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4 Nutrition Myths: Busted!

December 7, 2013

We all know that eggs, especially the yolks, are bad for us. So is coconut, whether it be the oil, the milk or the flesh. Low fat foods are healthier, while fruit has too much sugar, and should be avoided.  Well, March is National Nutrition Month- a perfect time to set the record straight about some seemingly irrefutable nutrition truths that simply aren’t true at all.

 

Myth #1: Eggs, especially the yolks, contribute to high cholesterol and heart disease.

This is one of the most strongly held and common misperceptions about food. The fact is, the cholesterol in egg yolks contributes very little to the production of cholesterol in our bodies. Trans fats and certain saturated fats are far more problematic.  Not only are eggs not harmful, they are extremely nutritious.  They are a good source of protein; contain healthful unsaturated fats, as well as choline which is important for brain development and function.  Don’t compromise taste by eating only the white either- it is the yolk that contains the zinc, folate, calcium, Vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as important antioxidants. Even better, the yolk contains lecithin, a compound that has been shown to raise HDL (the “good” cholesterol), and reduce the inflammation that is a key factor in heart disease.

 

Myth #2: Coconut in all its forms contains dangerous saturated fat

Move over, eggs.  Coconut has suffered the same fate, getting unfairly labeled as an unhealthy food when in fact it is rich in nutrients and has many healing properties.  Coconut oil, like all saturated fats, remains solid at room temperature, but there is no reason to run for the liquid vegetable oils.  Much of the fat in coconut is comprised of Medium Chain Triglycerides, or MCT, and these fats are so beneficial to health that they are a key component of baby formula, and intravenous solutions given to critically ill patients. They are easily digested and provide a ready source of energy.  They do not raise cholesterol or contribute to heart disease.  Because coconut also contains a compound called lauric acid, which has the capacity to kill bacteria and viruses, it is used in many cultures for its medicinal properties.  A few human studies indicate that the fat from coconut can actually increase metabolism, and animal research has identified that coconut water has the potential for lowering high blood pressure and reducing inflammation.  Instead of being a dangerous substance, coconut in all its forms is not only delicious, but nutritious and therapeutic as well.

 

#3: Fruits are too high in sugar and should be avoided

While many people try to limit the fat in their diet, for others, carbohydrates have become the enemy, and included in that category is fruit. Fruit has been vilified as having too much sugar, causing weight gain and even diabetes.  Watermelon has been especially victimized for having a high glycemic index (GI), which is an indicator of its power to raise blood sugar.   However,  the GI is calculated based on the amount of glucose in a food, and it takes over 4 cups of watermelon to reach that level. While watermelon may have a higher glycemic index than some fruits, what really matters is something called glycemic load- a measure of the GI balanced by portion size.  When this is taken into account, watermelon, and most fruits, no longer appear artificially dangerous.  What often gets missed in the media sound bite or the ‘diet tip” from a friend or coworker, is that the sugar in fruit is natural and our bodies know how to metabolize it, and that it comes in a package filled with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as well as the essential fiber needed to slow its passage into the bloodstream.  One study after another points to the importance of a plant heavy diet for true health, and rich, brightly colored fruits are a key component of a healthy lifestyle.

 

Myth#4: Low-fat foods are always a better choice than their full fat versions

Have you ever looked at the ingredients in low-fat peanut butter?  How about low-fat salad dressing?  When the fat goes out, ingredients like extra sugar, corn syrup, soy protein, and hydrogenated vegetable oils are added to improve taste and texture.  Yet these synthetic ingredients are worse for our health than the natural fats they are replacing.  Decades of low-fat eating have not helped reduce our incidence of heart disease, diabetes, or cancer.  In fact the numbers have escalated while we flocked to the grocery shelves to buy low-fat versions of our favorite foods.  Peanuts contain beneficial monounsaturated fats, and may even promote weight loss.  Olive oil and vinegar are a far healthier combination to pour over your salad than the chemical cocktail we find on grocery shelves.

 

So go ahead- have a tasty veggie omelet made with whole eggs for breakfast, enjoy a snack of full-fat peanut butter and banana, and bake some coconut crusted salmon for dinner.  All the while you can smile knowingly at those who tell you “the real truth” about these “dangerous” foods.

Vicki Kobliner MS RD, CD-N is a Registered Dietitian and owner of Holcare Nutrition (www.holcarenutrition.com).   Vicki works with infants, children and adults with digestive disorders, food allergies, ADHD, autism and other chronic illness, and provides fertility and prenatal nutrition counseling.  Vicki has extensive experience in using dietary modification, appropriate supplementation and functional lab testing to achieve optimal wellness. She can be reached at 203.834.9949 or vicki@holcarenutrition.com See ad on page

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