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10 Food Myths You Probably Believe

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All too often we get carried away believing (or worse, repeating) everything we are told and don’t spend enough time questioning what’s actually been said. We’ve picked 10 very common health mantras you hear everyday and weeded out the worst of the lies, because we want you to eat all the avocados. All of them.

1. All fats are bad for you

olive oil
Thinkstock

Fact or Fiction? Fiction!

As with all battles, the one against our ever-expanding waistline has both goodies and baddies. Similar to your standard movie plot, we have that mid-movie confusion where the goodies are portrayed as the baddies, only for us to discover the very opposite is true at the end. Well take note people — here’s your ending.

Baddies: the saturated fats and the trans fats. These raise your cholesterol levels and increase risk of heart disease. Examples include fried foods, margarine, high fat cuts of meat (beef/lamb/pork) and those commercially-baked cookies/doughnuts/muffins etc. Remember what Cookie Monster says: cookies are “sometimes” foods. (Shouldn’t that make him the “Sometimes Monster” then?)

Goodies: the monounsaturated fats and the polyunsaturated fats. These can lower cholesterol levels and are actually good for the health. Good fats are filling and therefore help to reduce chance of overeating too. Examples include olive and sesame oil, nuts, seeds, tofu, soymilk, peanut butter (yes, even peanut butter!), avocados and fatty fishes which are rich in Omega-3. (Not the ‘Omega Man.’ That was Charlton Heston.)

2. Blueberries are the ultimate super food

blueberries
Thinkstock

Fact or Fiction? Fact!

These little nuggets of goodness contain many of the required micronutrients and minerals that we cannot make ourselves, such as Vit B, C and K. They also have a very small effect on our blood sugar level, which you should try to keep roughly constant to prevent harm to your body. In fact, blueberries (along with some other berries) have been the subject of much research into cancer-prevention. This preventative property is thought to perhaps be due to certain chemicals which act to counter oxidative stress in the body.

OK, not to brag on the blueberry’s behalf BUT they’ve also been shown to reduce certain type of brain damage in studies conducted on rats (a very common subject of neuroscience research). So eat your hearts out ladies and gents, this food can do you not wrong! Unless you’re Violet Beauregarde from ‘Willy Wonka.’ Then you probably want to switch to raspberries.

3. Chocolate causes acne

acne
Thinkstock

Fact or Fiction? Fiction!

For many years now, caring mothers have attempted to protect their children’s complexions by warning them against the evil that is chocolate. Because eating chocolate gives you acne and will make everyone at school laugh at you, right? Wrong.

Chocolate seems to be paraded as the most offensive, but this old wives tale has been extended to pizza, chips and many dairy products too. Basically all foods we love! The good news is though, none of these foods are to blame for your bad skin. It is overactive oil glands, hormonal changes, dead skin cells blocking pores and even your genetic make-up that determine the fate of your skin. (Thanks a lot, mom.)

While studies are divided on this matter, the most important thing to take from this research is that there is no simple “chocolate cause acne” mantra that one must live by to attain skin-perfection. It is very much a personal and changing thing; your hormonal balance changes throughout your life and therefore so does the effect of your diet on your skin.

4. Carbohydrates are a no-no

Fact or Fiction? Fiction!

One of the biggest food-fears is “The Carb.” Dieters and health nuts won’t touch it with a 10-ft-pole. Carb-free diets have taken over the food world by storm ever since the Atkin’s diet of 1972. (Remember? The one that suggested you eat nothing but bacon and eggs 24/7?) Many people will vow that they’ve had great results from carb-free diets. And they probably did. Until they started eating carbs again and immediately blew up like Violet in that ‘Willy Wonka’ clip.

Let us just explain that carbs are one of the most important energy stores in the body, one which we could not survive without. Certain organs, like the brain, actually cannot use any other form of energy (i.e. fats or proteins) in the body except for carbs!  So, we must never completely cut out carbs.

The body digests whatever it is given in terms of carbs — there is not much difference in the end product from a candy bar or a piece of fruit. But some are better than others as they don’t cause our blood sugar levels to spike as much as others, instead allowing a steady energy release. These are the complex carbs and they also contain vitamins, minerals and fiber. However, don’t be fooled — white flour and rice are complex carbs that have had this goodness, often the fiber, stripped out of them.

Stick to whole-grains, beans, fruit and vegetables (yes, these contain carbs too!) and avoid refined and processed carbs. Obviously doughnuts and tortilla chips aren’t doing anyone any favors.

5. Raw Broccoli is better for you than cooked broccoli

broccoli
jjandames, Flickr

Fact or Fiction? Fact!

This one is 100% true, but that’s not to say that cooked broccoli isn’t good for you too. Broccoli is one of those perfect foods that can’t do much wrong. (All the other foods are jealous of broccoli). It is extremely rich in Vitamin C and fiber but also contains the ingredient sulforaphane. It might be a bit of a mouthful to say, but it’s definitely worth giving the time of day.

Sulforaphane has been shown to help protect against breast cancer, cancer from UV radiation and clinical trials are currently underway to examine its role in prostate cancer. It is also thought to increase the presence of tumor suppressor genes in our cells, helping to protect against cancers.

Bad news, though: studies have shown that boiling broccoli reduces the amount of sulforaphane that is absorbed by the body. Without the boiling, it is more available to the body as it passes through the digestive tracts.

If you don’t like raw broccoli (understandable), try other methods such as stir-fying in sesame oil or steaming. These methods have been shown not to remove all the goodness and still taste great! Luckily, for those of you who don’t like broccoli at all, sulforaphane is also in other vegetables such cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy and kale. However, broccoli wins out, with the highest concentration of sulforaphane. Jealous?

6. Bananas prevent cancer

banana gif

Fact or Fiction? Fiction!

In our high-speed technological world, we are all to eager to find a quite fix in life, and this is what nutritionists exploit when they issue statements like these. Yes, bananas might have health benefits, but that is a far cry from cancer prevention. Don’t think that a banana-a-day is going to literally keep all doctors away.

That said, bananas do seem like a great food overall. They’re an excellent source of Vitamin B, fiber and some Vitamin C too, and there is limited evidence to suggest they reduce risk of colorectal and breast cancer, and renal cell carcinoma.

Most importantly, they don’t seem to be doing anyone any harm, so go ahead and cut some into your cereal in the morning, blend it into your morning smoothie or grab one as you leave the house on the way to work. Just don’t rest all your hopes on this poor fruit. And be careful with the peels, lest someone slip on them in a highly comedic fashion.

7. Calories eaten at night are more fattening that calories eaten in the day

midnight snack
Thinkstock

Fact or Fiction? Fiction!

You’ve heard this numerous times and probably experienced some weight gain when often undertaking those indulgent late-night binges. But a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. So is this because of the time, or the food that you’re consuming?

You’ll all have been told “yes” and “no” to this question at points in your life, often depending on which source you consult with. And actually as shown by those links above, sometimes from the same source! Perhaps it depends on the animal the study was conducted on?

Use common sense and find out what works for you. If you’re starving at 10:30 pm, it’s not necessary to soldier through until the morning! Have a quick snack, but make it trail mix and not pizza from that greasy shop around the corner. Personally, nighttime is when the worse food crimes take place. Just standing by the fridge in your PJs, with a spoon at the ready, waiting to pounce on anything that takes your fancy…that’s when we pay a visit to Messieurs Ben and Jerry.

8. Six small meals are better for you than three large ones

Smorgasbord
patheos

Fact or Fiction? Depends on the person.

It really comes down to total calorie consumption. The “theory” behind this myth is that we should try to maintain a steady metabolism throughout the day in order to burn the calories that we intake at a quicker rate. There is limited research to show the benefits of this however, and most studies conclude that your metabolism should stay the same if your total caloric intake stays the same. For example, men and women lost the same amount of weight when fed the same foods, even though some ate in small meals and some in larger meals.

So, if you have an amazing amount of self-control, than maybe multiple meals will work for you. But for most of us all-too-flawed humans, these six “small” meals very quickly become six feasts fit for an army.

9. More protein means more muscle

muscle
SquirrelsBeingSquirrels.Tumblr

Fact or Fiction? Fiction!

The facts of the matter: depending on your weight, we need to intake about 55 grams of protein a day to maintain regular body functions. Excess protein is just broken down into glucose, and if that’s not needed, it’s converted into carbohydrates or fats to be stored as energy.

So does eating copious amounts of protein help you to achieve that muscly physique you so desire? Nope. More often than not, we consume this 55 grams of protein in our regular diet without the need for any protein supplements whatsoever. A number of studies have been carried out to test this claim by varying subjects’ protein intake. Dr Richard Krieder, University of Memphis found that, “although it is important for athletes to get an adequate amount of protein . . . consuming additional amounts of protein does not appear to promote muscle growth.”

So stop wasting your money on those expensive (and bizarrely colored) protein shakes! If you need help in shaping up, then perhaps try creatine supplements. Unlike protein shakes, this is backed by some evidence to suggest that it can help us push for those extra reps…

10. ‘Fat Free’ foods = weight loss

Fact or Fiction? Fiction!

This is a very common myth and so staunchly stood by that food manufacturers can market to it very successfully. Those who want to lose weight will gorge on “low fat” foods, merrily unaware of the damage they are doing to themselves. Worse than this, they tend to eat more than they would have of the non-low fat product since they think it’s harmless and won’t cause weight gain. Very wrong.

The key rule to reducing your weight is eating fewer calories than you burn. However, when manufacturers remove the fat from the food, much of the flavor is lost, so to compensate they add a bunch of extra sugars and sweeteners to make the food tasty.  This is why fat-free food can often be far worse and fattening for you than regular full fat food. Remember, these refined sugars are amongst the bad carbs we are trying to avoid!

Be wary of foods that masquerade themselves as being “healthy.” They very often aren’t! It’s just a marketing trick, like calling yogurt “go-gurt” or a Justin Bieber album “music.”

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