Healthy Eating: 5 health myths unraveled

Separating fact from fiction: Find out which of your favorite "health foods" facts are really true and which are simply a ruse.

Fruit and vegetables 370 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Fruit and vegetables 370
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Some conventional food wisdom is great to have; unfortunately a lot of health food advice out there can be downright wrong. While the wealth of information available pertaining to health and nutrition is seriously impressive and a wonderful resource to us all, facts can easily be distorted or even misunderstood leaving many of us feeling confused and misinformed. But how do you know what to believe?
Uncover the truth behind five of the most common food myths and misconceptions out there:
Myth 1: Fat free food equals calorie free
This is a very common myth – so common that many food manufacturers have started printing “Low Fat” or “Fat Free” as a common marketing strategy to prompt consumers to buy. When people want to shed a few pounds, they start swapping regular products for those labeled  “fat free,” “low in fat,” “fat reduced,” etc.
While this is not a bad thing, it's important to understand that fat free food by no means is calorie free. Moreover, when the fat is removed, it is generally replaced with added sugars and even chemicals to replace the lost flavor. As a result, fat free food can therefore be far worse and even more fattening for you than regular full-fat food. Always make sure to check the nutritional label.
Myth 2: Low-fat foods are good for you
Yes it's generally true that cutting out certain high fat foods from your diet can help you lose weight, and will lead to a healthier lifestyle. However, the emphasis is on the word certain. Yes, certain fats – the saturated and trans fat ones. These fats clog your arteries, increasing your risk of heart disease, they also cause inflamation, and have been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers. However, not all fats are evil. Foods rich in unsaturated fats - polyunsaturated and monounsaturated – reduce inflammation and boost your HDL good cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. On top of this, good fats keep you feeling full longer, thereby helping to prevent you from getting hungry between meals and snacking.
Myth 3: Drinking too much water will make you feel bloated
This myth isn’t just false – it’s so false that the complete opposite is true! When you are dehydrated your body tries to hold onto all the water it has, thus making you feel bloated. The more water you drink, the more you will eliminate, thus making water retention a non-issue. The standard advice is to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day (64 ounces in all); however, it does vary depending on your weight. One way to figure out what you need to drink is to multiply your weight in pounds by 0.66 to determine the amount of water you should aim for each day.
Myth 4: Fresh fruits and vegetables always beat frozen
The truth of the matter is eating fruits and vegetables, no matter if they are frozen or fresh, are without doubt one of the best foods groups to eat. Now there is a big debate as to whether or not eating frozen produce can be as nutritious as fresh. While fresh fruits and veggies are loaded in vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting antioxidants, frozen fruits and vegetables can often contain more. As they are flash-frozen shortly after picking, all their nutrients are locked in. Once fruits and vegetables are picked, they start to lose their nutrients, so the longer they need to travel, and the more time they wait before getting to your plate, the less healthy nutrients they will contain.
Myth 5: Natural naturally means better
How many times have you opted for the natural version over the conventional one, because it’s healthier? Now how many times have you actually done this knowing why you are choosing natural?
Many people often confuse natural with organic. However, while organic means that the food item was grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, growth hormones, antibiotics or other chemicals, the truth is that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has not yet defined the word “natural.” In fact, products labeled “all natural” can be highly processed and can even contain synthetic ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, a manufactured sugar.
This column is brought to you as general information only and unless stated otherwise is not medical advice nor is it based on medical experiments. This column is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. For more information about specific problems, please contact a doctor.