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12 Mainstream Nutrition Lies You Probably Believe

admin August 11, 2015

Lately, I’ve been working on a series called “12 Mainstream Lies You Probably Believe.”  It’s been pretty popular.  And, after the ones I’ve already done, this topic — nutrition — was the most requested one.

First, make sure you don’t miss any of the previous ones:

But, nutrition.  People are so confused about nutrition.  It seems like every day, something’s good for you, something’s bad for you, and it’s impossible to tell what the truth is.  Most people give up and just eat what they want and don’t worry too much about it.

That’s one approach.  Food shouldn’t stress you out.  But, in my opinion, you deserve accurate information about food and what’s healthy, so that you can make better decisions.  Because it does matter.  Food is the fuel that keeps you healthy — or not.

Let’s dive in!

12 Mainstream Nutrition Lies You Probably Believe

1. Fat is bad for you

This is one of the most damaging, and one of the most long-lasting.  People have believed that fat was bad since the 70s, and the low-fat craze really was huge in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s.  Thankfully, people are starting to realize the truth.  There have even been articles featured in the mainstream media over the last few years about how this was never really true.  But, a lot of people still haven’t gotten the message.

Fat is good for you.  In fact, it’s necessary for energy, growth, brain development and protection, hormonal balance, and more.  Fat in your diet makes your skin and hair healthier, it keeps your mind from declining as you age, and it protects you against thyroid disorders, low fat-soluble vitamin levels (A, D, and E), and so much more.  You need fat.

Monounsaturated fat is the worst and should be the most limited because it is the least stable and most likely to oxidize, which isn’t good for you.  (Think vegetable oils.)  Saturated fat is actually good for you.  Trans fats are the true “worst” fats, but they’ve now been banned by the FDA, so most people won’t be eating them now anyway.  The original research pointing to issues from saturated fats mixed them up with trans fats — saturated fats weren’t and aren’t dangerous and don’t cause heart disease.

(Now, fried foods, especially commercial fried foods, are bad for you, because they are usually fried in unhealthy, oxidized vegetable oils, and contain a lot of other additives.)

Healthy fats include real butter (preferably from grass-fed cows), coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, lard (from pastured pigs, non-hydrogenated), and beef tallow.

2. Calories matter

They don’t.  At all.

Calories are just a measure of the amount of energy you supposedly derive from food.  Only, they’re really not.  Calories are measured based on experiments from the 1800s.  An average of 4 calories per gram was found for proteins and carbs, and 9 calories per gram for fats.  All calorie counts on packages are based on these averages.  But, they’re most likely inaccurate.

Plus, the amount of calories you actually get from a food depends on how thoroughly you chew it, how you cook or process it, your digestive enzymes, your gut flora, and so much more.  More recent experiments showed that foods could have 30% fewer calories than they “should” based on the 1800s data.

And again, they’re just a measure of energy.  There’s no need to limit the amount of energy your body is getting because our bodies aren’t machines.  It’s not energy in –> energy out.  It never was, and it never will be.  (If it were, people on medications that mess with their hormones, like birth control or steroids, wouldn’t gain large amounts of weight without changing their diets.)  Just forget calories entirely.  They don’t matter a bit.

3. Organic is basically the same as conventional

No.

The science isn’t settled on whether or not organic foods are more nutritious, but they likely are.  That’s because conventional farms use monocropping systems that deplete the soil of nutrients. Organic farms use crop rotations, cover crops, build in natural fertilizers, etc. to add more nutrients to the soil each year.  It only makes sense that the food grown in better quality soil would be more nutritious.  (Plus, the studies “proving” that organic foods aren’t more nutritious were done using identical fields with identical nutrients, just one had pesticides and one didn’t.  These are not real life conditions.)

Beyond the question of nutrition, though, is pesticide residue.  It’s been shown that conventional products do have quite a bit more of these chemicals in and on them and that these do show up in a person’s urine when they consume the foods.  Some of these chemicals have been shown to cause cancer.  We don’t know the long-term impact, and we don’t know how harmful the cumulative impact is — so it’s much safer to choose organic whenever possible.

pasta

4. Artificial sweeteners are better than sugar

No way.

Artificial sweeteners — Splenda, aspartame (Equal), and saccharin, were all the rage in the 90s.  Many still use them today, and they’re standard on any restaurant table.  But, they’re really bad for you for a number of reasons.

These sweeteners have been linked to cancer, poor gut health, and more.  Their impact makes them very unsafe for consumption.

Of course, people eat them because they want sweet foods without the sugar.  Whole organic cane sugar in moderation is much safer (remembering that ‘in moderation’ part), raw honey is better, real maple syrup is better.  Many people also use stevia, which is safe when used as an extract of the plant and not processed (Truvia is not a good option).

It’s best to eat real sugar or to stick to honey or maple syrup, and simply use moderation.  These whole sweeteners come with vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that make them a better choice — and they benefit health, rather than having serious risks.  Just don’t overdo it.

 

5. White bread is perfectly fine

Well…no.

Most people are aware now that refined grains are not so good.  But white bread really is bad, for so many reasons.  It is refined grains, which can spike your blood sugar.  White bread usually also contains high fructose corn syrup, soy flour, soy lecithin, and more.  It’s worse than it was even 5 years ago.  Although, even “clean” white bread (those without all the additives) are not good because of the refined grains.

Stick to whole grains, preferably sourdough.

6. Milk is bad for you

So many people jump on this “milk is bad” bandwagon.  They like to say “We’re the only species that drinks the milk of another species!”  First of all, we’re not — cats drink cow’s milk, too, and there are other occasions where this occurs.  And second, we’re the only species to wear clothes — should we stop doing that, too?  (I just think it’s a really silly argument.)

The truth is, store-bought milk really isn’t that good for you.  It has hormones and antibiotics in it, and it’s been pasteurized and homogenized — pretty highly processed.  But there’s also grass-fed raw milk, which is very healthy.

Milk, basically, is one of those things that are healthy for some and not healthy for others, and healthy depending on where you buy it.  But it’s not something to dismiss outright.

7. Processed foods are fairly healthy

We all know there are some serious junk foods out there, but a lot of people still think certain processed foods are healthy.  Frozen dinners, canned “natural,” foods, etc.  If they have vegetables and meats and such, they’re really not that bad, right?

Wrong.

In addition to actual food, these meals all contain a lot of preservatives and additives.  Most have far more refined sugar and salt than is necessary.  They also usually contain modified food starch, unhealthy fats, cellulose, and all kinds of other things that don’t belong in food.  It’s extremely rare to find any processed food that actually is just recognizable food and not extra stuff.  Beware, and read the ingredients labels carefully.

8. Salt is bad for you

In fact, it’s not.

We need salt.  It’s an electrolyte, which helps to balance the fluid in our bodies.  Without salt we couldn’t be properly hydrated.  It also helps to make our muscles work, and that includes our hearts.  Yes, you can have blood pressure that is too low if you don’t get enough salt.

Now, refined salt is not a good thing.  Unrefined sea salt with trace minerals is a good thing.  Plus, if you’re salting your food at the table and not eating a bunch of processed foods, you will not get too much.  You’ll get what you need when you salt to taste, with a healthy salt.  I buy this one.

9. Fortified with vitamins is a good thing

Honestly?  No.

Vitamins are absolutely a good thing.  We need vitamins in our food in order to be healthy.  Our bodies use vitamins for all our major processes.  But.

Synthetic vitamins that are added to a food after processing are usually poorly absorbed — something like 4%.  The vitamins are hard on your stomach sometimes, too.  Really, they’re not helpful at all.  They’re added to make a food look healthier than it is.

Real food doesn’t have added vitamins because it doesn’t need them.  It’s unprocessed and has naturally-occurring vitamins, which are much more easily absorbed.

12 mainstream nutrition lies

10. Low-carb is good

I’m not a big fan of these diets that manipulate the way we eat — cutting out or strictly reducing any particular food group or macronutrient.

For most people, nothing is really “bad.”  Meaning, you don’t need to go low-carb.  Some people definitely do better by cutting out or reducing certain grains, or sugar.  But carbs come from potatoes, most fruits and vegetables, and more.  And we need them for energy.  We just need to make sure that carbs are coming from whole grains and produce, not refined white flour or sugar.

Now, some people find that for them, personally, they feel better eating more of this and less of that, and that’s fine.  But going “low carb” as a diet is not necessarily a good idea.  The best thing is to eat what makes you feel strong.

11. Gluten-free is necessary/gluten is evil

It’s important to know that a lot of people out there have a legitimate gluten sensitivity or are celiac, and these people must actually avoid gluten.  But…

A lot of people who do not even really know what gluten is have heard that “gluten-free is healthier” and are cutting it out without any personal need to do so.  Gluten isn’t any more or less healthy than any other food.  It’s just the protein found in wheat.  Most people can tolerate it just fine.  And, newer evidence shows that a lot of gluten sensitivity is related to believing it is bad (psychological effects) as well as poor gut health.  Address those issues…but unless you have a real problem with it, you’re not gaining anything by going gluten-free.

12. GMOs don’t matter

There’s a big fight about GMOs right now.  Some people think they’re the greatest thing ever and basically the same as ‘regular’ food.  Some people think they’re dangerous.  The alternative crowd is pushing for mandatory labeling and the big food companies are trying very hard to block it.

Here’s the thing.  We don’t have a lot of quality research into GMOs right now, but what we do have suggests that GMOs are really not the same as other foods and that they may be linked to cancer.  Our bodies don’t recognize these molecules that have extra genes inserted in them in a laboratory.  And no, hybridizing plants is not the same as GMOs, at all.

It’s wise to be concerned about GMOs and even try to avoid them where possible until all the evidence is in.  Right now, there’s enough evidence that they’re dangerous to just say no.

The only way to avoid GMOs is to eat organic (they’re not allowed to be GMO) or choose foods that aren’t GMO right now.  GMOs include soy, corn, alfalfa, papaya, and others.  They’re also testing potatoes, wheat, apples, rice, and more.  Currently, there are not GMO varieties of those crops on the market — many people think wheat is GMO; it’s not.  (We’ve got enough real problems without worrying about foods being GMO when they’re not.)

Anyway.  It’s downright hard to eat healthy sometimes these days!  Hopefully, this helps clear up some common myths.

Which nutrition lies have you heard most?

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2 Comments

  1. Love your “12 Mainstream” series very much. Thanks for sharing and keep your great work.

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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