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Nutrition Myths Busted

When it comes to making your family happy and healthy, there’s no time to spend messing around. There are a lot of food myths and activity myths out there, and so it’s easy to be confused about what to listen to. We are often bombarded with nutrition information but it’s hard to differentiate between fact and fiction. With the help of these myth busters, you will be at ease in telling right from wrong.  Here are some food myths on various areas being debunked:

  • Adding milk to coffee does not impact the antioxidant activity
Evidence suggests that adding milk to coffee does not have an impact on the antioxidant activity. You can still enjoy your cup of coffee the way you usually have it and still absorb the antioxidants naturally found in coffee.
  • Avoid dairy when you have a cold
Did your mum always tell you to slow down on the milk when you have a cold as it clogs up your nose and throat with mucus? The truth is that this common food myth is false! Milk does not cause mucus production. Due to the creamy texture of milk, some people feel that there is a temporary coating over the mouth and throat after drinking milk. This is not mucus – it’s just the natural sensation of drinking milk and only lasts for a short period of time.


  • Spinach is a good source of iron

There are two types of iron in the foods we eat; haem iron, which is found in animal foods, and non-haem iron, which is found in plants. The body absorbs haem iron better than non-haem. While spinach does contain some iron, (100 gram of spinach has 1.14 mg of iron)), it also contains a substance that binds to iron; meaning it’s not taken up by the body as well as the iron in red meat and other animal foods. It’s important to include a variety of both plant and animal foods to get the iron you need. Vitamin C can also help the body absorb more non-haem iron from foods.

  • Green leafy vegetables are a good source of calcium

Green leafy vegetables absorb minerals from the soil, so they can contain small amounts of calcium, although this is much less than dairy products. For example100 g of spinach has 73 mg of calcium and 100 g of milk has 120 mg of calcium.. You can see you would have to eat higher amounts of green leafy vegetables to get your daily calcium needs. So, while green leafy vegetables are important for folate, fibre, iron, Vitamin C, riboflavin and antioxidants, make sure you eat other foods like milk and milk products for calcium.

  • Raw vegetables are always better than cooked vegetables

Not always. The amount of nutrients you get from vegetables can differ for a number of reasons, such as how long you store them and how (or if) you cook them. Although cooking vegetables can lose nutrients, cooking can sometimes increase the amount of nutrients available to the body. An example of this is the antioxidant lycopene in tomatoes. Cooking tomatoes releases more lycopene than is available in raw tomatoes. Loss of nutrients can occur in cooking because some vitamins, like Vitamins B and C dissolve in water. Some can be lost if the vegetables are boiled for too long. Steaming or stir-frying helps retain the vitamins when you cook vegetables. The fact of the matter is vegetables are powerhouses of nutrition, no matter which way you eat them. Whether raw or cooked, three to five serves of vegetables a day are recommended in a healthy diet.

  • Eating lots of carrots will improve your eyesight

Carrots contain beta-carotene which the body converts into Vitamin A to use for vision, bone growth and maintenance of healthy skin. The truth is, while eating lots of carrots could make you turn orange from the excess beta-carotene, lots of carrots won’t improve your eyesight. One effect of Vitamin A deficiency is night blindness, which perhaps is where the myth originated. While carrots can help prevent Vitamin A deficiency, eating lots won’t help you to see better. Even though they won’t give you x-ray vision, don’t leave the carrots off your plate – they are a nutritious, tasty and affordable vegetable.


  • Eggs are bad for you

For years people have thought that eggs are bad because they contain cholesterol. Even though the cholesterol found in foods can contribute to blood cholesterol levels, it’s actually the saturated fat in food that has a bigger impact.
Eggs can be included in your diet and provide high quality protein and many vitamins and minerals. You can go for boiled eggs or egg white alone (removing the yolk part) for keeping cholesterol levels in limits.

  • Meat takes days to digest

So, you’ve eaten a big steak of chicken and you feel like you will be full forever. Contrary to the myth, it won’t take you days to digest. In fact, most people digest meat within 3-5 hours of eating it. Your digestive system is very efficient. It breaks down food into nutrients the body can absorb – and the nutrients from meat, like protein and fat are no different.Lean meat is predominantly a protein food. Our bodies use protein for building and repair of body tissues, so try to include at least one serve of meat, fish, poultry or an alternative such as legumes (lentils, baked beans, chickpeas) in your daily diet.

  • Red meat is bad for health – Myth of Fact

Some studies have linked red meat with increased risk of heart disease, partly due to the saturated fat content. In fact, chicken and fish also contain as much saturated fat as lean cuts of beef and pork. Red meat contains other nutrients like protein, iron and zinc that are important for health. So, instead of totally excluding red meat, choose leaner cuts such as beef eye of the round and top round. Remember to have a variety of protein sources, such as meat, poultry, egg, legumes, seafood with fish taken more frequently.

  • Carbohydrates should not be eaten with protein
There are so many fad diets out there – and almost everyone has heard the one about not eating carbohydrates at the same time as protein. If it were true it would mean no yogurt, milk, pasta or legumes as these foods naturally contain both protein and carbohydrate together. It is perfectly OK to eat carbs and protein at the same meal. In fact, our bodies are designed to work that way. Our digestive system is capable of digesting a large range and combination of food at the same time. Also, a mixed meal of carbohydrates and protein can help you control your blood sugar levels.


  • Additives in food are harmful


  • There are a small number of people who react to certain food additives, but this doesn’t make them harmful for everyone. In fact, food additives play an extremely important role in food. They give structure, add flavour, make food last longer, improve appearance and texture and help maintain quality. For example, antioxidants added to oil help prevent it going rancid. Without additives, our food supply would be quite limited. There are regulations for the amounts of additives to be used in food products
  • Aspartame causes cancer

Aspartame is one of the most thoroughly tested ingredients used in food. Recent safety reviews by scientific committees in Canada, Europe, France and the UK all confirm that aspartame is safe for use and does not cause cancer. Foods sweetened with aspartame are lower in kilojoules and can help reduce energy intake and control blood glucose levels. The maximum limit for use of aspartame in foods is 700 ppm according to FSSAI regulations, 2011.


  • Brown sugar is better for you than white sugar

The only difference between brown and white sugar is that brown sugar contains molasses, which has a caramel aroma and flavour, while white sugar has been refined to remove the molasses. Both of these sugars provide the same amount of energy (kilojoules), so the truth is that your body can’t really tell the difference.

  • Rock salt is better for you than ordinary salt

There’s is no difference between the two types of salt except their name and that they can have a different crystal size. Both have the same effect in your body. Too much salt can affect your heart health, so it is best to be used sparingly. Most Indians already eat more than the recommended amount of salt each day. Most of the salt that we eat comes from manufactured foods like bread and snacks, so there’s no need to add any extra.

  • People with diabetes need to avoid sugar

There was a time when people with diabetes were told to avoid eating sugar, but science has since shown that this isn’t necessary. All carbohydrates (eg bread, rice, pasta, starchy vegetables) are broken down to sugar which is absorbed into the blood stream. Rather than avoid sugars, it is important that people with diabetes choose carbohydrates that are slowly broken down, and spread these carbohydrates evenly across the day to help control their blood sugar levels. The best choices are low glycemic index carbohydrates. For eg. Whole bran, oats, brown rice, porridge etc.

  • Eating too much sugar causes type two diabetes

Even though one of the symptoms of diabetes is high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood, eating sugar doesn’t directly cause diabetes. Type two diabetes is a lifestyle disease caused by a number of things, such as family history, lack of exercise and becoming overweight or obese. Someone without the genetic predisposition would not develop diabetes, no matter how much sugar he/she consumed.

  • Skipping meals is a good way to lose weight

It may seem logical that skipping a meal will help you lose weight because you eat less, but it’s not that simple. Missing out on meals can actually have the opposite effect. Your body goes into ‘survival mode’, slowing down your metabolism and conserving energy rather than using it up. Skipping meals can also make you hungrier, and more likely to snack on high fat or sugar foods. A better way to reach and maintain a healthy weight is eat small meals regularly throughout the day and find ways to be more active.

  • Starchy foods like bread and pasta are fattening

Starchy foods such as bread, pasta and potatoes are carbohydrate foods. Like all carbohydrate foods, starchy foods break down to give your body glucose for energy. Carbohydrates are great sources of energy; in fact it is recommended that around 45-60% of our energy should from carbs. As with all types of energy, if you eat more than your body needs, the energy from carbs will get stored, which can increase your weight. However, pasta and bread are not fattening if eaten as part of a balanced diet. Go for wholegrain or wholemeal bread, and top your pasta(multi-grain or wheat based) with tomato-based sauces rather than creamy sauces.

  • Snacking late at night causes weight gain

If you succumb to the midnight munchies, it will go straight to your hips, right? Not necessarily. You put on weight when you eat more food than your body needs, and don’t do enough activity to burn it off. While some people may snack more when they stay up late, it’s the amount and type of snacks that determine if the kilos will pile on, or not. Choose snacks from the core food groups like dairy,complex carbs, fruit or grains if you’re feeling hungry after dinner. Otherwise, to combat late night snacking or over eating at night, try to eat six regular meals throughout the day.

  • If something is low in fat I can eat more of it

Focusing solely on a food’s fat content is only telling half the story. That’s because a low fat food might still differ in essential nutrients or be high in sugar, and therefore its kilojoule content – or how much energy a food has – might be higher than you expect.

  • Myth - Sugar Makes You Fat

Sugar is part of a well-balanced lifestyle and naturally occurring sugars can be good for you. Excessive calories of all kinds can cause weight gain so don’t avoid sugar all together but incorporate in moderation.

  • Myth - Losing Weight is All About Avoiding Fat
Weight loss comes down to calories in and calories out. Consuming too many calories in any shape or form will lead to weight gain. Fats have important roles in the body so it’s important to get the right kinds and the right amounts.

  • Myth - Fresh is Always Better Than Frozen
    Produce from other countries travels far to get to your kitchen, and lose nutrients slowly after picking. Fresh local foods are less likely to suffer from this problem but are only available at certain points in the year. Frozen or canned products can be a good alternative
  • Taking vitamin tablets gives you all the nutrients you need

If only it were that easy! Although vitamin and mineral supplements can be useful for some people as a “top up” when the diet is inadequate, or for increased requirements (such as pregnancy), they still don’t give you all the nutrients you need. Supplements cannot give you adequate amounts of macronutrients - carbohydrate, fat, protein and dietary fibre to meet your needs. That’s why a balanced diet full of a variety of nutritious foods from the core food groups is the best way to get all of the vitamins, minerals and macronutrients that you need each day.

  • Sugar makes kids hyperactive

Does your child come home from birthday parties bouncing off the walls? Do you think it’s all the sugar in the party food? It’s actually not the party food. The reason they’re hyped-up is more likely due to all of the excitement and activity at the party rather than the sugar in the party food. Studies have shown no direct link between consumption of sugary foods and increased hyperactivity in children. It is important to note however, that

  • Switch to Dark and eat chocolate as much as you want


  • Chocolate is made from cocoa derived from cocoa beans, which contain antioxidants called polyphenols, more specifically epicatchins. Cocoa is quite bitter on its own, so sugar and cocoa butter are usually added to develop the smooth taste of chocolate you know and love! Cocoa contains antioxidants and generally, the more cocoa in a product, the more antioxidants. That’s why dark chocolate is a better source of antioxidants when compared to regular milk or white chocolate
  • Despite its benefits, dark chocolate is still high in fat and sugar and should be considered a treat to be enjoyed in moderation. This means when you want to indulge, do so using a small amount of high quality chocolate and savour every bite