10 Nutrition Myths Debunked

In honor of Women's Health Week, here are 10 health myths no woman needs to listen to again!

Myth #1: Fresh produce is superior to canned or frozen produce.

Canned and frozen produce have nutrient contents comparable to that of even the freshest produce. But did you know that some "fresh" produce is picked long before it reaches the store? In this case, frozen may be fresher than fresh! Additionally, canned and frozen produce can be a helpful way to get more variety during winter, when fresh produce is either not available or too expensive.

The bottom line: Any vegetable is better than no vegetable at all.

Myth #2: Gluten is evil. If you cut it out, you will lose weight.

The gluten-free diet is not a weight-loss diet. In fact, there is no evidence that gluten itself causes weight gain. On the other hand, a diet consisting of whole grains (both gluten-containing and gluten-free varieties), fresh produce and lean meats, and that is low in refined carbs will leave you feeling better and more energized, and help you lose weight since you will be fuller longer.

The bottom line: The only people who need to avoid gluten are those who have a diagnosed autoimmune or digestive disorder such as celiac disease.

Myth #3: Organic food is healthier than conventional food.

Some studies comparing organic produce to conventional produce indicate that organic produce may have higher levels of vitamin C. However, these studies have not proven conclusively that organic produce is healthier than conventionally grown produce overall. There are a multitude of studies showing the benefits of conventional fruit and vegetable consumption.

The bottom line: Your emphasis should be on meeting fruit and vegetable intake, whether organic or not.

Myth #4: Sugar is bad; high-fructose corn syrup is of the devil.

High-fructose corn syrup is a man-made sweetener found in many types of processed foods and sweetened beverages. Currently, there is no evidence to show that high-fructose corn syrup is any less healthy than other types of sweeteners.

The bottom line: Too much added sugar, from any source, is not good for you.

Myth #5: Alcohol is good for you.

Recent studies have shown that alcohol may not be linked as strongly to disease prevention as previously thought, and that the adverse effects of alcohol consumption may outweigh the benefits. For instance, regular consumption of alcohol is directly associated with increased risk of developing several types of cancer, and the more alcohol you drink, the higher your risk. 

The bottom lineIf you consume alcohol, do so in moderation. This means consumption of no more than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men. And, do not consume it for the health benefits.

Myth #6: Taking a daily multivitamin promotes health.

Unless you have a deficiency, nutrients are best absorbed from foods, which contain vitamins and minerals in addition to dietary fiber and other natural compounds. This combination of nutrients will have overall positive health benefits that you can’t get from multivitamins.

The bottom lineRoutine supplementation in healthy individuals is not necessary.

Myth #7: Eating protein builds muscle.

Eating protein does not build muscle. Only exercise can build muscle! Regardless of whether you are an avid marathon runner or someone who enjoys regular physical activity, you will benefit from a balanced diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and fish. 

The bottom lineCover just a quarter to a third of your plate with protein and your body will handle the rest!

Myth #8: Milk is essential for bone health.

Low calcium intake is linked to low bone mass and weakened bones. However, milk is not the only source of calcium in our diets. Non-dairy sources of calcium include leafy green vegetables such as collards and bok choy, plus soy products and baked beans.

The bottom lineIn addition to calcium, other bone-building nutrients include potassium, magnesium, vitamin K and vitamin D.

Myth #9: Skinny is healthy.

Weight is not a good indicator of health. Someone can be in the normal BMI range, but not be fit. Alternatively, if someone is above the normal BMI range and is fit, they have better health outcomes than someone of the same BMI who isn't fit.

The bottom lineInstead of focusing on getting thin, focus on getting fit.

Myth #10: Your body needs a "cleanse" — whether a juice cleanse or a colon cleanse — every once in a while.

Our bodies already have a built-in detox system — our lungs, liver, kidneys and digestive tract all work together to eliminate toxins from our bodies. Detox diets set you up for even more weight gain when you go off of them, since they typically result in muscle loss.

The bottom line: Long-term detoxing will deprive your body of the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients it needs to function. Choose an eating pattern that promotes health.

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Julie Lanford
Julie Lanford, MPH, RD, LDN, is wellness director for Cancer Services, Inc., in Winston-Salem, N.C. She blogs at CancerDietitian.com and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.