Healthy Eating: Rumor has it

Red wine is good for the heart; caffeine dehydrates you etc. Here are five major health myths put to rest.

Wine (photo credit: MCT)
(photo credit: MCT)
You’re out to dinner with friends and one of them makes a bold statement concerning the health properties about a certain food. And because the friend seems confident there is a tendency to believe them. But do they really know what they are talking about?
It is because of these confident friends that many people believe that celery has negative calories or that grapefruits burn. Or maybe that brown eggs are more nutritious than white eggs?  Or that coconuts are the most fattening food ever.
Considering the overwhelming amount of health information or misinformation floating around, it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. So to lend you a helping hand here are five nutritional myths debunked.
Red wine is the only heart-friendly alcohol
For years we've heard that a glass of red wine each day can benefit the heart as it's loaded with antioxidants that have a positive effect on cholesterol. While a glass of red wine a day is certainly good for you, the reason apparently has little to do with the drink’s antioxidant content and more to do with its alcohol content. Recent studies have found alcohol – or rather ethanol – actually boosts HDL levels (good cholesterol), which help protect against plaque buildup in the arteries and reduce clotting factors that contribute to heart attacks and strokes.
So whether you prefer red or white, beer or liquor don’t be hesitant about raising a glass a day to your heart and health. However, be careful not to raise too many as studies have found that more than one glass of alcohol a day will most definitely do more harm than good to your heart and health.
Organic Food has more nutrients than conventional food
While organic food contains no pesticides, hormones or artificial ingredients, when it comes to the actual nutrients in foods, there is no difference between organic and conventional.  An apple, whether it is organic or conventional, still contains the same amount of vitamins, fiber and antioxidants. Unfortunately, marketers today have seized the word organic and have begun labeling everything from produce to cereals to cookies with the term in an effort to make consumers believe that organic means high in nutrients.
Multi-grain and whole grain are the same
Many of us find ourselves in the bread aisle trying to decide between multi-grain and whole grain bread. After all, the two look the same and they certainly taste similar, so aren’t they really the same? Unfortunately no.
While these two-grain products may have a similar appearance, underneath the surface they are very different. So what’s the difference? Multi-grain, as the name suggests, means that the product contains multiple grains. The most common grains included in multi-grain foods are oats, buckwheat, cracked wheat, flax and millet. While some multi-grain products contain whole-grains, unless it is explicitly stated, don’t bet on it.
So what is all the fuss about whole grains? For a product to be considered whole wheat, it must contain the “whole grain”: the endosperm, bran and germ. When the grain is refined, the outer parts of the grain (the bran and the germ layer) are removed and as a result so are the majority of the grain’s nutrients – fiber, many B Vitamins and iron. So while multi-grain is fine, whole grain, when it comes to any wheat based product, is certainly far superior.
All saturated fats raise blood cholesterol
For decades research suggested that saturated fat wasn’t just unhealthy, it could potentially kill you. While that statement might be a bit extreme, for years many of us have linked saturated fat with heart disease, cancer and other ailments. However, today more and more studies have found that not all saturated fat is the same, and more importantly not all saturated fat is harmful. In fact, some of it may be beneficial.
Studies have found that stearic acid, the type of saturated fat found in dairy, meats as well as cocoa does not raise LDL “bad” cholesterol but in fact boosts beneficial HDL cholesterol. None the less, the benefits of stearic acid are still being studied, and by no means do the health benefits compare to heart healthy unsaturated fats.
Caffeine dehydrates
This myth that drinking coffee, tea or any beverage high in caffeine will in fact dehydrate you as it acts as a diuretic has been around for years. Fortunately for many of us caffeine addicts out there, this myth is absolutely false. Unless you consume massive amounts of caffeine – enough to make you way more than just jittery, caffeine will not make you lose water and will not lead to dehydration.
This column is brought to you as general information only and should not be a replacement for professional advice.