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Five Food Myths That May Be Harming Your Health

 
We’ve all heard the conventional wisdom, either from our doctors or some random studies – fat is bad for you, fish is good, and eggs raise your cholesterol. Unfortunately, much of this advice is not only inaccurate, it could be causing harm as well as robbing you of high-quality nutrients. It could also be keeping you from enjoying some really delicious and satisfying food.
Myth #1: “Low fat” is synonymous with “healthy”
Fats have gotten a lot of bad press, but science is beginning to take issue with this notion. First of all, many low-fat or nonfat foods are loaded with sugar (and therefore, calories), which can be more harmful to health than fats. Second, not all fats are created equal. Many foods high in fat – avocados, olive oil, wild salmon, walnuts – have numerous benefits and can actually help improve health. Even the much-maligned saturated fats may not all be bad for you. Several studies on coconut oil, which is very high in saturated fat, has shown that it may have some real health benefits including lowering blood pressure and preventing tooth decay. In a 2010 analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition involving 21 studies and nearly 350,000 people, scientists discovered that there wasn’t enough proof to link saturated fat to either heart disease or stroke. There are fats you should always avoid – trans fats being the main culprit. In fact, the FDA recently ordered all food manufactures stop using trans fats within three years because of the potential danger they present. As with all things, it is best to eat all fats in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
Myth #2: All fish is good for you
While much fish is good for you – especially wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, and herring (all rich in brain-healthy Omega-3s) – many fish are high in mercury and PCBs, both of which have been found to be harmful to human health. Shark, swordfish and orange roughy have high mercury levels; walleye and farmed salmon are high in PCBs. Imported shrimp, which is nearly 80 percent of what Americans consume, have been shown, in some cases, to contain high levels of banned antibiotics and pesticides.
Myth #3: Eggs are bad for your heart
Eggs are high in dietary cholesterol. That much is true. But there is no evidence that shows that eating eggs raises your serum cholesterol (the number you get from your doctor after a blood test). The Framingham Heart Study examined the serum cholesterol in high versus low egg consumption and found no significant difference in either men or women. In fact, eggs are extremely nutrient-rich and are a source of high-quality protein. According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, regular consumption of eggs may help prevent blood clots, stroke, and heart attacks.
Myth #4: Dairy products are necessary for healthy bones
This is one of the most persistent myths about food. But is it true? Not according to science. Milk is high in calcium and calcium is necessary for bone health. But dark leafy greens – such as kale, watercress, collards and arugula – are high in calcium as are broccoli, almonds, white beans and sardines. Additionally, greens have Vitamin K, another nutrient necessary for bone health. Milk doesn’t. Harvard pediatrician David Ludwig notes that bone fracture rates tend to be lower in countries that do not consume milk, compared with those that do. In a study he published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, Ludwig notes that humans have no nutritional need for animal milk and that “milk consumption does not protect against fractures in adults.”
Myth #5: Foods that are “all natural” are necessarily good for you
The label “all natural” is popping up everywhere these days. There are numerous problems with foods labeled “all natural.” First, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate the term, meaning virtually anyone can use it without substantiating the claim. Second, many “natural” ingredients are harmful to human health – processed sugar, nicotine, and mercury, just to name a few. Finally, many foods labeled “all natural” use genetically modified ingredients. The bottom line is that virtually anything can be called “natural,” making the term meaningless when it’s found on a food label.
This article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Speak to your doctor and/or a registered dietitian if you have questions about your nutritional needs.

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