Five Food Myths You Need To Forget
Many of us try to eat healthy. But with all the fads, trends, diets, new products and claims, it's no wonder people wanting to make a change are left saying, "Huh?"
It's difficult to know what's honest and what's hype. I took an informal survey on Facebook and came up with five topics of confusion.
Let the truth be told.
CULPRITS: Activia, Yoplait and Stonyfield.
CLAIMS: Many yogurts now make special probiotic formulas for a healthy gut.
TRUTH: Yes, probiotics are wonderful to maintain healthy flora in the gut; however, most of the brands above contain an ungodly amount of sugar that negates any positive effects in your gut. Sugar can cause bloating and a whole host of other digestive problems. Plus, ANY good quality yogurt contains probiotics. Don't fall for the gimmick.
BETTER CHOICE: Stick to PLAIN flavors (even those have natural occurring sugars found in dairy products), and if you have sensitivity to dairy, try a goat or sheep milk yogurt that's lower in lactose.
CULPRITS: Any and all cereals, breads and crackers with this label
CLAIMS: Products now made with whole grains are more nutritious than their predecessors.
TRUTH: This is probably the most egregious assault on American health since the Big Mac. Big food companies have convinced people that their cereals are now healthier because of this new whole grain label. It occurred to me how bad it was when I recently was on vacation and one of my friends—a very intelligent, fairly well-off, grown man—said, "Yeah, I'll only buy the whole grain cereals now. They're all going that way." I didn't have the heart to correct him because he truly thought he was making a healthier choice for himself and his family (plus it was 6:30 a.m. and I was on vacation). Here's the thing: processed food is processed food. The whole grains are still processed to the point of nil nutritional value. Okay, maybe they add a gram or two of fiber, but the first or second ingredient is usually some form of sugar.
BETTER CHOICE: Stick to oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa or other grains in the morning. You can doctor it up with a ton of healthier options such as fruit, flaxseed, and natural sweeteners. Tastes good, good for you, no label required.
And while we're on the topic of grains…
CULPRITS: Everything in the supermarket these days.
CLAIMS: Eating gluten free is the solution to any and all of life's problems.
TRUTH: Poor wheat. It's gotten such a bad reputation. First the no carb trend then Paleo and now this. Truth is, wheat is not the devil. It's the processed part that does you no good. Gluten-free foods can still be extremely processed and full of sugar, salt and artificial ingredients. Gluten-free does not mean good for you. If a gluten free lifestyle leads someone down the path of more whole grains, simpler ingredients and more educated food decisions, kudos! However, more often than not, I see this label being used by people anxious to conform to the latest fad. Maybe you've heard a similar version of this conversation?
Trendy Eater #1: "Oh, I can't have that amazing homemade French bread with butter on it while I'm on vacation in Paris. I'm gluten-free."
Waiter: "Mademoiselle, would you like a pint of our gluten free double chocolate gelato, topped with gluten free Oreos and gluten free whipped cream?"
Trendy Eater #1: "SURE!"
This isn't to say there is no place for gluten free treats. Many people are diagnosed with a very serious condition called Celiac disease, cause of a whole host of serious health problems. By golly, these people deserve some cake too. But, by and large, let's not use it as an excuse to indulge in more garbage with a different label.
LOW OR NO FAT
CULPRITS: Milk products, salad dressings, bread, cereals.
CLAIMS: Eating less fat is better for you and will help you be skinny.
TRUTH: I was tempted not to add this to the list because I was convinced this trend went out with the "Let's Get Physical" headbands and step aerobics. Apparently, I was wrong. Many are still confused and duped by this label. Say it with me: "THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH FAT." There is something wrong with hydrogenated oils and margarine or other butter-like products made out of plastic that your body has no clue how to digest. Or replacing fat with sugar in an attempt to make up for the loss of taste. Salad dressings are a huge culprit of this. Avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, flax oil, nuts, seeds? Go for it. Even eggs, if you don't have more than a couple a week. Stop counting numbers. Start eating less processed foods. Your body will thank you.
NO ADDED SUGAR, LOW SUGAR OR NO SUGAR
CULPRITS: Juices, diet soda, cereal, bread, protein/nutrition bars, protein powders.
CLAIMS: Less calories and, therefore, better for you - sending you to skinny land!
TRUTH: So it may seem I am contradicting myself here, as I basically expose sugar as the devil in every example above. But here's the deal, like Marvin Gaye says, "Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby." If you're going to have a Coke, go for it. But don't make it a habit. Don't kid yourself by thinking you're doing better by having 5 DIET cokes a day instead of regular ones. Yes, you may save yourself hundreds of empty calories and a serious case of Type 2 Diabetes, but you've replaced one bad habit with another. And that's just no good. These products usually contain artificial sweeteners likened to Aspartame, Sucralose, and everyone's favorite Saccharine!
Remember TAB? The fake it 'til you make it approach does not apply here. The best rule of thumb when it comes to sugar products? Moderation. Use a teaspoon of primo maple syrup, honey or agave nectar. Or try Stevia, a natural sugar substitute. Although admittedly, there are conflicting claims on this product too. Bottom line: No one likes a fake.
On that note, we're not saints. Notice the use of the word we. I have a real honest to goodness Coke in a bottle sitting in my fridge right now. Made with REAL sugar and not corn syrup! And I've been known to down a diet Dr. Brown's Cream or Black Cherry soda a couple of times a year. As a matter of fact, I had one last night. However, these are not habits, and I don't pretend I'm doing something good for me because that soda was fat, sugar, calorie, and gluten-free.
Make educated decisions. Read ingredient labels, not marketing claims. Education is key. Knowledge is power. Don't buy into the gimmicks and the advertising schemes.