An overview of food myths and their relation to health.
Carrots make your eyesight better? You cannot eat fruits past 2pm or you will store fat? Throughout our lives, a combination of media and our immediate social surroundings have provided us with information about how we should manage our relationship to food, depending on what we want for our bodies.
Food ‘myths’ are usually pretty restrictive on what they tell us to do or not to do. Some are also pretty hilarious and have no foundation in reality, whatsoever.
Today registered dietitian and UBC Okanagan Manager of Nutrition and Well-Being, Julie Stachiw, will be debunking some of the food and nutrition ‘myths’ I collected from students on campus to show us all the misconceptions we have internalized about food.
As a side note, embedded within the article there will be links to trustworthy websites that provide further information on these myths.
Often this is not the case. Dietitian is a protected title, and dietitians are regulated by provincial colleges which protect the public; ‘nutritionist’ is only a protected title in a few provinces (not in BC), meaning anyone could call themselves a nutritionist and give unreliable advice. Dietitians provide evidence-based nutrition information – information you can trust. See here for more information about what dietitians do.
If you would like to talk to a dietitian for free in British Columbia, dial 8-1-1. Click here for more information.
This is false. There is a lot of diet culture verbiage about how food can be ‘good or bad’ for you, and potatoes seem to have a bad reputation in the world of dieting as a food that would make you fat (aka a ‘bad’ food). No food is inherently good or bad – some food can be more nutritious than other food – but food should not have moral value assigned.
Potatoes can be part of a balanced, nutritious meal and are a source of many nutrients such as potassium, which is important for the health of your muscles, kidneys, nerves, and bones; vitamin C, which helps your body absorb iron from plant foods such as legumes, is important for gum health, helps with wound healing, and assists with producing the tissues that hold bones and muscles together; folate, which helps make red blood cells; and fibre, which helps to improve gut health, motility, and satiety — the potato skins contain most of the fibre.
Vegetables are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Health Canada recommends that at least half of each meal is composed of fruits and vegetables, so the most important thing is just making sure you eat fruits and vegetables in general, cooked or raw, with all meals and snacks.
That being said, some vegetables are more nutritious cooked, and some are more nutritious raw.
Vegetables containing water-soluble vitamins are more prone to having micronutrients leached out into water when cooked, meaning that cooking food such as red peppers which are high in vitamin C can decrease the amount of vitamin C that you will be consuming.
However, for a vegetable like carrots, cooking will increase the amount of nutrition you consume (i.e. beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body and is helpful for healthy eyes).
In general, when it comes to how the body treats sugar there is no difference — sugar is sugar is sugar. The nutritional difference between brown vs white sugar is insignificant, and brown sugar is often white sugar with molasses added (hence the colour and flavour).
This is false – frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh fruit and vegetables as they are frozen when they are most nutritious and ripe.
Frozen produce lasts longer than fresh produce, so you are less likely to have to throw out food, which is helpful if you are on a budget. Furthermore, it is handy to have frozen fruit/veg available for a quick convenient base for a meal, and nice to have fruit/veg available in the freezer when it is not in season. Fresh produce out of season may have to travel a long way to get to you which means there may be an environmental impact and it could be less nutritious. If it is possible to purchase local in season produce, this may be the best option.
See these links for more information and for some recipes
Carbohydrates naturally occur in foods, such as fruit, vegetables, grains, and dairy. In general, food is made up of a combination of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Your brain uses carbohydrates as its ideal source of energy. Restricting consumption of one type of food, or removing whole food groups, or ‘not eating carbs’ is diet culture mindset. This is not a sustainable or pleasurable way to eat; it can result in not getting enough nutrition to keep your body healthy.
Ultra-processed foods with added sugar (such as pop or chocolate bars) contain carbohydrates; these foods are energy-dense and nutrient-poor. So, it is best to limit ultra-processed foods and increase whole foods (such as a whole apple, which contains carbohydrates).
Ultimately, it depends on what type of carbohydrate you are limiting, and it also comes down to eating healthy balanced food while having a good relationship with food.
This is a myth. Vitamin C is the nutrient in oranges that is associated with this myth, however research does not support the statement that vitamin C can cure colds. See more information here.
Raw eggs can contain salmonella, so I would caution against this. See here for more information about the nutritional benefits of eggs as well as food safety considerations,
This is false. You can eat healthy and delicious meals that are plant based and get enough protein to stay at optimum health. Products such as nuts, beans, and eggs contain high levels of protein and research shows that students are actually consuming more protein in their diets than they really need to. Plant based eating can also be better for the environment Checkout these resources to learn more:
- Plant-based eating guide
- What is a plant-based diet and why should you try it
- What you need to know about a healthy vegetarian eating plan
- What you need to know about following a vegan eating plan
All in all, we can see how some of the ideas we have about food are total misconceptions and can create an unhealthy relationship with food. Yes, some resources were provided here to help you make more informed choices about what you eat and what you don’t; however, remember that your relationship with food is highly personal and should also be intuitive. Food should make you feel happy and warm and comfortable; never guilty or insecure or angry. If you want to eat ice cream right after you’ve had a burger with fries, go for it. Learn what your body can handle, be more conscious, but have fun with it — it is okay to reward yourself every once in a while.
There are many more myths out there that need to be tackled, so stay tuned for part two of this article.