All the food myths you hear about today are often confusing. Anyone can post online and say anything and it’s hard to know what information is correct. As a dietician, I hear these five common misconceptions on a regular basis, so let me clarify them for you.
Food Myth 1: Choosing healthy food can be too costly
With money always on everyone’s minds, budgeting food is a top priority. However, healthy eats should also be important when considering food purchasing as it can be a great investment for a healthier future. Take the time to plan your meals. Make sure to check weekly specials and collect coupons from flyers or online. Buy foods that are in season, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables. Frozen produce provide many nutritional benefits and may be a cheaper alternative. Consider purchasing foods in bulk, especially those that have long shelf lives such as whole wheat flour, eggs, etc., and stock up on any sale items.
Food Myth 2: Frozen and canned vegetables are less nutritious than the fresh kind
While many fresh fruits and vegetables can definitely beat frozen or canned on taste, they are both of high nutrient quality. Fresh produce are picked prior to them being ripe in the hopes that they will be in prime condition when they arrive at their destination for sale. Produce harvested to be frozen or canned are picked at their peak ripeness, meaning it’s richest in vitamins and minerals. Sometimes it’s more economical to choose the canned or frozen variety as it allows you to enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables year round. Just be careful with any added salt or sugar—check the labels and make sure that the ingredients only include the produce mentioned on the package.
Food Myth 3: Organic foods are safer and healthier than non-organic
Copious amounts of research have gone into determining the benefits of organic foods compared to non-organic. There is no strong evidence supporting any nutritional benefits of one over the other. Nutritional levels are based upon the soil and production as well as food preparation methods, regardless of whether they are organic or non-organic food items. American and Canadian laws are very stringent to ensure that all food being sold is safe for consumption. Choosing organic is really a personal choice.
Food Myth 4: Cow’s milk is full of hormones and antibiotics
A common food myth is that organic milk is essential. Canadian and European laws prohibit the use of hormones for improving milk production (hormone use may be permitted in the U.S.). Further, antibiotics are not used prophylactically but are used to treat animals, as cows can get ill just like humans. When an ill cow requires an antibiotic treatment, the cow is isolated and the milk they produce is kept in a separate bin and discarded until they have finished their treatment and their milk is deemed safe to consume by strict Canadian laws. Organic milk requires that all feed is organic. If an organic cow is sick and requires treatment, antibiotics are used and a similar protocol for non-organic cows is used.
Food Myth 5: “Multi-grain” and “whole grain” are the same thing
Many people use these terms interchangeably, however, they do not mean the same thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into a coffee shop and ordered a whole grain bagel and been offered a multi-grain one. Whole grains consist of all parts of the kernel: the bran, germ and endosperm. Whereas, multigrain can mean that there are several different grains present—but they may not be whole grains. You want all parts of the grain to ensure you’re getting the fiber as well as all the B-vitamins and other minerals, which may not be found in plain multigrain products.
Make sure to check the ingredients label of the product. Within the first few ingredients, “whole” should precede each grain present to ensure you are reaping the nutritional benefits of the grain product. Make sure that at least half of your daily grain products are of the whole variety.
“Get the real deal on your meal from dietitians,” Dietitians of Canada website 2013; http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-Month/Nutrition-Month-2013/Myths.aspx, last accessed August 15, 2013.