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Common food myths busted

We all have preconceived ideas about food and nutrition. We’ve heard about ‘good fat’ and ‘bad fat’ and were told, as children, that carrots help you see in the dark and breakfast is the most important meal of the day. We’re here to clear up some of the famous food myths that continue to linger, with the aim of helping you enjoy the best quality of life.

While some “healthy food facts” may be true, others should be taken with a pinch of the proverbial salt


Common misconceptions about food and nutrition

When we were younger the dinner table was the heart of the home. It was where we laughed, cried and of course, enjoyed our daily food. It was also where Mom reigned supreme. Every night we would congregate at the dinner table and eat the food that Mom prepared. It was where we were told to eat vegetables, and that carrots give us the ability to see in the dark.

As it turns out ‘Mom’s law’ may be likened more to ‘Mom’s lore’ than anything else.

These - now confirmed- myths surrounding food have existed for decades. Whether it’s been about bad-fats or the suggestion that brown bread and by default, crusts put hair on your chest.

Various meat and vegetables

For example, the carrot ‘fact’ was pure propaganda distributed during the war by the British Air Ministry to throw the German Luftwaffe off the scent of radar. And, just like that, an old wives’ tale was born. Although there is a grain of truth there. Carrots do contain vitamin A, which your body needs to synthesise rhodopsin, which is the pigment in your eyes that help you see in low light.

Download our eBook, The Beginner's Guide to Healthy Nutritionto learn more about eating a healthy, balanced diet.

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‘Fat is bad’ - food myth debunked

Fat has always been a dirty word, especially in the world of nutrition, fat is often associated with heart disease and liver function. This food myth, as with many others, originated just after the second world war. Large studies had proven that there was a link between heart disease and saturated fats. Fats were also associated with weight gain. The public was encouraged to decrease their fat intake, which they did and instead increased their protein and carbohydrate intake. They also stopped eating the good kind of fats - yes there is a difference, you do get good and bad fats.

Not all fats are created equal. There are three types of fats: polyunsaturated, monounsaturated fats and saturated fats. Saturated fats, found in meat and dairy can clog arteries and contribute to cardiovascular disease. Polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats are found in plants and oils that will help improve your cholesterol profile.

Omega 3’s are another good fat, they are needed by our body to increase our cardiovascular health. Omega 3s are not made by the body and we rely on external food sources such as salmon and tuna as well as nuts, seeds and supplements.

While fat is a major source of energy, it is always recommended to make sure you have a balanced lifestyle and that you burn off the energy with a complimenting fitness regime.

While saturated fats are ‘not great’ they are not the worst form of fats we consume, that dubious honour falls on the fat everybody loves to hate, trans fats. Trans fats occur when hydrogen is added to solidify the fats and stop the fat/ food from spoiling. They are largely found in fast food and junk food. They raise harmful LDL cholesterol, lower beneficial HDL cholesterol, increase inflammation, and make blood more likely to clot.

Eating at night - food myth debunked

One of the most popular myths we hear is that you should not eat late at night - after 8 pm is a popular time, for some reason. People believe that you should stop eating the later it gets and that you definitely shouldn’t eat after 7 pm, because ‘you are not active enough to burn the calories at night, while you sleep.’ 

While this theory can make sense, the problem is that the calories that are consumed throughout your day don’t know how to tell the time of day. Regardless of when you decide to eat, your body will digest calories in the exact same way. Rather concern yourself with the total daily calories you consume. If you exceed your total calorie requirements, whether at 1 am or 12 pm, excess calories can result in fat storage.

The myth of eating at night may have been born out of those of us who have a predilection to night snacking. Typically when people try out a new diet they will be great at controlling their diet from breakfast to lunch. These two meals, within a diet culture, tend to be super healthy and often really calorie restricted.

So by the end of the day, you are usually so hungry and low on energy that you snack on whatever you see at home because your body is craving an immediate source of energy. To avoid this, it is important to eat regularly throughout the day and include small healthy snacks to ensure that your evening meals are regulated, and you maintain your healthy choices and meet your goal.

Another problem experienced by many people is night time snacking. After eating dinner some people will overindulge in an evening treat or treats. This could result in you exceeding your total daily calorie requirement. If this is a problem you experience it is likely because you haven’t eaten enough throughout the day.

Download our eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Healthy Weight Lossfor tips to help you reach your goal weight faster.

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More protein = more muscle - food myth debunked

It is a myth universally acknowledged that if you increase your overall protein intake it will assist you in building more muscle. Sadly, this isn’t true.

Essentially, your body will only absorb as much protein as it requires. Excess protein is not stored but excreted by the kidney in urine mainly as urea. When your body does absorb the proteins, there is a variety of contributing factors that are involved.

These include the composition of the protein consumed, the composition of the meal that protein was consumed with, the quantity and the individuals training regimes, age, fitness level and overall lean body mass.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests that you should consume 0.4g of protein over a minimum of 4 meals per day. This will ensure that you reach your minimum protein intake of 1.6g per day.

However, if you do want to increase your protein intake, the International Society of Sports Nutrition, said that your maximum daily limit would be would be 2.2g which is equivalent to 0.55g for 4 meals throughout the day.

A high protein diet isn’t always a healthy choice and will have disastrous results for people suffering from renal and liver disease and it is advised that people with diabetes avoid a high protein diet. A high protein diet has also been known to affect the body’s calcium absorption.

Instead of favouring protein, rather aim to enjoy a wide and varied diet.

Dairy is the only source of calcium - food myth debunked

For years milk and its by-products have been labelled the perfect food, and some people have gone so far as to believe that dairy is the only source of calcium, whether this was a clever ploy by a neighbourhood kid to avoid eating fish and vegetables, we’ll never know. There has been some insinuation that the dairy industry itself cooked up this myth, but we’ve known some wily kids in our time. We’d like you to stop listening and start getting your daily calcium from other sources.

Bottles of milk

There is a variety of delicious sources of calcium for you to choose from. The main sources you can get calcium from are beans/legumes, nuts and seeds, whole wheat products, vegetables from the Brassica family (broccoli, bok choy and kale) as well as tinned fish (pink salmon, tuna and sardines) without bones.

Whoever would have thought that dairy as a controversial topic, there are many who are in favour of excluding it from our diet completely and there are others who believe that dairy can and should be enjoyed in moderation.

Healthy food facts

It’s vital to do your research when it comes to the things you hear about which foods are healthy for you and which aren’t. All the food-fad diets perpetuate myths about food. For example, let’s look at the alkaline diet, where you are encouraged to eat foods with a Ph level above 7 in the hopes of changing your body’s natural PH level. However, it’s a lot more complicated than simply changing your body’s natural PH level. Your body is not at one pH level all over - pH levels vary greatly within various regions of the body. Your stomach, for example needs to be acidic, in order for it do its job. Regardless of what you eat your body will always strictly control your pH level.

Essentially, your body knows what's best for itself. You don’t need to force it to do what you think is best, or follow whatever fad food myth you grew up with.

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