Why are there so many facts and misconceptions about food? Maybe because food is so very vital to our survival. Some make no sense. Others seem plausible. But what are the real facts…and fictions?
1. Some foods are good for your health, and others are just plain bad.
Why It’s Fiction: According to most experts, there really is no such thing as a 100% good for you or bad for you food. If you’re healthy and active, your body can make use of a wide variety of nutrients, even refined sugar and saturated fat. The real issue? How much of a food you’re eating. Even if you eat too much of something very healthy, like fruit, it can create health and weight problems. If you eat in moderation, you’ll find a healthy balance of nutrition without sacrificing food enjoyment. Go ahead and eat a serving of chips – just not the whole bag.
2. Only fresh, not frozen, produce is nutritious.
Why It’s Fiction: Did you know that the second a fruit or vegetable is picked off the tree, bush, etc., it begins to lose nutrients? Also, those “fresh” foods at the grocery store can actually be several weeks old before it even reaches the store, and your kitchen. Most frozen vegetables, however, are flash frozen so quickly after they’ve been picked that many of their natural nutrients are preserved. Frozen veggies can cost much less, too
3. Packaged & Processed = Bad
Why It’s Fiction: Yes, many packaged foods deserve their bad reputation: they’re filled with extra calories, sodium, sugar and devoid of actual nutrients. But not all these foods are the same. Just think about it? Frozen veggies, brown rice, soymilk and lean cuts of meat all come in packages, and they can be great for you. Instead of automatically stamping “bad” on all packaged and processed food labels, read those labels to judge their quality. Look for items that are served in appropriate portion sizes, contain high quality ingredients, and are low in sugar and sodium.
4. As long as you take your vitamins, it’s okay to not eat healthy.
Why It’s Fiction. With few exceptions, there is no conclusive evidence that shows that people who take supplements are healthier than those that don’t. No matter what types of supplements you’re taking, an unhealthy diet is an unhealthy diet. Food is the best source of all the good things you need for a strong and healthy body. So focus on food, not pills, for your main vitamin and mineral needs.
5. If weight loss is your goal, you need to give up anything you actually like.
Why It’s Fiction (thank goodness). What happens when you perpetually deny yourself something you really, really, really want while you’re dieting? That’s right, at some point you go crazy and binge on what you tried to deny yourself, derailing your weight loss efforts. Having a restrictive diet can backfire, even with people who have very high levels of willpower – it’s simply unrealistic to sacrifice the foods you love. Also, by throwing food into categories like “good” and “bad,” you’re setting yourself up, making the “good” foods a punishment and the “bad” foods naturally more tempting. Instead, restrict yourself. Practice moderation and portion control so you can eat what you want and still stay on track with your weight loss goals.
6. Only eat reduced-calorie and fat-free foods to lose weight.
Why It’s Fiction: Okay, let’s think about this one. Is there such thing as a reduced-calorie apple? Considering how long most reduced-calorie and fat-free foods have been around (over a decade), has our society remotely gotten thinner or healthier? Consider that most of the reduced-calorie foods out there are things you should be eating in serious moderation anyway: empty-calorie, processed sweets, crackers and cookies. Again, fat is not really the weight-gain culprit; excess calories are. You can eat all the reduced-calorie and fat-free foods you want, but it you’re making the wrong food choices overall, you’ll still gain weight.
7. When you go out to eat, you’ll be fine if you eat a salad.
Why It’s Fiction: Yes, salads can be healthy. But, of course,it depends on what’s in it. Although that big bowl of greens may be packed full of antioxidants and fiber, it can also be chock full of fat, cholesterol, sodium and calories. Some restaurant salads can even contain more calories than a cheeseburger! Read the menu and ask questions to make sure you’re making the right choices.
8. As long as you don’t eat a lot of calories, you can eat whatever you want.
Why It’s Fiction: So far, we’ve been talking about how you need to watch your calories and not restrict yourself too much in what you choose to eat. Yes, calories are important, but you should never ignore the quality of your food, either. Yes, there is a difference between 500 calories of ice cream and 500 calories of a grilled chicken salad with spinach, tomatoes, artichokes, etc. Not only will the salad fill you up, but it’s full of the essential vitamins you need. The ice cream will just leave you hungry and undernourished, and more likely to compensate for the lost nutrients by overeating – and overeating increases your risks of multiple conditions, including obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol.
Food is a wonderful thing – it has the power to nourish you and give you great joy. If you choose carefully, your food will treat you well.