Susie Burrell

‘your food, your body, your life’

The most common food myths

In this day and age, everyone is a nutrition expert and indeed nutrition information is everywhere, with multiple experts telling us what we should and should not eat. Yet despite the influx of nutrition information, there remains several beliefs out there that are simply not true! So here are the most common nutrition myths and the actual scientific truth behind them.

Fruit is high in sugar so should be avoided

The anti-sugar brigade has been lecturing us about the toxicity of fructose for a number of years, and of course one of the richest sources of fructose in the diet is from fresh fruit. While fruit does contain the sugar fructose, it also contains plenty of fibre and key nutrients and many thousands of years consumption would tell us that a couple of pieces of fruit a day will do no harm. On the other hand fruit based snacks, juices and dried fruit on the other hand are all concentrated sources of fruit sugars and as such can be easily overconsumed and linked to weight gain long term.

Nut milks are better for you than dairy milk

Nut based milk is generally only a good choice nutritionally if you cannot tolerate dairy milk or prefer not to drink it. The key nutrients we get from milk are protein and calcium and it is important to remember that almond milk contains literally none of either of these. Some non-dairy milks have a little calcium added, but again it is much smaller amounts than is found in dairy, or soy milks for that matter so if you do choose nut milk, make sure you get your calcium from somewhere else.

Eggs increase cholesterol

Possibly the most commonly held nutrition belief, that eggs, as they contain cholesterol in turn increase blood cholesterol levels. Not true. Rather it is our dietary fat balance, calorie intake along with individual genetics that will determine if you have high cholesterol. The good news is that you can enjoy an egg or two as part of a nutritious diet daily without cause for cholesterol concern.

Olive oil should not be heated

No, in fact, the antioxidants in olive oil help protect the oil from oxidising when it is heated. Yes you will get the best results from olive oil when it is used in dressings or for roasting or baking but it does not turn carcinogenic when it is heated as commonly thought.

Lettuce and celery have negative calories

While salad vegetables including cucumber, lettuce and celery contain very few calories per serve, there is no such thing as foods that burn more fat simply because you eat them. This is not to say that they are not a good choice as you could literally eat as much of these water rich salad vegetables as you like with no risk of weight gain.

Raw vegetables are better than cooked ones

This really depends on the type as some nutrients become more concentrated and bioavailable when they are cooked. For example the beta carotene content of carrots increases when carrots are cooked as does the lycopene content of tomatoes. On the other hand, leafy green vegetables can have some of their key nutrients destroyed when exposed to high temperatures so these are best consumed raw or lightly cooked.

Skim milk contains sugar

A shift toward more natural eating has seen health enthusiasts keen to consume their foods in as natural a state as possible. It is often argued that skim milk is more processed than full cream milk, and that skim milk contains more sugar, which is not the case. The truth is that full cream milk contains more fat and more of the naturally occurring sugar lactose than skim milk.

Bananas are high in sugar and should be avoided

Bananas, like all fruit are a nutrient rich food and are a rich source of fibre, Vitamin B, magnesium, potassium and carbohydrates. While bananas do offer some sugars (18-25g per serve), these are natural sugars and not significantly more sugar than the average piece of fruit (15-30g of sugars per serve). For this reason, bananas are a source of good quality carbs and can be included in the diet as would any other types of fruit without any concern.