Nutrition Myths That Refuse To Die Continue To Create Confusion

by Densie Webb, Ph.D., R.D.

You would think that in today’s world of instantcommunication?round-the-clock news updates and information at your fingertipsvia the Internet?misinformation about nutrition would be a relic of the past.But certain myths live on and even flourish, often laying low for a while, thensprouting anew. Here, EN takes a new look at some enduring beliefs.

“SugarIs Off Limits for People With Diabetes”

In the past, experts believed sugar was morerapidly digested and absorbed than starches, causing unhealthy blood sugarfluctuations in people with diabetes. Now we know that’s simply not true. Infact, starches like bread, rice and potatoes produce much the same effect onblood glucose as ordinary sugar. That’s why the American Diabetes Associationnow allows some sugar in a diabetic diet, as long as the carbohydrates the sugarprovides are counted toward the total allowed. As in all things, moderation iskey.

?Wheat?Bread Provides High-Fiber Whole Grains”

Don’t be fooled. Foods and ingredients labeled as”wheat” simply means they are made with wheat, not that they are wholegrain. “Wheat” bread is not the same as “whole wheat bread.”There is a big nutrition difference. The unrefined wheat flour used to makewhole-wheat bread still has the high-fiber, nutrient-dense bran intact. Not onlyis it rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, it also packs phytochemicals,disease-fighting compounds found naturally in plants. On the other hand, refinedwheat flour used to make white bread (often labeled as “wheat” bread)has had the bran processed out. Even the term “multi-grain,” whichsounds so healthful, simply means several grains are used. It tells you nothingabout whether those grains are refined. Unless it says “whole wheat,”it’s probably made from refined white flour. And if it doesn’t say”100% whole wheat,” it may still contain some refined flour. Check thelist of ingredients.

“GelatinCapsules Make Nails Stronger

Even though gelatin has been touted as a fingernailbuilder for years, there’s simply no truth to the claim. Gelatin is made fromcollagen, a protein found in connective tissue, bones and teeth. The mainprotein in nails, however, is keratin, which is not even a component of gelatin.Eating a diet that includes good sources of protein like lean meats, lentils andlow-free dairy foods, provides the body with the protein building blocks (aminoacids) it needs to produce keratin for your nails. Consuming collagen, however,does nothing. It isn’t even a good source of protein.

“IfYou Are Lactose Intolerant, You Must Avoid All Dairy”

People with lactose intolerance often confuse it with milkallergy, in which even a minute quantity of milk can trigger a severe, sometimeslife-threatening reaction from the protein it contains. With lactoseintolerance, your body simply cannot digest all of the sugar (lactose) in milk.Yogurt, however, is often tolerated well. And it’s likely you can easilytolerate small amounts of dairy foods?one-half cup of milk at a time, up toone cup for some people. If even a small amount of dairy does you in, try alactose-free or lactose-reduced product.

“BeingTired Is Often Due to Low Blood Sugar”

Low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia, is a poorlyunderstood disorder that is marked by a chronically low level of blood sugar dueto an overproduction of insulin. Hypoglycemia can indeed result in fatigue, butit is a relatively rare disorder. Although feeling tired is common, fatigue ismore often due to overwork, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, lack of sleep orstress. Some dieters and meal skippers do experience mild hypoglycemia (andindeed feel weak or tired) from time to time, and people with diabetes canexperience hypoglycemic reactions if they take too much insulin or don’t eatenough, but very few people suffer from true chronic hypoglycemia.

“FoodAllergies Cause Many Undiagnosed Illnesses”

Though many people blame food allergies for everyheadache, upset stomach and low-energy day they have, the odds are decidedlyagainst that. It’s easy to blame what we eat for how we feel, yet only about1% to 2% of adults suffers from true food allergies. Wheat is at the top of thehit list these days. But according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthmaand Immunology, wheat allergy affects few children and even fewer adults. Inreality, the most common adult food allergies are to nuts, eggs and shellfish.

“IfYour Blood Cholesterol Is High, You Should Avoid Eggs”

While the American Heart Association still recommends thateveryone limit daily cholesterol intake to no more than 300 milligrams, thegeneral consensus is that saturated fats like those found in full-fat dairyproducts and fatty meats, not dietary cholesterol like that found in eggs, arethe most potent raisers of blood cholesterol. If you?re trying to lower yourblood chol-esterol or just keep it from going higher, you?re better offfocusing on maintaining a healthy weight, replacing saturated fats withhealthful fats like the monounsaturated fats in olive and canola oils, eatingfoods high in soluble fiber and exercising, rather than counting the cholesterolin your diet.

“Sugar-FreeFoods Have Fewer Calories”

Sorry, but sugar-free foods are not always caloriebargains. The term “sugar-free” simply means that sweeteners otherthan sugar have been used. Products that are sweetened with artificialsweeteners are indeed generally lower in calories than if sweetened with sugar.But many so-called “sugar-free” products’typically cookies andcandies?are sweetened with sugar alcohols like xylitol and sorbitol. Thesesweeteners don’t cause as rapid a rise in blood sugar levels, so are ideal forthose with diabetes, but they provide about the same calories as sugar.

“CoolLeftovers to Room Temperature Before Refrigerating”

It just seems to make sense to let hot foods cool beforerefrigerating them. But that’s the perfect invitation to food-borne bacteria,which rapidly multiply once food cools down below 140o,and they continue multiplying until food has cooled below 40o.The idea is to get foods out of this danger zone (40oto 140o)as fast as possible. That means refrigerating leftovers promptly. Don’t worry,the heat from the food will not heat up your refrigerator appreciably; modernappliances are able to handle the load. But to help food cool as quickly aspossible, place leftovers into shallow containers, so the center cools as fastas the outer edges. And when possible, place food in the freezer temporarily tocool it that much faster.

“SeaSalt Is Better Than Regular Salt”

Actually, there’s not much difference between the two.Though regular table salt comes from salt mines and sea salt comes fromevaporated sea water, both are more than 99% sodium chloride. Sea salt doescontain a few minerals found naturally in the ocean, but the amounts areinsignificant. Table salt contains additives such as magnesium carbonate orsilicoaluminate to prevent it from clumping. And half the table salt sold is”iodized” with potassium iodide to prevent goiter, an iodinedeficiency disease. Sea salt is somewhat less likely to contain additives. Somebrands are additive-free, but others have iodine and the same anticakingcompounds as regular table salt.

“ExtraProtein Means More Muscle”

Protein powders and drinks that promise mighty muscles areenticing, but unnecessary and expensive. It’s true that body builders andother athletes require more protein than most people, but extra protein doesn’tautomatically build muscle. In fact, if you don’t burn off the extra protein,it will settle in the same place as that extra slice of pie?creating evenbigger love handles.

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