with people who do not drink coffee, those who do have half the risk of developing liver cancer.” And a study of 59,000 women in Sweden (the country with the highest coffee consumption per capita in the world) found no connection between caffeine consumption and breast cancer.
3. Myth: Eating eggs raises your cholesterol levels
Truth: This one has been confusing people for decades. The cholesterol in eggs (dietary cholesterol) doesn’t effect the cholesterol in your body–they are two different things. The culprit in raising your body’s cholesterol is certain saturated and trans fats. Eggs contain relatively small amounts of saturated fat. One large egg contains about 1.5 grams saturated fat (a tablespoon of butter contains 7 grams).
Meanwhile, egg protein has the right mix of essential amino acids that we need for tissue-building, and egg protein is said to be the highest quality food protein known, second only to mother’s milk. Eggs provide 22 percent of the adult’s daily requirement of choline, an essential nutrient for brain and memory functions, and egg yolk is one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D. Eggs offer carotene, calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, thiamin, B6, folate, B12 and pantothenic acid, to name just a few of their important nutrients.
For more information on eggs, see Easy Greening: Eggs
4. Myth: Organic produce is no better than conventional produce
Truth: Many people have claimed that organic produce has higher nutritional values, and just as many have claimed that’s not true. While it seems that organic and conventionally grown produce might have about the same level of nutrients–the fact remains that organic fruits and vegetables are less likely to have traces of pesticides and other chemicals. Recent studies show that certain pesticides can increase the risk for ADHD. What about peeling vegetables? That can reduce the level of pesticides, but it cuts down on nutrients too.
The best workaround for this, if you don’t have access to or the means for organic produce, is to avoid the conventionally grown fruits and vegetables that have the highest pesticide loads.
For a list of the top conventional vegetables that you should avoid, and the ones that are okay to eat, see: Top 12 Toxic Fruits and Vegetables
5. Myth: To get enough iron, you need plenty of red meat
Truth: Yes, some people, such as menstruating women, don’t get enough iron. But according to this CBS news article, “many Americans get too much, which can trigger the production of free radicals–rogue chemicals that can contribute to cancer and speed the aging process. In addition, iron overload can increase the risk for heart disease.”
Fortunately, you can get provide nonheme iron (iron that is more absorbable when your body is low in iron and less absorbable when you already have enough) from green vegetables and beans.
For more plant-based iron sources, see Top 12 Vegan Iron Sources.
6. Myth: Meat is the only “complete” protein
Truth: Proteins are long chains of amino acids, and your body needs a complete set of the acids in order to build body tissues. Meats contain them all, making them “complete” proteins. Some plant-based proteins are “complete” but most are “incomplete,” meaning that they are low in one or more of the essential amino acids—but incomplete proteins can be combined to provide adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids. Recent studies show that eating a variety of vegetables, nuts and grains can combine to give your body the complete proteins it needs.
For more, see 10 Protein-Packed Plants.
7. Myth: Cooking olive oil destroys its health benefits.
Truth: Olive oil’s fabulous reputation has been ever-so-slightly marred by the myth that it can’t take the heat–that even if you cook with premium versions, you cook away the healthful properties. Not true! Even delicate extra-virgin oils can take the heat without sacrificing nutrition.
Heart-happy mono-unsaturated fats aren’t unfavorably impacted by heat. And new research is showing that the phytonutrient compounds responsible for giving olive oils their complex flavor profiles as well as other healthful properties are surprisingly stable, as long as the oil isn’t heated past its smoking point, which for extra-virgin olive oil is pretty high, about 405°F.
But do make sure to store olive oil (and all oils) properly. Fats and phytonutrients can stay stable for up to two years if stored in unopened opaque bottles at room temperature and away from light. Heat, light, and air dramatically effect stability.
8. Myth: Eating healthy is too expensive
Truth: Well that’s just poppycock. A survey by the USDA found that, by weight, bottled water is cheaper than soda, low-fat milk is cheaper than high-fat, and whole fruit is cheaper than processed sweet snacks. Preparing homemade food may be slightly more labor-intensive than popping a frozen pizza in the oven, but a pot of lentils is cheaper and healthier than packaged, processed macaroni and cheese any day of the week!
It really can be done, and with not all that much effort. See 13 Ways to Eat Healthier on a Budget.