The Truth About 5 Common Nutrition Myths

Know the truth about nutrition myths.
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Following a healthy diet and eating right is tough sometimes. There's so much conflicting evidence on foods and nutrition, plus there's so much information (and opinions) coming from so many different sources. Add in a few nutrition myths that have grown over time, and it gets even tougher to know what's good for you and what isn't.

I can't do much about the changing science and opinions on nutrition -- other than report on them -- but I can share some common diet myths and tell you what you need to know about them:

Myth #1: Raw sugar is better than white sugar.

It doesn't matter; sugar is sugar. Raw sugar, sometimes called turbinado sugar, has a darker color than regular table sugar, and the crystals are larger, but it still has the same chemical composition. It's just sucrose, which is half glucose and half fructose. It has a nice flavor so it's possible you might use a tiny bit less in your coffee or on your cereal. But really, the problem with added sugars come from the heavily processed foods. By the way, it's no better than high fructose corn syrup either.

Myth #2: Organically grown foods are more nutritious than conventionally grown foods.

A couple of studies that compared organically grown foods with foods grown with regular methods suggest that some organic foods may contain a little more vitamin C, and then other studies show no difference. If there is any nutritional difference between organically grown food and regular food, it's probably minimal.

The main reasons to choose organic foods are to avoid chemicals, such as pesticides, and it may help to support local and sustainable agriculture. But even fruits and vegetables that aren't organic are nutritious and good for your diet.

Myth #3: Brown eggs are more nutritious than white eggs.

The color of eggshells depends on the breeds of chickens that lay them.

The nutritional value is the same on the inside. Eggs of any color shell are an excellent source of protein and lutein, but they're also high in saturated animal fat. Eggs are filling and satiating so eating one or two eggs every day can fit a healthy balanced diet.

Myth # 4: Sea salt is better for you than regular salt.

Salt is salt. It's half sodium and half chloride. Sea salt may have different coloring or slightly different flavoring due to the presence of additional minerals, but the actual benefit of those minerals is virtually non-existent. About the only way eating sea salt helps, is if the larger crystals result in a little less salt use.

Myth #5: Cholesterol-free foods are always good for your heart.

High blood cholesterol levels are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Reducing foods that are high in cholesterol may help a little bit, but not as much as watching your intake of saturated fats and cleaning up your diet in general. Many foods are cholesterol-free and very good for you (all those fruits, vegetables, and whole grains).

But -- a food product can be labeled "cholesterol-free" and still high in fats, sodium, sugar and calories. Which is pretty much the opposite of being good for your heart.

I could add a few more. 'GMO-free' isn't the same as organic, 'gluten-free' isn't automatically healthier, and 'natural' doesn't mean anything at all.

Sources

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, Weight-control Information Network. "Weight-loss and Nutrition Myths." Accessed April 13, 2016. http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/myths.htm.

American Heart Association. "Common Misconceptions About Cholesterol." Accessed April 13, 2016. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/PreventionTreatmentofHighCholesterol/Common-Misconceptions-about-Cholesterol_UCM_305638_Article.jsp.

This content is provided in partnership with National 4-H Council. 4-H healthy living programs help youth learn how to lead lives that balance physical, mental, and emotional health. Learn more by visiting their website.

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