10 Food, Health And Diet Myths Which Refuse To Die

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The CSIRO, Australia’s science organisation, is about to publish a handy book, The Explainer, which as the title suggests describes in simple language some of life mysteries.

The book is written by those academics and experts at The Conversation who excel at making the complex understandable.

Business Insider Australia has selected 10 enduring myths about food, health and diet. We’ve included links to the original articles which have now been gathered for the book:

Organic food is more nutritious
Neither organic nor conventional food is better or worse than the other. But as the demand for organic food increases, so does the myth that it must have higher nutrient values. Whether you eat organic or non-organic produce is up to you. But factors to consider are cost, nutrition, taste and environmental impact. (Clare Collins, Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Newcastle)

Low fat diets are better for weight loss
We have now been advised to reduce our fat intakes for over 30 years, and low-fat products flood our supermarkets and food courts. Sadly, however, our waistlines have continued to expand and our fat intakes have not reduced. Just because a food is low in fat doesn’t mean it’s low in kilojoules. The bottom line is that when it comes to weight loss, watch the total kilojoules, because it’s excess kilojoules rather than dietary fat that leads to weight gain. (Clare Collins, Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Newcastle)

MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) is a dangerous toxin
Asthma, addiction, obesity, headaches – MSG gets the blame. However, MSG is a naturally occurring amino acid found in protein rich foods such as meat, fish, chicken and dairy. Many fast food outlets, not just the local Chinese restaurant, add MSG as a flavour enhancer. “The consensus among clinicians and scientists is that MSG is safe for human health. Very high doses may affect some people for a short time but there may be far more dangerous consequences that come from overeating.” (Merlin Thomas, adjunct professor, Preventative Medicine, Barker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute)

Leave leftovers to cool before refrigerating
Dodgy kebabs aren’t the only source of food poisoning. Once cooked food cools to below 60C (roughly when the steam stops rising), bacteria which survived the cooking process start to multiply. The longer the food is left to cool the longer the potential food poisoning causing bacteria have to do their work. “If you’re in doubt about the risk of something you finding lurking in your fridge or freezer, throw it out.” (Clare Collins, Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics, Newcastle University)

Fruit Juice is healthier than soft drink
“One of the biggest assumptions about fruit juice is it must be healthy because it’s full of ‘natural sugars’. Fruit juice does contain natural sugar, which is a mix of fructose, sucrose and glucose, but the quantity (and kilojoules) is on par with soft drinks. For someone struggling to keep their weight in check, drinking too much fruit juice or soft drink will make it hard to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. If you feel the need for a drink, water is your best choice. And when it comes to fruit, eat it, don’t drink it.” (Tim Crowe, Associate Professor in Nutrition at Deakin University)

Fish Oil is good for the heart
“Efforts to encourage Australians to eat more fish should push on, because preferring fish to red meat is still a worthwhile change for other health reasons. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that having a quarter of the population on fish oil as a preventive supplement is an unjustifiable expense.” (Michael Vagg, Clinical Senior Lecturer at Deakin University School of Medicine & Pain Specialist at Barwon Health)

You need eight hours of continuous sleep each night
“There’s no doubt that the eight-hour solid sleep myth is a relatively recent cultural imposition. But probably the greatest negative impact of the eight-hour sleep myth is its power to create insomniacs out of good sleepers who experience normal awakenings across the night.” (Leon Lack, Professor of Psychology at Flinders University)

Eat for two during pregnancy
“While it might be nice to indulge during pregnancy, the ‘eating-for-two’ myth should be discarded to give babies the best chance of optimal development and future health.” (Susie de Jersey, PhD Scholar and Lecturer at Queensland University of Technology)

Detox diets cleanse your body
“Detox diets may do little harm to most people, except perhaps for their bank balance, but neither do they do a lot of good just on their own. Concerted changes to diet and lifestyle habits are far more valuable than detox diets and supplements.” (Tim Crowe, Associate Professor in Nutrition at Deakin University)

Take a vitamin a day for better health
“Medical problems that arise due to excessive intakes of vitamins and minerals are almost always due to intakes of supplements. To develop toxicity from vitamins in food you’d have to eat excessive amounts of specific foods such as carrots (which could make your skin turn yellow) or liver (vitamin A toxicity would leave you with blurred vision, dizziness, nausea and headaches). There are, however, people with health conditions or in a particular life stage when they really need vitamins. This includes people with chronic medical problems (such as cystic fibrosis, coeliac disease, pancreatitis), people on restrictive diets to achieve rapid weight loss, those with conditions that interfere with their ability to eat properly. Women planning a pregnancy also require additional nutrients. Folic acid supplements are strongly recommended in early pregnancy to reduce the risk of having a baby with neural-tube defects such as spina bifida. Let’s leave vitamin supplements to those who need them, and call this myth busted.” (Clare Collins, Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics, Newcastle University)

The Explainer book is found here.

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