It’s crucial to understand which foods can make a good diet and bad – which can be confusing if you’re not a full-time nutritionist. Just search “food myths” on the web, and you will find countless articles on the subject fueled up by bro-science, misinformation or misinterpreted research.
If you’re looking for some clarity on what you should and shouldn’t eat, here are four common food myths to look out for.
MYTH #1: Sweet Potatoes Are More Nutritious Than White Potatoes
Most of us have passed over white potatoes because we feel they don’t offer us much than starch, but this is not exactly true. While it is true that white potatoes are a source of simple carbohydrates – providing about 30 grams per 200 gram serving – they also provide 5 grams of fiber, along with 32% of your daily value of vitamin C and 20% of your daily value of vitamin B6. They are also high in minerals such as iron, magnesium and potassium. Compared this to sweet potatoes, which provide 40 grams of carbs per 200 grams serving, along with 6 grams of fiber, 566% of your daily value of vitamin A and 20% of your daily value of vitamin B6. In a face-to-face comparison, the difference is minimal.
THE TRUTH: Both white and sweet potatoes can be used for specific function in your diet. Eat white potatoes after your workouts when you need a simple carbohydrate that will absorb quickly, while sweet potatoes are better eaten throughout the day.
MYTH #2: Egg Whites Are Better Than Whole Eggs
Whole eggs were considered the bad guy when it came to cholesterol. Many studies in the past pointed to yolk as the culprit, hence egg whites became the new trend. Egg whites do provide a source of high quality protein that is fat free – but remove the yolk and you miss out on all kinds of essential nutrients, including vitamin D, B12, choline and selenium, along with the cholesterol. Eating whole eggs has been associated with better appetite control, satiety and improved weight management. Recent research on whole eggs has shown that egg consumption is not associated with increased risk for heart disease. One study showed that HDL cholesterol – the good cholesterol actually increased when subjects consumed a carbohydrate-restricted diet including 3 whole eggs daily for 13-weeks. Another study found no significant impact on LDL or bad cholesterol levels when 2 eggs were eaten daily for 12-weeks.
THE TRUTH: Cholesterol in your diet is actually important; it can help make important hormones including the almighty testosterone. So instead of just egg whites, try adding in a few whole nutritious eggs for your next breakfast.
MYTH #3: Brown Rice Is Better Than White Rice
Nutritionally speaking, there is only about a 5 gram difference in carbohydrates between brown and white rice. Brown rice delivers 2 grams of dietary fiber and only 23 grams of carbohydrates, while white rice delivers 28 grams of carbohydrates and less than ½ gram of fiber per 100 gram serving. This fiber content ensures brown rice is digested much slower, providing a sustained release of energy and keeping blood glucose levels balanced. White rice, on the other hand, delivers a pure simple carb that gets broken down and absorbed quickly by the body, resulting in a spike in blood glucose and insulin levels. This one major difference between brown rice and white rice may have you thinking that brown rice is better for you – but that’s not exactly the case. Brown rice is high in phytic acid, considered an anti-nutrient, which can prevent digestion of important minerals but also effect protein balance in the body!
One study compared a diet that consisted of white rice to a diet consisting mostly of brown rice. The brown rice diet had almost 3 times more dietary fiber than the white rice diet. The brown rice diet resulted in less digestion of protein and fat, as well as a reduction in absorption of important minerals sodium, potassium and vitamin K.
THE TRUTH: Although white rice maybe higher in simple sugars, most of the time it’s not eaten alone. When eaten with vegetables and protein, the glycemic index can be reduced, preventing blood glucose spikes and slowing absorption of the glucose.
MYTH #4: Eating Red Meat Is Bad For You
Red meat often gets a bad rap as being a key food that can increase risk of cardiovascular disease. While it is true that eating a diet high in saturated fat can result in higher levels of LDL (bad cholesterol), there are a lot of benefits found in red meat that can’t be ignored. Red meat is high in iron, zinc, and vitamin B12 and is a great source of protein – including essential amino acids and creatine. And although red meat does contain saturated fat and cholesterol, this type of fat can help make hormones including testosterone.
THE TRUTH: The key is to eat a balanced diet and limit your red meat intake to only a few times per week. Choose only lean cuts of meat such as eye of round, filet and flank.
Harman, NL, Leeds, AR, Griffin, BA. Increased dietary cholesterol does not increase plasma low-density lipoprotein when accompanied by an energy- restricted diet and weight loss. Eur J Nutr. 2009. 4 (6): 287- 93.
Miyoshi H, et al. Effects of brown rice on digestibility and balance of nutrients in young men on low protein diets. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol. 1987. 33(3): 207-18.
Mutungi, G, et al. Dietary cholesterol from eggs increases plasma HDL cholesterol in overweight men consuming a carbohydrate- restricted diet. J Nutr. 2008. 138 (2): 272-6.