Open Accessibility Menu

Top 5 Nutrition Myths Busted

  • Posted On:

Hoag Orthopedic Institute recently sat down with our Clinical Dietician Chris Small, MSc RD to ask him to “weigh in” on some common myths about nutrition and help set the record straight.

Here are his researched thoughts on some of the most common misconceptions:

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

Fact: Frozen fruits and vegetables are as nutritious as fresh, but canned options are normally not. While canned fruits and vegetables tend to lose a lot of nutrients during the preservation process, some canned foods, such as spinach and pumpkin, actually have higher amounts of vitamin A than their fresher counterparts. With that being said, canned fruits and vegetables have a tendency to be higher in sodium and added sugar. Regarding frozen fruits and vegetables, they may be even more healthful than some of the fresh produce sold in supermarkets. Fruits and vegetables chosen for freezing tend to be processed at their peak ripeness. The “flash-freezing” process locks the vegetables in a relatively nutrient-rich state, where-as some fresh produce may spend days or even weeks being transported from the farm or orchard to the supermarket.

Tips: When fruits and vegetables are in season, buy them fresh and ripe, but when they not in season, buy them frozen. Choose packages marked with a USDA “U.S. Fancy” shield, which designates produce of the best size, shape and color. You still may want to eat frozen fruits and vegetables soon after purchase as over many months, nutrients in the frozen state do degrade eventually. When it is necessary to buy canned fruits and/or vegetables, look for the lower sodium option, choose produce that is canned in water instead of juices or syrups and if canned in syrup, rinse before consuming. Lastly, steam or microwave rather than boil your produce to minimize the loss of water-soluble vitamins (vitamins C, B1, B2, B3, folate).

2.) Myth: Fat-Free and Low-Fat foods have fewer calories and will help you lose weight.

Fact: Some “fat-free” and “low-fat” foods actually have the same or even more calories than regular varieties. Food companies will sometimes substitute the flavor lost by taking out the fat by replacing it with extra sugar, flour or starch thickeners. It is very easy to be fooled into thinking you are eating a food that has less calories just because it is marked “fat-free” or “low-fat. Make sure to check the food labels of these items for the serving size and the number of calories per serving.

3.) Myth: Eating carbohydrates causes weight gain.

Fact: Carbohydrates don’t cause weight gain….calories cause weight gain. Excess carbohydrates are no more fattening than calories from any source. A high carbohydrate does not promote fat storage by enhancing insulin resistance, but can promote fat storage if consumed in quantities that are more than the body can store. When choosing to eat foods higher in carbohydrates, focus on “complex” carbohydrates such as whole grains (whole wheat breads, pastas, brown rice, cereals), whole fruits/vegetables, legumes, and soy products. These complex carbohydrates are higher in fiber and make you feel full longer. Try to limit your intakes of “refined” carbohydrates such pastries, pretzels, white bread products, white rice, flour tortillas and of course sugar. These refined carbohydrates provide little nutritional value and are associated with fatigue and irritability caused by quick changes in blood sugar. The Adequate Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) for grams of carbohydrates is 45-65% of total calories per day (for a 2,000 calorie diet this is 225-325 g/d). Carbohydrate intakes should be more closely controlled if you are diabetic.

4.) Myth: Eating just before bedtime is fattening.

Fact: Calories have the same effect on the body no matter when they are consumed. So it’s not when you eat, but rather what you eat. Research has shown that eating regular meals, including breakfast, helps promote weight loss by reducing fat intake and minimizing impulsive snacking.

5.) Myth: Eating sugar causes diabetes.

Fact: Diabetes is a chronic disease characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream. It is caused by the body’s inability to move sugar (glucose) from the blood stream into the fat, liver and muscle cells which are stored for energy. This is because the body’s pancreas does not make enough insulin (the hormone which signals the fat, liver and muscle cells to accept the sugar) or the cells do not respond to insulin normally. Research has shown that people who are overweight or obese are at greater risk for developing diabetes. It is likely the weight gained by overweight and obese individuals (which is likely contributed to the consumption of foods high in fat and sugar) is much more contributable to a person developing type-2 diabetes than the sugary foods themselves. A moderate weight loss of 5-10% of body weight has been shown to significantly reduce your risk of developing type-2 diabetes. A healthy well-balanced diet in addition to at least 30 minutes of exercise per day is the key to treating and preventing diabetes. When visiting your physician, ask to have your blood sugars tested to see where your levels are.

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

Fact: Many fad diets are created by people with little to no science or health backgrounds and include principles that can be considered harmful to people with certain medical problems. When trying to lose weight, it is best to consult your physician and/or a registered dietitian for guidance.

Chris Small, MSc, RD, was born and raised in Orange County. He became interested in nutrition after learning of the effects nutrition can have on several chronic diseases, including those that have personally affected his own family. Chris SmallChris became a Registered Dietitian after receiving his Bachelors of Science degree in 2009 and completing his Dietetic Internship through California State University, Long Beach in 2010. He will also be completing his Masters of Science degree in Nutritional Science through CSULB at the end of summer 2013. Chris is currently the Clinical Dietitian at Hoag Orthopedic Institute as well as at Hoag Hospital Newport Beach. Chris likes to stay active by playing basketball, participating in 5Ks and mud runs, and being a first time Dad to his infant baby girl, Elizabeth.