Nutrition Month 2012: 25 Common Food Myths Busted

The Huffington Post Canada   First Posted: 03/01/2012 12:46 pm EST Updated: 02/28/2013 5:48 pm EST

It seems like every time there's a question about nutrition, most of us rely on word of mouth over anything else. 'Well, my friend tried this diet,' or 'I heard grapefruit can do wonders' both sound like they make sense -- so why wouldn't we believe them?

March 1 officially marks Nutrition Month in North America, and we're taking it as a chance to step back from our theories about food and get to know the facts a little better.

With spring on the horizon, Dietians of Canada, an association of dietitians, is tackling common nutrition myths to help people have a start fresh with their diets.

"People often get conflicting information about food," says registered dietitian Christy Brissette. "In this myth busting campaign, we want to reveal what the truths are and encourage people to always check their source."

Brissette says people often have a hard time reading food labels, and get the wrong impression about the excessive amount of sugar in fruit. Check out these tips on how to avoid tricky food labels.

Should you drink eight glasses of water a day or even spend time in the non-organic aisle? Here are 25 common nutrition myths busted:

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  • MYTH: Late Night Snacks Make You Gain Weight

    Late night snacking can lead to weight gain, but it's not due to the time on the clock. The trouble is, snacking after dinner can lead you to eat more calories than your body needs in a day, especially if you're having high-calorie snack foods and sweetened beverages. If you usually get hungry late at night, try eating dinner a little later. Still hungry? Sip on water with a squeeze of lemon, or go for small portions of healthy choices like whole grain cereal with milk, a piece of fruit, or plain air-popped popcorn.

  • MYTH: Cutting Carbs Will Make Me Lose Weight

    Cutting carbohydrates might help you lose weight in the short term, but it's mostly because you are eating less food and fewer calories. Drastically cutting carbs means you'll miss out on the nutritional benefits of healthy choices like whole grains, fruit, starchy vegetables, and legumes.

  • MYTH: Organic Foods Are The Healthiest And Safest

    Both organic and non-organic foods are nutritious and safe to eat when you're making healthy choices based on Canada's Food Guide. Many factors affect a food's nutritional value, such as where and how it was grown, stored, shipped and even how it was cooked.

  • MYTH: I Should Cut Gluten Out Of My Diet For A Healthy Diet

    A gluten-free diet is the only healthy way of eating for people with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, but it's not necessary for everyone else. Gluten is a type of protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye, and any foods made with these grains. Unless you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, or you are allergic to one of these grains, you don't need to avoid them. Whether the grain you choose is gluten-free (such as corn, rice, millet or quinoa) or not, enjoying more whole grains is a healthy choice. For good health, make at least half of your grain choices whole grain each day.

  • MYTH: Sea Salt Is Better Than Table Salt

    Sea salt, just like kosher and gourmet salt, has about the same amount of sodium as table salt. It is not a healthier choice. Too much sodium can be harmful to your health. The differences between sea salt and table salt are taste, texture and how they are made. Table salt is mined from dried-up ancient salt lakes. Some table salts include iodine, a nutrient that helps prevent thyroid disease. Sea salt is made by evaporating seawater and tastes different depending on where it's from.

  • MYTH: Drinking Energy Drinks Will Give Me Energy

    Energy drinks might make you feel a short burst of energy, but it doesn't last. Energy drinks usually contain lots of sugar; in fact, one energy drink can have up to 14 teaspoons of sugar. Most energy drinks have caffeine, and too much caffeine may cause unwanted side effects such as rapid heartbeat and insomnia. These drinks are not recommended for children or pregnant or breastfeeding women, and should not be consumed with alcohol or in amounts more than 500 ml per day. The best way to get energized is to eat well, be active, stay hydrated and get enough sleep.

  • MYTH: Superfoods Will Keep Me Super Healthy

    Sorry! No food has superpowers to keep you healthy on its own. Even if a food is bursting with a beneficial nutrient, your body needs more than that to be healthy. Unfortunately, there's no official "superfood" definition, and the term is sometimes used to market trendy, expensive foods, like goji and açaí berries, that don't always live up to their superior claims. And some basic foods that aren't called "super," such as apples, can be equally nutritious, less costly and more widely available.

  • MYTH: Cooking At Home Takes Too Much Time

    Getting a healthy, home-cooked meal on the table doesn't take as much time as you think. Simple, nutritious foods can make tasty meals, and planning meals in advance lets you use your time wisely. For example, try making "planned extras" (leftovers on purpose) that can be used for another meal, or make big batches of food on weekends.

  • MYTH: Healthy Food Is Expensive

    Food costs is an important issue for many. With some planning and wise choices, you can create tasty, healthy and affordable meals. To get the most value, choose foods that are big on nutrients and low on cost. Many healthy staple foods can be lower-cost items, including bulk flours and whole grains, in-season fresh produce, eggs, legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils), powdered milk, and sale-priced frozen or canned vegetables, fruits and fish.

  • MYTH: Certain Foods Help You Lose Weight Quickly

    There is no food that burns fat or makes you lose weight more quickly. Weight loss diets that focus on single foods, like grapefruit, cabbage soup or celery, are restrictive and lack nutrients needed for good health. It's true that when you eat only one type of food, like cabbage soup, you might eat less and take in fewer calories than you need and maybe lose weight at first. But in the end, these diets are boring, don't create healthy habits you can stick with, and don't help with long-term weight loss.

  • MYTH: Say No To All Processed Foods

    Some processed foods, such as whole grain pasta, canned light tuna and plain frozen vegetables, are healthy choices. Others provide few nutrients or are high in calories, fat, sugar or sodium and should be limited. Some examples are deep fried foods, salty snacks and packaged baked goods such as donuts and croissants.

  • MYTH: Ditch Milk -- All Of It

    Canadian milk meets strict government standards so it's safe and healthy. Canadian dairy farmers give their cows the best diet and health care so they produce quality milk naturally. Growth hormones to stimulate milk production are not approved for sale or permitted for use in Canada. Just like humans, cows sometimes get sick and need medications like antibiotics. If this happens, the cow is identified and milked separately until she is healthy again. Her milk is properly disposed of for a mandatory length of time, to allow for the medication to get out of her system. Milk, organic and non-organic, is a safe, nutritious choice.

  • MYTH: Multi-Grain And Whole Grain Are The Same

    Multi-grain isn't always whole grain. Multi-grain products include different grains, but they may not be whole. You'll get the greatest health benefits from eating whole grains. To make sure a food is made with whole grains, look on the food label's ingredient list for the words "whole grain" in front of each grain name.

  • MYTH: We Should Drink 8 Glasses Of Water Each Day

    There is no truth to the claim that everyone needs exactly eight cups of water a day. Water is important for good health and it is your best choice to satisfy thirst, but other liquids are also hydrating. The amount of water you need to hydrate your body varies daily and depends on factors like your gender, physical size and how active you are, as well as environmental factors like heat and humidity.

  • MYTH: Frozen And Canned Veggies And Fruits Aren't Healthy

    Nothing beats the taste of fresh produce in season. But frozen and canned produce can be just as nutritious since it's usually picked and packed at the peak of ripeness when nutrient levels are highest. Frozen or canned produce gives you benefits beyond health. It allows Canadians to enjoy a variety of vegetables and fruit year-round and is a practical choice for people living in remote areas.

  • MYTH: Low-Fat And Fat-Free Means Healthy

    Just because a food is low in fat or fat-free doesn't mean it's healthy. In fact, a lot of foods that are low in fat are definitely not healthy choices, such as candy, pop, low-fat cookies and fat-free frozen treats. While these foods may have little fat, they can still be high in sugar and calories and offer few, if any, nutrients. There are, however, some foods that are higher in fat and a healthy choice, such as fish, avocados, nuts, seeds and nut butters.

  • MYTH: Too Much Sugar Will Give Me Diabetes

    You will not get diabetes from eating sugar. It's wise, however, to limit your sugar intake. Foods that are high in sugar, such as cookies, candies and soft drinks, are often low in nutrients and high in calories. Diets with too many calories can lead to weight gain, and being overweight is one of the main risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

  • MYTH: Eating Lots Of Protein Can Give Me Muscles

    Protein alone does not build muscle mass. A strength-training program, along with enough calories from healthy foods, recovery time and sleep, are also needed for building muscle. Sure, you need protein, but overdoing it adds extra calories and won't build bigger muscles.

  • MYTH: Fruit Have Too Much Sugar

    Fruit is a healthy choice. It's true that fruit has naturally occurring sugar, but it is also chock full of vitamins, minerals and fibre that are important for good health. Choosing more vegetables and fruit, naturally sweetened by Mother Nature, can help you maintain your weight and reduce your risk of developing chronic disease.

  • MYTH: Honey And Brown Sugar Is Better Than White Sugar

    Nutritionally speaking, they are all pretty much the same. While some people consider brown sugar, honey or agave syrup to be more natural, they are still sugars. All are concentrated sources of calories with very few other nutrients. Your body can't tell the difference between them and white sugar. In fact, your body handles naturally occurring sugar in food or processed sugars and syrups in the same way.

  • MYTH: When You're Pregnant, You Eat For Two

    Pregnant women are commonly told they are "eating for two." In reality, you need just a little more food, during the second and third trimesters, to get enough nutrients and calories to support a growing baby. Two or three extra Food Guide servings each day are often enough. Aim to eat three balanced meals with nutritious snacks.

  • MYTH: Dietitians Never Eat Junk

    Dietitians eat all sorts of different foods, even chocolate, french fries, chips and candy...on occasion. Dietitians believe that healthy foods are delicious foods. And we also believe that there's nothing wrong with the occasional treat.

  • MYTH: Drinking Tea Makes You Dehydrated

    It's a popular belief that tea is dehydrating because it has caffeine, but the level of caffeine you get from drinking moderate amounts of tea, even strong tea, doesn't dehydrate you. Tea is actually 99.5 per cent water and counts towards your fluid intake for the day, so it can help keep you hydrated.

  • MYTH: I Should Avoid Mayonnaise For A Healthy Diet

    Mayonnaise can be included as part of healthy eating. In fact, Canada's Food Guide recommends that we consume a small amount (30-45 ml per 2 to 3 tbsp total) of unsaturated fat each day. This includes oil used for cooking, salad dressings, soft margarines low in saturated and trans fats, and mayonnaise.

  • MYTH: Best Way To Limit Salt Is Ditching The Salt Shaker

    Canadians eat too much sodium, but the salt shaker is not the biggest culprit. Over 75 per cent of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods, packaged and ready-to-eat foods, and restaurant meals. Only about 11 per cent comes from salt added when cooking at home and salt you shake on at the table. The rest of the sodium you get occurs naturally in foods. To limit the sodium you eat, choose fewer pre-packaged convenience foods and restaurant meals and enjoy more lower sodium foods that you can cook at home.

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