10 nutrition myths experts wish would die

Soy milk may increase the risk of breast cancer. Fat-free foods are healthier than high-fat foods. Vegans and vegetarians are deficient in protein. Some misconceptions about nutrition seem to linger in American culture like a terrible song stuck in your head.

To set the record straight, we asked the top 10 nutritionists in the United States a simple question: What is a nutrition myth you want to disappear and why? Here’s what they said.

Myth #1: Fresh fruits and vegetables are always healthier than canned, frozen, or dried varieties.

Despite the belief that “fresh is best,” research has found that frozen, canned, and dried fruits and vegetables can be just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts.

“They can also save money and be an easy way to make sure you always have fruit and vegetables in the house,” said Sara Bleich, a public health professor and director of nutrition safety and health equity at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. policy at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. One caveat: Some canned, frozen, and dried varieties contain sneaky ingredients like added sugars, saturated fats and sodium, Bleich said, so be sure to read nutrition labels and choose products that keep these ingredients to a minimum.

Myth 2: All fats are bad.

When research published in the late 1940s found correlations between high-fat diets and high cholesterol levels, experts concluded that your risk of heart disease would decrease if you reduced the amount of total fat in your diet. In the 1980s, doctors, federal health experts, the food industry, and the news media were reporting that a low-fat diet could benefit everyone, even though there was no concrete evidence that it would prevent problems such as heart disease or overweight and obesity. .

Dr Vijaya Surampudi, assistant professor of medicine at the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, said that as a result, the vilification of fats has led many people – and food manufacturers – to replace calories from fat with calories from refined carbohydrates such as white flour. sugar has been added. (Remember SnackWell?) “Rather than helping the country stay lean, rates of overweight and obesity have increased significantly,” he said.

In reality, Surampudi added, not all oils are bad. While certain types of fat, including saturated and trans fats, can increase your risk for conditions such as heart disease and stroke, healthy fats – such as monounsaturated fats (found in olive and other vegetable oils, avocados, and some nuts and seeds) and polyunsaturated fats (sunflower) and other vegetable oils, walnuts, fish, and flaxseeds) – actually helping lower your risk. Good fats are also important for providing energy, producing important hormones, supporting cell function and aiding the absorption of certain nutrients.

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If you see a product labeled “fat-free,” don’t automatically assume it’s healthy, Surampudi said. Instead, prioritize products with simple ingredients and no added sugar.

Myth 3: “Calories in, calories out” is the most important factor for long-term weight gain.

It is true that if you consume more calories than you burn, you will likely gain weight. And if you burn more calories than you consume, you’ll likely lose weight — at least in the short term.

But the research doesn’t suggest that eating more will cause sustained weight gain that results in being overweight or obese. D., professor of nutrition and medicine at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Highly processed foods, such as refined starchy snacks, cereals, crackers, energy bars, baked goods, sodas, and desserts, can be particularly harmful to weight gain, as they are quickly digested and flood the bloodstream with glucose, fructose, and amino acids. converted into fat by the liver. Instead, what it takes to maintain a healthy weight is a shift from counting calories to prioritizing overall healthy eating—quality over quantity.

Myth 4: People with type 2 diabetes should not eat fruit.

This myth stems from mixing juices with whole fruits, which can raise blood sugar due to their high sugar and low fiber content.

But research has found that this is not the case. Some research shows, for example, that those who consume one serving of whole fruit per day — particularly blueberries, grapes and apples — have a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Other research suggests that if you already have Type 2 diabetes, eating whole fruit may help control your blood sugar.

It’s time to debunk this myth, said Dr Linda Shiue, MD, internist and director of culinary and lifestyle medicine at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco, adding that everyone, including those with Type 2 diabetes, can benefit from the health-promoting nutrients in fruit. such as fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Myth 5: Vegetable milk is healthier than dairy milk.

There is a perception that plant-based milks such as oats, almonds, rice and hemp are more nutritious than cow’s milk. “That’s not true,” said Kathleen Merrigan, professor of sustainable food systems at Arizona State University and former U.S. assistant secretary of agriculture. Consider protein: Typically, cow’s milk contains about 8 grams of protein per cup, almond milk typically contains about 1 or 2 grams per cup, and oat milk usually contains about 2 or 3 grams of protein per cup. While the nutrition of plant-based beverages can vary, many contain more added ingredients than cow’s milk (like sodium and added sugars, which can contribute to poor health), Merrigan said.

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Myth 6: White potatoes are bad for you.

Potatoes have often been vilified in the nutrition community for their high glycemic index – meaning they contain quickly digestible carbohydrates that can spike your blood sugar. That said, potatoes may actually be beneficial for health, said Daphene Altema-Johnson, program officer for food communities and public health at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. They are rich in vitamin C, potassium, fiber and other nutrients, especially when consumed with the skin. They’re also inexpensive and available in grocery stores year-round, making them more accessible. Healthier preparation methods include roasting, baking, poaching and air frying.

Myth 7: You should never feed your children peanut products in their first few years of life.

Experts have told new parents for years that the best way to prevent their children from developing food allergies is to avoid feeding them common allergenic foods such as peanuts or eggs for the first few years of life. But now, allergists say it’s better to give peanut products to your child at an early age.

Unless your baby has severe eczema or a known food allergy, you can start introducing peanut products (like diluted peanut butter, peanut puffs, or peanut powders, but not whole peanuts) when your baby isn’t quite ready. ready for solids. Professor of Pediatrics and director of the Northwestern Feinberg School’s Center for Food Allergy and Asthma Research, Dr. medicine. If your baby has severe eczema, first consult your pediatrician or an allergist about starting peanut products at around 4 months. “It’s also important to feed your baby a varied diet during the first year of life to prevent food allergies,” Gupta says. Said.

Myth 8: Plants are deficient in protein.

“’Where do you get your protein from?’ “It’s the #1 question vegetarians ask,” said Christopher Gardner, a nutrition scientist and professor of medicine at Stanford University. “The myth is that some amino acids, also known as the building blocks of proteins, are completely missing in plants,” he said. But in reality, all plant-based foods contain all 20 amino acids, including all nine essential amino acids, Gardner said. The difference is that the ratio of these amino acids is not as ideal as the ratio of amino acids in animal foods. Therefore, to get an adequate mix, you need to eat a variety of plant-based foods such as beans, grains, and nuts throughout the day and get enough total protein. Luckily, most Americans get more than enough protein each day. “It’s easier than most people think,” Gardner said.

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Myth 9: Eating soy-based foods can increase the risk of breast cancer.

In animal studies, high doses of plant estrogens called isoflavones in soy have been found to stimulate breast tumor cell growth. A professor and chair of nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Dr. So far, science has not shown a link between soy intake and breast cancer risk in humans. Instead, consuming soy-based foods and beverages such as tofu, tempeh, edamame, miso, and soy milk may even have a protective effect against breast cancer risk and survival. “Soy foods are also a powerhouse of beneficial nutrients associated with reduced heart disease risk, such as high-quality protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals,” Hu said. The research is clear: Be sure to include soy foods in your diet.

Myth 10: Basic nutritional advice is constantly changing – a lot.

This is not the case, said Dr Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. “In the 1950s, the first dietary recommendations for the prevention of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and the like recommended balancing calories and minimizing foods high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar. The current US Dietary Guidelines say the same thing.” Yes, the science is advancing, but basic nutritional guidance remains consistent. As author Michael Pollan distilled into seven simple words: “Eat. Not much. Mostly plants.” Nestle says this advice worked 70 years ago and it still works today. And it leaves plenty of room to eat the foods you love.

This article was originally published in The New York Times.


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