The health industry is full of so-called facts, jargon, pseudoscience, and myths backed by pharmaceutical and drug companies’ interests and their expensive marketing budgets. There are a few common myths that seem to continually circulate within health care circles. Nutrition is a field that is certainly not immune to these types of myths , which can be misleading for people trying to lose weight or stay healthy. Here are the top five food myths debunked:
Health Myth #1: Red Meat is Bad for Me
Although an increased intake of red meat has been shown to be associated with higher rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer, the issue of red meat consumption has been taken completely out of context.
The proper addition of red meat products to a healthy diet, in my opinion, will provide you with an optimal source of protein, healthy fats, iron, B12, zinc, carnitine, and selenium. The issue with red meat is that most people eat far too much, far too often, and they choose the wrong types!
Organic, free-range red meat is the best choice because its fat content and quantity are much more heart-healthy and there are no drug residues. Try eating four ounces of grilled meat once or twice a week, and purchase the leaner cuts.
Health Myth #2: Margarine is Better Than Butter
Some margarine products are just as damaging to your arteries as butter because they are made from fully hydrogenated vegetable oils. In comparison, these two products can also have very similar effects on blood fats, levels of inflammation, and artery-damaging deposits.
Fully hydrogenated vegetable oils can also have high levels of trans fat, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Margarines made from olive or soybean oil that are trans-fat-free are better to consume.
Currently, there are some margarine products available that have been fortified with plant sterols—specialized fats found in plants that have been shown to lower cholesterol in humans. Although these products are more expensive, they are a better choice than butter.
Health Myth #3: Carbs Are Bad for Me
Not all carbohydrates are created equal! Carbohydrates are composed of sugar molecules of various lengths. There are two types of carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates contain short sugar molecules and are found in sweets, baked goods, white flour products, white rice, fruit drinks, and syrups.
Complex carbohydrates contain longer chains of sugar molecules and can be classified into fibrous carbohydrates, mainly consisting of fiber, water, vitamins, minerals, and starch. Fibrous carbohydrates can be found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
The intake of simple carbohydrates is directly linked to weight gain, high blood pressure, blood sugar, blood fats, fatigue, poor mental function, and higher levels of inflammation. The intake of complex carbohydrates has the exact opposite effect on your body! If you’re trying to lose weight, then you don’t need to cut out all carbohydrates—instead, choose complex carbohydrates to feel fuller and get the most out of your meals.
Health Myth #4: Avoid Fat at All Costs
For a long time, we’ve known that diets high in certain types of fat have been linked to the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer. However, this observation has been carried over to the realm of public health policy, causing the food industry to make the concept of a low-fat diet the golden standard. This is very misleading!
Consider people living in the Southern Mediterranean and the Inuit—groups of people who eat more fat in their diets compared to the standard Western diet, yet they have lower rates of heart disease and stroke. Why?
Just like carbs, not all fats are created equal! That’s why it matters what type of fat you eat. Increasing your consumption of saturated or trans fats can also increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. However, if your diet contains mostly unsaturated fats from olive oil, flax, nuts, seeds, or their corresponding oils and fish, your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer is greatly reduced, despite the relative higher fat content of your diet.
Health Myth #5: Consume More Dairy Products
There is no doubt that people health experts advocate to consume more dairy products to get your daily recommended amount of calcium and to reduce the prevention of osteoporosis. Increasing your intake of low-fat dairy products, like yogurt and milk, is also important for normalizing weight and blood fat.
However, despite higher intakes of calcium, osteoporosis and bone fractures are still occurring with great frequency. That’s because the amount of vitamin D in most people’s diets is generally low. Vitamin D is essential in the absorption of calcium from your food, and if you’re not getting enough vitamin D, then consuming more calcium will not make a difference, because you won’t be able to absorb it.
My advice is to eat dairy products or orange juice fortified with vitamin D; to eat more fish and eggs; and to supplement with 500-1,000 International Units (IU) of vitamin D per day, taken with food.
“Dietary Supplements Fact Sheet,” Office of Dietary Supplements web site; http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-all/, last accessed April 23, 2013.
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