8 Food Myths You Need To Stop Believing

by SELF
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8 Food Myths You Need To Stop Believing

You can find healthy eating advice on every corner. That doesn’t mean it’s good advice, though. Nutrition research can be confusing, and it’s always changing. Throw in the sensationalistic headlines and the rate at which information is spread, and it’s no wonder the nutrition tips or suggestions you get from your friend are unsound. Best-case scenario, following bad advice means you unnecessarily avoid your favorite foods. Worst-case, you end up choosing the unhealthier option all while thinking you’re making a better choice.

We zeroed in on eight myths about healthy eating that especially need to die.

MYTH #1: EGG YOLKS ARE BAD FOR YOU

Dietary cholesterol has been wrongly accused of raising our blood cholesterol levels for years. It’s become clearer that saturated fats and trans fats are more influential in raising blood cholesterol levels. And while eggs—the yolks included—are high in cholesterol, they are relatively low in saturated fats. Lots of research has been done in recent years, and the verdict is that the entire egg can actually be a part of a healthy diet and in most people, do not significantly impact cholesterol levels or heart disease risk.

MYTH #2: COFFEE IS DEHYDRATING

Yes, coffee is a diuretic (aka, promotes urine production), but it’s an extremely mild one. It also has a lot of water in it and therefore actually counts toward your daily fluid intake. The amount it would take to dehydrate you is more than anyone should be consuming in a day—if you have two or three cups daily, your fluid levels will be completely fine.

MYTH #3: NATURAL SUGAR IS DIFFERENT FROM ADDED SUGAR

Sugar is sugar is sugar. On a molecular level, the sugar in an apple is the same as the sugar you spoon into your coffee cup. There can be a difference in how our bodies break down the sugar when it’s combined with other nutrients like fiber and protein, but simply being natural doesn’t cut it. Sugar in a whole fruit comes with fiber and helps slow digestion and prevent blood sugar spikes. That’s better than sugar that comes void of other nutrients. But when you squeeze out the juice and drink it, or eat maple syrup, agave syrup, or honey, your body reacts the same way it would to table sugar or the sugar in a Coke.


READ MORE > A NEW WAY TO APPROACH BREAKFAST


MYTH #4: ORGANIC FOOD IS AUTOMATICALLY HEALTHY

The word “organic” comes with a big health halo around it, like everything with the label is automatically good for you. The truth is that organic snacks are still snacks. Eating them in excess isn’t suddenly OK because they meet the requirements for an organic label. “Organic chocolate syrup is still chocolate syrup,” Caroline Kaufman, R.D., tells SELF. Organic cookies, crackers, chips, and candies have the same amount of sugar, fat, and empty calories as non-organic versions. When it comes to produce, choosing organic versions of the “dirty dozen”—the foods that typically have the highest amount of pesticides on them—is a good way to cut back on chemical exposure. But Kaufman adds that conventionally grown produce is still safe to eat, since it’s monitored to ensure pesticide residue stays below a certain limit.

MYTH #5: MARGARINE IS AUTOMATICALLY BETTER THAN BUTTER

Margarine become popular in the fat-is-bad era, but many actually contain trans fats, which are worse for you than the naturally occurring saturated fat in butter. Butter’s ingredient list is short and sweet and doesn’t contain extra ingredients to make up for lack of taste. Not all fake butter is bad, but you have to be cautious about what you’re buying. “I always look at the ingredient list first,” Lori Zanini, R.D., spokesperson for the Association of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells SELF. “Stick margarines are not recommended due to the fact that they contain hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats). Spreads that are in tubs can be considered, just make sure the ingredients are beneficial,” she adds. Look for ones with olive oil to get a good dose of healthy plant-based fat.

MYTH #6: SALADS ARE ALWAYS THE HEALTHIEST OPTION ON THE MENU

You’d think that choosing the salad is safe. But all the add-ons piled atop a bed of lettuce can make the sugar, fat, and calorie count just as high as the mouthwatering burger you’re trying to resist. “Watch out for tricky salad toppings that add up quickly: creamy, bottled dressings; cheese; bacon; croutons; or sweetened, dried fruit,” Zanini says. Other ingredients, like avocado and nuts, are healthy in small amounts but are usually served in too-large portion sizes, Kaufman says. To make sure your salad is as healthy as possible, look for one with leafy greens, lean protein (fried chicken doesn’t count), a small serving of healthy fat, and an oil-based dressing on the side. The oil helps you absorb all the fat-soluble nutrients you’re eating, and keeps you away from caloric creamy dressing.

MYTH #7: LOW-FAT VERSIONS ARE BETTER THAN THE ORIGINALS

If you’re still buying low-fat varieties of naturally fatty foods (I’m looking at you, coffee creamer), you might be doing yourself a disservice. “Fat is a necessary part of a healthy diet. You need fat in your diet. Fat is not bad. Fat does not go directly to your hips,” Kaufman reassures. Any extra calories you eat that your body can’t use can be converted into body fat, not just dietary fat. Fat is more densely caloric, though, which is both a blessing and a curse. “Because fat is so rich in calories, it is also very satisfying. That’s good because ideally it means you could mindfully eat or use a small amount to feel full,” says Kaufman. It also means you need to watch your portion sizes. When fat is removed from foods, it’s usually replaced by sugar or salt, so it’s important to read the ingredients list before choosing the adulterated version. Usually, you’re better off eating a small serving of the full-fat kind so you actually enjoy it and feel satiated, Kaufman says.

MYTH #8: EVERYONE WILL BENEFIT FROM GIVING UP GLUTEN

“Eating gluten free is not necessarily healthier if you do not have Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance/sensitivity,” Zanini says. It’s also important to note that not all gluten-free foods are created equally, or healthfully. “Gluten-free breads and baked goods may still use nutrient-poor, refined flours,” she explains. They can also be high in sugar. If you think you might be sensitive to gluten, or have any of the symptoms of Celiac disease, see an R.D. to ask about being tested. If wheat products don’t make you feel crummy, swearing them off isn’t going to make you a healthier person.

Related

  • nonyabizzz

    This article is no better than the “myths” it’s supposedly debunking

    • Exadyne

      This comment is a lot worse than the article it is criticizing.
      All 8 are indeed myths, so please put your scare quotes away.

      • nonyabizzz

        egg yolks are, in fact, not very good for you. The rest are generally correct.

        • Exadyne

          Egg yolks are fine. Whole eggs contain a number of micronutritents, and are a decent source of protein. As the post says, dietary cholesterol is not really associated with lipoprotein levels or cardiovascular risk.

          • nonyabizzz

            There is no dietary requirement for saturated fat. Cholesterol certainly elevates risk. Maybe not if you have a high fat diet anyway. That would be akin to the risk difference between jumping off a 9th floor as opposed to an 11th floor.

          • Exadyne

            There’s no established requirement for saturated fat. There’s also no established requirement for carbohydrates, but that isn’t an argument that people should eat vegetables. There are studies that suggest eliminated saturated fat may negatively impact hormone levels. Admittedly, it is hard to say how much is just the total reduction in fat.
            Saturated fat does have some association with CVD, but in a very, very dose dependent fashion. Again, I could say enough raffinose can poison a person but that isn’t an argument for never eating a single piece of broccoli. Dietary cholesterol’s risk profile is very debated, though definitely downgraded in the general consensus to not of concern in populations that are not at risk.
            The article doesn’t say a diet of nothing but eggs is okay or that one should eat huge amounts.
            I could also argue the studies that actually do show positive benefits for eggs. There are studies showing that eating at least one egg a day is beneficial to testosterone and strength gains in healthy, weight training young men.

          • Jon Hartley

            Everybody has a high fat diet. If you’re getting a very low percentage of your calories from fats, what are you getting them from? Are you chowing down on carbs or are you loading up on hundreds of grams of protein per day?

          • nonyabizzz

            No, everyone doesn’t have a high fat diet. Just most westerners. And the rest of the world is catching up and getting fat. Most all plant foods have at least trace amounts of fat, and there is plenty of protein in plants as well. Whole food, plant based.

          • Exadyne

            It is the increase in all macronutrients that are seeing the world increase in weight, not just fat.

          • Jon Hartley

            Are you under the assumption that fat in foods literally makes you fat? And what percentage are you advocating that people take in from carbs and protein?

          • Jon Hartley

            Westerners who are fat are mostly that way because of excess amounts of sugar. It’s not because they’re eating too much peanut butter or eggs, lol.

          • Jon Hartley

            Sorry for the 8-month necro post, but I rarely check my replies. Again, there are three ways to get calories: protein, carbs, fat.

            If carbs are bad (m’kay) as we’re consistently told, people are either filling up with hundreds upon hundreds of grams of protein each day or getting plenty of fat in their diets. Fat doesn’t literally make you fat…you know that, right?

          • Bonnie Miller Barber

            Too much protein can be a problem. On a high fat diet (KETO) you need to keep the protein to around 20% – too much protein and it’s stored as fat. I live 75% fat, 20% protein, 5% carbs – I’m 110 lbs, 5’2″ – your body harvests the visceral fat and you are seldom hungry. Best way of eating I have ever tried – and I’m a lacto-ovo vegetarian.

          • WolfmanYX

            You are wrong. Our bodies do require saturated fats because that’s what protects our brain cells, joints, cartilage, etc. what our bodies have actual no dietary requirement for is carbohydrates. Our bodies are made of fat and protein, so we need fat and protein to live. We are not made of carbohydrates, therefore they are not a necessary food source. Look up the ketogenic diet and you will be amazed at the lies we’ve grown up with.

          • nonyabizzz

            actually, you are wrong. We need carbohydrates as fuel. All the fats and proteins we need are contained in plants.

          • Bonnie Miller Barber

            No, you’re wrong. We do NOT need carbs when we have enough fat.. You adapt to burn your own fat – healthier without all the visceral fat that people carry around their middle. Check out Dr. Mercola’s Fat as Fuel for the science behind it.

          • nonyabizzz

            Mercola is a huckster.

          • Pauline Roberts

            Wolfman, you are generalising. I have just gone through 3 months on lowering my macro carbs just to see what happened following all the hype. The result was as I expected although I kept an absolute open mind. I was doing protein and fat at 25% each and carbs 50%. I adjusted this to around carbs at 30% with protein and fat at around 35% each although this could vary of course. Within a month I had an even bigger ‘spare tyre’ and even less energy than I already had. I have gone back to what is was and already the spare tyre etc has diminished. What is right for one is not necessarily right for another. The moral here is get to know your own body and what works for you.

          • Bonnie Miller Barber

            Too much protein will get stored as fat. Your macros are way off for a Keto diet. 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs – my blood chemistry improved a ton. I have gotten down to 110 lbs – no visceral fat now, more energy, clearer thinking. You got your macro info from the wrong sources. Check out Fat as Fuel,. Dr. Mercola for the science behind the diet.

          • Pauline Roberts

            Did you not read properly what I put? When I lowered my carbs and highered my fat I went fatter! Not only that, I felt even more sluggish. I have health conditions that when altering my macros it does affect them. I wasn’t doing a Keto diet, I was merely adjusting the macros to see if it had any effect on my spare tyre.

            Interestingly even when I was much younger and actually went a little way below my recommended weight (to the effect of having dizzy spells) I still had a spare tyre. The shape of one’s body has a lot to do with the distribution too. My mother although the same height as me, was longer in the torso and had no flab at all.

            As for Dr Mercola, I certainly wouldn’t credit him for going for advice. Everything is aimed at buying his products. You can’t even look at his website without pop up boxes aimed at selling you his stuff. He isn’t even a proper MD. Since adjusting my carbs back up which I know I need, I have felt much better. As I said, what works for one can be very different for another. Seventy five percent fat may have worked for you and I don’t dispute that. But please don’t go telling everyone else that they should too; this could be dangerous.

            By the way, the source re trying adjusting your macros to see if there is any difference, was here on MFP!

          • Bonnie Miller Barber

            Best way of eating!! I’ve been eating Keto for almost a year and have never felt better! No grain, no sugar – in any form. I’m a lacto-ovo vegetarian, so it’s not the easiest diet for me, but the benefits are worth the trouble! My doctor agrees – interestingly, his phlebotomist went on the diet based on my health results (blood chemistry). My daily goal is 75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carb. Lots of energy and seldom ‘hungry’ – my memory has actually improved, too!

          • nbgiant25

            There’s no dietary requirement for gluten or wheat, either, but I’m going to go ahead and guess you don’t have any issues with that intake…

          • nonyabizzz

            If you aren’t celiac, or sensitive to gluten, there is no reason not to eat whole grains

          • nbgiant25

            That’s not the question. There is no dietary requirement or need to consume them. So there is no reason TO eat them, either.

          • nonyabizzz

            many whole grains contain at least 10% of the RDA of protein and fiber. Some minerals too. Not the only source, but a source.

          • nbgiant25

            Good for them. That doesn’t make them required, since there are other sources. An individual can avoid them entirely with no negative health impact.

          • Alberto Liberato

            Eggs are nature’s perfect food. Ask any reptile, small mammal or bird. It is their first food of choice. I eat six eggs per day for decades. Cholesterol 145. Triglycerides = 50. That’s not a typo. 50!

          • Christopher Ryan Seaton

            @Alberto how do you cook your eggs?

        • Jon Hartley

          So you have a problem with one of the 8 items on the list and you say the article is no better than the myths? Mind you, your initial post didn’t even include any specific criticism of the article.

  • Sandy

    Good info…thanx

  • Dawn Jordan-Musil

    Agreed nonyabiz.

  • hidaya

    Great article.

  • Joseph Piscitelli

    I went Gluten Free around 2009, because it was causing Inflammation of my Joints. I have Osteoarthritis. As soon as I looked at the Gluten Free Breads, I was in Shock. Most are like eating a couple of handfuls of Sugar with 37 Grams of Carbs and more. So I just started using Lettuce as my Bread instead.

    • Shanghaidilly

      And I believe that is what the author was getting at. However, I think the author should have added that the biggest problem with people going “Gluten-free” is that most simply want to substitute what they are currently eating with gluten-free versions. This is the wrong way to go about it. I never thought of myself as gluten intolerant, however since my wife is, I went gluten-free 2 1/2 years ago and I have seen health benefits from doing so. But we do what you do, we substitute a lettuce wrap for bread – or simply do without bread of any form, gluten-free or not. We don’t look for gluten-free alternatives, we look for gluten free products that typically unnecessarily add gluten (here’s looking at you soy sauce). And here’s the catch – if you never go gluten-free, you’ll never know whether it is beneficial to you.

    • Bonnie Miller Barber

      Try Smart-Baking Company rolls. I don’t eat grain or sugar (in any form) and their buns are sugar free, starch free, zero carbs – great stuff. (No, I don’t work for them – but I am a big fan.)

  • Kaitlin Alexander

    The Myth 3 info is not accurate. Not all sugar is the same on the molecular level, the sugar in an apple is not the same as the sugar in your coffee and your body does not react the same way to all sources of sugar. The bit about Coke is especially misleading as HFCS is made up of free, not connected, fructose and glucose molecules and metabolizes differently. “Sugar” is a layman’s term but on the molecular level we are talking about saccharides. There are three monosaccharides: Fructose, Glucose, and Galactose, which are organic chemical structures found in all disaccharides and polysaccharides (aka carbohydrates), including sugar. Most of what we call “sugar” (cane sugar, maple syrup, honey) are disaccharides with varying compositions of two of the monosaccharides, but primarily are made up of varied amounts of fructose and glucose. Each saccharide metabolizes differently in the body and produces different metabolic responses. For instance, glucose signals the release of insulin, while fructose does not. Depending on the monosaccharides that make up sugar, it will require different enzymes (brush order hydrolases such as maltase, sucrase, lactase) to digest and break down into the monosaccharides as only monosaccharides can cross the cell wall. Even then, fructose does not take the same pathway as glucose and galactose. This is basic nutrition science.

    • Exadyne

      Except free fructose and glucose molecules exist in fruits too. The “high” in high fructose corn syrup can mean as little as 5% more than other sources. In order to be digested, all the sucrose bonded together already had to be cleaved in the intestines, it won’d enter the liver as sucrose anyway.
      The point it is making is that the same sugar molecules are the same whether they exist in an apple or in coffee. There absolutely are people that believe there is some difference in a sucrose molecule in a piece of fruit and in a packet of sweetener.

    • KnowingOneify .

      The body processes are sugar the same – this comes from current world renowned physicians from various medical disciplines. Fruit is natures CANDY, it has been genetically modified to be sweeter than the fruit or ancestors ate.

  • Food for thought

    This article is a disaster starting with Myth #1

    • Exadyne

      Yeah, I know. As someone who makes a living deceiving people about nutrition to get them to buy the latest recycled diet fads, this is a disaster. It means I’ll have to come up with new myths to scare people with in order to sell that won’t work.
      Now, if you’re actually someone looking to improve their health, this article is great.

    • Bruce Spencer

      I thought the same thing, saturated fat is still labeled as a bad guy for some reason.

    • Roger Starring

      Hardly.

    • nbgiant25

      Are you implying that there is something wrong with egg yolks?

  • thinkfirst

    @kaitlin_alexander:disqus You are correc about Myth 3. However, I believe the writer was saying that as long as it is sugar (not HFCS or an artificial sweetener) then it mostly the same. IMHO
    There also seems to be some people here who would like to refute the rest of the myths but don’t even bother to give facts. If you have references to why the rest of these myths are wrong, please submit the links and state your argument. Otherwise, troll somewhere else.

  • Robert Ostrove

    Myth No. 9: Kale tastes good. No it doesn’t. Kale is what unhappiness tastes like.

    • Guest

      I was hoping to see this on the actual list, so I’m glad someone mentioned it in the comments. Kale tastes awful. People need to stop lying about it.

    • Alberto Liberato

      No truer words have ever been spoken. lol

    • Ayaa

      I love kale!!! A little olive oil and salt baked till crunchy!!! Yummy!

    • Ron Hoffman

      Okra is the worst natural food on earth.

      • Jill Bradley Taylor

        I agree with this one!!!

      • Alan Hutchens

        If you don’t like okra, you’re doing something wrong with it. Fried, either breaded or unbreaded, it tastes wonderful. Stewed, it really is difficult to swallow. However, if you’ll mix it in a soup or a casserole, it can be yummy. (A couple of weeks ago, I made a soup of stewed okra, field peas with the snaps, and seasoned limas. Marvelous!) Or, try it pickled. Pickled okra will make you slap your grandma, it’s so good!

        • Bunnzye Lagrone

          Haha, why u trying to get him to like okra

        • Larry Bidinger

          Amen to pickled okra! (But any okra not picked little will give you splinters…)

    • Ray McGrath

      I guess I’m weird, I am addicted to KALE! 😉

    • Jill Bradley Taylor

      LOL 😉

    • Jeff

      Use some lemon juice or lime juice on it. It makes the bitterness go away or tones it down greatly.

    • Nicole

      bahaha!! True story!

    • undertow9x

      I couldn’t agree more. Kale is evil. I mean they literally grow it in satans asshole.

    • JLP

      I agree kale does not add a good flavor, but… being a potter, kale makes great pieces due to their texture and shape. So instead of spooning it out, I use it to make great spoon rests!

    • Shirley Devlin

      I discovered that if you mix in a little coconut oil, it makes it much easier to throw in the trash!

      • fatcityblue

        Disagree, but this has to be the best comment…LOL. Fun Nee.

      • Martin Holzgang

        hahahaha, I was all getting interested like “coconut oil, oh yeah?…. then… hahahahaha!”

      • LMAO. You win

    • Jan Cohen

      I read recently that kale is best cooked by sauteeing in butter because it slides into the garbage more quickly.

    • Katrina Samuel Garrison

      I like kale in my chili. Easy way to add some veggies. Plus, the seasoning from the chili makes the kale taste better. It’s all about the seasoning!

    • JoJo

      If you dehydrate kale and make it into a powder, it tastes great in foods…..I did that in a pot of beans and it also helps the bowels move better……people at the party said it was the best beans they ever had. I sprinkle it it a lot of different so my family gets the benefits and they dont know its in there…the flavor is so different than whole kale…

    • Robert Ostrove

      “It tastes like bug spray. I looked at a can of bug spray and it said, ‘Made with real kale.'” — Jim Gaffigan

    • Glenn Nelson

      …which is way Kale was the stuff surrounding a salad bar. It look good as a display but not good for taste ….nasty!

  • MaryPatShelby

    I love how this article is dated today, 10/28/17, but most of the comments are from one year ago.

    • Pauline Roberts

      I noticed this too :-). I was going to reply to the sugar comments but thought it probably won’t be worth the effort after all this time.

    • Danette Linn

      Damn, right?! Thanks for this “epiphany” a year later!

  • GiveMeLiberty1787

    Disproven Myth 10: Saturated Fat is bad for you.

    Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Like dietary cholesterol, recent scientific research is proving more and more that saturated fat IS NOT the cause of poor blood markers. Some of the casual statements made in this article perpetuate this myth created by the sugar industry decades ago. The sooner we get people past the lies our government nutritional overlords have told us the sooner we will no longer be one of the fattest countries on earth.

    There are, though, fats that are absolutely terrible for you. We’re all aware of the dangers of Trans Fats, but the silent killers are the Polyunsaturated Fats found in the junk (very non)vegetable oils that we’re told to cook with and that make up margarine. The inflammatory properties of those fats are doing almost as much damage as grains and sugar.

    Wipe your slates clean, people. It’s time to re-learn nutrition.

  • Daniel Hamza

    Nice article especially the point about organic foods.

  • Dave Gee

    A blog post worth resurrecting – alas, I’m impressed they’ve found something based on science rather than click-bait-at-all-costs!

  • Lisa

    Most of it is commen senes in my opinion but a couple I don’t agree with.

  • Karen Quick

    I have to admit that I’m a sugar addict. I’d love to be able to use an alternative sweetener in muffins, cookies, etc. that tastes good. So far not and then also, what are the long term side effect of the different alternative sugars. I would just as well like to stay with real sugar, but limit it.

  • David Ferrandino

    about time someone said it. you forgot to mention bread is the real killer with nothin to add but niacin and bulk

  • Christine Drozdowski

    I went gluten free to see if it would help me feel better and ended up feeling much worse. As it turns out I am allergic to CORN. Guess what the main ingredient in gluten free foods is? Yep, you got it, CORN!! I actually overdosed myself on what I was sensitive too!! lol

  • Coffee was a major diuretic for me my whole life. Then all the sudden at age 28 it stopped having that effect on me. Does anyone have an idea what changed in my body chemistry to allow for that?

  • Ayana Sioux Art

    Hahaha this is a terrible article. I never lost weight eating this way. Here’s the truth:

    – Calories in vs. Calories out only works when the count isn’t too low, like 1200.

    – coffee is a stimulant that masks true fatigue. Fatigue needs to be addressed, not ignored by coffee.

    – the study on eggs regarding how it “doesn’t” raise your cholesterol used test subjects with already high cholesterol. Your cholesterol can only get so high. However, the old study on cholesterol and how it can raise your levels was done on someone with normal cholesterol levels and the test subjects levels raised significantly after introducing cholesterol into their diet. Everyone is going crazy over this “new finding” having never read the study and not even realizing that is was conducted horribly. Also many of these studies are funded by food companies and the egg industries themselves.

    – unless eaten in excess quantities, is is impossible for sugar to make you fat. It doesn’t matter where it comes from. Sugar converts to glucose in the body which is used as energy for all the cells in your body. Fat, on the contrary, it’s simply stored as fat unless your body goes through ketosis which is an awful stage to go through. But at that point it’s too much fat and it begins to line your arteries which will lead to a heart attack or stroke.

    – dairy products are horrible products to consume. It is not natural for humans to drink in the first place. Cows milk is made for babies cows, just like cat milk is made for kittens. Would you suck the tit of your cat to get milk and call it healthy?

    None the less, dairy is high in hormones (which are naturally occurring), saturated fat, pus, and ceasin. Thus is why dairy has been linked to cancer such as breast cancer (because dairy is extremely high in animal estrogen) and prostate cancer. It also raises ones risk of heart disease and stroke. It just wreaks havoc on the body.

    This entire article is terrible and full of lies. I’m beginning to think that mfp has a sponcer of some sort, other than the obvious one. Perhaps an egg and dairy company because this isn’t the first time they’ve spread these harmful lies.