8 Food Myths Busted!

Food myths are created from outdated science, old wives' tales, and a bit of wishful thinking. They stick around because they are so familiar. But every now and then, you need to take another look at information you believe is true and change with the times. How many of these common myths are still part of your nutrition playbook?

Certain foods can burn fat.


According to the "negative calorie effect," the act of chewing and digesting certain foods burns up more calories than the food itself contains. Cucumbers, celery, and grapefruit top the list of foods rumored to have "negative calorie" value. However, while it may seem as if you expend a lot of energy when you chew, in reality, chewing eats up only about 11 measly calories per hour. Low-calorie, high-nutrient foods certainly will help you lose weight—not because they create negative calories, but because you’re munching on them instead of crackers, chips, and cookies.

It's better to eat six mini meals than three squares.


As long as your food choices for the entire day are healthy and not too high in calories, either eating style can work. I find that many people prefer to eat more volume less frequently because of hectic schedules or heartier appetites. If that sounds like you, just be sure to keep your daily calories in check, and try not to go longer than four to five hours without eating. Doing so may make your blood sugar drop, causing low energy, headaches, and overeating in response to feeling blah. Have small snacks on hand—such as fruit, nonfat yogurt, or a bag of baby carrots—in case you're running late for lunch or dinner.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are more nutritious than frozen ones.


You may actually get more nutrients from some frozen fruits and vegetables. The same holds true for some canned vegetables. That's because the "fresh" produce you just bought at the grocery store may be a lot older than you think. After being harvested, produce can spend days being sorted, packaged, and then shipped, often cross-country. During that time, fluctuations in light and temperature rob fruits and vegetables of important nutrients such as vitamin C and folate.

The negative side of processing comes down to three factors: taste, texture, and additives. Frozen foods rarely taste as good as fresh, and processing can change the consistency of many items. Food manufacturers often add salt, sugar, and fat to otherwise healthy products. If you become a label sleuth, you can bypass foods that contain these additives. One final note: Items frozen in bags should move about freely, because clumping indicates that the product has been thawed and then refrozen.

Decaf coffee has no caffeine.


My caffeine investigation found that decaf varieties contain between 8 and 32 milligrams of high-octane zip, depending on the cup size. Although this is significantly less than regular Joe (a typical 8-ounce cup provides 100-150 milligrams of caffeine), even a small amount may matter to caffeine-sensitive people. My advice: If you struggle with insomnia, stick with caffeine-free herbal tea starting late afternoon.

Margarine is better than butter.


Butter contains saturated fat that, when eaten in excess, can raise "bad" (LDL) cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease. For that reason, some people use margarine as a substitute. The problem with margarine—specifically stick margarine—is that it contains trans fats, which increase LDL cholesterol and lower the "healthy" (HDL) cholesterol. Double whammy!

Your best bet is a soft-tub vegetable spread that says "trans-fat free"— it will be low in saturated fat as well. If you're watching your calories, opt for soft-tub brands in "reduced fat" or "light" versions.

Bananas are fattening.


One medium banana has only about 105 calories—you'd have to eat at least six to equal one slice of New York-style pizza! Bananas are a good source of fiber, magnesium, and potassium, all of which can help manage blood pressure. They're also a good source of vitamin B6, which helps boost your immune system. What's more, they're portion-controlled, portable, and don't require refrigeration. Enjoy them sliced into cereal, mixed with nonfat yogurt or cottage cheese, or frozen for a yummy dessert. (On the other hand, I can't recommend packaged "banana chips," which have added fat and sugar and are loaded with calories.)

Cravings are your body's way of telling you it needs something.


It's a convenient excuse, but a craving is not a signal that your body "needs" a specific nutrient. Scientists have gone to great lengths to test this assumption. Imagine that you have a chocolate craving (as far-fetched as I know that must be!). You are given the choice of a nutrient-rich (but not flavorful) cocktail that mimics the chemicals found in chocolate, or a candy bar that looks, smells, and tastes like chocolate but contains no authentic chocolate compounds. Which do you think would satisfy your craving most—the chocolate nutrients or the chocolate taste? In actual psychological studies, taste won, hands down.

Cravings are driven by emotions and psychology. We crave foods we enjoy and associate with pleasurable times. For example, you may crave hamburgers because you downright love the taste, or because you have strong and happy memories of eating them at family barbecues—not because you're deficient in protein or iron. Of course, hormonal changes also can be responsible for cravings. Ice cream and pickles, anyone?

Cooking veggies destroys their vitamin content.


Cooking actually boosts your body's ability to absorb the nutrients in some vegetables. For example, the cancer-fighting phytonutrient lycopene is stronger in cooked tomato sauce than in raw tomatoes. That said, many nutrients will be lost with the wrong cooking technique. The most important rule: Do not overboil veggies! Nutrients will slip out of the vegetables and into the boiling water, so all that goodness will be lost. To retain the most nutrition, steam, roast, or microwave with as little water as possible, and keep cooking time to a minimum.

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[via health.msn]

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