Which foods are best? Busting nutrition myths
Picked at the peak of freshness, frozen and canned produce is just as nutritious as fresh. (Fotolia.com / June 5, 2013)
In fact, some nutrients, such as the antioxidant lycopene in tomatoes, are more bioavailable to your body when they are heat-processed during canning. Preserved produce is a more sustainable choice when fresh produce is out of season.
6. You Must Give Up Your Favorite Foods
Some popular diets would have you think you can never enjoy a slice of cake on your birthday or a handful of chips at a backyard barbeque. However, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recently announced that it's your total diet--what you eat day in and day out--that really matters.
"You don't have to give up your favorite foods to gain health benefits. Simply focusing on adding extra servings of fruits and vegetables offers more payoff than completely gutting your diet," suggests David Grotto, R.D., L.D.N, dietitian and author of "The Best Things You Can Eat." Creating an environment of healthy food choices every day--focusing on lean meats, fish, whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables--can help you afford modest servings of treats.
7. Organic is Healthier
Time and time again, surveys find that consumers rate organic foods as "healthier" than their conventional counterparts, but studies don't always support this.
"Just because a food is labeled 'organic' doesn't mean it's more nutritious. Stanford researchers analyzed 240 studies and concluded that organic foods are not more nutritious than conventional foods. However, choosing organic can reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria," says Zied. Remember that organic junk foods--cookies, snack foods, chips--are definitely no healthier than conventional junk foods.
8. Soy is Dangerous
Urban legends abound on soy, purporting that it causes everything from feminizing effects on men (not true) to breast cancer.
"At one time, there was concern that compounds in soy known as phytoestrogens could promote estrogen-sensitive cancers, such as the most common form of breast cancer. Now we have more studies in people, which show that soy may reduce risk of breast cancer if consumed in youth or adolescence. Although it may not reduce risk in women who begin eating it later in life, there's no sign of an increase in risk. Moderate consumption--one to two servings a day--is now considered safe, even for women who had estrogen receptor positive breast cancer," says Collins.
9. Natural Means Nutritious
Food marketers have learned that "natural" on the food label really sells. It conjures up images of wholesome ingredients plucked straight from nature, but this term is deceiving.
"There is not a true definition for 'natural' on food labels," says Jessica Crandall, R.D., Certified Diabetes Educator at Sodexo Wellness and Nutrition, and National Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Indeed, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to develop a definition for use of this term on food labels.
10. Farm-raised Fish is Not Healthy or Sustainable
Misperceptions about farm-raised fish are plentiful, from the addition of artificial coloring to inferior nutritional quality. Ruhs reports, "The latest technology in aquaculture is actually a solution for sustaining fish populations into the future. And farm-raised fish provides an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids with reduced risk of mercury contamination. Modern aquaculture has reduced the use of antibiotics in farm-raised fish. There is also no added coloring, contrary to popular opinion; astaxanthin, a naturally occurring and essential antioxidant added to the diet of farm-raised fish, provides the pigmentation in salmon."
(Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 800-829-5384. http://www.EnvironmentalNutrition.com.)