There is so much information out there about what we should and should not be eating that it can get quite confusing at times! Here, we take some of the most common nutrition ‘myths’ and explain how they have been debunked by scientific research.
1. Myth – Butter is Bad For You
It’s time to bury the myth that butter is bad for you, for good. In the past few decades, it has been blamed for everything from obesity to heart disease. But did you know that it’s actually one of the healthiest foods you can include in your diet (if you can tolerate dairy). The list of butter’s health benefits is quite impressive – including being a great source of vitamins and minerals – and you can read all about them here in ‘Real Butter is Good For You’ and here and here.
2. Myth – Saturated Fats Cause Heart Disease
In 1958, Ancel Keys noted a correlation between increased saturated fat consumption and heart disease. What you may not know is that when Ancel Keys published his analysis that claimed to prove the link between dietary fats and heart disease, he selectively analysed information from only seven countries (out of 22 in total) to fit with his hypothesis. If all 22 countries had been analysed, there would have been no correlation found whatsoever. The saturated fat myth has been disproved time and time again. You can read more about it here, here, here, here and here. The truth is, saturated fats from quality animal and vegetable sources provide the building blocks for your cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormone-like substances, without which your body cannot function optimally. Fats also serve as carriers for the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and are required for absorbing minerals, and a host of other important biological processes.
3. Myth – Vegetable Oils Are Heart Healthy & Are Great To Use For Cooking
Following on from the above myth, many people believe that because vegetable oils are low in saturated fats that they are heart healthy. However, there are numerous studies showing that vegetable oils actually contribute to disease while quality saturated fats do not. Additionally, vegetable oils are high in polyunsaturated fats – they will oxidise easily (depleting the body of antioxidants due to the body’s attempt to neutralise this oxidation) and are also not heat stable. I wrote an in-depth article debunking vegetable oils; you can read all about it here and here.
4. Myth – Eggs Will Increase Your Cholesterol
Sadly, based on some faulty science, many people still believe that eggs are unhealthy and that they should be limiting the amount they eat. This happened because eggs contain cholesterol. But what the majority of people don’t understand is that 85% of blood cholesterol doesn’t come from food, but is produced in the liver in response to the consumption of processed sugar and carbohydrates. The healthy human body produces cholesterol as it is needed. The evidence clearly shows that eggs are one of the most healthful foods you can eat, and can actually help to prevent disease, including heart disease.
5. Myth – Soy Milk is a Healthy Alternative To Dairy Milk
Did you know that more than 90% of the world’s soy production is genetically modified to be resistant to Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup? Concerning levels of glyphosphate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is found on ‘Roundup Ready’ crops such as soy. Glyphosphate is linked to a number of serious health problems. For one, glyphosate disrupts the beneficial bacteria in our microbiome which can allow pathogens to over grow. These pathogens produce toxins that lead to gut permeability, gastrointestinal disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease, chronic diarrhoea, colitis and Crohn’s disease, obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression and many other diseases. In this video ‘The Health Dangers of Roundup (glyphosate) Herbicide’, Stephanie Seneff talks about how genetically modified organism (GMO) crops such as soy can cause a significant change in the composition of the gut microbiome. Please note that there are many healthier milk alternatives to soy such as coconut milk and homemade nut or seed milks.
6. Myth – If You Don’t Eat Dairy, You Need To Take Calcium Supplements
If you’re concerned about maintaining healthy bones, it’s always better to get calcium from real food sources (such as dark leafy vegetables and bone broth if you don’t eat dairy) rather than from supplements. This is because, in general, when you take calcium supplements, you will be taking one mineral in isolation. However, In nature, nutrients do not come in isolated packages. Calcium works best when it’s combined with other nutrients that work in synergy to build and maintain strong bones. Healthy bone formation doesn’t solely depend on calcium, it also depends on Vitamin D and Vitamin K2, both of which help to regulate calcium metabolism. You can read more about this, and why I don’t recommend taking calcium supplements here and here. You might also like to read Calcium Supplements – why you should think twice – by Chris Kresser.
7. Myth – Salt is Bad For You
A lot of people think that all salts are the same and don’t realise that there are enormous differences between standard refined white table salt and natural salts from nature. The differences between these salts can have a huge impact on your health. These days, 90% of salt is used for industrial applications such as making soap, plastics, detergents, agricultural chemicals and de-icing highways. These processes only require pure sodium chloride so the natural salt is refined, bleached white and treated with chemicals (sulphuric acid or chlorine) that remove all of the trace minerals. However these trace minerals are essential for the human body. You can read more about the health benefits of salt here.
8. Myth – Breakfast Cereals Are Healthy
Breakfast cereals are not a food that promotes health. Most cereals are usually fortified with nutrients including: folic acid, B vitamins, Vitamin C, Iron, zinc and magnesium. On the surface, this may look like a good thing, but folic acid may not be functional and active in the body as it is the synthetic form of folate; vitamin C has been isolated and is usually made from a wheat based sugar – glucose; iron is easily extracted from the breakfast cereal using a magnet, so we know that this is not a plant based mineral; zinc is the form of zinc oxide which is used as a major component in sunscreens; and the B vitamins probably have their origins from the petrochemical industry or have a genetically modified fermentation process. Breakfast cereals vary greatly. Some have more ingredients/chemicals, some have less but the theme is that this food is a highly refined food that cannot possibly be called healthy. It is a junk food on the same realm as most packaged, highly refined foods on our supermarket shelves. It has been positioned as a health food through clever marketing and advertising and now clever science manipulation.
9. Myth – MSG is Natural & Safe
Natural glutamate can be found in foods as various forms of glutamic acid, with the greatest amounts appearing in kelp, seaweeds, traditional fish sauces and soy sauce, parmesan cheese, dried shiitake mushrooms, miso, green tea, anchovies, cured ham, sardines, cheddar cheese, tomatoes and peas. Certain food ingredients, such as yeast extract, hydrolyzed protein and autolyzed yeast (which are all manmade), contain significant levels of glutamates, but they are not the same as monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG is a synthetic chemical that is added to manufactured and processed foods to make them more palatable. In 1908, a Japanese professor named Kikunae Ikeda was able to extract glutamate from glutamate-rich seaweed broth and determined that glutamate provided the savoury taste to the soup. Professor Ikeda then filed a patent to produce MSG and commercial production started the following year. This form of free glutamate is present in almost all processed foods because it provides that savoury taste. Though MSG contains glutamic acid, due to the manufacturing process it is also almost always accompanied by unwanted by-products or contaminants. So the salt of glutamic acid (MSG) is not found in food, it is manufactured. Today, instead of extracting and crystallizing glutamate from seaweed broth, MSG is produced by the fermentation of starch, sugar beets, sugar cane or molasses. Searching the scientific literature regarding the health effects of MSG indicates controversy over the potential of MSG to cause various adverse reactions—from headaches and migraines to endocrine disruption. You can read more here and here and here.
10. Myth – Artificial Sweeteners Are a Great Alternative For Reducing Sugar or Weight Loss
Most people use artificial sweeteners to lose weight and/or because they are diabetic and need to avoid sugar. The irony is that nearly all of the studies to date show that artificial sweeteners cause even MORE weight gain. Studies also show that artificial sweeteners can be worse than sugar for diabetics. A comprehensive research study has also shown that artificial sweeteners can, in fact, impact health via altering gut microbes. You can read more about them here and here.