Nutrition Myths Debunked

Will eating jalapenos increase your metabolism? Of course not, but diet dogma has a life of its own. Even when science reveals the truth behind a diet fad, the myth often lingers. Here’s some popular nutrition myths and the real scoop behind them.

#1: Margarine contains less calories and fat than butter.

The truth: Both margarine and butter are 100% fat. All fats (olive oil, margarine, butter, etc) contain 9 calories per gram or 40 calories per teaspoon. Some “diet” margarines, however, are whipped with water, which cuts the amount of fat and number of calories per teaspoon.

#2: Chicken has less fat than beef.

The truth: Not necessarily. A skinless chicken thigh contains more than twice as much fat as an equal serving of an eye of round roast although the beef is slightly higher in saturated fat. Skinless chicken breast is a low-fat alternative to beef, as long as it is prepared without fat.

#3: Fortified foods are healthful.

The truth: Fortified milk is the only reliable food source of vitamin D, but fortifying some highly processed foods with vitamins and minerals is often a nutritional cover-up that mistakenly implies “more is better.” The products, including some cereals, are often no better but are more expensive and sometimes higher in sugar or fat than their less-fortified counterparts.

#4: Fiber gives foods a coarse texture.

The truth: You can’t tell a food’s fiber content by looks or texture. In general the less processed a grain, vegetable, fruit, or bean the higher its fiber content. Cooking may soften a food but has little effect on the fiber content.

#5: Natural vitamin supplements are more effective than synthetic ones.

The truth: The only difference between natural and synthetic vitamin supplements is the price (natural supplements cost more). The exception is vitamin E. The body uses the naturally occurring form more efficiently than the synthetic form.

#6: Foods labeled “natural” don’t contain preservatives and additives.

The truth: “Natural” on a label simply means that at least one ingredient remains in its natural form. The product may still be processed and contain a number of additives or preservatives.

#7: Athletes should take protein supplements.

The truth: Protein supplements generally are not a good investment. Athletes have the same protein needs as sedentary people – about 50 grams a day for a woman, slightly more for a man. Hard-core bodybuilders may need more protein than other people. Americans typically consume 2 or 3 times as much protein as they really need.

#8: If you feel like eating, you must be hungry.

The truth: Thirst, boredom, fatigue, anxiety, and a desire to avoid unpleasant tasks are often mistaken for hunger. Try a large glass of water, taking a nap, or going for a walk before heading for the refrigerator.

#9: Brown sugar & honey are better for you than white sugar.

The truth: All 3 supply 4 calories per gram (about 20 calories per teaspoon), provide insignificant amounts of nutrients & promote tooth decay.

#10: Yogurt is a health food.

The truth: Not always. Some fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts and frozen yogurts contain more sugar than a candy bar, while whole-milk yogurts are high in fat. Try plain, nonfat yogurt flavored with fresh fruit.

#11: Salad is a diet food.

The truth: A no-fat tossed salad is transformed into a high-fat meal when you add a generous helping of dressing. Potato and pasta salads are often laden with mayonnaise-based dressings, which contain 200 or more calories for each 1/2 cup serving. Use fat-free dressings to return these salads to their nutrient-dense status.

#12: Diet is the best way to lose weight.

The truth: As long as “diet” implies a short-term effort, it’s doomed to fail. A lifelong commitment to low-fat foods & regular physical activity is the only solution to long-term weight management.

#13: Sugar is a quick-energy food.

The truth: Sugary foods may temporarily raise blood-sugar levels, but extra insulin released often overcompensates, dropping them to lower than before. A starchy snack, such as a bagel with peanut butter, sustains a moderate rise in blood-sugar levels and is a better energy food.

#14: Skipping meals is a good way to lose weight.

The truth: People who skip meals bum calories slower, are more likely to overeat later in the day and store fat easier than people who nibble.