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These foods are not really bad for you
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These foods are not really bad for you

Debunking some myths about food and nutrition
man food myths
Representational image | Shutterstock

With the growth of digital media, there is an abundance of information on nutrition and fitness making it difficult to differentiate between a myth or belief from a fact based on science. Misconceptions around food and nutrition are not new. For example, many people have for long believed that drinking water during meals leads to weight gain. Today, the list of myths has only grown longer with the proliferation of information channels that have blurred the lines.

With the help of experts, we have listed out some of the most common misconceptions around food and have debunked them with research.

Myth #1: Egg yolk increases cholesterol levels

People with heart conditions or high cholesterol tend to avoid the egg yolk with the belief that it pushes up cholesterol levels. This has been a matter of serious research and a lot of debate. Anjum Sohail Syed, nutritionist and founder at RESET Nutrition, Bengaluru, says, “there is this misconception that egg whites are nutritious, and the yolks are not.”

A whole egg, comprising of the white and the yolk, contains all nine essential amino acids. “Egg is known as the best available source of protein, most of the protein is absorbed better and the quality of protein is very good,” Syed adds. One whole egg has around 6 gm of protein, of which 3 gm is from the yolk. The egg white contains 12 to 16 calories and the whole egg contains 60-75 calories. However, if you have hyperlipidemia (a condition where your blood contains more fats or cholesterol), moderation is the key. Try not to include more than 2 whole eggs. But, you can eat egg white as much your body demands. “Eating the whole egg is definitely heart-friendly and the yolk makes it complete protein,” she says. 

Myth #2: Diet must be fat-free or low-fat

It is commonly believed that fat-free or low-fat food is healthy. Using it to their advantage, many food manufacturers sell the products in the name of being low-fat or fat-free. Syed says, “Products that claim to be ‘fat-free’ and ‘low-fat’ are usually processed with refined corn starch, sugar and many other preservatives and unnecessary ingredients.”

Though fat is considered unhealthy, not all fats are bad for health. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from sources like olive oil, sunflower oil, nuts, seeds and fish are good for the heart.  Saturated fats from red meat, butter, cheese etc. should be consumed in moderation. Trans fats from processed food should be avoided as these can put you at risk for cardiovascular disease. “Don’t ditch the fat, look at the quality of fat and not the quantity. Don’t go for a low-fat or fat-free diet. Take a certain number of calories from good fats in your diet,” she adds.

Myth #3: Snacking is not healthy

It is believed by many that snacking in between the three main meals of the day is not healthy. That is not true generally. “For example, some people don’t eat breakfast. They only eat lunch and dinner and snacks in between. For them snacking is definitely needed,” Syed says. Explaining further, she says that it is if you are burning what you consume, then that works best. “You should snack on healthy options like nuts, seeds, fruits. You must not opt for packaged and processed food. Snacking can, in fact, complete your requirement of micronutrients that your main meals may not be meeting,” says the Bengaluru-based nutritionist. The best effect of snacking in between meals is better blood sugar control. Also, it helps prevent the over-eating habits.

Myth #4: Drinking lemon honey water makes you lose weight

A cup of warm water mixed with lemon and honey first thing in the morning is consumed by many for its health benefits. It is also believed that it leads to weight loss. However, experts say there is no direct link between the two.

Krishnaveni Kasturi, a nutritionist based in Bengaluru, says, “Lemon and honey infused water has antioxidants and vitamin C, and both are known to boost our immunity. It helps in detoxification and also improves metabolism which may help with weight loss.” However, if you drink one cup of honey lemon water and do not do anything else throughout the day, in terms of diet or exercise, you will not lose weight, she adds.

Myth #5: Avoid white rice/chapati if you want to lose weight

Most diets advise against eating white rice and chapati/roti when you want to lose weight. In most diets, rice and chapati are the main sources of carbohydrates. For most Indians, avoiding them may not be sustainable.

An international study done by researchers from Japan compared the eating and living habits of people from 136 countries based on data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. One of the findings of the study presented in the European Congress on Obesity in 2019, was that the obesity rate is lower in countries that consume rice as staple food.

“I tell my clients to enjoy their rice and roti and to ensure that all macronutrients are being consumed in their diet, if they want to lose weight,” adds Kasturi. How much you eat is more important than what you eat.

Other misconceptions and facts:

The list below is based on a research paper on myths and facts about food:

  • Fruits must be eaten before meals – Myth
  • Coconut oil is healthier than olive oil – Myth
  • Lactose-free food must be adopted by all, it is better for health – Myth
  • Fat is important for the human body – Fact
  • Pregnant women must eat for two – Myth
  • Water is essential for the normal functioning of all organs – Fact

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