‘Get the real deal on your meal’ from dietitians!
This Nutrition Month, dietitians are busting 39 popular food and nutrition myths. The ‘truth’ statements are all PEN Approved! That means they are based on the best available evidence.
Click the red circle icon to learn the truth.
1. Organic foods are the safest and healthiest choice for you.
THE TRUTH: Both organic and non-organic foods are nutritious and safe to eat when you’re making healthy choices based on Canada’s Food Guide. Many factors affect a food’s nutritional value, such as where and how it was grown, stored, shipped and even how it was cooked. So organic foods may have more, about the same, or less nutrients than non-organic foods. And both organic and non-organic foods are grown and produced under strict regulations to make sure they are safe for you to eat. Like any food purchase, buying organic food is a personal choice.
2. Avoid carbs if you want to lose weight.
THE TRUTH: Cutting carbohydrates (carbs) might help you lose weight in the short term, but it’s mostly because you are eating less food and fewer calories. Drastically cutting carbs means you’ll miss out on the nutritional benefits of healthy choices like whole grains, fruit, starchy vegetables, and legumes. Because so many foods are off-limits, it can be tough to stick with low-carb diets for very long. The best weight-loss plan is one you can stick with. To lose weight and keep it off, exercise regularly and use Canada’s Food Guide to plan a balanced diet with good food choices in the right amounts for you.
3. Late-night snacking will make you gain weight.
THE TRUTH: Late-night snacking can lead to weight gain, but it’s not due to the time on the clock. The trouble is, after-dinner snacking can lead you to eat more calories than your body needs in a day, especially if you’re having high-calorie snack foods and sweetened beverages. If you usually get hungry for an evening snack, try eating dinner a little later. Still hungry? Sip on water with a squeeze of lemon, or go for small portions of healthy choices like whole grain cereal with milk, a piece of fruit, or plain air-popped popcorn.
4. You’ll gain weight if you follow Canada’s Food Guide – it recommends too much food.
THE TRUTH: The recommended number of servings in Canada’s Food Guide is an average amount of food that most people should try to eat every day. You might need to choose more or less food depending on your individual needs such as your physical activity level. The type of food you choose is just as important as how much you eat. The Food Guide recommends that you have a variety of foods and limit foods and beverages high in calories, fat, sugar and salt. Enjoy healthy choices from each food group in the amount that is right for you.
5. You need vitamin and mineral supplements to be healthy.
THE TRUTH: Vitamin and mineral supplements can’t replace the benefits of healthy food or provide nutrients such as fibre, carbohydrates, essential fats and protein. Most healthy people can meet their vitamin and mineral needs by following Canada’s Food Guide. There are some times in your life, however, when you might need supplements. For example, Canada’s Food Guide recommends that adults over the age of 50 take 400 IU of vitamin D each day. Also, women who could become pregnant, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding need a daily multivitamin with folic acid. Talk to your doctor or Registered Dietitian about your needs before taking any supplements.
6. Everyone should eat a gluten-free diet.
THE TRUTH: A gluten-free diet is the only healthy way of eating for people with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, but it’s not necessary for everyone else. Gluten is a type of protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye, and any foods made with these grains. Unless you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, or you are allergic to one of these grains, you don’t need to avoid them. Whether the grain you choose is gluten-free (such as corn, rice, millet or quinoa) or not, enjoying more whole grains is a healthy choice. For good health, make at least half of your grain choices whole grain each day.
7. Sea salt is natural so it’s better for you than table salt.
THE TRUTH: Sea salt, just like kosher and gourmet salt, has about the same amount of sodium as table salt. It is not a healthier choice. Too much sodium can be harmful to your health. The differences between sea salt and table salt are taste, texture and how they are made. Table salt is mined from dried-up ancient salt lakes. Some table salts include iodine, a nutrient that helps prevent thyroid disease. Sea salt is made by evaporating seawater and tastes different depending on where it’s from. Whichever salt you choose, use less. For a flavour boost, sprinkle food with orange or lemon juice, garlic, herbs or spices.
8. Drinking energy drinks is the best way to get energized.
THE TRUTH: No one needs an energy drink. Energy drinks might make you feel a short burst of energy, but it doesn’t last. Energy drinks usually contain lots of sugar; in fact, one energy drink can have up to 14 teaspoons of sugar! Most energy drinks have caffeine, and too much caffeine may cause unwanted side effects such as rapid heartbeat and insomnia. These drinks are not recommended for children or pregnant or breastfeeding women, and should not be consumed with alcohol or in amounts more than 500 mL/day. The best way to get energized is to eat well, be active, stay hydrated and get enough sleep.
9. Superfoods will keep you super-healthy.
THE TRUTH: Sorry! No food has superpowers to keep you healthy on its own. Even if a food is bursting with a beneficial nutrient, your body needs more than that to be healthy. Unfortunately, there’s no official “superfood” definition, and the term is sometimes used to market trendy, expensive foods, like goji and açaí berries, that don’t always live up to their superior claims. And some basic foods that aren’t called “super,” such as apples, can be equally nutritious, less costly and more widely available. Enjoying a diet that is rich in a variety of healthy foods, not just the trendiest, is the key to good health.
10. All foods that contain probiotics will benefit your health.
THE TRUTH: Probiotics are “good” bacteria that are either naturally found in food or may be added to foods such as dairy products including yogurt, cheese and milk-based beverages. When eaten regularly, in the right amounts, probiotics may help keep your immune system healthy and help maintain the good bacteria in your intestine. Certain types of probiotics may help reduce some forms of diarrhea and symptoms of irritable bowel disease in some people. Not all foods with added probiotics will offer health benefits. We’re still learning which probiotics are best, how much to take, and how long to take them for different health benefits.
11. Cooking meals at home takes way too much time.
THE TRUTH: Getting a healthy, home-cooked meal on the table doesn’t take as much time as you think. Simple, nutritious foods can make tasty meals, and planning meals in advance lets you use your time wisely. For example, try making “planned extras” (leftovers on purpose) that can be used for another meal, or make big batches of food on weekends, freeze small portions and defrost on nights when time is tight. Cooking at home doesn’t mean never using convenience foods. Healthy versions of convenience foods, like pre-washed, ready-to-eat vegetables or pre-cut fresh meat skewers, can be time savers that help get meals to the table quickly.
12. Healthy food costs too much.
THE TRUTH: How much food costs is an important issue for many Canadians. With some planning and wise choices, you can create tasty, healthy and affordable meals. To get the most value, choose foods that are big on nutrients and low on cost. Many healthy staple foods can be lower-cost items, including bulk flours and whole grains, in-season fresh produce, eggs, legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils), powdered milk, and sale-priced frozen or canned vegetables, fruits and fish. Scanning flyers for specials, stocking up on sale items and cooking meals from scratch can all save you money.
13. Certain foods, like grapefruit, cabbage soup or celery, can burn fat and make you lose weight quickly.
THE TRUTH: Sorry! There is no food that burns fat or makes you lose weight more quickly. Weight loss diets that focus on single foods, like grapefruit, cabbage soup or celery, are restrictive and lack nutrients needed for good health. It’s true that when you eat only one type of food, like cabbage soup, you might eat less and take in fewer calories than you need and maybe lose weight at first. But in the end, these diets are boring, don’t create healthy habits you can stick with, and don’t help with long-term weight loss. The best way to lose weight is to eat healthy foods in the right portions and be active.
14. Processed foods have no place in a healthy diet.
THE TRUTH: Some processed foods, such as whole grain pasta, canned light tuna and plain frozen vegetables, are healthy choices. Others provide few nutrients and/or are high in calories, fat, sugar or sodium and should be limited. Some examples are deep fried foods, salty snacks and packaged baked goods such as donuts and croissants. Make wise food choices. Enjoy more whole foods, like vegetables and fruit. Read labels and choose foods higher in nutrients you want more of, like fibre, calcium and B vitamins, and lower in nutrients you want less of, like sugar, fat and sodium.
15. Local vegetables and fruits are always more nutritious.
THE TRUTH: Fresh produce tastes great, but there are many factors that affect its nutritional value. Crop variety, growing conditions, ripeness, storage, processing, handling and transport all affect the nutrition of vegetables and fruits. Produce grown closer to home, picked when it’s ripe and eaten soon afterwards, might have more vitamins and mineral. In the warmer months, enjoy the local harvest and eat delicious, nutritious vegetables and fruit every day. If you have time and storage space, freeze or can local produce to enjoy its goodness throughout the year.
16. Cows’ milk is full of hormones and antibiotics.
THE TRUTH: Not true! Canadian milk meets strict government standards so it’s safe and healthy. Canadian dairy farmers give their cows the best diet and health care so they produce quality milk naturally. Growth hormones to stimulate milk production are not approved for sale or permitted for use in Canada. Just like humans, cows sometimes get sick and need medications like antibiotics. If this happens, the cow is identified and milked separately until she is healthy again. Her milk is properly disposed of for a mandatory length of time, to allow for the medication to get out of her system. Milk, organic and non-organic, is a safe, nutritious choice.
17. Cows’ milk is only good for baby cows, not humans.
THE TRUTH: Cows’ milk is not just good for baby cows. Around the world, humans enjoy health benefits from the many essential nutrients found in milk. Milk is one of the richest natural food sources of calcium and, in Canada, an excellent source of vitamin D. Both nutrients are needed to build strong, healthy bones. Milk has other health benefits too. For example, as part of a healthy diet, milk might help protect against high blood pressure and colon cancer. Canada’s Food Guide recommends you enjoy two cups (500 mL) of lower-fat milk every day for good health.
18. Pasteurization destroys vitamins and minerals in milk.
THE TRUTH: Pasteurization has little impact on the nutrients in milk. Pasteurization is a simple heat treatment that destroys potentially harmful bacteria sometimes found in milk. This is an important process that helps to make milk safe for Canadians to drink. It is not safe to drink unpasteurized (raw) milk because it might contain bacteria that can be harmful to your health. Pasteurized milk is a natural source of 15 essential nutrients, plus it’s fortified with vitamin D (raw milk isn’t). Drink two cups (500 mL) of lower-fat milk each day to get the calcium and vitamin D you need to help build and maintain healthy bones.
19. There is no difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist.
Dietitians are one of a kind; they are uniquely trained to advise you on food, healthy eating and nutrition. Dietitians must be part of a regulatory body, just like doctors, pharmacists and nurses. The terms “Registered Dietitian,” “Professional Dietitian” and “Dietitian” are protected by law. Only qualified health professionals can legally use those titles. In many provinces, there are no laws to protect the title “nutritionist.” When in doubt, check http://www.dietitians.ca/Career/Registration-to-Practice.aspx
. A dietitian is your smart choice for credible advice on healthy eating.
20. It’s too hard to eat all the vegetables and fruit recommended in Canada’s Food Guide.
THE TRUTH: It’s easier than you think! Canada’s Food Guide recommends adults enjoy seven to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit each day. That might sound like a lot, but serving sizes are not very big. For example, a medium fruit or half a cup of vegetables is all it takes to get one serving. And servings add up quickly! Eating one or two vegetable or fruit servings at every meal and snack helps you get all the servings you need for the day. Check Canada’s Food Guide to see what a serving is for your favourite vegetables and fruit.
21. “Multi-grain” is the same as “whole grain.”
THE TRUTH: Don’t be fooled by marketing. Multi-grain isn’t always whole grain. Multi-grain products include different grains, but they may not be whole. You’ll get the greatest health benefits from eating whole grains. To make sure a food is made with whole grains, look on the food label’s ingredient list for the words “whole grain” in front of each grain name. If whole grains are the main ingredients in a food, they should appear first in the ingredient list. Make at least half of your grain products whole grain each day.
22. Everyone needs to drink eight glasses of water a day.
THE TRUTH: There is no truth to the claim that everyone needs exactly eight cups of water a day. Water is important for good health and it is your best choice to satisfy thirst, but other liquids are also hydrating. The amount of water you need to hydrate your body varies daily and depends on factors like your gender, physical size and how active you are, as well as environmental factors like heat and humidity. To help stay hydrated, drink plain water (tap or bottled) plus other beverages like milk, coffee or tea throughout the day. And remember to drink more in hot weather and when you are very active.
23. Frozen and canned vegetables and fruit are not as nutritious as fresh.
THE TRUTH: Nothing beats the taste of fresh produce in season. But frozen and canned produce can be just as nutritious since it’s usually picked and packed at the peak of ripeness when nutrient levels are highest. Frozen or canned produce gives you benefits beyond health. It allows Canadians to enjoy a variety of vegetables and fruit year-round and is a practical choice for people living in remote areas. It’s also sometimes more affordable than fresh produce. And cooking with frozen or canned produce can save you time in the kitchen! Read the labels: The healthiest choices are products that contain no added sugar, fat or salt.
24. Only people with high blood pressure need to limit how much sodium they eat.
THE TRUTH: Everyone can benefit from eating less sodium. In addition to causing high blood pressure, eating too much sodium can cause stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. Canadians eat too much sodium. Most of us eat about 3,400 mg every day; that’s more than double what your body needs for good health. Take a look at where you can reduce sodium in your diet. Choose more fresh foods and fewer processed foods and restaurant meals. Eating less sodium will help you and your family, stay healthy and feel your best.
25. If a food is low in fat or fat-free, it must be healthy.
THE TRUTH: Just because a food is low in fat or fat-free doesn’t mean it’s healthy. In fact, a lot of foods that are low in fat are definitely not healthy choices, such as candy, pop, low-fat cookies and fat-free frozen treats. While these foods may have little fat, they can still be high in sugar and calories and offer few, if any, nutrients. There are, however, some foods that are higher in fat and a healthy choice, such as fish, avocados, nuts, seeds and nut butters. Choose foods wisely: Read food labels and consider a food’s overall nutrient content. Don’t judge a food by fat alone!
26. If you eat too much sugar, you’ll get diabetes.
THE TRUTH: You will not get diabetes from eating sugar. It’s wise, however, to limit your sugar intake. Foods that are high in sugar, such as cookies, candies and soft drinks, are often low in nutrients and high in calories. Diets with too many calories can lead to weight gain, and being overweight is one of the main risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Other risk factors such as family history, age (40 and older) and ethnicity also play a role. You can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active.
27. A detox diet is a good way to clean out the toxins in your body.
THE TRUTH: There is no scientific evidence to support the need for detoxification diets. Detox diets claim to “cleanse” your system of toxins, but your liver, kidneys and intestine already do that for you. Detox diets typically involve fasting followed by a strict diet. Frequent fasting or fasting for more than a few days may cause unhealthy side effects such as headaches, dehydration, low blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat. Some detox diets include intestine-clearing supplements that might actually be harmful. Your best bet to keep your body healthy is to eat a daily diet based on Canada’s Food Guide.
28. Eating a lot of protein helps build muscle.
THE TRUTH: Protein alone does not build muscle mass. A strength-training program, along with enough calories from healthy foods, recovery time and sleep, are also needed for building muscle. Sure, you need protein, but overdoing it adds extra calories and won’t build bigger muscles. While most people get enough protein from their daily diet, strength-training athletes, like bodybuilders, might benefit from more protein, especially in post-workout snacks. But even that extra amount of protein can be met by simply choosing protein-rich foods from Canada’s Food Guide, such as lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, lower-fat milk and alternatives, and legumes.
29. Fruit has too much sugar to be healthy.
THE TRUTH: Fruit is a healthy choice. It’s true that fruit has naturally occurring sugar, but it is also chock full of vitamins, minerals and fibre that are important for good health. Choosing more vegetables and fruit, naturally sweetened by Mother Nature, can help you maintain your weight and reduce your risk of developing chronic disease. Enjoy whole, fresh, frozen or canned fruit each day. And aim to limit foods that are high in added sugars but low in nutrients, such as candies, cookies, chocolate treats and sweetened soft drinks. Satisfy your sweet tooth with fruit, like a baked apple or yogurt topped with berries.
30. Honey, brown sugar and agave syrup are better for you than white sugar.
THE TRUTH: Nutritionally speaking, they are all pretty much the same. While some people consider brown sugar, honey or agave syrup to be more natural, they are still sugars. All are concentrated sources of calories with very few other nutrients. Your body can’t tell the difference between them and white sugar. In fact, your body handles naturally occurring sugar in food or processed sugars and syrups in the same way. Excess sugar in any form gives you extra calories. Whether you choose to use honey, brown sugar, agave syrup or white sugar, use small amounts.
31. Artificial sweeteners have too many chemicals to be healthy.
THE TRUTH: Artificial sweeteners can be part of healthy eating. Health Canada approves all sweeteners for safety before they can be sold in Canada. Health Canada also develops strict guidelines for how food producers can use a sweetener, as well as advice on how much is safe to eat each day. Artificial sweeteners add a sweet taste while limiting calories and can be enjoyed in moderation, as part of a healthy diet.
32. When you’re pregnant, eat up! You are eating for two.
THE TRUTH: Pregnant women are commonly told they are “eating for two.” In reality, you need just a little more food, during the second and third trimesters, to get enough nutrients and calories to support a growing baby. Two or three extra Food Guide servings each day are often enough. Aim to eat three balanced meals with nutritious snacks. To achieve a good weight for a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby, eat twice as healthy, not twice as much. Be sure to follow the advice of your doctor or Registered Dietitian for any special nutrition needs.
33. When you call the dietitian phone line at EatRight Ontario, you’ll get a recording, not a real person.
When you call the dietitian phone line at EatRight Ontario, you’ll be connected directly to a Registered Dietitian. Ask questions about nutrition, food and healthy eating, and receive answers by phone or email for FREE. Phone service is available in over 100 languages from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET, with evening hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays to 9 p.m. ET. Call the dietitians at EatRight Ontario toll-free at 1-877-510-510-2 or send an email at eatrightontario.ca
34. Dietitians only eat healthy foods – never chocolate, fries, chips or candy.
THE TRUTH: No way! Dietitians eat all sorts of different foods, even chocolate, french fries, chips and candy...on occasion. Dietitians are nutrition experts with university degrees in food and nutrition. Dietitians have a real passion for nutrition, health and food. Just like anyone else, we enjoy foods that make our taste buds tingle! Dietitians believe that healthy foods are delicious foods. And we also believe that there’s nothing wrong with the occasional treat.
35. Drinking tea causes dehydration.
THE TRUTH: It’s a popular belief that tea is dehydrating because it has caffeine, but the level of caffeine you get from drinking moderate amounts of tea, even strong tea, doesn’t dehydrate you. Tea is actually 99.5 percent water and counts towards your fluid intake for the day, so it can help keep you hydrated. Hydration is important for concentration, alertness and physical performance. Canada’s Food Guide encourages you to satisfy your thirst with water as a calorie-free way to help stay hydrated. Hot or cold, tea is also hydrating and, with no added sugar, is calorie-free and tastes great.
36. Mayonnaise should be avoided when following a healthy diet.
THE TRUTH: Mayonnaise can be included as part of healthy eating. In fact, Canada’s Food Guide recommends that we consume a small amount (30-45 mL/2-3 tbsp total) of unsaturated fat each day. This includes oil used for cooking, salad dressings, soft margarines low in saturated and trans fats, and mayonnaise. Read product labels and check the “Nutrition Facts” table. Choose a mayonnaise that has little saturated and trans fats (5% or less Daily Value [%DV]) and provides healthy unsaturated omega-3 fats. Small amounts of mayonnaise can help add extra flavour to your favourite healthy foods.
37. The best way to limit your sodium intake is to stop using the salt shaker.
THE TRUTH: Canadians eat too much sodium, but the salt shaker is not the biggest culprit. Over 75 percent of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods, packaged and ready-to-eat foods, and restaurant meals. Only about 11 percent comes from salt added when cooking at home and salt you shake on at the table. The rest of the sodium you get occurs naturally in foods. To limit the sodium you eat, choose fewer pre-packaged convenience foods and restaurant meals and enjoy more lower sodium foods that you can cook at home.
38. The % Daily Value on the Nutrition Facts table is not very useful.
THE TRUTH: The % Daily Value (%DV) is useful for anyone wanting to make healthier food choices. You can use the %DV to see if a food has a little or a lot of a nutrient. You can use it to compare products and make a better choice. For example, you might want to choose a product with less fat and sodium, and more fibre, iron, vitamin A and calcium. An easy rule of thumb: 5% DV or less is a little, and 15% DV or more is a lot for any nutrient.
39. Reading food labels is too hard.
Reading food labels is easy when you know what to look for. The “Nutrition Facts” table has information on calories and nutrients. Check the serving size and the % Daily Value (%DV) to choose healthier foods. Follow these three steps:
- Check the serving size and compare this to the amount you actually eat.
- Read the %DV to see if a product has a little or a lot of a nutrient; 5 percent or less is a little, and 15 percent or more is a lot.
- Choose the products with more vitamins, minerals and fibre, and less fat (saturated and trans), sodium and sugar.