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7 Common Nutrition Myths

Now that it’s the new year, I thought it was timely to share a blog post about some of the biggest nutrition myths floating around out there – and why you shouldn’t believe them.

common nutrition myths

Myth #1: "It’s healthier to eat egg whites rather than whole eggs."

Actually, the yolk is where a lot of the nutrition is! Most people don’t know that the yolk contains over 40% of the protein in a whole egg – and more than 90% of the calcium, iron, and B vitamins. It also contains all of the egg’s fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). Plus, that extra fat will help to keep you full and satisfied for longer than you would be with just the whites! But what about cholesterol? Research is showing that cholesterol in food has a much smaller effect on blood levels of total cholesterol and harmful LDL cholesterol than we thought. In fact, moderate egg consumption (defined as 1 per day) has not been found to increase heart disease risk in healthy individuals. (sources: 1, 2) The 2015 Dietary Guidelines (which finally just came out last week) have also dropped the recommendation to limit cholesterol, which I was happy to see.

are egg yolks healthy?

Myth #2: “Choose fat free or low fat dairy and other products.”

It drives me crazy that many people still think (and the Dietary Guidelines are still recommending) fat free and low fat dairy as a healthier option that full fat. During the 1980s, there were a couple major reports that came out that would alter the way Americans ate and kick off the low-fat and anti-cholesterol craze that I’m sure many of us remember well (and might still be abiding by). In these reports, decreasing saturated fat and dietary cholesterol were labeled as the single most important changes that one could make to improve their health, which translated into a national food production frenzy to create low fat diet products. Everyone started eating eggs without the yolks, low fat crackers, low fat cookies, low fat dairy products, low fat everything. But something strange happened – Americans continued to get heavier than ever, and their overall health wasn’t improving, either.

I could go on and on about why this is (and you can read more about it in scientific terms in a guest post I wrote for my friend Kath on the topic of why it’s good to eat more fat), but let’s just focus on one of the big points with the fat issue for now. Here’s the thing: when a product is artificially made low fat or fat free, it won’t be as satisfying, due to the absence of fat, which keeps you full longer. This can lead to overeating because you never feel satisfied. Also – artificially fat free/low fat items often have sugar and other fillers added – or you’ll add more sugar yourself because it doesn’t taste good without the fat. For example, think of having a fat free latte. It needs a fair amount of sugar/syrup to taste good, right? Same with fat free yogurt. Next time, if you are a dairy fan, try a full fat latte or full fat yogurt – you’ll notice it’s much more satisfying and you don’t need nearly as much sweet to make it good. Same thing goes with products like peanut butter – go for the natural full fat version to skip the additives and sugar and up the satiety factor.

Myth #3: "Granola and yogurt is a healthy breakfast."

Granola and yogurt can certainly be a healthy choice, but it depends on the products being used. Often granola and yogurt are really just dessert in disguise due to the large amount of sugar found in many brands! Look for a plain, full fat Greek yogurt for a protein punch without added sugar, and aim to choose a granola that has less than 10g of sugar (at a maximum) per serving. Then, add fresh fruit for sweetness instead, and some nuts for healthy fat and staying power!

Myth #4: “Multi-grain and wheat breads are a healthy choice.”

Look for 100% wheat or 100% whole grain on the label, because unless 100% is noted, it’s likely just white bread with a tiny grain of something added – or with caramel color added to make the bread look darker. Even better – check that ingredient list. Is it short and full of things you recognize as real food? If not, put it back on the shelf. I usually go for sprouted grain breads – better real food ingredient lists!

Myth #5: “Potatoes are bad for you.”

While their orange cousins have been hanging out in the nutrition spotlight, white potatoes have gotten a bad reputation over recent years for being essentially empty carbs. Not true! White potatoes are packed with fiber, which helps keep you regular and aids in feeling full. They also have more potassium than sweet potatoes! A USDA study of potatoes recently found levels of phytochemicals that rival the amounts found in broccoli, spinach and Brussels sprouts. Eat up! I like having them roasted. :) (See also: Garlic Herb Roasted Veggies.)

are white potatoes bad for you?

Myth #6: “Diet soda aids in weight loss.”

Think grabbing a diet soda will help maintain your weight? Think again – several large studies have linked artificial sweeteners to weight gain. (source) Why? The research isn’t entirely decided, but artificial sweeteners seem to actually increase appetite and contribute to sweet cravings by training taste buds to favor sweeter flavors. It may also confuse the body’s natural mechanisms for regulating caloric intake.

I wouldn’t suggest grabbing a regular soda in its place (clearly real sugar isn’t good for us, either, especially in large quantities), but rather decreasing intake of diet sodas as well as other artificial sweetener sources, like sugar-free gum and other sugar-free products. Another thing: artificial sweeteners might be making your stomach hurt.

Myth #7: “Coffee creamer is a healthy alternative to half and half or whole milk.”

Take a look at the ingredient list on that coffee creamer – it’s usually packed with trans fat (here’s what trans fat is and why you should avoid it) and all sorts of other not so great additives. Here’s the ingredient list on a vanilla coffee creamer: SUGAR, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, LESS THAN 2% OF SODIUM CASEINATE (A MILK DERIVATIVE)**, DIPOTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, SODIUM ALUMINOSILICATE, SALT, CARAGEENAN.

Yeah, yikes. Stick with real milk or a non-dairy alternative like almond milk, coconut milk, or soy milk!

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Comments

  1. 1

    Great info! Thank you for this. I would like to hear your perspective on the Gluten Free craze? My husband and I have been cutting back on wheat products, and we are both feeling much better. We have been eating more fruits, veggies, and proteins. We don’t have any concerns about Celiac disease, but want to have a more healthy diet. But does replacing wheat flour with gluten free flours really make things more healthy?

    • 2

      Simply replacing wheat flour with gluten free flour, in my opinion, only makes something more healthy if you have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity (or are celiac, obviously). In general, the main thing I recommend with grains/carbs is focusing on quality of the ingredient list – whether it’s a wheat product or otherwise – and going for the least processed version, again whether it contains wheat or not. Certainly people will feel better if they eat less processed wheat/junk food – but whole, real food that has gluten (like barley or spelt, for example) or a minimally processed whole wheat or sprouted wheat bread can certainly be part of a healthy diet. Bottom line – too much of anything is a bad thing, and I think people eat too many processed wheat products as their main carb source, but I don’t think gluten needs to be totally avoided unless you actually have a reaction to it. I generally take the approach that I vary my carb sources – sometimes I’ll do gluten free (but real food gluten free – things like quinoa, rice, etc. – not lots of processed gluten free products), sometimes I won’t. Just focus on doing what makes you personally feel your best – and aim for variety. I hope this made sense! It’s a complicated issue. :)

  2. 6

    Love it! The fat news is particularly interesting, but I totally have been on board with soda/diet soda and bread for awhile. Thanks for the share!

  3. 7

    Thanks for this really useful article! I loved it and shared it on my facebook page. I have a question though. My husband has cholestrol on the higher side so he is really wary of eggs. Can he safely eat eggs everyday? Even the dietician here in India says egg whites. I am sure she doesnt have updated info.

    • 8

      I would say yes — he should be more concerned about refined sugar/refined carbohydrate and processed food intake – and trans fat intake. And getting enough exercise!

  4. 9

    Since starting my daughter on solids, I have been so much more mindful of food labels. I have had a hard time finding a full fat yogurt without artificial sweeteners that she will eat. Aldi actually has an organic, full fat vanilla yogurt without artificial sweetener that I mix with full fat plain greek yogurt to cut the sugar and up the protein.

    • 10

      That’s a great idea!

      • 11

        my daughter is 11 months old and loves yogurt. one thing you can try to change the flavor without adding sugar is to mix a small spoonful of natural creamy peanut butter into it for a special treat and it helps us to help desensitize her to allergies.

  5. 12

    Very interesting – thanks! Gina over at Fitnessista (who I know you’ve partnered with before) does an interesting series she calls “Focus On” going over different workouts and how she liked them along with some details about the fitness benefits. I’d love to get an RD’s perspective on some of the popular diets out today; Atkins, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Raw Foods, etc.

    • 13

      Thanks for this post Anne, its so helpful! I knew pretty much all of these, but not really the reasons why…so I appreciated the explanations the most!

      I agree with Dana – a Focus On post or two on some of the diet trends could be really interesting as well!

    • 15

      I’ve seen her posts like that and always enjoy them – good idea to do a nutrition version! I’ve been meaning to do posts about paleo and gluten free (see the above comment on this post regarding a quick version of my thoughts on gluten free) – will put those topics on the list! Thanks!

  6. 16
    Sean McClintock says:

    I’m so glad to see an RD post something like this. I’ve been screaming for years (but I’m a lowly software engineer!) about every one of those things and it seems to fall on deaf ears. The low-fat/fat-free thing pisses me off the most. We need fat…..in the CORRECT QUANTITY. People seem to think dropping all fat from their diets will aid in weight loss. The truth is, we need fat, grains, sodium, etc. It just has to be balanced. But this country is the victim of false advertising that says differently.

    It’s all about balance!!!! Eat a balanced diet, exercise, and for goodness-sake, never, EVER drink another soda again! :)

    Keep up the great work Ann.

  7. 18

    Love this! I was a former ‘low fat’ junkie–low fat salad dressings, low fat yogurt, diet sodas, etc. I never bothered to read labels, yet I couldn’t figure out why I was constantly hungry and not losing weight even though I was working out like crazy. I’m glad I have such a better grasp on foods that are good for me and nutrition in general. I’ve been trying to limit my dairy intake (for digestion reasons), but if I do crave Greek yogurt, I always reach for 2%, and I use a real dairy coffee creamer when I want a little something extra. I’m also all about egg yolks–who doesn’t love dippy eggs?!

  8. 20

    Great article! I can’t help being a little skeptical about saturated fat still. It’s clearly better to avoid low-fat products that have replaced the fat with sugar/starch/additives. But the lines get burry for me with things like earth balance spread vs. real butter. Isn’t it better to replace saturated fat with unsaturated fat? Why not top plain non-fat greek yogurt with nut butters to increase the satiety instead of choosing full-fat dairy? Love to hear your thoughts!

    • 21

      I still think it’s better to just go for whole, real food — I’m a big fan of real butter (grass fed/organic, since that has a better omega fatty acid profile) vs. substitutes. And regarding the yogurt or milk – it’s just much, much more satisfying to have the real fat version, and organic whole milk/yogurt has more omega 3 fatty acids, too (source: http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2013/12/09/249794467/fresh-research-finds-organic-milk-packs-in-omega-3s). Here is another good article on the issue: http://time.com/3734033/whole-milk-dairy-fat/. Also: research has shown that when people with high LDL cholesterol purge their diet of saturated fats, they lower one kind of LDL, but not the small, dense particles that are linked to high carbohydrate intake and are implicated in heart disease. There is also simply a lack of concrete evidence showing that saturated fat intake (from real, unaltered sources – e.g. unprocessed food/animal products) leads to heart disease or increased mortality. I hope this makes sense – thanks for asking!

  9. 22

    I love this post! My parents are aiming to get healthier this year, which I fully support! However, it’s been hard trying to tell them not to go for that low fat box of crackers or that diet soda and instead to try the full-fat yogurt or the sparkling water. I think the low-fat craze really stuck with people! I’ll definitely be sharing this post with my family. Thank you! :)

  10. 24

    I happen to love cottage cheese, but so many people think it’s gross. However, most of the time the individual has only has fat-free cottage cheese which is awful. Full fat > fat free in yogurts and cottage cheese for sure. They just are so much more satisfying!

    • 25

      Agreed! I love full fat cottage cheese – delicious. And you don’t need to eat as much to be satisfied since it’s much more filling than the fat free!

  11. 26

    Thank you thank you!!! It always drives me crazy when I see people praising their “Lite and Fit Greek Yogurt with 80 calories” as healthy. ahhhh! Also, what do you think about Coffee Mate Natural Bliss creamers? INGREDIENTS: NONFAT MILK, HEAVY CREAM, SUGAR, NATURAL FLAVOR CONTAINS MILK.

    • 27

      Confession: I totally used to eat Light and Fit yogurt back in like 2004 before I studied nutrition/knew better. So gross! That creamer has a better ingredient list than the typical but you’re still better off using something more natural/real.

  12. 28

    Love this! Like the readers above, I’ve been preaching these things for a while but am not an RD. This gives it so much more credibility! I like to buy bread that is scratch made from a bakery – no fake stuff there.

    thoughts on 0% fat Fage plain greek yogurt? no artificial sweeteners present, but also not full-fat. would i be better off eating the full fat or 2% version?

    Thanks!
    Sarah

    • 29

      Scratch made bread is the best! And I would go for the full fat greek yogurt, if it’s available. It’s much more satisfying and the fat will not only help you absorb fat soluble vitamins in the meal better, but it will also help to buffer the blood sugar response, too.

  13. 30

    Great points, thank you! I’ve tried pointing out several of these, in a polite way, to my in-laws and they finally seem to be coming around a bit. :) They were living on fake coffee creamer and non-fat, sugared yogurt.

    I used to put sugar in my coffee or tea, and managed to give that up totally about 5 years ago, it’s really helped me maintain my weight. I still use half and half or whole milk, but I figured if I’m drinking 2-3 cups a day, that can add up to A LOT of extra sugar.

    Another thing that bugs me in nutrition myths is the idea of a detox. Yes, you can and should eat healthier, but the idea that there is some sort of magic ‘detox’ cure totally bugs me! Your kidneys and liver detox you, not some magic elixir.

    • 31

      Totally agree re: detoxes. The best “detox” you can do is simply to add more veggies to your meals, drink less alcohol, and eat food that makes you feel your best. Strict detoxes just set people up for failure and negative relationships with food.

  14. 32
    Sandra Freitas says:

    Great post!! I love eggs and I also made the choice a long time ago to buy full fat organic yogurt because the low fat and/or fat free just tastes terrible and didn’t satisfy me at all. We need to continuously go back to “everything in moderation” and mindful eating. It’s hard and a challenge sometimes but I’m a happier person when I do.

  15. 34

    Corn syrup solids. Yum.

  16. 36

    Love this post Anne! Thank you so much!

  17. 38

    Hi Anne! Yes, good points, as always. I’m with you on the whole egg and the full fat products, of course. But I have to say, I just LOVE sweet potatoes (purple, orange and white) so much more than regular potatoes. They are my main-stay. :)

  18. 40

    That’s awesome news about white potatoes! I love having breakfast potatoes/hash browns and always feel a bit guilty about eating them since I didn’t think they had great nutritional benefits, but now I will feel happy to know they aren’t so bad!

  19. 41

    This was a GREAT post! I always look forward to reading your blog, but reading this information from a nutritionist/RD felt much more insightful than the usual sources of updates like this!

  20. 43

    Enjoyed reading this! I’m definitely onboard with the reducing sugar/ increasing healthy fats concept. I was raised with the opposite idea, but changing this one thing made a big difference in terms of how satiated I felt and also the ease with which I’m able to maintain a healthy weight. Reducing my sugar intake also made me aware how much we as a society push sugar. It’s everywhere!

  21. 45

    I started making my own coffee creamers in recent months due to the ridiculous ingredient list for flavored creamers. I use half and half, either honey or maple syrup, and pure extracts or spices :) Yeah, there is still sugar, but at least it is unrefined and MUCH less than the store-bought ones because I can control the amount! Plus it tastes better.

  22. 47

    Super post Anne and kudos for spreading the good word out there :) ! When I first started my healthy living journey, I was all about that low-fat life and unsurprisingly, I was constantly hungry and thinking about food. It’s amazing how much adding even a bit of fat to your diet can make to satiety, both mentally & physically! And let’s be honest, full-fat varieties of food (especially dairy) just taste so much better so chances are you’ll end up needing to eat less to be satisfied!

  23. 49

    Love this post! Eggs are one of my favorite things and it drives me bonkers when people tell me they eat only the egg whites “because they are healthier”. Not only are they missing out on nutrients, the egg yolk is delicious too!

  24. 51

    I grew up in Italy and everything you said here is stuff we learn when we are 5. That is connected to a wider set of strict food laws and to a general healthier lifestyle that is passed from family to family.
    It is all about food education and respect for what the nature has to offer. Unfortunately, in America food “education” focuses on sugar-free and chemically-changed products, which are not natural and, most often, not healthy.
    In my dreams Americans will soon learn that gluten does not kill people, but ignorance does.

    • 52

      I suggested to a friend who was concerned that she had a gluten intolerance to try making her bread/pasta/ etc with Italian grown/processed flour, she did and has had none of the same issues. The flour in Europe is grown and processed quite differently from the wheat in the USA. In Europe it is more of a rainbow as opposed to just white and wheat flour.

  25. 54

    Just backing you up to say I agree whole heartedly! All points I recommend as well, it’s up to all the real food dietitians to keep spreading the message!

  26. 56

    Hi Anne
    Great post!
    What are your thoughts on flavored seltzer water? I’ve been on a seltzer kick lately and can’t really tell if they are bad for me
    thanks!

    • 57

      Flavored seltzer water is a great way to move away from soda — I recommend it to clients often! Just look at the ingredient list and make sure it’s not filled with anything weird or any added sugar.

  27. 58

    Yayy love these informational posts. I did one recently on why we should eat more fat. I think people are slowly starting to come around on the fat debacle, but now carbs are getting the grunt of hatred. It’s low carb this, low carb that. Thanks for citing evidence and providing a sound voice to some of these myths!

    • 59

      Glad to hear you’re spreading the good word, too! The low carb thing bugs me as well – if people try to avoid carbs, they just end up binging on them later. I could go on and on about this… everything in balance, please!

  28. 60

    Thank you so much for the 7 Myths post as I have printed it and gave a copy to my clients. I am a private chef for several families on the go. I try to provide a fitness meets healthy foods concept and alternatives to take out. Your post really help some of my tougher clients who have weight issues see the light! Please do a post on belly fat if you have time!

    Thank you and I use several of your recipes which are wonderfully tasteful!

    Jamie Miles

  29. 62

    Hi Anne, I appreciate your site and your advice so much. I am curious as to your opinion on someone who is coming off of a low-carb high fat diet which can be very liberal in fats. How do they best learn what is the appropriate amount of fats in a truly balanced diet? Any comments are appreciated- thank you!

    • 63

      This is a hard question to answer without knowing more about you or doing one-on-one counseling, but I’d say make sure there is a source of fat (and carbs!) at each meal – that’s a good starting point. Good luck!

  30. 64

    Hi Anne,
    Thanks for your post. I love your blog & appreciate that you are trying to spread good health with your nutrition advice. I definitely agree with most of your advice, especially regarding bread, soda, and potatoes (love them!) However, the whole saturated fat/cholesterol thing is a bit difficult, as we are all fed so much conflicting advice, often from studies that have suspicious funding or flawed design. I thought you might be interested to watch this video about saturated fat: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-saturated-fat-studies-set-up-to-fail/. There are plenty more similar, newer videos, but I found this one particularly well done. Of course, I respect your opinion and food choices, but I just thought you might be curious to learn about differing nutritional views.

  31. 67

    Hey Anne! Great post! I actually found your blog through kath on the fats post. I am completely with you on eating real food and ignoring the low fat versions of things. They also taste so much creamery and are more satisfying. Also I just started a blog and its going to be fitness and nutrition as well! take a look from time to time if you’d like :)

  32. 69
    Roadrunner says:

    Great post, Anne, thx!

  33. 70

    These are some great myths Anne! I especially like hearing your opinions and justification for whole fat dairy foods. I’ve seen a lot of research lately supporting higher fat diets and was thinking of changing my recommendations on dairy. I polled a random group of dietitians and they were pretty much split 50:50 on the topic.

    • 71

      Interesting! I think the tide is turning but I agree, right now a lot of people seem split! I was disappointed the Dietary Guidelines are still recommending low fat/fat free dairy…

  34. 72

    What an interesting and informative post, thanks Anne! I’ve also really enjoyed reading all the comments and your responses to them. =) I love the whole foods movement that is happening here.
    I can personally attest to Myth #1 – over the past year I’ve been eating at least 1 full egg a day (sometimes more) and my cholesterol levels have improved across the board. High cholesterol runs in my family, so this is something that I really pay attention to.

  35. 73

    ThIs was a great post. I lost 32 pounds on WW three years ago and continue to go every week. They have just updated their plan and I like the fact that it pushes you toward less sugar, and more protein but it bugs me that they still push fat free dressings and fat free or low fat yogurts when they have more sugar and questionable stuff in them. I try to eat healthier, less processed foods and have enjoyed recipes from your blog.

  36. 75

    I love your posts. I am glad there are people on the blog-o-sphere that are posting false health information. I just wanted to mention a study about artificial sweeteners. One theory as to why it might make people more hungry is because they alter gut bacteria. I am not 100% sold on the aspartame is bad for you thing, but it helps me want to cut it out of my diet now.
    http://nutritionfacts.org/video/effect-of-sucralose-splenda-on-the-microbiome/

Trackbacks

  1. […] friends! Thank you for your great comments and questions on my 7 Common Nutrition Myths post from yesterday. If you missed it, check it out! Also, one of the first comments asks my […]

  2. […] I’ve been thinking about doing a post on gluten for awhile, so when in the comments of my 7 Common Nutrition Myths blog post many of you requested a post on gluten, I decided it was […]

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