As someone who has been taking the slow and healthy approach at learning to make healthy eating a part of my lifestyle, I have become increasingly annoyed by people who try to convince me that certain foods are “super foods” or “nutritionally superior”.
I’ve listed the 5 most common food myths or exaggerations that annoy me. I often encourage people to use caution when basing their food knowledge on news headlines about nutrition. Often times news reports don’t explain the important details about food research and when this happens we, the public, end up with only partial facts about foods that are considered healthy, unhealthy or even dangerous.
The foods on my annoyance list are foods that I consume, but I’ve trained myself not to tout these foods as far superior to other foods. I eat these foods because I either enjoy them or for health reasons I have to eat them as alternatives to other healthy foods that make me ill.
I encourage you to make your own list of foods you commonly consume under misguided health assumptions. It doesn’t mean you have to stop eating these foods (I certainly haven’t), I only give you this challenge so that you can be made more aware of misleading food advertisements, poor journalism about the healthiness of certain foods, and cultural hype. The only way this can be achieved is to take the initiative to do some research on your own.
My Personal List
Yogurt (specifically Greek yogurt):
So what makes Greek yogurt so special? “….But since use of the term “Greek” is unregulated, and because the straining process can require costly equipment, some yogurt brands are pumping out “Greek” yogurts that haven’t been made the traditional way. Instead, thickening agents like corn starch and milk-protein concentrate are added to mimic the rich texture of strained yogurt.” (Source: Prevention Magazine)
I love yogurt, and I pay a ridiculous amount of money for something labelled “Greek Yogurt” because I like the thick texture. I purchase these products with the knowledge that I am not eating a product that is nutritionally superior to other yogurts in the dairy section.
As for the other type of healthy yogurt known as Balkan Yogurt (contains probiotics Lactobacillus Bulgaricus and Streptococcus Thermophilus) , I have the same view as I do with Greek yogurt.
Number 2: Soy products
Soy products are readily available at any grocery store, there are: tofu, soy milk, soy nuts, veggie (hot dogs, sausages, burgers, etc.), protein shakes, and countless other items contain soy products. I continuously read about how healthy soy is, however, I refuse to consume so many soy products on a daily basis. I don’t believe in consuming large amounts of the exact same product throughout the day. I’ve been told that soy products are harmless, but again, I’m not confident that eating so much of one item creates a diet of healthy diversity. I have to agree with the following quote from clinical nutritionist Ed Bauman and Kaayla Daniel, “Daniel and Bauman agree on the benefits of variety.’ My experience as a clinical nutritionist is that people who have a varied diet tend not to get into trouble,’ says Daniel. ‘We like to demonize certain foods in this society,’ says Bauman. ‘If you want to find a fault, you’ll find it. The bottom line is: What is a healthy diet?’” (Source: Utne Reader July / August 2007, The Dark Side Of Soy)
Number 3: Chocolate
I laugh every time I hear a group of women justifying the chocolate junk food they are indulging in by stating that chocolate is good for you.
Dark chocolate has no milk and is made by adding both fat and sugar to cocoa. White chocolate is not chocolate because it doesn’t have any cocoa solids. Health benefits are found in quality dark chocolate containing high percentages of cocoa; not regular candy bars.
I do treat myself to quality dark chocolate that is not sold in regular grocery chains. I have one square only because any more than that, it becomes too overwhelming. Chocolate candy bars (Mr. Big is my weakness) have no health benefits and I won’t deny it.
Number 4: Red Wine
If you want to drink wine, just drink it.
“Simply eating grapes, or drinking grape juice, has been suggested as one way to get resveratrol without drinking alcohol. Red and purple grape juices may have some of the same heart-healthy benefits of red wine. Other foods that contain some resveratrol include peanuts, blueberries and cranberries. It’s not yet known how beneficial eating grapes or other foods might be compared with drinking red wine when it comes to promoting heart health. The amount of resveratrol in food and red wine can vary widely.” (Source: Mayo Clinic)
The Mayo Clinic also confirms, “There’s still no clear evidence that red wine is better than other forms of alcohol when it comes to possible heart-healthy benefits.”
So folks, you’re drinking red wine because you like it, there is no proof that it is doing anything different for your body than a handful of peanuts!
Number 5: Healthy Fats
These fats have been labeled as “healthy fats” by many health food advocates. This list includes foods such as: coconut oil, avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, and Omega 3 fatty acids. I’ve watched people consume nearly an entire container of guacamole with whole grain chips because it is made of avocado (actually, it’s a small bit of avocado and a whole lot of mayonnaise). The assumption seems to be, ‘if it’s a healthy fat, I can eat as much as I want because it’s healthy fat’. Eating too much fat for your body is still too much fat, no matter if it’s considered a healthy fat or not.
I’ve surpassed my personal limit for word counts on my blog, but here are the other items on my annoyance list:
Sports drinks (e.g. Gatorade)
Frozen yogurt vs real ice cream
Smoothies (Those that contain no vegetables, or those from Fast Food chains)
Red meat vs White meat (I eat both in moderation)