Debunked: Common food myths that you always thought were true

When it comes to food, many of us heed popular Old Wive’s Tales, but is there any truth to them? If you thought salt was bad for you, that sweeteners are safe or that protein is critical, please read on. These expert opinions may surprise you:

MYTH 1: 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.

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MYTH 2: 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.

MYTH 3: You should eat bulk amounts of protein

Bodybuilders wanting to gain muscle mass are often chowing down protein shakes, steaks and eggs. Are bulk amounts of protein really necessary for the rest of us, though?

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According to dietitian Andy Bellatti, protein intakes are unique to each person. Older Australians benefit more from eating a wide variety of wholesome foods, to protect their muscles and bodies.

“By simply eating more calories from healthful, whole foods (such as grains, nuts, seeds and fish), you will take care of all the necessary nutrients that support muscle growth”, he says.

MYTH 4: 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.

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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.

MYTH 5: An apple a day – keeps the doctor away

Back in 1940, an apple contained three times the amount of iron as today’s crops. According to nutritionist David Thomas, over years “the minerals and other nutrients that help to make fruit and vegetables good for you have been in startling decline”.

Whilst apples are still a good source of nutrition, Dr Thomas advises eating a wide variety of fruit and vegetables in 2016. A diet rich in colourful fruits and vegetables can ward of heart attack, strokes and even certain cancers.

What food myths have you always believed? How do you maintain a healthy diet? Did you find the information in this article surprising?