Common Food Myths


Why is it that some diets fade into obscurity and others keep bouncing back, even in the face of what seems to be a mountain of evidence stacked against their purported benefits? 

With all the different food fads, dietary programs, pre-packaged meals, and general advice on how to eat getting tossed around on the internet and social media, it's hard to feel good about any certain way of eating.

The truth is many food myths and diets are much more seductive than the underlying truth. 

There is no one right way to eat, and the perfect diet for one individual may be ill-suited for another individual. Although there is sound advice available, we always recommend that you work with a trusted professional when working towards your health goals or when making drastic changes to your diet.

To help you sift through much of the dietary advice we are debunking some of the most common food myths and facts that largely have, for the most part, been completely confounded by word of mouth and decades-old scientific studies that were poorly equipped to understand the impact of nutrients and diets on bodily function and homeostasis.

In no particular order, here are the biggest food myths we feel need to be debunked: 

1. Diet Advice Made Us Fat

Although the science was not always correct, it was a few strongly opinionated individuals who seize the opportunity to capitalize on, at best questionable, scientific studies to promote a new way of eating or approaching food. Many of these fads were formed purely for capital gain at the expense of millions of people's health, even when they were promoted in good faith. 

In the years since unsound science in the mid-20th century, science has gradually corrected itself to give us a better understanding of how our dietary choices and gastrointestinal health affects our overall health and well-being. Unfortunately, much of the misinformation is still lingering in our society and impacting us daily, and although there are many companies still relying on these misconceptions, they are not to blame for the reason we as a society have become disturbingly overweight and obese in just the last 30 years.

The government and policymakers are to blame for much of the health epidemic that is facing this country today. Lack of regulations on food ingredients and additives, toxic packaging, highly processed and inflammatory foods, and sugar or sodium-laden snacks have been left to dominate the market. Lack of education about how to eat a wholesome and nutritious diet and a complete lack of access to fresh foods in many communities, labeled as food deserts, stand as the main culprits contributing to the crumbling state of health in this country. 

Fast food remains the cheapest most accessible food for many populations and children are served food that is as far from nourishing as possible. It is now common knowledge that these foods, sugary drinks, and calorically dense foods have been driving the obesity epidemic gripping this country it has been an afterthought for much of the policymaking that has taken place over the last 30 years. 

2. Healthy Food is Boring

The flavor is all in how food is prepared. Healthy food is often considered to be boring food because spices, sauces, and cooking techniques are not effectively employed by the average person in the preparation of healthier dishes. Many think of health food as plain, leafy green salads or dull, steamed vegetables but the truth is far from that.

Unhealthy food is loaded with fats, sugars, and carbs in a perfectly delicious balance that triggers dopamine and serotonin release throughout the entire nervous system, leaving us craving more and more of the same foods. Taste buds and gut bacteria will adapt to these types of meals and begin to rely on them, thus driving us to eat more simple carbohydrate foods but you'll find over time that it leaves you feeling worse and worse.

But take a trip to the most renowned restaurants in the world and you will find minimal additives except for traditional spices and seasoning, and most likely some delicious, healthy fats to get the flavors popping. Many times it is the preparation and care for the food that makes it delicious. 

Healthy food is made by preparing fresh meals that come in as little packaging as possible. Many of your favorite dishes can easily be recreated at home by finding a recipe online and following it closely if you are new to the kitchen. By engaging and cooking your food, hopefully finding some enjoyment in the kitchen, your meals will become more and more delicious. Of course, there are also now more healthy options in restaurants than at any time before, so it is much easier to find a well-balanced meal that provides a healthy balance of vegetables, proteins, and fats. 

3. All Fat is Bad for Your Health

Despite what those fat-free food manufacturers would have you believe, your body needs fat to feel full and have enough energy to operate properly. Fats form the backbone of healthy cell membranes, hormone production, immune function, brain function, and essential nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. 

That said, there is quite a drastic difference between the types of fats that are found in nature. Healthy fats known as poly or monounsaturated fats are found in foods such as olives, nuts, fish, and plant-based foods like avocados. These fats are often in liquid form at room temperature. These types of fats are commonly linked to long-term health benefits such as lower risks of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive decline. If you have been on a health journey you have likely taken fish oil at some point or tried a variation of the Mediterranean diet, as their rich content of omega-3’s is highly anti-inflammatory. 

Unhealthy fats are known as trans fats or saturated fat that are typically solid at room temperature, typically being found in processed foods and animal products like red meat and butter. These fats are thought to impact our cholesterol and triglyceride levels drastically while causing inflammation throughout the gut. Although there is some mixed evidence in regards to all saturated fats, such as coconut oil, cholesterol is also a necessary nutrient for the body. 

Fat is essential for our cells to function optimally, but the goal should always be to cut back on unhealthy fats by avoiding fried foods, processed meats, and excessive red meat intake. Avoiding simple sugars and refined carbohydrates will also lessen the level of inflammation contributed by unhealthy fats.

4. Dairy is a Must for Healthy Bones

For years milk and dairy products were promoted for their essential role in providing minerals and vitamins necessary for healthy bone growth and a strong body. Although dairy is an excellent source of protein and minerals, no one needs to consume it to get the property nutrients necessary for normal bone growth and development. Many dairy products on the market are highly processed and often have sugar added to them, such as yogurt, rendering most of the actual beneficial nutrients useless for the body.

Alternatively, a balanced serving of vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and lean meats will more than provide every nutrient essential for children to grow up big and strong and allow older individuals to maintain their bone structure and skeletal function. Many leafy greens and nuts are much higher in minerals such as calcium and magnesium than is commonly assumed.

Some high calcium-content foods include Tofu, Collard Greens, Sardines, Kale, Almonds, Bok Choy, Salmon, Chia Seeds, and White Beans.

Magnesium-rich foods include Kale, spinach, collard greens, swiss chard, okra, turnip greens,  and mustard greens.

Adding these foods to one's dietary options will supply a variety of additional anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals that support all other systems of the body. Most importantly adequate levels of Vitamin D in the blood are essential for the body to absorb and assimilate calcium into our bones to properly develop and maintain them.

If you are struggling with issues related to bone growth or maintenance visit your primary care physician to evaluate what may be the underlying cause. 

5. Eggs are Cholesterol Bombs

The cholesterol argument goes back to the distinction between healthy and unhealthy fats. And although the myth is that eggs have a substantial amount of cholesterol in their yolk, there has been mixed evidence as to whether or not they are truly bad for your health. 

Most population studies show that the average person can eat an egg a day without any significant negative effects on their health or cholesterol levels. This points to the fact that eggs are a natural, rich source of nutrients that are naturally occurring such as coconut oil. 

When the average person eats a healthy source of cholesterol, the body will ideally, naturally compensate by producing less cholesterol as the levels in the bloodstream rise. Yet, cholesterol is essential to our health and naturally occurring sources are often beneficial to our health. It stands as a reminder that avoiding processed saturated and trans fats plays the biggest role in preventing elevated lipid levels and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. 

6. Carbohydrates are Evil

Our brains adore simple carbohydrates as they reward them with a rush of dopamine every time they are consumed.

No question loading up on sugary and refined-carbohydrate-rich foods, such as white bread, pasta, and doughnuts, can raise your risk of developing health problems like heart disease and diabetes. But if you cut out so-called "good-carb" foods, such as whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables, you're missing out on your body's main source of fuel as well as vital nutrients and fiber. 

Carbohydrate-restricted diets usually tend to lead to more weight loss because low-carb diets are extremely restrictive on what foods can be consumed, leading to a general decrease in caloric intake compared to other weight-loss dietary approaches. These diets are also extremely hard for individuals to follow and eventually, most people give up on the diet after a short period. 

This is because carbohydrates are essential for proper energy production, as they are rapidly broken down to fuel the system of our body or be stored for later use. Simple carbohydrates such as sugar, syrups, fruit juice, candy, and white flour products all sharply spike blood sugar. This overwhelms the body with fuel forcing it to store most of it as fat and altering the body's metabolism.

On the other hand complex carbohydrates found in fibrous vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes provide a source of sugars that are more slowly digested and absorbed by the body. This prevents blood sugar from spiking and allows the body to regulate its metabolism while properly digesting all the food in the gut.

Instead of cutting carbohydrates from your diet try replacing them with plant-based sources to help satiate your body and provide adequate fiber for a healthy digestive system.

Complex carbohydrates to incorporate into your diet: Quinoa, rolled oats, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, rice, spelled, and lentils. 

7. Raw Foods are Better

There have been many individuals that have promoted various forms of raw diets over the years, but most of them if not all of them have eventually fallen into obscurity.

Raw foods are celebrated due to their fully preserved nature, meaning that all the macro and micronutrients, including enzymes and larger compounds, are fully preserved. The argument is that our stomach breaks down proteins and nutritional compounds in the stomach much the way cooking a meal would and therefore it is not necessary to cook the food. Another argument is that cooking can reduce the vital life force and overall nutritional value of the food as the heat breaks down compounds in the food, especially high heat cooking. 

Yet when the body has to constantly work overtime to break down and process raw foods that are being consumed it will, surely, always become overwhelmed. The amount of energy, enzymes, and stomach juices needed to properly digest a completely raw meal will not be rewarded with equal amounts of nutrients from the foods that are being absorbed. Many variations of raw diets are often lacking in complete proteins or certain vitamins which are essential for all systems of the body. 

The reality is that eating a variety of raw and cooked foods is essential to a healthy body. Raw foods provide excellent sources of fiber and nourish the microbiome while acting as a sort of scrubber for the intestines, removing old inflammatory waste. Warm-cooked foods will provide instant nutrients and necessary vitamins to keep all systems of bodily fueled and running optimally. 

8. Juice is Healthy

Juicing has been around for quite some time now and you may have noticed several juice and smoothie bars popping up in your neighborhoods over the last few years, as smoothie bowls have become exceeding popular. 

The argument was that juicing extracts the juice from fresh fruits or vegetables. The liquid contains most of the vitamins, minerals, and plant chemicals (phytonutrients) found in the foods that are juiced. Not only are many of the vitamins and plant chemicals found in the juice, but they are also instantly available for the body to break down as there is no plant tissue to break down and digest.

This is exactly why juices are typically considered unhealthy. With the available nutrients that are immediately absorbed by the gut is a ton of sugar that goes along with it. This quickly spikes our blood sugar, in some cases more than a can of soda, providing a ton of calories that provides no satiation to our appetites.

Without the fiber from vegetables and fruits, their health benefits are for the most part completely nullified. The goal should be to eat all your servings of fruit or vegetables in their whole minimally processed form to get the most benefits for our digestive health and therefore our overall well-being. 

9. Fasting is the Best Way to Lose Weight

Different forms of fasting, such as intermittent fasting, have gained widespread popularity over the last decade as they have been reported to aid in weight loss, boost metabolism, and in some cases are regarded as an anti-aging therapy. 

The truth is infrequent or inconsistent mealtimes can cause your body to go into starvation mode and may not be suited for all individuals, especially those with pre-diagnosed medical conditions. 

Many variations of fasting will cause rapid weight loss and noticeable changes, but when it is practiced long-term weight loss may stall or reverse as the body begins to absorb as many nutrients as possible from the few meals that it can get. If the foods one is eating when not fasting are not nutritionally balanced with complex carbohydrates, fats, and proteins individuals will often begin to experience fatigue and burnout as it is not able to sustain the vital systems of the body. 

Small nutritious dense meals throughout the day may be better suited for many individuals, but again it is completely dependent on their body and how it functions. It is critical to work with a health professional when contemplating any sort of fasting regiments no matter how minimal or drastic they may be. 

There was a lot of information covered and food myths were debunked in this article. The bottom line though, is that you should stay clear of any trendy food fads, drastic dietary advice, or taking food myths. Always work with a licensed professional, whether a dietitian or physician or get your information from a trusted, verified source to figure out which foods are best suited for you. 

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