With the popularity of healthy foods on the rise there is a whole flood of articles and infographics about nutrition circulating around. In such environment it can be hard to tell apart facts from semi-facts and fiction. Here are some of the frequently circulated myths that you should know about.
Myth # 1: 100 calories of Broccoli has more protein than 100 calories of steak
Vegans and vegetarians just love pushing graphics with this “fact” on them. But this is not really true. There are two problems with this data. Problem number one is something that you may have noticed as sounding funny. Why is this expressed as protein “per 100 calories” and not “per 100 grams” or any other weight unit?
Long story short, broccoli has much less calories per weight unit than steak so you would have to eat about 300 grams ( 11.35 ounces or 0.7 pounds ) of broccoli to get 100 calories.
Steak, on the other hand, will get you 100 calories in about 50 grams. (1.76 ounces).
The second problem with this myth is that it uses old nutritional data. It looks like it was taken from “Handbook of the Nutritional Value of Foods in Common Units” published in 1986. The equipment used in food industry has became much more precise since then, but when people like some piece of data they just believe it. The current USDA data says:
|Broccoli 100g:Calories 34
Protein 2.82 g
||Fillet Steak 100gCalories 212
Protein 29.33 g
So, this “broccoli has more protein than steak” is dead on the ground with two holes in it.
Myth # 2: You need 8 glasses of water per day
Yes, your body needs water, but not 8 glasses of it per day. This myth apparently started in 1945 when the Food and Nutrition Board published a recommendation that a person needs on average 2.5 litres of water per day taken in through food and beverage.
However, the purveyors of this myth apparently overlooked the word “food”. They just reduced it to “you need 2.5 litres (8 glasses) of water per day”.
The reality is that you take in water with food as well and 20% or more of your daily intake of water comes from food. For example, cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce all consist of around 95% water. Yes, that is no typo. When you eat your tomato, you just ate mostly water. Only about 5% of tomato is solid matter. The rest is water.
Myth # 3: Eggs contain cholesterol so you should avoid them
Not really. This myth started in the old days when the approach to nutrition was to eliminate as much fat and cholesterol as possible. Recent studies showed that the problem is less with the cholesterol you eat and more in cholesterol your liver produces.
It turns out that when you eat more cholesterol, your body produces less of it. Current science says that a healthy person can safely eat up to 3 eggs per day.
Then again, Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of the UK was on a diet of 28 eggs per week. She lived to see 88 birthday candles.
Long story short: current science says that you don’t have to be afraid of eggs.
Myth 4: The more fiber the better
Not really. You can eat so much fiber that you can knit a sweater with it but health benefits of it are not so straight forward as some would have you believe.
Since fiber has become a buzz word in the nutrition, companies started adding fiber into all kinds of stuff from yoghurt to biscuits. It is not at all certain that this is always beneficial.
The key information is: Different fibers have different functions in your body.
For example, cellulose is described as “nature’s laxative”. Pectin on the other hand slows down the passage of food through the intestinal tract and so on.
Armed with this information you understand why any blanket statement such as “the more fiber the better” is simply off the mark.
Myth 5: Olive oil can’t take the heat
Ever since the olive oil has gained popularity it was hounded by a myth that it loses its health benefits when heated. Worse yet, sometimes this myth goes a step further claiming that when heated, olive oil starts breaking up into some harmful compounds. After all, the myth substantiates, that is why olive oil is traditionally always cold pressed on huge stones that take away the heat produced by squeezing and grinding the olives.
In reality, the monounsaturated fats, which are the main ingredient of olive oil credited with hart health, can take the heat without decomposing. Other compounds which give the olive oil its flavor and some health benefits are also stable enough to remain intact during frying.
Only if you see your oil smoking then you can be sure that the oil is no longer usable. However, olive oil’s smoke point is 410ºF or 210ºC. That is is well above the usual temperature at which the food is fried of 320ºF – 356ºF or 160ºC – 180ºC. In short, you would have to burn your food in order to decompose the olive oil and kill all the healthy phytochemicals in it.