You’ve no doubt heard countless tales about food and nutrition: which foods to avoid and which to gorge on, which are carcinogenic and which cause acne. But not all should be taken at face value!
Here are 10 of the most common myths – and the facts behind the fables.
1. Drinking coffee or tea can cause dehydration
It is true that caffeine contained in both coffee and tea has a diuretic effect, causing your body to produce more urine. As you’re going to the toilet more, you’re also losing sodium and water, which in extreme cases causes dehydration. But in reality, you’d need to ingest a very large quantity of caffeine (more than the average coffee drinker consumes) for it to have any real effect on your hydration.
2. Celery and lettuce have ‘negative’ calories
Contrary to dieting wisdom, there are no foods that contain fewer calories than you burn whilst eating. All foods contain calories – celery, cucumber, and lettuce are no different. However, they do make very healthy snacks. A stick of celery is only around ten calories and provides great dietary fibre, among other things.
3. Eating eggs increases cholesterol levels
We all know high levels of cholesterol are bad for you. It forms fatty deposits in your arteries, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. It’s commonly believed that because eggs are high in cholesterol (roughly 211 milligrams per large egg), you’re better off avoiding them. However, in comparison to saturated and trans fats (common dietary causes of high cholesterol), eggs have a relatively insignificant effect. Not to mention, eggs also contain protein, omega-3, vitamins, and minerals – all very important elements of a healthy diet. According to The Heart Foundation, you can eat up to 6 eggs each week without increasing your cholesterol and risk of heart disease.
4. HFCS is worse for you than sugar
HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) is a sweetener derived from corn. It’s commonly used as a cheap substitute for sugar in processed foods like lollies, soft drinks and juice). It is a widely researched topic, and there is no evidence to support the myth that HFCS is any worse for you than other sugars. Essentially, HFCS and sucrose (table sugar) have very similar nutritional properties and are both broken down into fructose and glucose in our digestive system. Approach HFCS as you would any other artificial sweetener: avoid it where you can and always try to limit your consumption.
5. Potatoes are empty carbs
Piling your plate high with creamy mashed potatoes is not the best idea, but one medium baked potato (skin and all) is actually pretty good for you. With around 20% of your daily potassium and 4g of fibre, a baked potato is a nutrient-rich and fairly low-calorie addition to a meal.
6. Eating calories at night causes weight gain
The time of day that you eat does not affect your body’s ability to digest foods. It’s not so much about when you eat but rather how much and what. Late night eating is commonly linked to stress, and overindulging at the end of a long day is not doing you any good. On top of that, eating high-calorie, high-fat snacks late at night makes it harder to sleep, and ultimately leads to overeating the next day.
7. Microwaving food kills nutrients
Nutrient loss in food is actually caused by heat and the amount of time you’re cooking. Microwaving uses less heat than conventional cooking methods and is often a lot quicker, so this method actually helps keep nutrient loss at a minimum. The one thing to watch out for is water – adding water during cooking can significantly increase the loss of nutrients. Try steaming rather than submerging vegetables in water!
8. Chocolate causes acne
At this stage, no link has been found between eating chocolate specifically and having acne. However, by consuming foods with a high glycaemic index (GI) you are more likely to suffer from acne. GI measures carbohydrate-containing foods and how they affect blood sugar levels. Things like white bread, white rice, pretzels and doughnuts all rank highly on the list. So no, a square of chocolate won’t immediately cause you to break out, but there are some foods you should eat in moderation to minimise the risk.
9. You shouldn’t eat fruits because they contain too much sugar
Fruits do contain high levels of a sugar called fructose, and, like any carbohydrate, a lot of energy. It’s important to maintain a balance in your diet; eating just fructose is of course not advised! However, eating a couple of pieces of fruit a day is really good for you. The government recommends we consume two servings of fruit per day, and considering most Australians don’t eat enough of it, fruit is certainly not contributing to growing obesity rates. Eating whole fruits is a great source of dietary fibre and various vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and potassium.
10. Carbs make you fat
‘Carbs’ are often associated with potatoes, pasta, bread and rice, and we’re told to avoid them as much as possible. But don’t’ fall for the hype, carbohydrates are a really important part of a balanced diet. In fact, all fruits, vegetables, breads, grains and sugars contain carbohydrates, and our bodies need them to function. Different carbohydrates have different nutritional values, and there are plenty of healthy options to choose to ensure you’re getting a range of other benefits. Fresh fruit and vegetables, and wholegrain breads, pastas and cereals are fantastic alternatives to foods with added sugars and fats.