Debunking 8 Common Food Myths

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Various food myths have developed and propagated over the years. Most aren’t new, but the internet helps those misconceptions spread much more rapidly than they used to. People are quick to share those that catch their eye, regardless of whether those stories are true, and it’s easy to believe something when you hear it over and over again or if it comes from someone you trust. 

Let’s get to the bottom of some of the most common food myths you may have heard. 

Why We Need to Debunk Food Myths

food myths

If you believe something about food that is completely untrue, you can do lasting damage to your health. You may end up missing out on essential nutrients, for example, because you’ve eliminated certain foods (or entire groups) from your diet. Nutrient deficiencies can contribute to diseases and conditions, including:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Scurvy
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Hair loss
  • Stunted growth
  • Poor wound healing
  • Weak immune system
  • And more

It’s important to eat a variety of foods to help prevent disease and ensure your body has everything it needs to thrive.

On the other hand, you might eat too much of something that isn’t as good for you as you may think, or because you don’t realize you have other options. Meat can be a great part of a healthy diet, for example, but some people don’t realize how many other protein sources are available. Misconceptions about healthy eating due to food myths can lead to a lot of frustration if you’re trying to lose or gain weight or improve your overall health. 

Common Food Myths — and the Truth

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most persistent nutrition food myths.

MYTH: For weight loss, you have to eliminate carbs.

TRUTH: Weight loss is very individual. Calories in vs. calories burned does not always equal weight loss. It can be anything from needing to protect yourself in this world emotionally to stress and hormones. There is certainly a difference in carb quality between, say, a piece of white bread and a banana, but you’ll find carbohydrates in veggies, fresh fruits, and whole grains. Those foods offer vitamins and minerals you need in your diet. If you’re looking to cut carbs, cut back on sweets and simple carbs like white bread and pasta.

MYTH: A gluten-free diet is better for everyone.

TRU​TH: Celiac disease and gluten intolerance are real conditions that can be diagnosed by your healthcare provider. Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, involves damage to the small intestine that results in difficulty absorbing nutrients and an inability to digest gluten. Those with a gluten intolerance may experience abdominal pain/distress or general fatigue. A gluten-free diet is thus important for their energy levels and overall health. Others without Celiac disease or gluten intolerance may experience benefits like lower inflammation, weight loss, or better energy, but it’s something to experiment with to see if it is beneficial for you. 

MYTH: You burn more calories than you consume when you eat celery.

TRUTH: Mayo Clinic says this is just a theory. It hasn’t been scientifically proven that any food you consume will burn more calories through chewing it than it provides. Still, celery is worth including in a healthy diet: It is a low-calorie food made of mostly water and fibe, and is a source of folate, potassium, Vitamin K, and several compounds with antioxidant properties.

MYTH: You have to eat beans with rice, otherwise you’re not getting a complete protein your body can use.

TRUTH: Of the 20 amino acids — the building blocks of protein — our bodies can make 11 of them. That leaves nine we must get from food. Animal proteins have them all, but plant protein sources typically don’t. It was once believed that you needed to consume all nine at once, but scientists now understand that you can eat them throughout the day and your body will still put them together and use them. Eating rice with breakfast and beans with dinner still gives you the amino acids you need as part of a balanced diet that includes other food groups.

MYTH: Eggs are bad for you and give you high cholesterol.

Debunking 8 Common Food Myths | Naturopathic Dr

TRUTH: Eggs were long believed to contribute to high cholesterol and heart disease. However, it’s been shown that while eggs are high in cholesterol, in most people they don’t actually affect the cholesterol levels in your body. An egg actually has many benefits, including six grams of protein and an assortment of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A, choline, several B vitamins, selenium, and folate. That doesn’t mean you should go overboard on eggs, though: Too much of anything can be hard on your system. 

MYTH: Fat-free and low-fat foods are healthy choices.

TRUTH: Many processed foods are labeled fat-free or low-fat, but those labels do not mean the food is healthy. Though low in fat, the product may still be high in sugar, salt, preservatives, and other additives to enhance flavor, and may not have fewer calories than the full-fat version. Instead of searching for low-fat options, consider ditching the processed foods and going for fresh fruits or another whole-food snack. 

MYTH: Dark chocolate is a healthy food.

TRUTH: While cacao is rich in antioxidants, magnesium, and zinc, by the time it’s mixed into a chocolate bar, it’s also got a lot of sugar, fat, and calories. Dark chocolate is a healthier choice than milk, which has less cacao — and therefore less antioxidant power — plus more milk and sugar, but it still can’t be classified as a health food. It’s a wonderful treat, and it belongs in that category in your healthy diet. 

Nutrition is a complicated topic, as every body is different. With so much conflicting information and all these food myths, it can be hard to know how many glasses of water to drink every day or whether you’re getting enough protein. The answers are out there, but you need to do your research or talk to a professional. Contact Dr. Karen Threlkel today with your food myths questions you might have and to learn more about a holistic approach to your health.

About The Author:

Picture of Dr. Karen Threlkel, Naturopathic Physician, Washington DC

Dr. Karen Threlkel, Naturopathic Physician, Washington DC

Dr. Threlkel received her degree of Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from The National College for Naturopathic Medicine (now called The National University of Natural Medicine) in Portland, Oregon. She also holds a Bachelor Degree in Kinesiology from The University of Maryland. She is licensed in Naturopathic Medicine by the Government of the District of Columbia Department of Health. Dr. Threlkel is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, past president & current member of the Washington DC Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

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