Nutritional myth busting: what you need to know
It can be really confusing when you hear mixed messages about health and nutrition and what you think is true one day is different the next. Unfortunately this is a fact of life, not necessarily because the science is wrong, but rather because it is incomplete. As research continues new facts are brought to light which means that the information and advice given needs to be updated.
Here are 6 of the most common nutritional myths that you need to be aware of:
MYTH: Green juices are good for you
FACT: They can suppress thyroid function
Green juices are all the rage, and while they do contain a huge amount of nutrients, the raw vegetables that they’re made from contain compounds called “goitrogens”. Goitrogens, as the name suggests, are capable of causing a goitre or an underactive thyroid by preventing the uptake of iodine into the gland. Without iodine, your thyroid can’t make hormones and this can cause metabolic problems such as weight gain, fatigue, dry skin and low libido. The Australian diet is already deficient in iodine so consuming goitrogens could be a real problem for many people.
MYTH: Calories are all that matters
FACT: Calories have very little to do with long term successful weight loss and management.
We now know that it is the type of calorie and not the amount which has the biggest effect. Research has shown that even if people eat the same amount of calories, eating foods which don’t increase blood sugar levels will lead to more fat loss.
MYTH: Eating fat makes you fat
FACT: Fat can help with weight loss
This belief was based on the fact that fat contains more calories than proteins and carbohydrates and so eating it would lead to weight gain. Now that we know that it’s not the amount of calories that matters, but rather the hormonal response that they trigger within your body, fat is back on the menu. Even if two snacks have the same calories, eating the one with a higher fat and protein content leads to a better health outcome, for instance nuts versus crisp bread.
MYTH: Only cane sugar is sugar
FACT: Sugar is sugar
There’s no doubt that refined white cane sugar is the worst of a bad bunch, but sugar is sugar as far as your body is concerned. Raw sugar, palm sugar, rice malt syrup, maple syrup and honey are all sugars. They often contain some beneficial minerals too but don’t be fooled into thinking that just because they are less processed that they are good for you. This doesn’t mean that they can’t be enjoyed as a treat, but as long as you’re aware that they are sugar.
MYTH: Dried dates are a good substitute for sugar
FACT: Dates are very high in sugar
Not only does a date contain the equivalent of two teaspoons of sugar, they have a very high glycemic index which means that sugar has an immediate effect on your blood sugar levels, something which you need to avoid for both weight management and long term health. Again, this doesn’t mean dates are off the menu, but be aware that they certainly aren’t a health food.
MYTH: Only people with coeliac disease need to avoid gluten
FACT: You don’t need to have coeliac disease to react to gluten
This is an area where opinions are divided but the research clearly shows that there is a condition called non-coeliac gluten sensitivity which causes problems both inside and outside of the digestive system. This causes a wide range of problems from headaches and migraines to arthritis. No doubt debate will continue, but the fact is many people feel a whole lot better if they avoid gluten and don’t care what anyone else has to say about it.
There are no real absolutes when it comes to nutrition because everyone is different and you are always changing; the diet that suited you last year could cause you problems now. The most important thing to concentrate on is what makes you feel well.