Is fruit juice healthy? Are carbs bad for you? Eating doesn’t have to be complicated. Yet it seems there is confusing information on when to eat, how to eat and what to eat. We asked Jenn Newkirk, RD, registered dietitian at Renown Health, to clear up five common food myths.
Food Myth 1: Uncooked vegetables are healthier than cooked vegetables.
Most Americans do not eat enough vegetables. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 1 in 10 adults get enough vegetables or fruits. A range of 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day is recommended for every adult.
Many raw vegetables are healthy, but some have even more health benefits when cooked. For example, cooking tomatoes allows better intake of lycopene. In addition, steaming carrots, kale, artichokes and cauliflower retains more antioxidants compared to roasting or microwaving them. Newkirk points out, “The most important thing to remember is to eat your vegetables, whether cooked or not.”
A tip for all veggie lovers: avoid the deep fryer. “The oil used in deep-frying is absorbed by the veggies, greatly increasing the calories, which can lead to undesirable weight gain” warns Newkirk. Heating oil to high temperatures for deep-frying can also lower the nutritional value of the veggies.
“Regardless of how you like to cook your vegetables, the best thing you can do is include them! Try to prepare vegetables in ways you enjoy so you are more likely to eat them,” Newkirk states. “Since both raw and cooked vegetables have pros or cons, try using different prep methods. Also remember vegetables are a great source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, all important for staying healthy,” she adds.
Food Myth 2: Most of the salt in your diet comes from the saltshaker.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA) most of the salt in our diet does not come from the saltshaker. In fact, processed foods in packages (or cans) are often high in salt. The average American is estimated to eat 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium each day.
Specifically the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the AHA recommend having less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Moreover, some individuals with specific health concerns are recommended to have a lower amount – 1,500 mg of sodium per day.
Pizza, a sports night and kids party main course, is surprisingly heavy in salt. Just one slice of pizza can have 600 mg, which is 26% of the daily recommendation!
Food Myth 3: Fruit Juice is a healthy choice.
Although you may not think of a glass of fruit juice as sugar in a cup, it is. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends infants under age one completely avoid juice.
“While one might choose fruit juice with the idea it contains lots of vitamins and minerals, more is not always better,” says Newkirk. “Fruit juice is often high in calories, which can lead to weight gain. Juice leaves out all of the fiber found in a whole piece of fruit, which helps us feel satisfied and full.”
Food Myth 4: Carbs are a ‘bad’ food.
Newkirk encourages an “all foods fit” approach to nutrition and health instead of calling foods “good” or “bad”. “As a dietitian, I recommend limiting processed carbohydrates and refined grains such as sugar sweetened cereals and white breads. These have most of the fiber and nutrients removed. Instead, fill up on whole grains, beans, legumes and fruit for more nutritious choices. Cutting out an entire food group could leave you with gaps in your diet,” she says.
Food Myth 5: Yogurt is always a healthy choice.
Browse the dairy case of your local supermarket and you will see an overwhelming choice of yogurts. Blended fruit, fruit on the bottom and even a variety of stir-ins to go with your yogurt. Unfortunately, most of these are packed with sugar.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends less than 10 percent of your calories each day come from added sugars (or about 200 calories, 50 grams or 12.5 teaspoons).
For example, a better choice is plain, low-fat Greek with fresh berries or spices like cinnamon sprinkled on top.
Nutrition Beyond Food Myths
By making the above changes, your diet will contain healthy foods you can enjoy every day. “Nutrition is not one size fits all. If you have questions, reach out to a registered dietitian in your local area or hospital to discuss your particular needs,” suggests Newkirk.