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Debunking 10 Persistent Nutrition Myths, as Clarified by Experts

by Ella

Navigating the realm of nutrition can often prove perplexing, particularly as the landscape of dietary advice appears to constantly evolve. Questions arise: Is organic produce genuinely superior to conventionally grown? Do carbohydrates directly lead to weight gain? Is the sugar content in fruit excessive? Staying well-informed amid these shifting paradigms can be challenging.

Numerous enduring nutritional misconceptions have ensnared many of us. However, we’re here to set the record straight: consuming carbs is beneficial, natural sugar surpasses artificial sweeteners, and several other debunked myths revolve around what constitutes a “healthy” diet.

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Here, experts dismantle 10 common nutrition myths:

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Myth 1: Carbs Must Be Avoided to Shed Weight

Bid adieu to the notion that eliminating carbs guarantees weight loss. In fact, carbs are a crucial component of a wholesome, balanced diet, offering multifaceted nutritional advantages.

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Registered dietitian and certified nutritionist Nora Minno enthusiastically presents the facts: “Carbs are your friend, and in fact they’re a really important part of a healthy, balanced diet.” These nutrients serve as the body’s and brain’s preferred fuel source, facilitate digestion, and contribute to an overall sense of well-being.

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A wealth of healthy carb sources includes unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans, as elucidated by the Harvard School of Public Health. Yet, caution must be exercised with unhealthier carb sources like white bread, soda, and highly-processed foods, which can indeed lead to weight gain.

As per the Mayo Clinic, adults are advised to consume between 225 and 325 grams of carbs daily. To offer a sense of comparison, a medium apple encompasses around 25 grams of carbohydrates, while two slices of white bread contain approximately 26 grams.

Myth 2: Fresh Outperforms Canned or Frozen Produce

Dispelling the belief that fresh produce reigns supreme, research underscores that fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables all provide comparable nutritional benefits. Notably, canned and frozen options tend to be more budget-friendly.

In a 2014 study examining the nutritional content of fruits and vegetables across different packaging methods (fresh, canned, frozen) relative to their average price, researchers concluded that canned and frozen options are cost-effective and nutritious for achieving daily dietary recommendations.

Canned and frozen produce is swiftly packaged, thus preserving their nutritional value, as confirmed by Healthline. Moreover, during periods when fresh produce is out of season, canned and frozen alternatives serve as highly nutritious substitutes.

Myth 3: Plant-Based Milk Surpasses Dairy Milk in Nutritional Value

Research reveals that cow’s milk is more nutrient-dense than plant-based alternatives such as oat or soy milk. Cow’s milk delivers superior calcium, vitamin D, and protein content, as highlighted by Insider.

Nora Minno affirms that this myth hinges on personal preference: “One cup of skim milk packs in 10 grams of protein and a quarter of your daily calcium needs, whereas plant milk, such as almond milk, has one gram of protein per serving.”

However, plant-based milks hold their own nutritional benefits, particularly for those with lactose intolerance.

Myth 4: Moderate Red Wine Consumption Benefits Heart Health

Contrary to the widely-held belief that moderate red wine consumption is advantageous for heart health, evidence suggests there’s no reason to start imbibing in hopes of cardiovascular benefits.

Although some studies indicate a link between moderate red wine intake and improved heart health, there’s no established cause-and-effect connection, according to the American Heart Association.

Dr. Robert Kloner posits that external factors, such as adhering to a Mediterranean diet known for its heart-protective qualities, likely contribute to any perceived relationship between red wine and cardiovascular well-being.

Myth 5: Soy-Based Foods Heighten Breast Cancer Risk

Previously, concerns emerged that soy-based foods might elevate the risk of breast cancer and other malignancies. This notion, however, has been discredited. Consuming moderate amounts of soy foods does not increase breast cancer risk, as per the Mayo Clinic.

Isoflavones, plant estrogens present in soy, diverge from mammalian estrogens and carry no actual threat. In fact, in countries with higher soy consumption, like Asian nations, breast cancer risk is notably lower.

Myth 6: Organic Produce Equals Better Health

Balanced consumption remains the cornerstone of a healthy diet. The CDC underscores the importance of daily fruit and vegetable intake for achieving dietary equilibrium.

While organic produce boasts fewer synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, its higher cost doesn’t necessarily translate to proven nutritional benefits. Numerous studies have demonstrated that the macro- and micronutrient content remains relatively similar, whether produce is grown organically or conventionally.

Myth 7: High-Cholesterol Foods Spell Trouble

The impact of cholesterol-rich foods on cholesterol levels in the blood is more tied to genetics than diet. Ingesting foods like eggs, laden with cholesterol, may not significantly affect cholesterol levels, according to Dr. Steven Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic.

Cholesterol production by the liver far surpasses dietary intake, so avoiding high-cholesterol foods won’t substantially alter blood cholesterol levels.

Myth 8: All Smoothies and Juices Are Nutritious

While certain smoothies and juices brim with nutrients, many store-bought varieties pack excessive sugar and calories.

Sarah B. Krieger, a registered and licensed dietitian nutritionist, delineates the distinction: “There’s a fine line between a smoothie and a milkshake.” Notably, a medium Hulk Vanilla smoothie from Smoothie King contains over 1,000 calories due to butter pecan ice cream.

When seeking healthful store-bought smoothies or juices, scrutinizing ingredient lists is essential.

Myth 9: Non-Nutritive Sweeteners Aid Weight Control

Artificial sweeteners like Splenda, Stevia, Truvia, and Equal often substitute for sugar, but updated guidelines from the World Health Organization discourage their use for weight management. Instead, they recommend alternatives like fruit or unsweetened foods and beverages to reduce sugar intake.

Francesco Branca of the WHO emphasizes that “NSS are not essential dietary factors and have no nutritional value.” Striving for reduced overall sweetness in the diet is advised.

Myth 10: Gluten Should Be Avoided

Gluten, found in wheat, barley, and rye, poses health risks for individuals with Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity. However, for those without these conditions, there’s no nutritional gain from eliminating gluten, as outlined by Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Whole grains, fiber, and vital nutrients like B vitamins, iron, and magnesium often accompany gluten-containing foods. It’s crucial to consider these aspects before entirely eschewing gluten.

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