Nutrition Myths

Let's dispel some nutrition myths surrounding our shopping habits? We spend hours reading labels, preparing and serving food but still get confused as to whether our choices are healthy or not?

These myths were recently written about by Gloria Tsang, RD (registered dietitian) in the Fall 2008 "Canadian Living, Eat Right, your guide to good health" magazine (in stores until Feb.15, 2009).

Food has many wonderful benefits especially if it is healthy for you, but with so much information to sort through sometimes making wise nutritional choices can be challenging. The food you choose to eat should both make you happy and healthy.

Let's look at these nutrition myths, try to understand them so that we can make better food choices.

Nutrition Myths - Canadian Living Magazine

Myth #1 -Sugar causes diabetes

One of the most common nutrition myths is that sugar causes diabetes. If you have diabetes, you certainly need to watch your sugar and carbohydrate intake and, with the help of a registered dietitian, you need to learn how to properly manage your blood sugar levels. However, if you don't have the disease, eating sugar (in any form)will not cause you to develop it. The main risk factors for type 2 diabetes are having diet high in calories, being overweight and being inactive.

Myth #2-All fats are bad

It's a long-held nutrition myth that all fats are bad. But we all need fat. Fats aid nutrient absorption and nerve transmission and help maintain cell membrane integrity - to name just a few of their useful purposes. Howe er, when consumed in excessive amounts, fats contribute to weight gain, heart disease and certain types of cancers.

Not all fats are created equal. Some fats help promote good health, while others increase the risk for heart disease. The key is to replace bad fats (saturated fats and trans fats) with good fats (monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats).

Myth #3-Brown sugar is better than white sugar

The brown sugar sold at grocery stores is actually white granulated sugar with added molasses. It's true that brown sugar contains minute amounts of minerals. But unless you eat a gigantic portion of brown sugar every day, the difference in the mineral content between brown sugar and white sugar is insignificant.

Myth#4- Brown eggs are more nutritious than white eggs

Eggshell colour has nothing to do with the quality, flavour, nutritive value, cooking characteristics or shell thickness of an egg. The eggshell colour is determined by the breed of the hen. In Cnada most white eggs are produced by White Leghorns or crosses of White Leghorns, and brown eggs are usually produced by hybrids or crosses of Rhode Island Reds. Except for shell colour, there is no difference between a white and brown egg.

A more general way to determine if a hen will lay white or brown eggs is to look at her earlobes. Breeds with white feathers and white earlobes lay white eggs and breeds with red or brown feathers and earlobes lay brown eggs.

Myth #5 - Avoid seafood to lower blood cholesterol

The dietary cholesterol found in seafood and other meats has little effect on blood cholesterol in most people. Saturated fats and trans fatty acids are the most important factors when it comes to increases in blood cholesterol.

Saturated fats are usually found in meat products and packaged foods, and trans fatty acids are found in packaged snack foods, deep-fried foods or firm margarine containing hydrogenated oil.

Myth #6- Avoid cabohydrates to lose weight

The key message that many low-carb diets convey is this: carbohydrates promote insulin production, which in turn results in weight gain; therefore by reducing carbohydrate intake, you can lose weight.

The reality is that many low-carb diets do not provide the amount of carbohydrates your body needs for daily maintenance, so your body will begin to burn stored carbohydrates (glycogen) for energy. When your body starts burning glycogen, water is released. Therefore, the drastic initial weight-drop at the beginning of a low-carb diet is mostly the water that you lose as a result of burning glycogen.

Low-carb diets are also often calorie-restricted, which means that the diet-followers only eat an average of 1000 to 1400 calories daily, compared to the average intake of 1800 to 2200 calories for most people. To lose one pound a week, you only need to eat 500 fewer calories per day in your normal diet. Therefore, it doesn't matter if you eat a high-or low-carb diet; you will lose weight if you decrease your caloric intake to less than you need to maintain your weight.

Myth #7-Avoid nuts, because they are fattening

It is true that nuts are calorically quite dense. For instance, 15 cashews deliver 180 calories. Plus, it's tough not to overeat these tasty snacks. But if you can restrain yourself from overeating them, nuts can be a part of a healthy diet. Nuts are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats - the good fats-as well as plant sterols, all of which have been shown to lower LDL, cholesterol. Instead of simply adding nuts to your diet, eat them to replace foods high in saturated foods.

Myth #8 - Eating for two is necessary during pregnancy

Energy requirements vary among individuals. Unfortunately, the idea that pregnancy is an ice cream free-for-all is a nutrition myth. It is generally recommended that pregnant women increase their daily intake by 100 calories in the second and third trimesters. An extra snack before bedtime consisting of fruit, a serving of milk or yogurt, and a few cookies is often enough. It's a good idea to take a daily prenatal multivitamin supplement during pregnancy, but not a daily bowl of ice cream.

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