We read and hear all the time, “eat this, avoid that.” We’re inundated with advice on how to eat better and lose weight, but often this advice gets misconstrued causing misconceptions and even myths to surface. From microwave popcorn to the “raw foods” fad, here are five truths behind common food myths.
MYTH: “Microwave popcorn is toxic.”
A recent Dr. Oz show labeled microwave popcorn as toxic and full of chemicals like diacetyl and trans fats. In reality, neither of these ingredients is added to most major microwave popcorn brands. Orville Redenbacher’s and Act II microwave popcorn have 0 grams of trans fats per serving and their parent company, ConAgra Foods, removed added diacetyl from all microwave popcorn products back in 2007. Popcorn-lovers can feel good about snacking away and enjoying a whole grain, gluten-free snack.
MYTH: “Cut out all white foods.”
The “avoid everything white” diet is so appealing because it’s so simple; “if it’s white, don’t eat it”. Many white foods like white pasta, rice and bread are staples of our diets, so cutting them out seems like a simple way to shed pounds. White foods like low fat or nonfat or (“skim”) dairy products, egg whites, fish and white potatoes are filling and satisfying and so are helpful for weight loss. Egg whites and white fish are excellent sources of protein, and research findings show protein foods support weight loss because these foods are filling.
MYTH: “Protein builds muscle.”
It’s common to think the more protein you eat, the more muscle you build. While protein is important to building muscles, it’s only part of the equation. Protein must be paired with regular progressive, resistant exercise in order to do its job. Intense strength exercise breaks down existing muscle and then uses the amino acids from the protein you eat to rebuild larger muscles. This effect is more pronounced in men than women due to differences in testosterone. In fact, without strength training exercise, your body doesn’t need large amounts of protein, so the body will either burn it for energy or store it as fat.
MYTH: “Microwaves are harmful and kill nutrients.”
Skeptics claim microwaves harm the nutrients in foods, but actuallythey do not kill or destroy any nutrients more so than any other heating method. Microwaveable frozen meals are great options to provide your daily dose of nutrients. Fruits and vegetables are flash frozen at their peak of ripeness, so there is virtually no nutritional difference between fresh and frozen.
MYTH: “Food should be eaten raw to get the enzymes we need.”
A raw food diet is based on the idea that foods are healthiest for the body when uncooked and cooking foods with heat denatures the food’s enzymes. It is true, that the nutrient contents of some foods can be affected by exposure to heat. For example, the amount of vitamin C in broccoli can be diminished during cooking because the molecular structure of vitamin C is fragile. But in other cases, heating is beneficial. The antioxidant lycopene in tomatoes can be absorbed by the body much more readily from cooked than raw tomatoes.