While many food and nutrition myths start with some string of truth attached (maybe one small and poorly designed study led someone to shout a “truth” from the mountain top) some have no scientific backing at all, but have made their way around as fact. We’re busting a few common food myths you may have heard so that you can feel confident in your food and nutrition knowledge the next time someone tries to sell you on one of these common food myths!
Eat Negative Calorie Foods to Fill up and Lose Weight
The idea that some foods require more energy from our bodies to process than they contain has created the concept of “negative calorie foods”. Common foods that are lumped into this category include: Carrots, celery, apples, lettuce, cucumbers, and other fruits and vegetables that have a high water content.
While we do burn energy when we chew food, and additional energy to process and digest food, it is likely much less than any of these foods contain. No current studies can confirm that any of these specific foods create a deficit, but based on the energy used to digest certain nutrients, we can assume that the deficit does not exist.
To process any given nutrient, we have been able to conclude that energy used to process foods is about 5–10% of the calories the food contains for carbs, 0–5% for fat and 20–30% for protein. Since most of the supposed “negative calorie foods” contain mostly carbs and water, the likelihood that we are spending more than we are taking in just by eating them isn’t good.
Most of these foods are very nutritious and can be an excellent part of your diet. Just don’t expect them to “not count” in terms of the energy they will provide to you.
Organic Foods are More Nutritious Than Conventional
There are many reasons why someone may or may not choose to eat organically grown foods. Some of these reasons may include the safety of the food, the impact on the environment and the nutrition provided by the food.
When it comes to the nutritional value that a food provides, Sanford University completed an evaluation of 250 studies that looked at the nutritional differences between organic and conventional products.
The researchers found only a few consistent differences between the two options. Some produce had slightly higher phosphorus levels, and the omega-3 content of organic dairy and chickens out ranked the conventional animal products. There were no other significant differences in nutritional value discovered.
While you may decide organic makes sense to you for other reasons (or not), you can save your money if you are just trying to pick the most nutrient packed product.
Eating 5-6 Small Meals is Better For You Than 3
The idea that eating frequent small meals is best for your metabolism and/or weight loss has been swirling around for decades. While this may be a great strategy for some, it is not necessarily the best way of eating for everyone.
A short term weight loss study (with 51 participants) compared two groups of people eating the same number of calories, with one group eating small meals every 2-3 hours and the other group eating three meals per day. Over 6 months, both groups lost equal amounts of weight.
It’s important to note that this study did not look at long term weight loss, but was focused on the difference between small frequent meals versus three square ones per day.
The key is to avoid getting too hungry when you head into your meal. This often leads to overeating and a stuffed, uncomfortable feeling. Finding the best strategy to do this is unique to each person as no one way of eating is best for everyone.
Low Carb is the Best Way to Lose Weight
Your BFF went low carb and lost 10 pounds in the first two weeks! This seems miraculous, but there is a great explanation for why it happens (and it’s actually not that impressive).
When someone cuts carbs from their diet, they are automatically shedding water weight. This is why the weight loss happens so quickly at first with these types of diets. This is also why the weight comes back just as fast as soon as the carb intake is ramped back up.
For many of us, going low carb isn’t the best option. For one, many foods that contain gut-healthy fiber are high in carbohydrates. Your digestive tract may not be too happy with the decrease in fiber, which can lead to things such as constipation, increased cholesterol levels, and may impact your immune system by throwing your gut-microbiome “out of whack”.
Eggs are Only Healthy if You Skip The Yolk
When it comes to eggs, the yolk and the white are as different in nutrient content as any two things can be. The whites are full of protein, and a tiny amount of potassium. That’s pretty much it. The yolk, on the other hand, is a gold mine of nutrition.
Along with the fat and cholesterol that the yolk provides (which is the reason they have so long been feared) they are also good sources of vitamins and minerals as well as being a significant source of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which provide protective benefits for eyesight.
The American Heart Association changed their recommendation in recent years to include eggs, at an average of 1 per day, as a part of a healthy diet. So eating 2-3 eggs at a time, 2 to 3 days per week, is perfectly fine- yolk and all.
Detoxes Are a Great Way to Reset Your System
One of the most unnecessary and expensive common food myths is that you should use a “detox” to cleanse toxins, detox your organs, and otherwise “reset” your body.
Unless you get hooked up to a machine 2-3 days per week to do this for you, your kidneys do a fabulous job of detoxing your body all on their own. If they couldn’t, no magic potion or powder could save you. Just ask anyone who has kidney’s that do not work as they should, as they require a treatment called dialysis (where a machine filters their blood several times a week instead of their kidneys) not a detox or a cleanse.
In addition to your kidneys, your liver removes toxins on the daily. It packages them up nice and neat like and sends them out of your body without the need for an expensive laxative dressed up as a “detox juice”.
To keep your kidneys and liver functioning the way they should, eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, and avoid over-doing it on alcohol and drugs that can lead to liver damage if not taken appropriately.
Processed Food is Bad For You
With the hype of “clean eating” and “natural” foods, it is no wonder processed food has such a bad rep. While eating too many of some preservatives can be detrimental to your health, avoiding all processed food is not necessary.
When we think of what a processed food is, we often think of a frozen TV dinner or a can of sodium-laden soup. While these are processed, and contain preservatives, so are canned peaches, beans, whole-wheat bread, frozen cut green beans, and hummus (among many other healthful and nutrient rich foods).
Unless you are self-sustained, growing and eating your own food straight from the ground, avoiding processed foods is not feasible nor is it necessary.
When it comes to preservatives, the kind and amount used in any one food is safe for us to consume. Eating too much of any one type can lead to over consumption of potentially detrimental nutrients such as nitrites or sodium.
These are only 7 of the common food myths you have likely heard. What other myths have you busted?
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out: Choosing Your Next Diet? Ask Yourself These Questions and Learn to Love Your Mom Body