These days it’s easy to be confused about what’s really healthy and what’s not. With so much conflicting information out there many people struggle to get a grasp on which foods are good for their health and which are more of a passing fad.
To help you out, we’ve taken eight of the most common misconceptions and myths and debunked them for you! Take a look and tell us if any of them surprised you.
1. Pasta makes you fat
With many of us cutting back on carbs thanks to crazes like the popular low-carb Atkins diet, poor old pasta has taken a bit of a beating in recent years. Thankfully, a new push is on to repair the reputaion of our delicious Italian friend with pasta company Barilla saying the “resistant starch structure means pasta is more slowly digested than the same amount of flour made into bread”. You should always cook your pasta al dente to ensure you get a slow and steady release of energy. This keeps you fuller for longer and allows your body enough time to digest the pasta.
2. Raw food diets are better for your digestion
Raw food advocates claim that cooking vegetables removes vital plant enzymes, but this claim is one that doesn’t stand true with many qualified dietitians. “Those enzymes are made for the survival of plants; for human health, they are not essential,” said dietitian Brenda Davis.
3. Fat is “bad” for you
The truth is fat can be divided into two groups, “saturated” and “unsaturated” fats. According to The Mayo Clinic, “you don’t need to eliminate all fat from your diet. In fact, some fats actually help promote good health”.
For example, unsaturated fats are found in natural foods like avocados, fish, seeds, legumes and nuts. They are important for a balanced diet, because unsaturated fat can reduce your risk of heart disease.
On the other hand, saturated fats can increase your blood pressure levels and encourage disease. Saturated fats are commonly found in dairy products and processed meats. Therefore it’s beneficial to moderate your intake of foods such as cheese, oil, salami, pastries and pies.
4. A muesli bar is healthier than a chocolate bar
Despite the pictures of healthy-looking fruits and nuts on the packaging, muesli bars are notoriously high in sugar and fat. The dried fruit has high levels of concentrated sugar, while other ingredients like yoghurt and chocolate chips contain saturated fats, all of which are packed into these small snack bars. Additionally, they often contain sugar or corn syrup, which can quickly convert to fat in the body. If you’re really craving a sweet treat, try a fresh piece of fruit and a couple of squares of dark chocolate instead.
5. Dried fruit is as healthy as fresh fruit
Dehydrating fruit removes all of the water from it, meaning the final dried fruit product is high in fructose and kilojoules. While there are many advantages of eating dried fruit, thanks to its high-fibre content, it’s best to limit yourself to about eight pieces a day and eat more fresh fruit instead.
6. Artificial sweeteners are perfectly safe
America’s Food and Drug Administration says artificial sweeteners are “Generally Regarded As Safe”. However, the worrying truth is that sweeteners which have previously been in this same category (like Orange Dye #1) have later been banned due to health concerns.
Whilst there has been no official research linking artificial sweeteners to specific illness, the National Cancer Institute does have an ongoing study about this. Artificial sweeteners also offer very little nutritional value, rating poorly on the glycemic index. Natural products like agave nectar could be a safer option for you.
7. Red meat is a killer
Is red meat really the cancer-causing, fat-making danger some people (vegans) make it out to be? Not really. While research has shown eating too much red meat is linked to an increased risk of cancer, eating limited portions every week can have excellent health benefits. Red meat is high in zinc and iron and gives us a great dose of protein, too. Health experts suggest you stick to no more than a 70g portion of red meat per day and increase your intake of omega-3 rich fish, like salmon and sardines.
8. Salt is “bad” for you
Salty foods have been given a bad wrap over the years, being attributed to everything from high blood pressure to cardiovascular disease. Whilst excessive salt can affect your body’s ability to regulate blood pressure, the best way to approach sodium is in moderation. Salt itself is not characteristically “bad”.
The amount of salt in modern-day takeaway and packages foods is very high. Therefore nutritionists like Alannah DiBona advise cooking with fresh ingredients, and using herbs and spices to flavour your meals instead. Potassium can also help balance your intake of salt.
“It’s been common scientific knowledge for 20 years that potassium and sodium balance each other. Consuming more potassium (in the form of spinach, broccoli, bananas and beans) can have a regulatory effect on blood pressure”, explains Ms DiBona.