Our Top 5 Nutrition Myths, Debunked

Ever feel like the world of nutrition is just plain confusing? One day an ingredient is touted as super-healthy…and the next a report comes out saying it’s the worst thing you can eat. We totally feel you on this, and we are here to help you cut through some of the noise. Since we opened our doors, we’ve noticed that we hear some of the same comments over and over again – whether it’s about calorie content, carbs, fat or veggies in general. So this week, we want to take on five of the most stubborn food myths, and give you our side of the story.

Myth #1: Calories are the enemy

We are here to tell you that calories are not the enemy. To understand why you shouldn’t be afraid of a calorie, it helps to know just what it is. A calorie is a measure of energy – the amount of energy it takes to increase the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius. And the calories in food are the fuel your body needs to move, breathe, think and…basically just exist.

Now, it’s true that if you eat way too many calories, you’re more likely to gain weight. But that does not mean that all calorie-rich foods are unhealthy. Far from it! Instead of reading calorie counts, look at the nutritional values of your food. For example, if you eat 100 calories of protein, you’ll expend about 30% of those calories just digesting it! Compare that to 100 “empty” calories coming from white bread or a sugary drink, and you can see that there’s no comparison in terms of satiety and nutritional benefits. Plus, healthy foods like veggies and whole grains have a built-in safeguard against overeating: they’re really dense and filling, so it’s almost impossible to eat too much.

Planning a diet? A recent study found that it might be more effective to ignore calorie counts and simply cut back on added sugar, refined grains and processed foods – filling your plate with whole grains, fruits, veggies and heart-healthy fats. After one year of following these guidelines, the vast majority of the people in this study lost 10-13 pounds and saw huge improvements in body fat, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. So, counting calories? It’s not a magic bullet. You’re way better off following a balanced diet and just eating real food.

Myth #2: All fat is bad for you

Here’s another misconception that just breaks our hearts. Not only are some fats NOT bad for you – they can be extremely beneficial! We need fat in our diets, to give us energy, help build cell walls, protect our organs and to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K. And to be honest, a little bit of fat just makes food taste better – and more satisfying. While like all things it’s best not to totally overdo it, you should aim to get 20-35% of your daily calories from fat – which works out to 44-77 grams per day.

The trick is knowing what kind of fat you’re eating. While saturated fats found in butter and red meat are best eaten in moderation (and trans fats from processed foods shouldn’t have a place in your diet at all), unsaturated fats have a host of benefits and can even help lower your cholesterol. Try to swap out your butter for olive oil whenever you can, and make sure your diet is rich in nuts, olives, avocados and (if you’re not following a plant-based diet) fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel. Trust us – your heart will thank you.

Myth #3: All carbs are fattening

And that brings us to the newest dietary public enemy #1: carbohydrates. Seeing as carbs give your body energy and help you focus, we’re not sure why they get such a bad rap. Just think about it. Carbohydrates all come from plant sources – and we know that plant-based foods are packed with vitamins, minerals fibre and tons of other good stuff.

A lot of people think carbs only come from bread, pasta and rice…but don’t forget that they’re also found in lots of healthy veggies and dairy products. Not to mention whole grains like quinoa and brown rice, which are full of fibre and proven to reduce your risk of weight gain. So if you’re trying to eat a balanced diet, make sure you have some whole grains and starchy veggies on your plate. Sure, it’s a good idea to limit your intake of the processed simple carbs found in white bread, cookies and cakes – but that doesn’t mean that all carbohydrates are bad!

Myth #4: You can only get protein from animal products

As a salad restaurant, this is a question we get all too often: “Where’s the protein?” Some people seem to believe that if a dish doesn’t have meat or dairy in it, it’s protein-free. And that just couldn’t be farther from the truth. Of course you probably know that you can get vegetarian protein from soy products, beans, lentils and even whole grains. But did you know that a lot of veggies are also a natural source of protein?

You can get 8 g of protein from a baked potato – along with a great serving of potassium and vitamin C. A serving of broccoli will give you 4 g – and kale comes with 2 g per cup (along with vitamins A, C, K and just about every mineral you can think of)! Peas are another great source of plant-based protein, with 8 g per cup, as is cooked spinach – coming in at 5 g per cup. Even corn contains with 5 g of protein per cup. So next time you’re served a bowl of veggies, don’t panic that you’re skipping the protein. And if that bowl comes with a serving of quinoa, tofu or black beans…then you are seriously golden.

Myth #5: Fruits and veggies aren’t filling

Here’s another one that just makes us sad. So many people out there seem to believe that fruits and veggies are just “rabbit food” – and that they won’t be satiating enough as a full meal. Well, the Satiety Index says otherwise! Generally speaking, the foods that lead to the strongest feelings of “fullness” are high in protein, fibre and/or water. And while you just learned that fresh produce can deliver some protein, you should also know that most fruits and veggies are packed with both fibre and water, especially when boiled or steamed.

What are your best bets? Apples are an amazing source of fibre and water, and also contain pectin, a soluble fibre which has been proven to be seriously satiating. Cauliflower is also an amazing choice – not only is it packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals…it also has a mild taste that lends itself to just about every recipe under the sun. Next up: carrots – a satisfying snack that’s sweet without being high in sugar, and loaded with fibre to help you feel satiated. Like cauliflower, they’re also amazingly easy to sneak into other recipes for a little extra bulk and vitamin content. Finally, it’s tough to beat the mighty avocado. Research has shown that adding half an avocado to your meal will make you feel more satiated and decrease your desire to keep eating. We love you, avocados!

In conclusion…

So what’s the big lesson here? One is that there’s no single solution to a healthy diet. Obsessively counting calories or cutting out huge food groups might work for some people, but generally speaking, your best bet is always to strive for balance, seeking out whole foods and eating as much fresh produce as you can lay your hands on. Balance and moderation might not sell diet books or make news headlines as easily as fad diets, but we believe that a truly healthy diet should change your relationship with food for the better, rather than feeling like you’re punishing yourself.

Thoughts? We want to hear them! Email us at blog@madradish.com. Happy eating, folks.