We’ve heard it all: Fat is bad! Carbs are bad! Don’t have too much protein! Food myths are all over the internet but are rarely backed by facts. But should we be surprised? This is the same internet brimming with conspiracies like if the Beatles ever existed. (What?!) With your sanity in mind, we’ve taken care of nine of the most common food myths out there, so you can go back into the uncertainty of the internet knowing nine things for sure.
9 of the Most Common Food Myths
Food Myths #1: Are All Carbs Bad?
White bread, sugar, and the pasta all contain high amounts of highly refined sugar (also called simple carbohydrates) and seep into your blood stream quickly providing spikes of energy before sending you into an energy crash. The problem is that it’s hard to use so much energy quickly, unless you require large bursts of quick fuel, such as a long distance runner. Therefore, we need look for more complex carbohydrates (slow carbs) that take longer to digest to limit how quickly we absorb them.[i] Eat vegetables, and whole grain bread to get the benefits of carbs responsibly.
The Bottom Line: You should eat carbs via whole foods that are high in fiber.
Food Myths #2: Should I Use Butter or Oil?
Some have linked saturated fats like butter to cardiovascular disease (CHD), while one 2009 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says “There is no significant evidence that… saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD.”[ii] However, butter is packed with vitamin A, E, and K2 and is made up of short and medium chain fats which keep us full longer providing us obvious benefits.
Some healthy oils — like olive oil — are filled with nutrients and anti-oxidants but should be cooked at low to medium temperatures to avoid creating harmful carcinogens. Coconut oil has many benefits as well (it’s no secret we love coconut oil!).
Other popular oils like Canola and soybean oil are worse choices due to their processing methods and “inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids.[iii]
To learn more about the different “smoke points” of oils and how to cook properly with them read more here.
The Bottom Line: Butter, olive oil, and some others are good for you when you use them correctly.
Food Myths #3: Are Eggs Unhealthy?
Eggs are scrutinized for being rich in cholesterol. However, one article from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition concludes that there’s no reason “a healthy eating pattern could not include eggs.[iv]” Additionally, nutrients and proteins like choline and heart-healthy Omega-3’s fill eggs.
Here’s a great article going over how cholesterol and heart disease are linked, and how egg consumption doesn’t necessarily lead to heart disease.
The Bottom Line: Eggs have a lot of benefits that outweigh the risks of high cholesterol for most people.
Food Myths #4: Should Everyone Cut Out Gluten?
Gluten-free fad diets emerged as society’s opinion of gluten went awry. However, not everyone needs to stay away from evil gluten with a 10-ft pole — gluten-free diets are best for people with gluten allergies, sensitivities, or celiac disease. About 6 million American have celiac disease or a gluten allergy.[vi] These people need gluten-free diets as they experience legitimate symptoms. Other than these people, cutting simple carbs out of your life is enough to lose weight not gluten entirely.
The Bottom Line: Most of us could remove white bread from our diet, but not everyone is sensitive to gluten.
Food Myths #5: Is Juicing That Good for Me?
Juicers mix simplicity, great taste, and nutrition all into one drink. However, the practice might not be so healthy after all. When dealing with the high sugar content in fruit, it’s important to avoid only fruit-based juices and to eat fiber to slow down the pace at which we absorb them.[vii] Blending a combination of fruits and vegetables boost fiber and nutrients. [viii]
However, juicing can be beneficial because it provides nutrients from foods we may not eat alone.
The Bottom Line: Eating whole fruits and veggies is always better, but juicing can be a way to sneak in extra vitamins for those who struggle to eat enough fresh produce habitually.
Food Myths #6: Is Milk Good or Bad?
The American food guide suggests drinking three cups of milk a day; some say this is too much. Milk provides calcium and vitamin D for strong bones, along with potassium. However, there are better alternatives like vegetables which contain calcium and vitamin D.[xii] While America’s sodium to potassium imbalance can also be corrected by eating less processed foods and eating fruits like bananas.
Milk is also high in calories with about 138 in each glass. Milk’s D-galactose has also been shown as a proinflammatory.[xiii] Therefore, eating another dairy such as cheese and yogurt with less D-galactose can also replace the benefits of milk.
The Bottom Line: Try to avoid or limit milk, there are better options.
Food Myths #7: Does It Matter What Time I Eat?
Thinking about how you eat at each meal is crucial. One study in the journal Obesity found that women who ate more calories in the morning than at night lost more weight than those who did the opposite.[ix]
Additionally, a study in mice found that when they ate high-fat food during their active hours, they only added 20 percent of their body weight, while mice who ate during inactive hours added 48 percent of their body weight.[x]
The Bottom Line: The type and amount of food you eat at a particular time influences your body — find an eating schedule that your body agrees with.
Food Myths #8: Are Negative Calories a Thing?
While foods like celery have few calories, it is impossible to have less than zero calories. Digesting food burns calories but it’s minimal, and the loss wouldn’t be enough to be a method of dieting.[xi] If you are looking to make calories “disappear” workout!
The Bottom Line: Don’t try eating your way to weight loss. Instead, eat good food and exercise.
Food Myths #9: Will Microwaves Ruin my Food?
Microwaves can denature enzymes which are good for digestion. HOWEVER, foods lose nutrients to many cooking methods, including barbecues and stoves.[xiv] The quick-cooking microwave might even save more nutrients than these more formal methods. Steaming vegetable with a little water is the best way to get the most out of microwaved veggies.[xv]
The Bottom Line: Microwaves aren’t the most delicious way to cook, they ruin the texture and taste of a lot of food, but they do not kill as many nutrients as conventional ways of cooking.
Knowing the truth about food isn’t always easy, and understanding the nuances of each food item in the grocery store is time-consuming. However, whole foods eaten in moderation is a good general rule to follow if you are unsure.