Soy milk may increase the risk of breast cancer. Fat-free foods are healthier than high-fat foods. Vegans and vegetarians lack protein. Some misconceptions about nutrition seem to persist. To clarify the landscape, the New York Times asked a simple question to 10 top nutrition experts in the United States: What is the nutrition myth you would like to see dispelled and why? Here is what they said.
Myth #1: Fresh fruits and vegetables are always healthier than frozen.
Despite the belief that “the best produce is fresh,” studies have shown that frozen, canned, and dried fruits and vegetables can be just as nutritious as fresh fruit. “They also save money and are a simple way to ensure there are always fruits and vegetables available at home,” said Sara Bleich of the US Department of Agriculture. A word of warning: some frozen and dried foods contain sneaky ingredients like added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium, so be sure to read labels and choose products that contain these ingredients at a minimum.
Myth #2: All fats are bad.
Until the 1980s, doctors, health experts, the food industry and the media reported that a low-fat diet was good for everyone, even though there was not enough evidence. that it prevented problems such as heart disease and obesity.
Dr. Vijaya Surampudi, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, says fat stigma has led many people – and food manufacturers – to replace calories from fat with calories from fat. refined carbohydrates like white flour and sugar.
In fact, not all fats are bad. Certain types of fats, including saturated and trans fats, can increase your risk of heart disease or stroke, but healthy fats – such as monounsaturated fats (found in olive and other vegetable oils, avocados and some nuts and seeds) and polyunsaturated fats (found in sunflower and other vegetable oils, nuts, fish and flax seeds) help reduce risk. Good fats are also important for providing energy, producing important hormones, supporting cell function and absorbing certain nutrients.
Myth #3: Counting calories is the most important factor in weight loss.
It is true that if you consume more calories than you burn, you will probably gain weight. And if you eat more calories than you consume, you will probably lose weight, at least in the short term.
However, research does not show that eating more will cause permanent weight gain. Highly processed foods – such as processed starchy snacks, cereals, crackers, energy bars, baked goods, sodas and sweets – can be particularly harmful, as they are quickly digested and flood the bloodstream with glucose. , fructose and amino acids. What it takes to maintain a healthy weight is to shift from counting calories to eating healthy overall – quality over quantity.
Myth #4: People with type 2 diabetes shouldn’t eat fruit.
This myth stems from the tendency to confuse fruit juice with whole fruit. Research found that was not the case. Some studies show, for example, that those who eat one serving of whole fruits a day – especially blueberries, grapes and apples – have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Other research shows that for those who already have type 2 diabetes, eating the whole fruit can help control blood sugar.
Myth #5: Plant-based milk is healthier than cow’s milk.
There is a perception that plant-based milks, such as those made from oats, almonds, rice, and hemp, are more nutritious than cow’s milk. “That’s just not true,” says Kathleen Merrigan, professor of sustainable food systems at the University of Arizona. Take protein for example: cow’s milk typically contains about eight grams of protein per cup, while almond milk typically contains about one or two grams per cup, and oat milk typically contains about two or three. grams per cup. Although plant-based diets vary, many plant-based milks contain more added ingredients — such as sodium and sugars, which can contribute to poor health — than cow’s milk.
Myth #6: Potatoes are bad.
Potatoes have often been criticized for their high glycemic index, which means they contain easily digestible carbohydrates that raise blood sugar. But they do have health benefits, said Daphene Altema-Johnson of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. They are high in vitamin C, potassium, fiber and other nutrients, especially when eaten with the skin on. They’re also inexpensive and can be found year-round in grocery stores, which means they’re very affordable. Healthier preparation methods include baking, boiling and air frying.
Myth #7: You shouldn’t give peanut products to children in their first years of life.
For years, experts have told parents that the best way to prevent their children from developing food allergies is to avoid giving them allergenic foods, like peanuts or eggs, during their early years. However, this is not the case. If your child does not have a severe food allergy, you can start introducing peanut products around 4 to 6 months. Start with two teaspoons of sweet peanut butter mixed with water, breast milk or formula, two to three times a week, says Dr. Ruchi Gupta, professor of pediatrics and director of the Center for Pediatrics Research. food allergies and asthma. If your baby has severe eczema, first ask the pediatrician or allergist to start peanut products around 4 months. It is also important to feed babies a varied diet during their first year of life to prevent food allergies.
Myth #8: Plant proteins are deficient.
“Where do you get your protein? is the #1 question vegetarians ask,” says Christopher Gardner, nutritionist and professor of medicine at Stanford University. “The myth is that plants are completely lacking in amino acids,” also known as the building blocks of protein. But in fact, all plant foods contain all 20 amino acids, including all nine essential amino acids. The difference is that the ratio of these amino acids is not as ideal as the ratio of amino acids in animal foods. So to get the right mix, you just need to eat a variety of plant-based foods throughout the day — like beans, grains, and nuts — and eat enough total protein. “It’s easier than most people think,” he says.
Myth #9: Eating soy foods can increase the risk of breast cancer.
High doses of plant estrogens in soy, called isoflavones, stimulate the growth of breast tumor cells. “However, this relationship has not been documented in human studies,” says Dr. Frank B. Hu, professor and chair of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health. So far, there is no link between soy consumption and the risk of breast cancer in men. Conversely, consumption of soy foods and beverages may have a protective effect on breast cancer risk and survival. “Soy foods are also a source of beneficial nutrients associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, such as high-quality protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.”
Myth #10: Basic nutritional advice is constantly changing.
That’s not the case, says Dr. Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition at New York University. “In the 1950s, the first recommendations to prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease recommended balancing calories and minimizing foods high in saturated fat, salt and sugar. The current dietary guidelines in the United States follow the same line.” Yes, the science is changing, but the basic idea remains the same. As author Michael Pollan says: “Eat food. Not too much. Plant.” This advice was true 70 years ago, and it is still true today. And it leaves plenty of room for the foods you love.