5 Common Food Fictions for a Post-Truth World
Every year, Oxford Dictionaries picks a Word of the Year. It's the one word that's really stuck in the zeitgeist. In 2013, it was "selfie"; in 2007, "locavore." Last year, the Word of the Year broke tradition by not actually being a word. Instead, it was a pictograph -- the "face with tears of joy" emoji. And that, my friends, is the truth.
Speaking of truth, Oxford was having none of it in 2016 -- that year, the Word of the Year was "post-truth", if you can believe it. And, honestly, why would you?
But this idea that we're living in a post-truth world got us thinking. What are some notions about food that are post-truthy? We came up with a few. The ideas below are untruths that have nevertheless had long lives in the culture; they're things we thought were true for quite a while, but turned out to be false. Let's take a look:
1. Microwaving Food Destroys the Nutrients
Maybe it was inevitable once we all started referring to microwaving as "nuking." But the truth is, microwaving doesn't turn food into a nutritional nuclear wasteland. In fact, this quick cooking method is better at retaining nutrients than, say, boiling food, which leeches out vitamins and minerals into the water...and then down the drain.
2. Snacking between Meals is a Recipe for Weight Gain
Actually, when you're really hungry, taming a growling belly with a healthy snack might be a better idea than holding out...and then attacking dinner with ravenous gusto. Research shows that people who snack when they are truly hungry tend to adjust the amount of food they eat later. The issue with snacking, in truth, is that we don't always make smart snacking choices. Nuts and dried fruit are a smart choice -- you just need a small handful to feel pleasantly full. For more, check out Peanuts! The Inexpensive, Healthy Snack.
Of course, it also helps to be mindful when eating -- focusing on the food without being distracted by the television or a video game, for example.
3(a). Fats Are Bad
This blanket statement is, of course, not true. We need fats for many body functions. Plus, fat is satiating. That peanut butter above, for example, is a healthy fat that will make you feel satisfied. Some fats, including olive oil and canola oil, are key in raising our good cholesterol, HDL, which helps flush out the bad cholesterol, LDL. Also, there are fat-soluble nutrients in fruits and vegetables that need a little fat to be absorbed into the body. Take the lycopene in tomatoes, it will be better absorbed if there's some olive oil in the Marinara Sauce. Here's more on Healthy Fats.
So yes, we've been welcoming certain fats back into the fold of friendly foods. But even as we did that, we were identifying another entire class of nutrients to banish from our diets. Which brings us to...
3(b). Carbs Are Bad
Free of our fat phobia, we kicked out carbs. Carbohydrates, of course, being the very thing we turned to when we originally turned against fats. True, processed carbs that are high in sugars and refined flours are easily digested and quickly absorbed by the body; they can leave you feeling hungry in a hurry, primed to eat more, more, more. But carbs are not all created equal. There's another group of carbs: the whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits that are healthy carbohydrates, full of fiber and the nutrients the body needs.
4. Eggs Raise Your Cholesterol
Recent research suggests that dietary cholesterol does not translate into high blood cholesterol. Which is to say, foods like eggs that are naturally high in cholesterol do not seem to elevate the cholesterol in our bodies. That's good news, because eggs have high nutritional value, including protein, riboflavin, Vitamin B-12, and folate. As for cholesterol, our bodies actually need some to create the linings of our cells, to make hormones, to synthesize vitamin D, and so on. This way to a big basket of Egg Recipes.
5. A Calorie Is Just a Calorie
Once upon a time, nutritionists believed that to maintain your weight, the calories you expended had to equal calories consumed. To lose weight, then, you simply had to burn more calories than you consumed. Instant weight loss! Well, the truth is a little trickier. Because there are many other factors to consider, including the glycemic index of foods, processed versus whole grains, for example. Dr. David Ludwig, a professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard, summed it up: "Counting calories alone doesn't work because ultimately it matters where those calories come from; this matters more than the number of calories ingested." Plus there are individual differences in metabolism, in physique, in the microbiome, and so on, which seem to play a part.
No doubt about it, uncovering the truth is tough stuff. Here's to hoping nutrition science continues to make new discoveries, stake new claims, and maybe overturn a mistaken nutrition notion or two in 2017.