There are many nutrition myths, some of them known as “vampire myths” because they refuse to die. In this article I’ll be breaking down 5 common nutrition myths that I hear on a regular basis from clients.
#1: I can’t eat bananas because I’m a diabetic
Bananas, like most fruits, have natural sugars. However, bananas are not the sweetest fruits around. A medium banana has 14.2 grams of sugar, less than a medium red delicious apple (21.3 grams), 1 cup of red grapes (27.7 grams) and a medium mango (37.9 grams).
Does this mean you should not eat fruit if you have diabetes? Absolutely not! Fruits are packed with other essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre. The recommendation for most people is to eat 2 serves of fruit daily to maintain good health.
If you have diabetes, you can either choose lower sugar fruits (such as apricots, strawberries, kiwifruit and rockmelon) or eat less of the medium-to-high sugar fruits.
In addition, it is always a good idea to pair fruit with protein (e.g. plain unsweetened yoghurt or a handful of nuts). This will slow down the release of sugar and keep you fuller for longer.
#2: Vegan/vegetarian diets are healthy
Vegan and vegetarian diets can be healthy if they are based on whole, unprocessed foods that cover all nutritional bases. However, many people follow vegan or vegetarian diets based on highly processed unhealthy foods such as chips, biscuits, lollies, soft drinks, deep-fried foods, etc. In addition, food manufacturers rely on many additives to make vegan food taste better.
Even if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet based largely on whole foods, you could be falling short on some nutrients based on your needs. For example, you might not be getting enough iron, calcium and vitamin B12, which are particularly important for young females.
Bottom line vegan and vegetarian diets can be healthy provided they are based on whole foods and provide the nutrients you require.
#3: Raw sugar is healthier than white sugar
White sugar is a little bit more processed than raw sugar but ultimately all calorie-containing sweeteners, including honey, will raise your blood sugar to a similar extent.
Switching from white to raw sugar is a tiny step in the right direction, but if you really want to improve your health and/or weight, it is important to cut down on your sugar intake. Remember it’s not just about how much sugar you add to your tea or coffee, but also how much sugar comes in the packaged foods you buy (including baked beans, salad dressings and sauces) and takeaway/restaurant foods.
Worldwide recommendations are to keep added sugar intake below 10% of your daily energy intake. For example, if you eat 2000 kilocalories each day, less than 200 kilocalories should come from added sugars. This translates to less than 50 grams of added sugar from all food sources (one teaspoon of sugar weighs roughly 5 grams).
#4: Eggs are bad for you
Eggs were vilified for a long time due to the cholesterol content of egg yolks. However, now we know that most of the cholesterol in our blood is made in our bodies and does not come from food. For this reason, there are currently no recommendations to limit dietary cholesterol intake.
Moreover, eggs are healthy foods, rich in protein and many micronutrients: vitamins A, B2, B5, B12, D and E, iron, phosphorus, folate, iodine, selenium, choline, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Finally, eggs are cheap, low in calories and very versatile. Boiled eggs are an excellent portable snack you can keep several days in the fridge for when you are on the go.
#5: Healthy food is expensive
Sure, healthy food from a café or restaurant such as açai bowls, kale smoothies, poke bowls and sashimi platters can be expensive but healthy food can be quite affordable.
Fresh produce, especially when in season, is often cheap. Frozen vegetables and fruit are perfectly healthy and often cheaper than their fresh counterparts. Staples such as dried or canned legumes (lentils, beans and chickpeas), canned tomatoes, rice and pasta are inexpensive as well. Protein sources such as mince, stewing meat cuts, canned fish and eggs are all budget friendly. The same applies to milk and nuts/seeds when bought in bulk.
My top tips for making healthy eating affordable include:
- Cook at home. Homemade meals are usually cheaper than restaurant meals.
- Buy produce in season and/or on special.
- Buy frozen vegetables and fruit you can use for casseroles, soups, smoothies, etc., such as spinach, peas, corn, mango and berries.
- Buy meat/poultry on special and/or in bulk and freeze for later use.
- Buy shelf-stable staples such as dried/canned legumes, rice, pasta, canned fish and canned tomatoes when they are on sale and keep in your pantry.
- Make sure your main meals have enough protein and fibre to keep you satisfied, otherwise you will end up spending your money in snacks!