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9 Common Nutrition Myths Debunked

Registered Dietitian Lily Elizabeth Lam takes nine rampant health myths to task in order to separate fact from fiction.


Myth #1: You can eat as many fruits and vegetables as you like because fruits and veggies are healthy and low in Calories.

True and False: True for non-starchy vegetables and false for fruit. The average 1/2 cup serving of most vegetables is < 30 Calories (aside from starchy veggies like potatoes or corn). So when it comes to veggies, dig in, and eat as many as you like! Fruit however (while still chalk full of disease-fighting antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fibre) is higher in natural sugars and Calories.  Also, consume fruit juice in moderation, or preferrably, avoid juice entirely and just eat whole fruit instead. One cup (250 ml) of 100% all-natural orange juice, contains 120 Calories, no fibre, and 27 grams of carbs of which 22 grams are sugar. So even if fresh-squeezed it’s far better to eat the whole fruit instead. You should include a wide variety of colorful whole fruits in your diet, but aim for a 70:30 vegetable-to-fruit ratio to meet your daily fruit and vegetable requirements. Although your first choice should be for fresh fruits and vegetables, you can opt for frozen as an alternative – most of the nutritive value of fruits and vegetables is preserved during freezing.


Myth #2: If the label says it’s made with ‘whole grains’ it’s healthy.

False: Marketers are clever, sometimes they’ll find the one healthy ingredient in a list of processed grains and additives and make sure it takes centre stage. Check nutrition labels and don’t choose your product based only on the one ingredient highlighted on the front of the box! Whole grains have numerous health benefits over processed grains – for example, whole wheat pasta or brown rice is a better choice than white pasta or white rice. 


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Myth #3: Spinach is an excellent source of iron.

False: Spinach is a healthy, highly nutrient-dense food which provides some iron, but it’s not an excellent source of iron. One cup of raw spinach contains about 0.8mg of iron, which is only 10% of the daily iron requirements for men, and only 5% of the daily iron requirements for women.


Myth #4: Sea salt is better for you than iodized table salt.

False: Table salt is iodized in Canada to prevent iodine deficiency, one of the four most prevalent nutritional deficiencies in the world. Iodine deficiency can lead to several medical disorders, including goitre (swelling of the thyroid gland), stunted physical and intellectual development, and stillbirths. Also, one teaspoon of all salt contains the same amount of sodium, 2300mg/teaspoon, which is the tolerable upper intake level for sodium.


Myth #5: Bananas will constipate you.

False: Constipation is most often due to a lack of dietary fibre, physical inactivity, and inadequate hydration. Contrary to popular belief, there is absolutely nothing in a banana that is specifically constipating.


Myth #6: Dairy causes indigestion and bloating.

False: Unless you suffer from lactose intolerance or have an allergic sensitivity to milk or milk products, dairy doesn’t cause digestive issues and is a great dietary source of
Calcium – a much needed mineral that should be preferably consumed via diet vs. via supplementation to prevent potential heart health risks.


Myth #7: Microwaves destroy all the nutrients in your vegetables.

False: Cooking vegetables by any method will destroy some of the nutrients that are heat sensitive or water soluble. It’s important to include raw vegetables in your diet as much as possible (eg. a daily green salads and crudités for snacks), and not only eat cooked vegetables. However, it’s also important to note that cooked vegetables are healthy too - and relative to boiling vegetables, microwave-cooking may actually preserve a good proportion of water-soluble nutrients, because they don’t need to be cooked in a large quantity of water. 


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Myth #8: Fasting is a great way to purify the body.

False: Cutting out highly processed foods, refined sugars, fried foods, and filling up on whole foods and fresh vegetables is a great way to boost your health and "purify" your body, but there is no scientific evidence proving that fasting is beneficial. Moreover, severe prolonged Calorie restriction can impact your hormone balance and cause you to gain weight once you resume eating.


Myth #9: Eating before bed causes weight gain.

False: It is the surplus of Calories that you might be eating at the end of the day that might contribute to weight gain. For example, if you eat breakfast at 6 am and your dinner at 10 pm, it is likely that you’ll consume more Calories in a day than someone who eats at 8 am and finishes the last meal at 7 pm. However, what will cause weight gain is the overall surplus of Calories, that is, Calories consumed vs. Calories burned,  rather than the fact that you are eating before bed time.


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