Interest in food is on the up, all you have to do is check the number of influencers and general social hype covering all things food related to realise that what we should eat and what we should avoid eating is hot news. Whilst the internet and social media can be a great resource you do have to be a little careful as there is a lot of information and advice out there based on little or no scientific evidence. False beliefs or urban myths circulate around the world of Nutrition without any scientific research, a whole host of information that can compromise the physical and mental health of many people.
Mª Jose Moreno, nutritional specialist, and resident in Los Monteros Hotel & Spa ***** clarifies the 10 most common food myths that one way or another end up affecting us all.
1 “Bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and pulses are fattening”
FALSE. Bread has a high energy content, but in moderation is recommended. What makes you put on weight is eating too much and more importantly what you eat it with: butters, sauces, loaded sandwiches. Potatoes, baked, boiled or steamed have little caloric value. It is a vegetable with a high water content (75-80%) and a caloric intake of around 80 Kcal / 100 grams per portion. The problem is in the way it´s prepared, if it is fried, the oil will increase the caloric value, or if we mash it with milk/ butter or accompany it with cheese, cream or mayonnaise, the energy content rockets. The same goes for pasta, rice and pulses. In their simple forms they are all quite healthy foods and should be included daily in a balanced diet but always in moderation, for example, prepare them in salads, soups, purees …
2 “Bananas are fattening”
FALSE. They do have more caloric value than other fruits, but when eaten in moderation they are super healthy with a higher percentage of fibre than other fruits and therefore more filling. Their consumption is even advised in weight loss diets for their high levels of magnesium and potassium (as many low calories diets cause fatigue).
3 “Wholemeal foods help you lose weight”
FALSE. The main difference between wholemeal foods and their refined counterparts is the fibre content. Energy value of fibre is zero, so the calories are practically the same. It is advisable to eat all foods in their wholemeal form due to the higher content of fibre, vitamins and minerals (nutrients that do not provide calories) and therefore for their greater nutritional value. We all know the role of fibre in the body: it aids intestinal transit, it fills you up, lowers cholesterol levels … amongst other things.
4 “Light products”
Yes or no? The market for “light or diet” products is as extensive as our pantry, you can find everything from chocolates, jams, biscuits, butters, mayonnaises … but you do have to be careful with them. Diet products can help you to follow a diet more “gently” as you might feel you don’t have to give up so many things, but don´t be misguided, diet products also have calories, less than their “full fat” counterparts, granted, but manufacturers can be quite misleading. In some cases, even though it might be less than the original, the calorie content can be quite high. As it´s a “low-calorie” product, we might overindulge naively trusting in its “diet” benefits. Advertising tells us “no calories”, “no fat”, “diet” or “skimmed” … and so we might take more than we should. Be careful to look at the nutritional labelling and read the energy value.
5 “Being thin is an indicator of good nutrition and good health”
FALSE. Being thin is not synonymous with being healthy or being well fed as it´s possible to have a normal weight and accumulate internal fat (Beauty is on the inside and fat can be too!). “Fake thin, fake health.”
6 “I can’t diet because I eat out”
FALSE. If we eat in a restaurant or out of the house, we can still control what we eat. If you order grilled fish or meat, accompanied with vegetables, without too much sauce, fats or oil … then why not eat out. And of course, you can always choose fruit for dessert.
7 “Eat gluten free to aid your weightloss”
FALSE. We are in the middle of a “gluten free” trend with some people thinking this option is low calorie and healthier, so can assist in weightloss, but this is not the case. Gluten free foods only offer nutritional benefits to coeliacs. Gluten is a protein present in cereals such as wheat, barley, oats or rye, which causes digestive problems to those who have an intolerance or allergy to these components.
“Health does not follow fashions. Health is born through healthy eating habits”
8 “It’s better to use margarine than butter”
FALSE. To convert a vegetable oil (liquid at room temperature) into a spreadable form, manufacturers put it through a hydrogenation process. These artificially solid fats are the famous “trans” fats, to which numerous studies have associated even worse effects than those of the animal fats themselves. The worst thing is that “trans fats” sneak into a multitude of prepared and ultra processed foods. How do you know if the muffins you buy have this type of fat? If the label says “hydrogenated vegetable fats” … you may want to opt for something else which has unprocessed oils.
9 “Vegetable fat is better than animal fat”:
IT DEPENDS! There are vegetable fats which have just as good nutritional quality as certain animal fats. Examples of healthy animal fats: those present in blue fish rich in omega 3. Small blue fish such as sardines or anchovies that contain less mercury than larger ones are recommended. Examples of healthy vegetable fats: those present in avocado or olive oil that provide monounsaturated fatty acids, and those present in nuts such as walnuts, almonds, etc. that provide omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids with anti-inflammatory properties.
10 “There are people” doomed “to be fat because of their genes”
FALSE. The causes of obesity and being overweight can be very diverse and complex and are not the same for different people. Obesity is defined as an excess of body fat produced as a direct result of eating more energy through food than the body needs. Everyone needs an amount of energy and when you gain weight it is because you eat more than needed and because the degree of physical exercise is less than it should be.
It is true that a genetic component exists, and certain individuals inherit a propensity to be overweight and or obese. Today we are aware of the specific genes related to obesity. That is why there are people who if they take the eye of the ball, particularly if they are more sedentary, can easily gain weight, however with others they would really have to overeat and do very little to gain weight. It’s like a lottery, some people are more likely to gain weight than others so if they eat too much and exercise too little, the problem will only get worse.