Nutrition: myth vs. fact

March is National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme is
“Nutrition:  It’s a Matter of Fact.”  Good nutrition is a part of good health, but the subject of nutrition is one surrounded by confusion and misconceptions, with many myths affecting the food choices people make.  Dispelling those myths can help each person make appropriate food choices that meet his or her health, weight and lifestyle goals.

Myth:  Fresh fruits and vegetables are healthier than frozen or canned.

Fact: Research shows that frozen and canned foods are just as nutritious as fresh fruits and vegetables.  In fact, frozen or canned produce is often picked at the peak of freshness and immediately packaged, minimizing the loss of nutrients that can happen to fresh produce transported over long distances. Nutrients such as lycopene are better absorbed by the body after processing − so canned tomatoes, corn and carrots, rich sources of lycopene, may be the better choice.  It is important to keep in mind that added salt or sugar in some canned items may make them less healthy than fresh produce. Choosing to eat more fruits and vegetables is a wise choice, and the decision to put fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables into the grocery cart should be based upon meeting the needs of the individual or family.

Myth: Eating carbohydrates causes weight gain

Fact: Excess calorie (energy) intake causes weight gain.  Calories come from fat, carbohydrates, protein and alcohol; the calories in carbohydrates are no more fattening than calories from another source.  Foods containing carbohydrates—such as whole grains, fruits and milk − are also sources of important nutrients.  When striving to achieve weight loss, shrinking portion size while maintaining a balanced diet is a more appropriate strategy than eliminating entire food groups.

Myth: Eating just before bedtime is fattening.

Fact: What food is eaten, not the time of day, makes the difference. Research does suggest that eating regular meals, especially breakfast, can help promote weight loss by reducing food intake and minimizing impulsive snacking. A strategy of cutting out late night snacking may help some individuals lose weight, because those late night snacks may simply be a source of excess calories.

Myth: Eating sugar causes diabetes.

Fact: Diabetes is caused either by a lack of insulin in the body (Type 1 diabetes) or the inability of insulin to be effective in the body (Type 2 diabetes). Sugary foods may be high in calories and may contribute to weight gain, and people who are overweight are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. Maintaining a healthy body weight and exercising regularly are two important strategies for reducing the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.

Myth: Occasionally following a fad diet is a safe way to quickly lose weight.

Fact: Most fad diets are developed by people with no science or health background, so some fad diets may be harmful for people with certain health conditions. Following a diet that restricts certain foods, or whole food groups, can compromise health and lead to nutrient deficiencies. A long term strategy for weight loss that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise and moderate portions is the safest, best approach. Consult a registered dietitian for specific strategies to assist with weight loss or other nutrition goals.

Good nutrition is essential for good health, peak physical fitness and optimal work and school performance. Knowing the facts about nutrition is essential for making wise food choices.

(Courtesy of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center)