As a clinical dietitian, I’ve heard it all: “Will eating only sweet potatoes make me lose weight?”, “Is brown sugar better for me than white sugar?” There are tons of nutrition myths out there, which just further confuses the already confusing topic of nutrition. So what is true and what is false when it comes to nutrition? The following will hopefully help clear up some common facts and myths.
Fact or Myth: “High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is worse for you than sugar.”
Myth: Although HFCS has gotten a bad rep recently and is often deemed as “worse than sugar,” HFCS and table sugar (sucrose) are actually almost identical in their composition. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, sucrose is made up of 50% fructose and 50% glucose, while HFCS is made up of 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Calorie-wise they are exactly identical, both containing 4 calories per gram. And in studies that compare the effects of HFCS with sucrose, HFCS and sucrose have no significant metabolic or endocrine response differences or differences in health-related effects. Both the American Heart Association and the FDA do not acknowledge one as more damaging to your health than the other. Bottom line: Obsessing about avoiding HFCS takes the focus off of the more important issue of how much overall added sugars we are consuming, regardless of the type of sugar.
Fact or Myth: “Your body can’t use the protein from beans unless you eat them with rice.”
Myth: Proteins are made up of different combinations of 20 amino acids. Our bodies are only able to make 11 of these 20 amino acids. We have to get the other 9 from the foods that we eat, and therefore these 9 are referred to as “essential” amino acids. Animal- based proteins (such as meat, eggs, and dairy) provide all 9 essential amino acids, however most plant- based proteins (such as beans, lentils, and nuts) are missing at least one. Although clinicians used to think that, in order for our bodies to get all 9 essential amino acids, we had to pair 2 or more “complementary” sets of incomplete protein sources, such as rice and beans at the same meal, we now know that this is not the case. According to the American Dietetic Association, as long as you are getting a variety of foods throughout the day, they all go into the “pool” of amino acids that your body can pull from, so eating them at the same meal is not necessary.
Fact or Myth: “Eating at night causes weight gain.”
Myth: Calories are calories are calories. Research shows that it is not what time you eat them, but total calories you take in, that affects weight gain.
Fact or Myth: “Eating gluten-free can lead to weight loss and more energy.”
Myth: With gluten-free foods increasing in popularity in both supermarkets and restaurants, it’s easy to think that they must have some health benefits. While gluten-free products do have a place in people’s diets with celiac disease (an autoimmune condition in which the body can’t digest gluten) or gluten intolerance, these products have no benefit to people without these issues. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Many of the products which have been made gluten-free are higher in calories and sugars and are also lacking in healthy fibers and proteins, so eating gluten-free without warrant can actually be detrimental to your health goals.
Fact or Myth: “Organic food is healthier than non-organic food.”
Myth: The USDA makes no claims that organic foods are healthier or more nutritious than conventional foods. According to a study from Stanford University, produce, meat, and dairy products showed no nutritional differences between organic and non-organic foods. This study also demonstrated that there was not a significant difference in terms of food safety between organic produce and conventional produce grown with the use of pesticides. The researchers found that the pesticide levels of all foods generally fell within the allowable safety limits.
Lauren Ott, RD is a registered dietitian at the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. Check out her website www.thedessertdietitian.com, Facebook page (The Dessert Dietitian), and Instagram @thedessertdietitian for nutrition tips and recipes! View the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness website at www.anschutzwellness.com.