MYTHBUSTERS

Truth or Myth: Dark chocolate is a healthy food

 

Many of us enjoy eating sweets, but is dark chocolate a healthier choice for satisfying those cravings? Dark chocolate has a higher percentage of cocoa than milk chocolate, resulting in less added sugar. Dark chocolate also contains antioxidants, which may help lower blood pressure and protect your heart.  All varieties of chocolate contain calories that can add up quickly. When shopping for dark chocolate, check the ingredients list to ensure that cocoa is the first ingredient and not sugar.

Verdict: It depends. Don’t replace healthier foods with dark chocolate, instead enjoy eating dark chocolate in moderation. Remember that fruits and vegetables also contain antioxidants as well as fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making them the healthier snack choice.

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Truth or Myth: Greek Yogurt is Better for You than Regular Yogurt

 

With so many yogurt options to choose from, it can be difficult to understand the differences between them. Greek yogurt involves thickening the yogurt by either removing the whey (liquid portion) or adding thickening powders. Both of these result in a higher protein content than regular yogurt. When it comes to fat and sugar content, Greek yogurt can vary just as widely as regular yogurt. The best tool for comparing yogurt is the Nutrition Facts label.

Verdict: It depends. Yogurt, even Greek yogurt, can vary significantly in their nutritional value. Therefore, it would not be accurate to say that Greek yogurt is better for you than regular yogurt. All yogurt contains an important mineral, calcium, and can be part of a healthy diet. Use the Nutrition Facts label to choose a yogurt with the amount of calories, fat, sugar, and protein that meet the needs of you and your family.

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Truth or Myth: Ice Cream is a Good Source of Calcium

 

According to MyPlate, ice cream is placed in the milk group and milk products are generally considered to be good sources of calcium. In order to be considered a “good” source of calcium, a food or drink must contain at least 100 milligrams of calcium per serving. Children aged 5 to 8 need 1000 milligrams of calcium a day and children aged 9 to 18 need 1300 milligrams a day. According to Kidshealth.org, “more than 85% of girls and 60% of boys fail to get the recommended 1300 milligrams of calcium per day.” Those numbers are staggering.

Many foods and beverages count as good sources of calcium; some packed with other beneficial nutrients, and some not! Looking at the food label, ice cream can count as a good source of calcium: a 1/2 cup serving, ice cream contains about 85 milligrams of calcium. However, ice cream does not contain an abundance of other beneficial nutrients. It is also high in saturated fat and sugar, which can be unhealthy for our bodies if consumed frequently. High saturated fat intake is related to obesity and cardiovascular disease. Another concern with the consumption of ice cream is the portion size. A serving size of ice cream is only half a cup and ice cream is often consumed in larger amounts in one setting, which increases the calories, saturated fat, and sugar consumed.

The take home message is that ice cream is a good source of calcium, but should be consumed in moderation due to the high fat and sugar content. There are many good sources of calcium available, which are low in fat and sugar, and also potentially high in nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These include: low fat milk, low fat cheese, low fat yogurt, and green leafy vegetables. Therefore, ice cream should not be the first choice for a parent to provide a child with the calcium they need, but should be eaten only on occasion.

Verdict: Truth, but it is also high in fat and sugar, and low in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Consume in moderation and not as the sole source of calcium.

Amounts of calcium in a variety of foods & drinks:

Food or Drink

Amount of calcium (in mg)

8 oz low fat yogurt

415

8 oz nonfat milk

302

½ cup firm tofu

204

½ cup cooked spinach

120

½ cup boiled turnip greens

99

½ cup vanilla ice cream

85


Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health

Truth or Myth: Sea Salt Better for Me Than Table Salt

 

Salt is composed of two elements: sodium and chloride. Chloride provides salt with that distinctive "salty" taste and sodium is the element which can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure if you consume too much. Sea salt is often promoted as more healthful than table salt, leading many to believe that it contains less sodium. This however, is FALSE! Sea salt contains about the same amount of sodium as table salt, between 400-590 mg per ¼ teaspoon, and therefore comes with the same health risks as table salt.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sodium to less than 2300 mg/day, with more stringent recommendations for certain populations2. The only difference between the two salts is that sea salt does contain a very small amount of other minerals which may offer different flavors and textures while cooking. These minerals do not significantly change the nutritional content of sea salt. One disadvantage to sea salt is that it is typically more expensive than table salt.

If you are looking for ways to help lower your sodium intake, your best options are to use a salt substitute or to use a variety of herbs and spices to season your food. Use caution with dried herbs or spices which contain the word salt, for example garlic salt, which still contain sodium.

Verdict: Myth. Sea salt is not better for you than table salt.

Source: ADA should be Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Truth or Myth: You Should Take a Daily Multivitamin

 

Vitamins make people’s bodies work properly; they are essential for normal growth and development. If you look at any food section in nearly any store, you will find vitamins promoted. They are in breakfast cereals, canned foods, water, other beverages, etc. But how much, if any, do you need? Unfortunately, there is no one answer for all of as a lot of nutritional needs, including the needs for vitamins and minerals, depends on your age, gender, diet and general health status.

Vitamins and minerals are micro-nutrients that are found either naturally in the food we eat or fortified in other foods. To break this down more, vitamins fall into one of two groups: water-soluble (e.g. B vitamins and vitamin C) and fat-soluble (A, D, E and K). The water-soluble vitamins are depleted much more rapidly than fat-soluble ones. You have to replenish the water-soluble vitamins daily. On the other hand, fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your body and thereby broken down much more slowly.

Eating a variety of foods, including fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, is the best way to get all of the vitamins and minerals you need in a day. However, if you are a vegan (vegetarian eating only plant-based foods, no animal products including dairy), you may very well need to take a multivitamin to meet your needs. Vegetarians will need to carefully plan their intake since the best sources for minerals, like zinc and iron, are in meat products.

Verdict: It depends. If you are in good health and eat a regular, well-balanced diet you probably do not need a multivitamin every day. Unfortunately, there is no one answer for all, as a lot of nutritional needs, including vitamins and minerals depends on age, gender, diet and general health status. For the best recommendations, ask your doctor or dietitian for advice to meet your specific needs.

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Truth or Myth: Fresh Vegetables are Better for You than Frozen or Canned Vegetables

 

Frozen and canned vegetables contain the same nutrients, in essentially the same amounts, as fresh vegetables. Vegetables are harvested and canned or frozen when their nutrient content is at its highest. Fresh vegetables often have a better flavor, but are usually more expensive than the canned or frozen varieties. It’s certainly better to eat frozen and canned over choosing not to eat vegetables at all. It is important to note that canned vegetables are higher in sodium so if you’re worried about your sodium intake, be sure to rinse the vegetables off in a colander before cooking; this will greatly reduce the sodium content.

Verdict: Myth

Source: MedlinePlus

Truth or Myth: It is Safe to Keep Food Outside When the Power Goes Out in a Snow Storm

 

If a snow or ice storm knocks out the power in your home, do not put food outside to keep it cold. The sun’s rays, even in cold weather, can warm the food to temperatures where bacteria can grow. It may also be exposed to outdoor animals that want to take a bite out of your food. One safe alternative is to make homemade ice packs to keep your food cold in a freezer, cooler or refrigerator. To make the homemade ice packs, fill an empty carton with water and leave it outside to freeze before placing it in the refrigerator, freezer or cooler. Be sure to leave the refrigerator door closed – this will keep the food cold for about 4 hours. The freezer will maintain its temperature for about 48 hours if unopened.

Verdict: Myth. When the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer closed – do not move the food outdoors.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FoodSafety.gov

Truth or Myth: Nuts and Nut Butters are Too Fattening to be Part of a Healthy Diet

 

Nuts and nut butters do have a high amount of fat and calories compared to many foods, but most of the fats are “healthy” fats (also known as unsaturated fats).  Most nuts contain a large amount of monounsaturated fatty acids, and walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids. These types of fats can be beneficial for one’s cholesterol level and heart. Nuts also contain protein, fiber, and several vitamins and minerals.  

The key is to eat nuts and nut butters in moderate amounts to avoid eating more calories than our bodies need. A golf ball size serving of nuts or nut butter is one serving and contains around 160 – 200 calories and 10 – 16 grams of fat. We may run into trouble if we eat larger serving sizes or add these foods to an already high-fat diet. A great strategy for including these foods in our diets in a healthy way is to trade them for other sources of fat such as high-fat meats, cheeses, chips or desserts.

Verdict:  Myth. Nuts and nut butters may be chosen in moderation as part of a healthy diet.

Source: MedlinePlus, TeensHealth from Nemours

Truth or Myth: It is Difficult to Determine which Wheat Breads are Whole Grain and High in Fiber

 

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend making at least half of the grains you eat whole. Whole grains are important because they provide iron, B vitamins and fiber. When browsing the bread aisle, follow these two steps to help you choose a whole-grain high-fiber wheat bread:

Step 1: Check the ingredients list for the words “whole wheat” listed as the first or second ingredient. Ensure that the word “whole” appears.

Step 2: Use the Nutrition Facts label to locate breads which are good sources of dietary fiber, defined as containing 10-19% of the Daily Value per serving.

Verdict: Myth. By using the two steps above, you can confidently locate a whole-grain high-fiber wheat bread.

Source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010

Truth or Myth: A Gluten-Free Diet Will Help Me Lose Weight

 

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Celiac disease is a hereditary immune disease that leads to intestinal damage and improper nutrient absorption when foods or other products containing gluten are eaten. A gluten-free diet is the appropriate treatment for celiac disease and has been shown to improve symptoms and quality of life for individuals with the disease.

A gluten-free lifestyle has been endorsed for weight loss purposes. However, research does not support this diet for purposes other than treating celiac disease. For weight loss, you need to burn more calories than you take in. Omitting gluten does not guarantee a calorie deficit. In fact, some gluten-free products may contain even more sugar, fat, and carbohydrates than their gluten-containing alternatives. Additionally, a gluten-free diet may lack certain nutrients, but contain more fat. 

For weight loss, instead of unnecessarily restricting gluten, look at your current meal pattern and see where you can make changes. Aim for a balanced diet that emphasizes moderation, and partake of regular physical activity. For guidance, visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov/supertracker-tools/supertrackers.html.  

Verdict: Myth. Following a gluten-free diet will not necessarily promote weight loss.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

 

Truth or Myth: There are only a few ways for a family to be active together

 

Many families may feel there are few physical activities everyone will enjoy. Busy schedules can make finding time to be active together challenging. There are a variety of ways to enjoy exercise as a family. Thinking outside the box will help identify ways to be active as a family all year. See the graphic below for family activity ideas for each season of the year:

Verdict: Myth. As you can see, there are many ways for families to stay active together.

Source: Eatright.org

Truth or Myth: Sports drinks are the best choice when exercising

 

Sports drinks should not replace regular water intake during exercise. Nutrient and hydration needs can be met by eating healthy foods and drinking water before, during, and after workouts. Sports drinks can be beneficial for athletes, who perform high-intensity activities longer than one hour. This aids in replacing electrolytes lost from heavy sweating, such as sodium or potassium. Most Americans consume more sodium than they need1, so the average person will not benefit from the extra sodium in sports drinks. Sports drinks also contain calories from added sugars. These calories can be beneficial for an endurance athlete, but may add extra calories for the average person who is trying to lose or maintain weight.

Verdict: Myth. The bottom line is that water is the best beverage choice while exercising.

Source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, KidsHealth from Nemours