Common Food Beliefs

The Internet floods us with information on nutrition. We’ve heard it all: Margarine is better than butter. Protein helps us grow muscles. Chocolate is good for you. Here are the short truths on commonly touted food lore.


According to the Egg Nutrition Center (ENC), the only difference between a brown and white egg is the color of the shell, which is determined by the breed of the hen. In general, hens with white feathers and earlobes lay white eggs; those with dark feathers and red earlobes lay brown.


Most nutritionists agree that any vegetable is better than no vegetable, and in many cases, frozen vegetables have better nutrition than their fresh counterparts that have sat in the holds of ships or trucks, leaching nutrients. According to Eating Well magazine, when vegetables are in-season, buy them fresh and ripe. Otherwise, frozen vegetables will give you a high concentration of nutrients. Steam or microwave to minimize the loss of water-soluble vitamins.


We need less total protein than you might think. It’s a myth that extra protein builds more muscle. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, even teenage boys and active men get all the protein they need from daily servings totaling 7 ounces. An 8-ounce steak is more than you need. Even more important, when protein is eaten at the expense of complex carbohydrates, there is a tendency for the body to excrete calcium, which can lead to osteoporosis. We’re also losing out on all the vitamins, fiber and antioxidants we need from those carbs.

SIX MEALS A DAY ARE BETTER THAN THREE. asked several experts about whether grazing is better for us than three big meals a day. They agreed that it depends. If you have trouble with blood sugar swings, eating small amounts more frequently can keep you from bingeing. Skipping meals is a bad idea because you tend to eat more later on. It’s all about what and how much you eat, and the old calories-in versus calories-out. For people who have trouble eating small amounts at a time, more meals may not be the way to go.


Recent research shows that chocolate can provide natural health-promoting substances called flavonoids. This research, reported on, went on to say that since flavonoids seem to help prevent heart disease and cancer, eating chocolate sounds like a great way to get healthy, but hold the phone. The complete message is that chocolate is no substitute for vegetables and fruits, which also contain flavonoids. In addition, all chocolate is not created equal. Dark chocolate has more flavonoids than milk chocolate. The higher the cocoa content, the higher the flavonoids. And white chocolate? It isn’t chocolate at all.


This one is mostly true. The University of Tennessee conducted a study of overweight participants who ate three servings of fat-free yogurt daily and lost 22 percent more weight, 61 percent more body fat, and 81 percent more abdominal fat over a 12-week period, compared to a group of people that ate the same number of calories but without the dairy. Since muscle helps to burn calories, the study showed that a diet with plenty of low-fat dairy helps us lose more fat, while protecting our muscle. Important to note: The problem with most yogurts isn’t their fat. It’s their added sugar. A cup of yogurt can contain anywhere from 4 to 9 teaspoons of sugar. Your best bet is to select plain nonfat yogurt and add your own fresh fruit.


They are actually low in fat, with only half a gram. Not only that. but they are packed with potassium and nutrients. The American Heart Association classifies them as a heart-healthy food, with their 400 mgs of potassium, 3 grams fiber, 15 percent of your daily vitamin C and 20 percent of your vitamin B6. Each medium banana has about 105 calories of mostly complex carbohydrates, a good health food.


Better for what? Margarine is made from vegetable oil so it contains no cholesterol. It is also made from ‘good fats,’ such as unsaturated and monosaturated fat. Both are mostly fat; in butter, 37 percent of that is saturated fat known to contribute to artery clogging. So margarine might be a better option. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, some margarines may be worse than butter because of trans fats. Like their saturated cousins, trans fats increase blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. In addition, trans fats can lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the ‘good,’ cholesterol. When selecting margarine, choose one with the lowest trans fat content possible; and whether choosing margarine or butter, use sparingly. A calorie is still a calorie.