November 18, 2013 at 11:53 AM
Nutritional misinformation, misperceptions, and myths are often passed along so repeatedly and for so long that they become accepted as solid facts. Here are eight misconceptions that I often hear from clients and friends, along with the real skinny behind the inaccuracies.Myth No. 1: Sea salt has less sodium than regular table salt
Reality: The sodium content isn't much different, with about 480 mg per quarter-teaspoon of sea salt, compared to 580 mg per quarter-teaspoon of regular table salt. One benefit of sea salt is that it has larger granules than table salt, which means that it takes longer to dissolve on the tongue, so we can use less of it and still get the same impact.Myth No. 2: Muscle turns to fat if you stop exercising.
Reality: Muscle turning into fat would be like a chicken breast turning into butter, or fish turning into oil. They're two completely separate entities, two totally different types of cells, and one can't evolve into the other. It's worth noting, however, that muscle burns lots of calories even at rest, so losing muscle does make it easier to put on body fat.
So what about those once-muscular people who are now soft and jiggly? They've clearly lost muscle mass, especially if they're not training like they used to. And if they didn't adjust their diet for their reduced level of activity, they have likely gained body fat. . But their muscle didn't turn into fat.Myth No. 3: You should follow a low-fat diet if you have high cholesterol
Reality: Too often I hear people say that they've cut nearly all of the fat from their diet in order to reduce their bad LDL cholesterol levels, eliminating things like nuts, oils, and guacamole. Unfortunately, slashing fat intake too drastically can cause 'good' HDL levels to drop as well. And foods rich in monounsaturated fats like nuts, olive oil, and avocados help to lower total cholesterol and bad LDL cholesterol, without dropping good HDL cholesterol. So that dab of nut butter on an apple or those veggies dipped into a few spoonfuls of guacamole is just fine - and actually quite beneficial for your cholesterol levels.Myth No. 4: Steer clear of pineapples because they're full of sugar.
Reality: Nearly all fruits are high in sugar, but they're also good sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. And ounce-for-ounce, pineapple actually has fewer carbs and calories than blueberries, raspberries, or apples. Bananas take the lead in calorie-dense fresh fruit, with at least 50 percent more carbs than many other varieties of fresh fruit. The low-sugar leader in fresh fruit is raspberries, which also happen to have the highest fiber content of traditional fresh fruit.Myth No. 5: If it's organic (or vegan or gluten free), it's good for you
Reality: There's a 'health halo' that surrounds certain foods that makes organic cheese puffs, vegan cookies or gluten-free pastries somehow seem 'better' than their conventional counterparts. And while they may be 'better' in the sense that they don't have add-ins like artificial food colorings or white sugar, they're often still loaded with sugar (organic cane juice, honey, and agave are still considered 'added' sugar) and don't provide much nutritional value. Don't be swayed by a label. Take a closer look and see what you're really getting. And keep in mind that, with a few exceptions, most store-bought snacks and sweets are still just 'sometimes' foods, even If they're organic, vegan, or gluten free.Myth No. 6: We should all eat more whole grains
Reality: We've all heard the message to switch to whole grains, which is a good thing, because they have more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than refined, processed grains. But not everyone needs more whole grains, particularly those who aren't very active or are insulin resistant.
Whole grains can be calorie-dense, meaning they pack a lot of calories into a little space. Quinoa and brown rice, for example, have 220 calories per cup. Cooked spinach, by comparison, has 80 percent fewer calories, with the same amount of fiber and more than twice as much iron.
So instead of across-the-board messaging to "incorporate whole grains," for those watching calories, it may be better to opt for non-starchy veggies like spinach, mushrooms, and roasted peppers in place of at least a portion of those whole grains.Myth No. 7: It's gotta be fresh.
Reality: When it comes to fruits and vegetables, we may prefer the taste and texture of fresh versus frozen, but the reality is that the nutritional value of frozen is as good as fresh, and in some cases, it's better. Here's why: Produce is picked when ripe, then is flash frozen, which preserves nutrients. And some frozen fruits and veggies may be even more nutrient-dense than the fresh versions, since nutrient levels start to drop in the time it takes for the produce to go from harvest to store shelves. If you opt for frozen, just be sure you're getting fruits with no sugar added, and veggies without creamy or sugary sauces. And of course fresh fruits and veggies are fabulous, just don't think that they're your only option, nutritionally speaking.Myth No. 8: All carbs are equal
Reality: Whether you're counting carbs because you're watching your weight or looking to keep blood sugars in check, it's important to know that not all carbs are the same.
Typically, carbs like those found in white or whole wheat flour, brown rice, or sugar have four calories per gram. But over the past decade or so, sugar alcohols and isolated fibers have changed the 'rules' as they pertain to carbs and calories.
Sugar alcohols like erythritol can be as low as 0.2 calories per gram, and isolated fibers like inulin have just 1.1 to 1.3 calories per gram, but each still provides a bulk and texture similar to their higher-calorie counterparts.
So keep checking total carbs when you're looking at labels, but take a closer look to see just where the carbs are coming from. The American Diabetes Association recommends the following guidelines to account for fiber and sugar alcohol when counting carbs:
If a food has 5 or more grams of dietary fiber per serving, subtract half the grams of fiber from the total grams of carbohydrate in a serving. If a food has 5 or more grams of sugar alcohols per serving, subtract half the grams of sugar alcohol from the total grams of carbohydrate in a serving.
So for example, if a food has 8 grams of sugar alcohol, 10 grams of fiber and 25 grams of total carbohydrate per serving, you would subtract 4 grams of sugar alcohol and 5 grams fiber from the total, yielding 16 grams of 'impact' carbohydrates. See www.diabetes.org
for more details and examples. Molly Kimball is a registered dietitian in New Orleans. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org://www.nola.com/healthy-eating/2013/11/myth-busting_the_nutritional_f.html