Food myths and misconceptions are nothing new, says Penny Ramey, nutrition specialist with the Salt Lake Country USU Extension Office. "And it seems like the more strange and exotic they are, the more people want to believe them," she says.
For example, the idea that eating foods in certain combinations will help you lose weight seems to be very hot right now. "Some 70 years ago, the Good Housekeeping Research Institute debunked this fad, and nothing has changed. All foods are combinations of protein, fat and carbohydrates, and the digestive system can handle all different foods at the same time."
Here are some other common myths and misconceptions that she has compiled from eatingwell.com, USU Extension materials and other sources:
Myth: High-fructose corn syrup is worse for you than sugar.
High-fructose corn syrup was created to mimic sucrose (table sugar), so its chemical makeup is almost identical, as is its calorie count. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, both have similar effects of blood levels of insulin, glucose, triglycerides and satiety hormones. The bigger question, says a researcher at the University of California Davis, is the effect of all sugars on the diet. Studies have shown that consuming large amounts of any added sweeteners, especially in sodas and other sweetened drinks, increases risk of fatty liver disease, insulin resistance, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Myth: Chocolate causes acne.
There is no scientific basis for a connection between chocolate and skin problems. In fact, recent studies have shown some benefits from dark chocolate, which contains a large number of antioxidants (nearly eight times the number found in strawberries) and has also been shown to lower blood pressure and LDL (the bad kind) cholesterol. The only trick is to balance the calories from it with the rest of your diet.
Myth: Eggs are bad for your heart.
For most people, the cholesterol in eggs or other foods doesn't have a significant impact on raising our blood cholesterol; the body compensates by making less cholesterol of its own. The chief heart-disease culprits are saturated and trans fats. A large egg contains 2 grams of saturated fat (10 percent of the recommended Daily Value) and about 211 mgs of cholesterol (close to the American Heart Association's daily recommendation). As a researcher at Penn State University says, "eggs can fit in, as long as you make room for them in the rest of what you are eating."
Myth: Fat-free is calorie-free.
Many low-fat or no-fat foods may still contain a lot of calories because extra sugar, flour or starch is added to make them taste better. Be sure to check the labels.
Myth: You can burn fat by eating certain foods, such as grapefruit and cabbage soup.
No foods can burn fat. Grapefruit has no fat, is low in calories and sodium and is packed with vitamin C. But it is low in protein, fiber and other vitamins and nutrients, which makes it unwise as a sole diet source. The same is true of cabbage soup, which lacks protein, vitamins and complex carbohydrates. Eating only one food may cause you to lose weight, but may also make you sick.
Myth: Carbohydrates make you fat.
There is nothing inherently fattening about carbohydrates; it's eating too many of them that makes you fat. Researchers at the University of Vermont note that carbohydrates are an important source of energy, but recommend you limit processed carbs such as white bread in favor of whole grains, brown rice and whole-wheat bread.
Myth: Frozen fruits and vegetables are less nutritious than fresh ones.