Myths about nutrition and health abound-even in the 21st
century. Let's take a look at 10 of my favorites.
Myth: Eat a low fat diet.
Reality: While many high fat foods-such as
commercially fried foods, sausages and heavily marbled meats-are
best eaten rarely, vegetable-based oils are generally healthful.
Also, some foods actually need a little fat for their nutrients to
be absorbed by the body. For example, the lycopene in tomatoes and
tomato sauce, beta carotene in carrots and lutein in greens are
nutrients that need fat to complete the process.
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Myth: Raw vegetables provide more nutrition
than frozen or canned.
Reality: Frozen and canned vegetables are usually
processed immediately after harvesting, preserving their nutrients.
Just-picked veggies from your own garden or from a farmers market
also keep their nutrition. But vegetables that have been trucked
across the country-or imported-may have sustained some nutrient
Myth: If you don't eat a well-balanced diet, a
multivitamin will take care of that.
Reality: Vitamin pills are meant to supplement
the diet, not provide all the nutrition needed. Some researchers
estimate there are 20,000 nutrients found in whole foods, most of
which have not yet been discovered. How many nutrients are in your
vitamin pill? Mother Nature knew what she was doing by adding
nutrients that work together synergistically in whole, unprocessed
Myth: You can tell a hamburger is done by its
Reality: Meat color is not a reliable indicator
of temperature and food safety. Surprisingly, ground beef can lose
its pink color, but still not be thoroughly cooked. Use a food
thermometer to ensure a burger's interior reaches at least 160
Myth: Drinking plenty of water improves your
teen's (and your) skin tone.
Reality: While water is an important part of
anyone's diet, there is no research proving that it helps with the
appearance of our skin. What does improve our skin? A diet rich in
colorful vegetables and fruits and essential fatty acids such as
those found in nuts and oils.
Myth: Reduced-fat peanut butter is better than
the full-fat type.
Reality: Reduced-fat peanut butter is missing out
on healthful peanut oil, rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids.
While it does have slightly fewer calories, it has more sugar and
sodium to compensate for the loss of flavor. Luckily, neither
variety has any appreciable trans fats.
Myth: Foods rated "100% natural" are healthier
than those that are not.
Reality: While the term "natural" was the leading
claim made about new products last year, it is largely unregulated
and has no real meaning. One exception is for meats. The USDA
recently set guidelines that say "natural" meat must now be raised
without hormones, antibiotics or animal by-products. However,
natural meat and poultry can still be "enhanced" or pumped with up
to 15 percent added salt water.
Myth: Sugar-free foods have fewer calories than
their sugared counterparts.
Reality: Some sugar-free foods are sweetened with
sugar alcohols, which provide just as many calories as the
original. Check the Nutrition Facts labels to be sure.
Myth: Multigrain is better than white.
Reality: Multigrain is not necessarily whole
grain. It's just more than one grain. According to the Whole Grains
Council, "multigrain" may describe several whole grains or several
refined grains, or both. A better term to seek out is "100 percent
Myth: Chewing gum that's swallowed will stay in the
Reality: Swallowed chewing gum typically passes
through the digestive tract and is eliminated in the same way as
other foods. However, there have been some case studies reported in
the journal Pediatrics, as well as The American Journal of Diseases
of Children, of small children who developed intestinal
obstructions after swallowing five to seven pieces each day.
Children should dispose of gum instead of swallowing it, especially
when they chew more than one piece each day.
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