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Eating Right or Eating Myths?

Don't believe these common food misconceptions!

As seen in Metro Style, November 10, 2023

When people find out I’m a dietitian, they usually have some questions for me. Nutrition is a science that evolves and grows as we learn more, and with that, nutrition advice becomes outdated too. Fad diets also come and go, so here I debunk some of the most common misconceptions I hear.

1. Eat brown rice because white rice has less fiber

This is true, but the difference is often around 1g of fiber. That’s not a big amount to stress over in the big picture. There’s really nothing wrong with white rice especially when eaten as a part of a balanced meal. Though brown has more protein and micronutrients, white also has some, so it doesn't count as “empty calories” either. Eat a mix of grains and try to eat mostly whole grains, but don’t over stress if you have to eat white rice.

2. Multigrain bread is the same as whole grain bread

This one is confusing, but “multi” just means that the bread uses many types of grains, they may not actually be whole grains. Plus, these breads are often dyed brown to make them look healthier! Whole grain bread is what you should be looking for if you’re after the extra fiber, protein, and micronutrients. It uses the “whole” part of the grain, compared to a regular white bread where most of the grain has been stripped. 

3. Coconut sugar is healthier than regular sugar because it has a lower glycemic index and trace minerals

Coconut sugar is a popular recent health food alternative for regular white sugar. While it is true that coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index of 54, table sugar has a glycemic index of 60. Again, that’s not a big difference to stress over. Other factors also affect glycemic index, so that’s not the most important factor to consider. As for the trace minerals, sugar is not a good source of the nutrients you need. Sugar is still sugar at the end of the day. The quantity you consume matters more.

4. Fruit should be eaten on an empty stomach

This is a super common myth that needs to die, there’s nothing wrong with eating fruit at the end of a meal, and in fact for more stable blood sugar, it helps to eat fruit with a fat or protein source!

Photo by Bruna Branco on Unsplash

5. Limit the amount of fruit you eat in a day because fruit is high in sugar

If you are healthy, there isn’t a reason to be afraid of whole fruit. That goes for high sugar fruit as well. Eat reasonable portions, and also eat enough of the other foods you need. Keep an eye out for juices, smoothies, canned and dried fruit which makes it easier to eat larger amounts at once.

6. Coconut oil is a healthy fat because it raises your good cholesterol

Right now, studies still show that while coconut oil raises your good cholesterol, it does also raise your bad cholesterol. There are many years of research showing that higher levels of LDL cholesterol are associated with a higher risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or early death. For now, choose oils made with unsaturated fats that are shown to be heart-healthy.

7. Eating cholesterol raises cholesterol, so don’t eat eggs

Eating foods high in dietary cholesterol, like eggs, are not shown to raise blood cholesterol levels in most people. Our bodies regulate cholesterol production, and it is saturated and trans fats have a more significant impact on cholesterol levels. In fact, in the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the recommended maximum intake of 300 mg/day cholesterol was actually removed. So it’s okay to eat eggs in reasonable amounts

8. Gluten-free versions of food are healthier

Gluten-free diets are a must for individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, but they're not always healthier for most people. In fact, gluten-free products, often made from potato, cassava, or rice starch, can be lower in nutrients like fiber, and vitamins and minerals, and sometimes even higher in sugar and unhealthy fats to make up for the missing gluten from wheat, which gives foods a springy texture. If you don’t have issues with gluten, there’s no reason to skip them.

9. Frozen fruit and veggies are less healthy than fresh

Not all frozen foods are bad! Frozen produce like broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, and berries are often more accessible, more affordable, and more convenient. They often don’t have anything else added to them, and some studies have shown that antioxidants and vitamins may actually be higher than in fresh produce. This is because they are often frozen right when they are picked so they retain their nutrients, where fresh produce start losing their nutrients after they are picked. So choose frozen if it fits your needs!

Photo by Bozhin Karaivanov on Unsplash

10. Organic produce is better for you than conventional

While organic produce is supposed to mean lower pesticide exposure, it's not necessarily lower than conventional produce. Organic produce often does still have some pesticide residue, although there is a lower limit. However, many studies have shown that conventional produce have amounts of pesticide that are still within that lower limit set for organic produce. Washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly also drastically helps to reduce pesticides! 


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