The truth about white veggies, fat-free salad dressings, and more
Nutrition advice comes so fast and furious, sometimes it’s hard to keep track of what’s good for you and what’s not. Oftentimes, when that advice is boiled down to a hard-and-fast rule, that rule glosses over important nuances. So we asked some nutrition experts to identify the more common food myths we hear—as well as the truth behind them.
MYTH 1: Microwaving Foods Kills Nutrients
Microwaving is actually among the best ways to keep all the good things in your veggies intact. Boiling can leech out valuable vitamins and minerals, but because microwaving heats up food without using a lot of water, it helps foods to stay nutrient-packed.
MYTH 2: The More Grains, the Better
While grains are certainly preferable to refined white flour because they contain more fiber and vitamin B, you shouldn’t fall into the multigrain trap. Just because a product has multiple grains doesn’t mean those grains aren’t processed and stripped of many of the good things you want from them. “In processing grains for convenience, you’re potentially losing the nutrients and changing the degree to which they are absorbed,” says Nicolette Pace, a spokesperson for the New York State Dietetic Association.
Check the label, and look for the word “whole” before any grains listed. And make sure the whole grains are the first things listed, which confirms that they make up the biggest portion of the food.
Another clue is the fiber content. “If you’re seeing that an 11-cracker serving contains one gram of fiber, there’s probably not a lot of whole grains in there,” says Pace.
MYTH 3: Fat-Free Salad Dressings Are Healthier
Fruits and vegetables have fat-soluble nutrients that your body can’t absorb without fat—like the lycopene in tomatoes, which has been linked to a lower cancer and stroke risk. Opting for a fat-free dressing may deprive you of those benefits. Try olive oil-based options, or add avocados and nuts to your salad, both of which contain healthy fats.
MYTH 4: You Should Avoid White Vegetables
Nutrition experts advocate for colorful foods—the brighter and more diverse the rainbow on your plate, the better. And that’s still true: Carrots and strawberries are high in beta-carotene, an important antioxidant that fights damaging inflammation in cells. Dark green produce is a rich source of antioxidants, fiber, calcium, and vitamins like C and K.
But that doesn’t mean that their white cousins are nutritional failures. In fact, cauliflower, garlic, onions, mushrooms, and, yes, even potatoes are good sources of fiber, antioxidants, and potassium. And while the white potato has become off-limits for dieters, adding a moderate amount of potato to your diet won’t derail your weight-loss efforts. In fact, because it’s so full of fiber, a little goes a long way toward making you feel full and helping you eat less overall. “It’s something you can use as a vehicle to build a meal,” says McDaniel. “If you add broccoli and little bit of cheese, it can be a satisfying meal for someone trying to lose weight.”
MYTH 5: Juice Cleanses Help You Eliminate Toxins
“People think juice cleanses are a good way to detox the body,” says McDaniel. “But I remind my clients that you have a built-in detox organ, the liver, and it’s very good at what it does.” It probably won’t harm you if you go on a juice cleanse for a day or so, but as a way to lose weight, it’s not such a good idea since it deprives you of proteins and fats and may lead to muscle loss.
MYTH: Coffee Will Only Make You Thirstier
While the caffeine in coffee is a diuretic, meaning it draws water out of your body, the amount of water in coffee means that overall, it can actually be a thirst quencher. Pure water is still your best option to stay hydrated, but you don’t have to avoid coffee just because you think it will dehydrate you.