Busting Those Nutrition Myths

Busting Those Nutrition Myths

Myths or Facts Concept

By Valentine Reed-Johnson, RDN, CDN, Contributing Blogger

With so much information out there it is often hard to determine which is fabricated. It is time to identify those common “nutrition myths” that everyone quotes in social settings, and deems them safe for repetition, or not.  Below are some well-rehearsed sayings. We all know them, but are we simply repeating what we have heard or do we believe them? The time has come to determine the truth; brace yourselves.

Salads are nutritious…
Many folks define salads as a bed of lettuce. Although salads do provide vitamins and minerals (which vary depending on the leaf), they are mostly water. The darker the leaves the more vitamins and minerals they contain. Also, you would likely need to consume a lot more leaves to meet your daily requirement of vegetables verses having a salad consisting of a variety of vegetables, whole grains and/or legumes. The consistency of the leaf also matters. Kale is more nutrient dense verses iceberg lettuce, containing more fiber.

Bottom line: Having some iceberg lettuce with your creamy alfredo pasta does not counterbalance anything.

All you need to do is workout…
It is true that exercise is an important component to a healthy lifestyle, mainly to keep your engine running and everything flowing. In order for exercise to have an impact, it needs to be coupled with a healthy diet. Working out several days a week and eating anything and everything just doesn’t cut it. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity.

Bottom line: What you eat is just as important as the duration and type of exercise you perform.

All bread is bad for you…
Bread has a bad reputation. Processing is damaging to the grain and product, there is no doubt about that. Whole grains are richer in fiber, which contribute positively to heart and gut health. When shopping for bread, look at the first ingredient. It should say “whole-wheat flour.” The best way to eat bread would be to make your own, or go to one of those specialty bakers that produces all natural, truly nutty, textured bread. The unfortunate thing is that this more nutritious bread is more expensive and harder to find.

Bottom line: Choose whole grain bread that’s high in nutrients and less processed.

I only eat organic….
Although it sounds like it may be a good idea to only eat organic, it is not feasible for the majority of people on a budget! It is also unnecessary to buy certain foods organic. The Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen is a good guideline. The following are a list of fruits and vegetables to consider buying organic: apples, peaches, nectarines, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, snap peas (imported), potatoes, hot peppers, and kale. Organic animal proteins that are raised without any antibiotics are also fair game to spend more money on.

Bottom line: Know which foods to buy organic and choose how you want to use your organic dollar wisely.

Skipping breakfast is bad for you…
This one is true, to an extent. However, many people take it to the extreme and eat a large breakfast. Only a small amount of food is required to kick start your metabolism. Your best bet is to eat a protein and fiber-rich breakfast so it can keep you satisfied longer. An example would be a small bowl of oatmeal made with skim milk, with fresh berries and 5 nuts on top.

Bottom line: Eat breakfast religiously, but always in moderation.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away…
People often joke about this one, but it clearly came about for good reason. The recommended daily amount of fruit is 1.5 cups for women 31 years and older, and 2 cups for everyone else! One small apple counts as 1 cup of fruit. Apples are high in fiber and can help maintain a healthy digestive tract. Apples are also rich in plant chemicals like flavonoids, which may play a role in fighting cancer and heart disease. Although apples are nutrient-dense, however, you can get healthy nutrients from other variety of other fruit too.

Bottom line: Fruit, including apples, have many health benefits, which make it a better-for-you snack option over less nutrient-dense foods, like chips and cookies.


Valentine is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, currently working at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. At the hospital she covers general medicine floors. Eventually, Valentine hopes to open up a private practice alongside her hospital position. Valentine believes in providing practical nutrition knowledge, encouraging others to think logically when it comes to their health. Follow Valentine on twitter or check out her website.

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