In an era dominated by social media, it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish between actual science-backed claims about what we eat and drink. Versus those which become popular only because a celebrity or influencer posted them.
Most times, these food myths gain even more traction when a reputable news source features them. These segments get often taken completely out of context once they become posted in social media.
Take, for example, a report in Fox News headlined “Glass of RedWine Equivalent to Hour of Gym Time .” While their guests, Doctors Marc Siegel and David Samadi, discussed how the benefits of exercising far outweigh those of the resveratrol found in red wine, only a paraphrased version of the headline made it to the social media platforms. A majority of which didn’t even link to the news report or the study behind it.
In celebration of the National Nutrition Month® of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, we attempt to help separate fact from fiction by debunking some common food and sugar myths.
Debunking Common Food Myths:
Myth: Avoid eggs because they are high in cholesterol.
Truth: Research shows eggs have a tiny impact on blood cholesterol levels. In fact, eggs are an inexpensive source of many nutrients. Eggs are rich in protein, zinc and iron, eye health carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin D, and the brain-boosting chemical choline.
Myth: Carbohydrates make you fat.
Truth: Any type of food can cause you to gain weight if you overeat—that is, consume more than your body can burn. What you need to bear in mind is that not all carbohydrates are the same. While consuming sugary and refined-carbohydrate-rich foods like white bread, pasta, and pastries may lead to weight gain. Healthy sources like whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables typically won’t.
Myth: Saturated fats are not bad for you.
Truth: The science is in. Research studies by the American Heart Association showed replacing saturated fats from animal products, with polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils, decreased the risk of heart disease by 29%.
Debunking Common Sugar Myths
Myth: High fructose corn syrup is worse than regular sugar (sucrose).
Truth: Regular sugar, honey, juice concentrates (used as natural sweeteners), and high fructose corn syrup have very similar chemical compositions. If you consumed the same amount of any of these sugars the health consequences are likely the same.
Myth: Sugar causes diabetes.
Truth: Type 1 diabetes develops when cells in the pancreas that make insulin become destroyed. This happens when something goes wrong with the body’s immune system. It has nothing to do with how much sugar you consume. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, characterized by resistance to the action of insulin, is caused by excess fat stores. With either type of diabetes (or with gestational diabetes), however, moderating sugar intake helps the body regulate blood sugar levels and avoid medical complications.
Myth: Sugar causes heart disease.
Truth: Only sugar from unhealthy sources like sugar-sweetened beverages and junk foods are linked to obesity and inflammation, which increase the risk of heart disease. Sugars from fruits (especially when consumed as whole fruits) and other low glycemic index (GI) foods are an important part of a healthy diet.
Dr. Daggy says: “Often a statement with a grain of truth gets taken to the extreme. ‘Too much added sugar is bad for you’ becomes ‘Avoid all carbs’. A plant-based diet rich in whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and limited in processed foods high in sugar, saturated fat, and sodium, is a good starting point. I also favor organic foods, as they are less likely to have high or even detectable levels of pesticides, and the growing practices are more likely to be sustainable. If you are in a position to grow some of your own food, that can be satisfying, educational for the whole family, and very tasty!”
You probably will continue to encounter many other sweeping statements and ludicrous claims about what we eat and drink. Just find and read the studies behind them first to determine whether they are reliable. Over time, you may come to recognize which sources you can trust.
For a debunking of common soy myths check out our article: “Why Most Everything You Read About Soy Isn’t True.“
Thanks for reading.