Nutrition Myth Busting #2

After the feedback from our last nutrition myth-busting post, we decided to bring you some more answers. No more guesswork or falling for those gimmicks that are not helpful to you in the long term.

Myth or Fact? Organic foods are safer and healthier than non-organic

  • Answer: MYTH
  • Evidence: Both organic and non-organic foods are nutritious and safe. Many factors affect a food’s nutritional value, such as where and how it was grown, stored, shipped and even how it was cooked. Organic foods may have more, or less nutrients than non-organic foods. And both organic and non-organic foods are grown and produced under strict regulations to make sure they are safe.
  • Bottom Line: When grocery shopping, it’s most important to consider the availability of items, what is in season, and the cost.

Dangour, A., Lock, K., Hayter, A., Aikenhead, A., Allen, E., Uauy, R. (2010). Nutrition-related health effects of organic foods: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr, 92(1): 203-210.

Myth or Fact? Canned (low sodium) and frozen fruits and vegetable can be as nutritious as fresh produce

  • Answer: FACT
  • Evidence: Canned and frozen veggies (low-sodium versions) are picked and harvested at their nutritional peak, and can be much more economical for people trying to eat healthily on a budget. Food manufactures quick-freeze fresh-picked produce, which preserves much of its vitamin and mineral content. With some fruits and vegetables, you actually lock in a higher nutrient content by freezing. According to a number of studies, fresh vegetables lose about half of their vitamins in just a matter of days after being harvested. The foods you find in the produce section have often had a long journey from the moment they were packed in crates, spending days or even weeks in transit from the farm or orchard.
  • Bottom Line: Don’t be afraid to save some money by purchasing frozen and canned. They are even used by professional chefs. When purchasing fresh produce, choose seasonal products from a local vendor where produce has not traveled far.

Miller, S., & Knudson, W. (2014). Nutrition and cost comparisons of select canned, frozen, and fresh fruits and vegetables. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 8(6), 430-437.

Myth or Fact? Microwaving zaps nutrients resulting in a less healthy product.

  • Answer: MYTH
  • Evidence: Whether you are using a microwave, a grill or a solar-heated stove, it’s the level of heat and the amount of time you’re cooking that affect nutrient losses, not the cooking method
  • The longer and hotter you cook a food, the more you’ll lose certain heat- and water-sensitive nutrients, especially vitamin C and thiamin [a B vitamin].
  • Bottom Line: Because microwave cooking often cooks foods more quickly, it can actually help to minimize nutrient losses

Cross, G., Fung, Y.C., Decareau, R. (2009). The effect of microwaves on nutrient value of foods. Food Science and Nutrition, 16(4): 355-342.
Turkmen, N., Sari, F.Y., Velioglu, S. (2005). The effect of cooking methods on total phenolics and antioxidant activity of selected green vegetables. Food Chemistry, 93(4):713-718.

Myth or Fact? Foods with claims like low-calorie, sugar-free, and all-natural are the healthier option

  • Answer: MYTH
  • Evidence: Research shows that when shoppers see “healthy” buzz words or claims on food packages (think: gluten-free, organic, all-natural, sugar-free, low-fat, etc.), they automatically assume the food is low in calories or is a healthier option. Food manufacturers will plaster all sorts of enticing lingo onto their packages, knowing that you’ll think exactly that. But none of these words really tell you much about the healthfulness of a product.
  • Bottom Line: Read front-of-package labels with a discerning eye, and always turn over the package and look at the nutrition facts (and ingredients) to get a full picture of what a food is really like. This goes for restaurant menus, too. Don’t let healthy-sounding words sway your menu choices without first getting the complete picture. Know your menu watch words or look up nutrition facts before you place your order.
    Canadian Food Inspection Agency. (2015). Labelling legislative framework. Government of Canada.

Retrieved from http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/labelling/labelling-legislative-framework/eng/1387771371233/1387771427304
Tarabella, A., Voinea, L. (2013). Advantages and limitations of front-of-label packaging. Economic Interferences, 15(33):198-209.

Myth or Fact? Eggs are high in cholesterol and consumption is detrimental to heart health

  • Answer: MYTH
  • Evidence: For the past 40 years, the public has been warned away from eggs because of a concern over coronary heart disease risk. This concern is based on three observations: 1) eggs are a rich source of dietary cholesterol; 2) when fed experimentally, dietary cholesterol can increase serum cholesterol and;
  • 3) high serum cholesterol predicts the onset of coronary heart disease. However, data from population studies show that egg consumption is not associated with higher cholesterol levels. Furthermore, as a whole, the epidemiologic literature does not support the idea that egg consumption is a risk factor for coronary disease.
  • Bottom line: The most recent American Heart Association guidelines no longer include a recommendation to limit egg consumption, but recommend the adoption of eating practices associated with good health. Everything in moderation.

Dawber, T., Nickerson, R., Brand, F., Pool, J. (1982). Eggs, serum cholesterol, and coronary heart disease. The Amer Society for Clin Nutr, 36(4): 617-625.
Kritchevsky, S. (2013). Scientific research and recommendations regarding eggs. J of the Amer College of Nutr, 23(6).

Myth or Fact? Permanent weight loss is virtually impossible, and for those who succeed it requires near superhuman willpower

  • Answer: MYTH
  • Evidence: Given the prevailing belief that few individuals succeed at long-term weight loss, The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), established in 1994, was developed to identify and investigate the characteristics of individuals who have succeeded at long-term weight loss. The database consists of approximately 10,000 adults who have successfully lost ≥ 30 pounds and maintained the loss for one year or more.
  • Individuals part of the NWCR share the following characteristics:
  • The consume a low-calorie (1300-1800 calories), balanced diet that is not overly rigid (e.g. they allow room for treats, in moderation)
  • 78% eat breakfast every day.
  • 90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day.
  • They regularly self-monitor their weight (about once per week, on average)
  • Bottom Line: For long-term weight loss success, set goals for yourself, make yourself accountable, be consistent, and exercise regularly.

The National Weight Control Registry. (2015). Weight Control & Diabetes Research Center. Brown Medical School/The Miriam Hospital. Retrieved from http://www.nwcr.ws/Research/default.htm

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