Blog Entries, Fundamentals of Wellness

Common myths about food.

I’m going to do a post on diet, food and myths that absolutely need to be de-bunked.

  1. Cheese is bad for you.
  2. Low Fat Foods are Better for You.  This is the WORST misconception of them all.
  3. Don’t use Butter, use margarine.
  4. Juice is healthy and good for you.
  5. Don’t eat eggs, they will make your cholesterol too high.
  6. Brown rice is better than white rice
  7. Don’t eat avocados, they have too much fat
  8. Agave is better than sugar.  Agave is a natural sweetner.
  9. If you test negative for celiac, it is ok to eat wheat.

mythWhen it comes to nutrition, sometimes it’s hard to tell the fact from the fiction. Certain foods get a reputation as “bad for you,” whereas others get promoted as “natural” or “good for you” when they are really not.

Sometimes myths about foods are based on urban legends that just get perpetuated for years until we actually believe they are research-based. Other myths are based on old research that was not done in a scientific manner. Whatever the reason, here are some claims around a few popular foods that need to be debunked.

1. Cheese is bad for you

I hear this one every day of the week. The answer lies in the type of cheese you eat. There is packaged, processed cheese and then there is artisan/European and grass-fed cheese. The European/grass-fed cheese is higher in omega-3 fats (anti-inflammatory) fats that are good for you. Cheese is also a good source of protein and calcium. Eating cheese from cows that have been fed growth hormones and antibiotics, and that contain multiple ingredients, fit the myth and should be avoided. You can find imported European cheese in the deli section of your grocery store. Support the ever-growing number of local US farmers who are producing cheese the old fashioned way – and stay away from the mass produced variety.  Remember, if the cow or goat is eating its NORMAL diet (cow = grass, goat = greens, forage — neither eat grains!), it will produce cheese that has safe levels of omega fats, less of omega 6’s (bad) and more ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid).  ALA is one of those Essential Fatty Acids your body cannot make, but needs to function.  Here’s a study that looked at Alpine Cheese.

2.  Low-Fat Foods are Better for you.

NOT.  Fats provide essential fatty acids, which your body needs for cell stability, and they can actually fight tumor cells.  People who eat very low fat diets have two problems:  they end up deficient of fatty acids and develop vision problems, dementia, mood swings and brittle skin/hair and because CARBS are added to most low fat food to help make them taste better, they end up with high triglycerides and cholesterol.  The exact OPPOSITE of what you’d think!  And, fat gives you SATIETY, which makes you feel full, probably one of the most important components to healthy eating.  See my post here.  Enough said.

3.  Don’t use butter, use margarine.

Can I say we should outlaw margarine?  I remember my father eating TONS of margarine after he had a heart attack.  It was the WORST thing he could do.  Margarine is not a natural food, is full of partially hydrogenated fats, and raises triglycerides.  The only butter you should eat is GRASS FED butter, which is also called PASTURE butter.  Pasture butter is made from cows who are eating their normal diet of grass.  Guess what?  The butter from grass fed cows is NOT linked to an increase in heart disease!  So, buy pasture butter and enjoy it!  Here’s more about it, along with citations to the research.

4. Drinking juice is healthy and a good way to get your fruit

Most dieticians will agree that drinking juice is equal to the same amount of sugar as drinking a glass of soda. Dr. Charles Billington, a researcher on obesity at the University of Minnesota, states that juice is “pretty much the same as sugar water.” Think of all the oranges or apples you would have to squeeze to obtain a cup of juice. You are drinking all the sugar from the juice, minus the fiber that helps stabilize your blood sugar when eating the fruit.  Duh-uh.  I now look at juice the same way I do soda:  EMPTY calories.

5. Eggs make your cholesterol go up

It’s beyond interesting to me that many people will avoid an egg yolk but will eat several packaged cookies during the day! Long-term studies found no relationship between egg consumption and heart disease. Studies do consistently link heart disease with a higher intake of trans fat, which is used in packaged foods to increase shelf life. However, the fat in eggs is mostly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, and the yolk is an excellent source of the antioxidant lutein, which can lower certain inflammatory responses in the body. Eggs also provide many essential proteins, which our brain needs to think clearly.  In addition, eggs raise your HDL, which is the good cholesterol.  Read more about the benefits of eggs here.

6.  Brown Rice is healthier than White Rice

Ummm…  maybe.  The outer husk of the brown rice, which is removed in white rice, is full of phytates and lectins. These are anti-nutrients which bind to vitamins and minerals, preventing them from being absorbed.  To avoid this potential hazard, it is crucial to soak the grain prior to eating. So, if you like brown rice better, soak it overnight to jumpstart the germination process, releasing phytase, or the enzyme that breaks down phytic acid. This process makes the grain more digestible. But none of this is worth picking one over another. Eat the rice you like the taste of best.  Yes, brown rice does have a better vitamin/mineral content.  But here are the caveats:

The glycemic load of brown rice is 55, which is very close to long-grain white rice. If you like white rice, a good choice is Basmati because it has a glycemic load of 58.  Short grain is higher at 72-90, depending on the variet.   If you are practicing portion control, and you eat other fiber and protein with the rice, you can enjoy white rice also.  It isn’t “bad vs. good”.

Want to really lower the impact on your body calorie and glycemic load-wise?  ADD FAT and cook it the day before.  Read the TIME article on this research HERE.  Here’s how it works: the glucose units in hot cooked rice have a loose structure, but when it cools down, the molecules rearrange themselves into very tight bonds that are more resistant to digestion.  In addition, the fat molecules wedge their way into the rice and provide a barrier against quick digestion.  This study was done with non-fortified long grain white rice using coconut oil as the fat added.

7. Avoid avocados since they have too much fat

Avocados do contain fat, but it is the healthy monounsaturated kind, which is needed by your body. Eating avocados can help with increasing the HDL (the good cholesterol). What else do healthy fats do?  helps your skin from being dry, keeps your hair stronger and shinier, provides your intestines help with digestion and increases the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) and assists with making hormones essential to the manufacture of sex hormones.  Read more here — lose the “fat phobia”.  It is not doing you any good.

8. Agave is a natural sweetener

Agave, which comes from the cactus and has been used to make tequila, has been thought of as a good alternative to sugar because it had a lower glycemic index/load than sugar.  It may have a lower glycemic load, but it still ends up as glucose in your bloodstream, creating insulin, which screams to your body “STORE FAT, STORE FAT”.

Agave is 85-90 percent fructose and 10-15 percent glucose. When you consume a large percentage of this type of fructose, it gets processed directly by your liver, which not only increases your triglyceride levels, but causes fatty liver, increased hunger levels and other health issues you would rather avoid. The agave plant goes through heavy processing in order to concentrate it into a sweet syrup. Rather than being natural, it is actually a processed food, often with few quality controls.  Read why Dr. Oz, who used to recommend agave on his show, did an entire column on why he has changed his mind on agave. Agave has been de-listed and banned by the Glycemic Research Institute of Washington DC because serious side effects were observed in clinical trials.  STOP using it.

9.  If you test negative for celiac disease, you can eat wheat.

NO!   You may not have celiac disease, but WHEAT IS NOT GOOD for you.  Add it to your “foods I eat rarely”.  There is another gluten-related condition that, like celiac disease, is a cause of ill health. It’s called gluten sensitivity, and these are some things you should know about it:

1. Gluten sensitivity is currently thought to afflict 6% of Americans, but research suggests it is highly under-diagnosed.

2. Research indicates that an estimated 50% of gluten sensitive patients are celiac test negative.

3. Like celiac, gluten sensitivity affects many different systems of the body. A good example is schizophrenia. While 1% of schizophrenics have celiac disease (the same as the general population), a full 20% have gluten sensitivity.  Doctors who are alert to the symptoms are linking gluten sensitivity to digestive problems, hormonal imbalance, neurological issues and many, many more.

4. Exploring for the presence of gluten sensitivity is different than testing for celiac disease. Currently, there is no one test that can be used to diagnose gluten sensitivity. Keep reading for an understanding of what current guidelines the medical community is using to diagnose gluten sensitivity.

Although this area is still in its infancy, the existence of gluten sensitivity is no longer disputed.  Wheat has undergone such change in the last 25-30 years that it no longer resembles the wheat of our childhoods (and those of you who are young may NEVER have had “clean wheat”).  There are new protein molecules on today’s wheat that we are just beginning to understand are causing MAJOR reactions in people.  Wheat also releases morphine-like substances into your bloodstream when you eat it, so it is no wonder we feel great after a good piece of bread!   I strongly recommend anyone who has aches, rashes, or any diagnosed auto-immune syndrome stay away from wheat for a month and re-evaluate how they feel.  It might save your life.  Today’s wheat is causing inflammatory responses in many, many people.

Finally, not sure about all this “Wheat Belly” stuff?  Here’s a lay-person friendly article about research that tested the theory on patients with a common auto-immune condition, IBS.  What they found was AMAZING:  Read more here.