04/02/2012 11:14 EDT | Updated 06/02/2012 05:12 EDT

Top 5 Nutrition Myths

Daily we receive contradicting nutrition advice from the media, our doctors, friends and colleagues. That's because studies are being done consistently, reported, then taken as the word of God. Before you listen to any nutritional advice, be sure the source is valid and the study has been done over a number of years.

Here are some of the top nutrition myths that I'm sure you may be listening to:

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Myth1 : Sea salt is better for you than table salt.

Not true since both salts have the same nutritionals values, even though sea salt is marketed as a more natural and healthy choice. One tsp of either has 2,300 mg of sodium. It's recommended that we consume only 1,500 mg or less daily. I find the sea salt is better in flavour and texture, meaning you may use less, which is a health advantage. If you have thyroid issues, table salt contains iodine which may benefit your health. The key here is that excess salt, no matter what type, can be damaging to our health and may be a precursor to high blood pressure and heart disease. No matter what type of salt you use, keep it to a minimum at home and remember that restaurant or fast food has excess salt.

Myth 2: Diet soda is harmless

How can a drink with zero calories be harmful to our health? The issue lies in the sweetener such as sucralose or aspartame which can whet our appetite for more sweet foods. Studies show that those drinking three diet beverages a day had a 40 per cent increase in risk of being obese. As well it has been linked to kidney damage, heart attack and stroke risk. Research is ongoing. It's best to drink good old H2O or sparkling water with a twist of lemon or lime, or combined with natural fruit juice.

Myth 3: Low-fat foods are better for you

Back in the '90s, low-fat foods took over our supermarkets. Low fat equalled weight loss. But no one looked at the fact that weight didn't rely on fat alone. Excess calories and sugar could still be present in excess when fat was reduced to make up for the taste. In desserts that are low fat, there is usually an increase in sugar, which equals more calories. The type of fat matters as well. Healthy fats such as olive, peanut, canola and grapeseed oil are mono and unsaturated, which are the healthiest. Low-fat foods often contain saturated or hydrogenated fats found in fried foods, baked goods, cookies, icings, crackers, packaged snack foods, microwave popcorn, and some stick margarines. This makes the food taste better and prolongs shelf life, but making it a part of your diet plan can increase your risk of heart disease and Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the bad cholesterol. Read the label and don't fall for all foods that are "low fat."

Myth 4 - Energy drinks are better than regular soda

With names like Red Bull, Full Throttle, Rock Star and Monster, you're going to feel like The Terminator after you down one! Yes there are B vitamins, amino acids and herbs, but don't let that fool you. The sugar content is often as high as 17 teaspoons, or 68 grams per serving, which alone is about 280 calories. You should limit your intake to 40 grams of sugar a day. That's about 80 more calories than in your typical 16 oz soft drink. And forget about the B vitamins in a sweet beverage; instead increase your fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The only energy is coming from the caffeine, which you can get from a cup of coffee containing a lot less calories and sugar.

Myth 5 - Granola is healthy for you

Granola is made from whole rolled oats, which alone is healthy for you. If you stopped there you'd be fine! The problem is that those natural oats are now covered in sugar with added nuts, dried fruits and excess oil which increases the calories, fat and sugar. Maybe a handful for a quick snack is fine, but not as a daily breakfast. Your best bet is to have 100 per cent oatmeal cooked in milk, adding a little brown sugar, cinnamon and even maple syrup for taste. This has way less calories, fat and sugar than traditional granola. Or select a high-fibre, low-sugar cereal and add fresh fruit and a few chopped nuts.