There has been so much attention on the nutrient sugar, apparently being the sole cause of ill health and weight issues and how avoiding it is what makes us healthy. In actual fact, this is not true. This is where I like to look at the big picture.
Most of our food contains natural sugars, with the exception of meats, fats and oils and cheese. If we were to avoid sugar-containing foods, what would we eat? This way of thinking is suggesting we eliminate whole food groups including breads and cereals, vegetables, fruits, meat alternatives (legumes) and dairy. We would basically starve, and if not, would become deficient in most of the essential nutrients and be very sick.
Where sugar becomes an issue is when you consume significant amounts of processed foods containing added sugar. What I encourage is if you have an unbalanced dietary intake which favours highly processed foods (known as ‘sometimes foods’) containing an excess of added sugar (like biscuits, cakes, chocolate etc), then balance your diet and reduce your ‘sometimes food’ intake. Keyword here is ‘reduce’. You can still enjoy these ‘sometimes foods’ in moderation as part of a balanced diet only when you truly feel like them. For most of us, this is a complex task to achieve which requires the help of an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
2. Eggs cause high cholesterol.
Eggs have been given such a bad rap…And why they are so nutritious, versatile and convenient and they are almost a complete food.
Yes, eggs contain cholesterol but it does not significantly add to the body’s LDL cholesterol. Saturated fat and Trans fats have greater impacts on LDL cholesterol. Consuming up to 6 eggs a week does not increase cardiovascular disease risk or high cholesterol for healthy individuals.
Some people are more sensitive to cholesterol in their diets. Speaking to an Accredited Practising Dietitian for individual advice is the best option.
3. Carbohydrates are fattening.
No one food makes us ‘fat’, carbohydrates included. Of course eating any one food in excess or more than the body needs will over time cause weight gain.
Foods containing carbohydrates are not weighted equally. The nutrient value varies. Loading up on processed food containing high amounts of sugar and fat will give the body more kilojoules and fewer nutrients. On the other hand, foods close to its natural state such as whole grain varieties (whole grain breads and cereals), fruit and vegetables are lower in energy and high in B vitamins and fibre.
Carbohydrates are the body’s main fuel source. If you avoid carbohydrates it’s similar to not filling your car up with petrol and we all know how far that will get us. The bottom line is if you eat excessive amounts of high sugar and high fat containing foods then reduce your intake in line with your body requirements.
4. Eating fat makes you fat.
Again no one food makes us ‘fat’. Fat is higher in kilojoules compared to the other macronutrients. That is, fat is equal to 37Kj/gram, protein provides 17Kj/gram and carbohydrate equals 16Kj/gram. Therefore if you eat more high fat containing foods than your body needs then it is easier to eat an excess of energy which will be stored as body fat.
5. Avoid dairy if you have a cold.
Avoiding dairy is of no benefit if you have a cold. If anything you are depriving your body of essential nutrients to help with the recovery from the cold. Dairy was thought to produce mucous during the duration of your cold when in fact dairy gives you the impression that you are producing more mucous by coating the saliva and mucous you already have in your mouth.
6. Gluten-free is healthy.
Absolutely if you have Coeliac Disease, Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivities and malabsorption of fermentable sugars (FODMAPs). Finding the cause of any symptoms and excluding serious medical conditions is essential. Your doctor can help to investigate this. Advice from a specialist dietitian is beneficial for people with Coeliac Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
For the otherwise healthy individual, gluten-free eating is restrictive not to mention expensive. If not managed appropriately, gluten-free eating can lead to many nutrient deficiencies such as protein, iron, calcium, fibre, thiamine, niacin, folate, riboflavin, carotenoids and zinc.
Why go to all the effort, health risk and expense if you don’t need to follow a gluten-free diet? Gluten-free is not a healthier lifestyle option. Life is complicated enough!
7. Yoghurt is bad because it’s high in sugar.
Firstly, food is morally neutral. Food is neither good nor bad. Just like the chair you’ve been sitting on today, it’s neither good nor bad. So how can yoghurt be bad? I often hear that yoghurt is full of sugar. Yoghurt does contain sugar but it also contains other essential nutrients. Yoghurt like other dairy is the most readily available source of calcium.
Health benefits of yoghurt:
- Calcium in the yoghurt is essential for bone health.
- Yoghurt contains protein and it is essential for muscle development and maintenance. It also helps with keeping us fuller for longer which is helpful in managing our appetites and a healthy weight.
- Contains probiotics (living organisms – good bacteria) which fosters a healthy digestive tract.
- Contains essential micronutrients (B2, B12, potassium and magnesium) which help with energy production, the functioning of the brain, blood and nervous system, and heart and muscle function respectively.
- May benefit blood pressure control and prevent or delay the onset of hypertension.
Average 1 x 175g tub of 98% fat-free strawberry
Total fat 3.3g
Sat fat 2.1g
Total CHO 24.5
Sugars 23.8g (14% of product)
From the nutritional information, it can be seen that sugar contributes approximately 14% of yoghurt per serving depending on the variety and brand. Therefore yoghurt is not ‘full of sugar’.
8. Eating frequent meals/grazing throughout the day keeps your metabolism high and helps you control your weight better than eating fewer, larger meals.
Currently, research shows that there is no impact of eating frequency on weight management. It’s best to eat in response to what suits your health, body and lifestyle.
Nutrition is a relatively new science and we are always learning. The bottom line is to look at the bigger picture and keep things simple….moderation is truly the key. An Accredited Practising Dietitian can help to put things into perspective for you and answer any food and nutrition questions.
Are there any other food and nutrition myths you would like to add to the list?
If you are looking for a supportive community filled with like-minded people striving to improve their health in a compassionate way, come join us in the Nutrition Empowered Mums Facebook Group.