When it comes to food and nutrition, it can feel like we’re constantly getting mixed messages. Is a small glass of red wine still good for us, or do the risks far outweigh the benefits? Is dark chocolate still in vogue, or has it been replaced by some new superfood of the week we may not have heard of before? Keeping track of all the changes can feel like a full-time job in and of itself.
London-based nutritionist Lily Soutter explains some of the biggest food myths and misconceptions to help us feel more confident in our healthy eating choices.
Myth: Don’t eat egg yolks
“Egg yolks are high in cholesterol, which is why there is a common misconception that they raise blood cholesterol. Research has shown that a modest intake of eggs (up to one per day) does not raise cholesterol. Unless you have a genetic disorder of familial hypercholesterolemia, you can enjoy egg yolks as part of a healthy balanced diet.
“It is more likely to be the saturated fat and trans-fats within our diet which impacts blood cholesterol levels. Therefore, it’s important to be mindful of the way we cook eggs as well as what we pair them with. If we are frying our eggs in butter and combining them with fatty cuts of meat, then it will be the saturated fats within the meal which will have the biggest impact on cholesterol.
“What’s more, the yolk is the most nutritious part of the egg and full of fat soluble vitamins, whilst the bright yellow colour comes from health promoting antioxidants.”
Myth: Gluten free is healthier
“Whilst it is important to avoid gluten if you have a medical condition such as coeliac disease, for the rest of us, gluten-free products aren’t necessarily healthier. Often when gluten is removed from a food product, manufacturers tend to add extra salt, sugar and starches to make them more palatable.
“What’s more, avoiding gluten containing food groups can restrict the diet which may lead to nutritional deficiencies for some.”
Myth: We should eat less fruit as it has too much sugar
“There is a lot of confusion as to whether we need to hold back on fruit consumption due to the sugar content. You may have heard rumours such as ‘bananas make you fat’ or that ‘fruit is high in sugar therefore unhealthy’. However this is simply a myth. Fruit sugar is locked into a fibrous matrix, which can help to slow the release of sugar into the blood stream. Fruit also provides key vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which support health.
“If you’re unsure of how much fruit to consume per day, you could aim for three portions of vegetables and two portions of fruit.”
Myth: Detox and flat tummy teas help us to lose weight
“Teas for weight loss and ‘flat tummies’ have been highly endorsed by celebrities and have become a hugely popular rage. This range of herbal teas claim to boost metabolism, cleanse your digestive tract and reduce bloating. What’s more, many of these companies rely on influencers to preach the message that their tea will leave you with a flat tummy just like theirs.
“Not only is there no conclusive evidence to back up these health claims, a common ingredient called senna is used within the teas and acts as a laxative. Senna can irritate the stomach lining and can cause cramps and diarrhoea. For those suffering with IBS, senna can only exasperate symptoms. If these teas are consumed in large quantities they may even lead to a disruption with the body’s electrolyte balance which may can cause heart problems in the long run.
“In reality, all senna increase bowel movements which may leave people feeling slimmer and having a flatter stomach in the short term, but there is absolutely no impact on fat loss. By following a healthy balanced diet, and increasing exercise can put us into a calorie deficit which will is key for weight-loss.”
Myth: Carbs lead to weight gain
“There is a common misconception that carbohydrates make us fat, but in reality, overconsumption of any food group will lead to weight gain. What’s more, if we combine our carbohydrate source with too much fat, for example fried chips or pasta with a heavy cream sauce, the overall calorie content of the dish increases and this is what can lead to weight gain.
“Carbohydrate-containing foods are our only source of fibre, and the European Food Safety Authority suggest that including fibre-rich foods as part of a healthy balanced diet can improve weight maintenance.
“Fibre has satiating properties, therefore can help to keep us fuller for longer which may play a role with reducing energy consumption and maintaining a healthy body weight.
“When option for starchy carbohydrates, choose whole grains which have their fibrous outer bran layer left intact. Most of the goodness is found in this bran layer which means that whole grains can contain 75% more nutrients that their refined counterparts.”