There will always be the latest-and-greatest diets and health food trends that float around the media, convincing the public that they must change how they eat and live drastically to be well.
Here at Cook for Your Life, we focus on science-based nutrition recommendations and healthy eating plans for wellbeing and disease prevention. Our advice might not be as sexy as some of the breaking health news you hear out there, but we are committed to giving you solely what is backed up by science and can truly help.
With that in mind, here are four of the latest healthy eating myths that you may want to reconsider.
“Gluten-Free = Healthier”
Many adults in the United States avoid gluten for various reasons, thinking it will make them healthier or at the very least lose weight. Gluten-free food is often higher in fat and sugar than their gluten-containing counterparts, and avoiding healthy whole grains can actually be more damaging for your health. Unless you have celiac disease or a confirmed intolerance to gluten, there is no need to avoid it.
“You Must Eat Organic to be Healthy”
While there been some evidence that shows some organic foods have slightly higher levels of nutrients. In particular, a recent meta-analysis found that animals who foraged and grazed in pastures had resulting meats with lower overall amounts of saturated fats and higher polyunsaturated fats.
This does demonstrate that what animals eat does have an impact on the nutritional composition of the meat sold at the market. The same differences have not been demonstrated in fruits and vegetables nor grains that were grown organically versus conventionally.
Due to the lack of evidence supporting purchasing only organic plant foods, it is impossible to say eating organic is healthier. The most important thing is to eat more fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes overall, since less than 18% of adults eat the recommended amount of fruit and less than 14% eat the recommended amount of vegetables. The decision to choose organic should depend on the individual’s personal beliefs and budget, as organic food is more expensive than non-organic.
While calories in/calories out does matter, what also matters in the overall nutrient profile of the foods we consume. For example, when we consume potato chips versus potatoes, yes we are consuming calories, but when we consume a whole potato we are also consuming fiber which helps to slow down the rate and the amount of sugar that is housed in that potato. Thus we are absorbing much less sugar overall from a whole potato than we would be consuming potato chips.
Also, a whole potato has many vitamins and minerals and phytonutrients that are removed during the chip-making process at big factories. So when we consume whole foods we are consuming overall many more nutrients than we would be by consuming potato chips.
While it is true that healthy food will help you feel better, our relationship to food and how it impacts our quality of life cannot be understated. The importance of food in our society and culture has been seen from an early age. For example, children who grew up with nightly family meals were less likely to engage in high-risk social behavior.
Certain foods bring us together at holidays, such as Easter, Diwali, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Food is an integral part of these celebrations, a way to share our cultures and traditions, and a way to show love – and treating food simply as fuel is over-simplistic.
“[Fill In Blank] Is Bad for You, and Should Not Be Eaten”
Food myths like the one above fail to look at the whole picture. Let’s take chocolate as an example. Eating an appropriately sized chocolate dessert a couple of times per week as a nice indulgence is not going to do much damage to your health if the rest of your diet is full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and exercise.
On the other hand, if you are eating huge quantities of chocolate every day, you are going to be taking in large amounts of sugar and fat, which are not good for you.
Bottom line: there is no such thing as “bad food.”