Mumbai, get fitter: Nutritionists reveal the truth behind diet and food myths

Nutritionists explain why some popular diet myths that are just that: myths.

In the era of Internet and information overload, we can be easily misled and misinformed. We are surrounded by myths about certain foods and more often than not we believe whatever we read without questioning it. For example, “granolas and flavoured yogurt are healthy” or “salt only increases the risk of high blood pressure”. These statements are not necessarily true. To get a clearer picture, we spoke to nutritionists to reveal the facts about certain foods that we assume to be healthy or unhealthy for us.

Unhealthy? So you thought!

Potatoes

Potatoes are actually much healthier than you would think. (HT Photo)

Potatoes have been infamous for being unhealthy for way too long. However, according to dietician Priya Palan, they are a good source of potassium and vitamin C. “Potatoes also contain a variety of phytonutrients that have antioxidants. Potatoes are low-calorie, with a medium-sized baked potato containing only about 110 calories,” says Krishnan.

Margarine

Margarine is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which help control cholesterol levels. (HT Photo)

Manjiri Puranik, weight loss expert says, “Margarine when taken in adequate amounts has health benefits. Margarine has alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), which is an omega-3 fatty acid. Omega 3 fatty acids have been proven to lower total cholesterol levels, triglycerides and reduce inflammation.”

Salt

Salt is widely considered to cause high blood pressure, but it’s a vital ingredient to your well-being. (HT Photo)

For ages, doctors have been telling us to cut on salt or risk high blood pressure, stroke and coronary heart disease. However, Dr Nupur Krishnan, nutritionist says, “Salt is essential for sustaining the hydration levels of the body. It is extremely vital to maintain the electrolyte balance for the smooth functioning of the organ systems.”

 

Eggs

Eggs are very nutritious and can even help you lose body fat. (Mark Cornelison)

“Eggs are so nutritious that they’re often referred to as ‘nature’s multivitamin.’ They also have unique antioxidants and powerful brain nutrients that many people are deficient in. Eggs for breakfast can also help you lose body fat,” says Manisha Mehta, nutritionist.

Avocados

Avocados are considered to be too fatty, but are rich in potassium and fibre. (HT Photo)

The fruit has been tarnished because it is considered to be too fatty. But nutritionist Khushboo Sahijwani says, “This is truly a miracle fruit. All other fruits are rich in carbohydrates but this one is exceptionally rich in fats, and most importantly the healthy mono unsaturated fatty acids. Avocados are super rich in potassium which is good for people with high blood pressure. Being rich in fibre, it aids in weight loss and to lower cholesterol.”

What we thought was healthy

Wheat bread

Wheat bread may contain enriched flour, which is high in sugar but doesn’t have much nutrition value. (HT Photo)

Krishnan highlights, “If it isn’t 100% whole wheat, bread can contain enriched flour, which gives you a sugar spike without any nutritional value. Basically, enriched flour means nutrients are stripped from the bread.”

Flavoured soy milk

Soy milk may actually not be as healthy as popular wisdom states it to be. (HT Photo)

Some health-conscious people prefer soy milk because they are considered a heart-healthy low fat option. Mehta counters, “Almost every ingredient in soy milk is a cause for serious concern. It contains cane sugar, carrageenan, calcium carbonate, vitamin A, palmitate, vitamin D2, riboflavin (B2), vitamin B12 and phytic acid. Soy contains high levels of phytic acid, a compound, which reduces your body’s ability to absorb minerals such as calcium, magnesium and zinc.”

 

Granola

Granola bars may not be the best way to start your day. (HT Photo)

“One might think of granola as one of the healthiest breakfast options to start the day with. But it tends to be low on fibre and protein, and high on fat and sugar, which is the opposite of a healthy breakfast. Stick to granola that has healthy nuts, and a little sugar,” says Puranik.

Light salad dressings

“Low-fat salad dressings prevent the body’s ability to absorb the carotenoid antioxidants in salad greens and tomatoes, thus greatly diminishing a major health benefit of eating salad. ‘Light’ and ‘fat-free’ dressings are often the most common places to find high-fructose corn syrup which is not too good for health,” says Mehta.

Flavoured, fat-free yogurt

Flavoured yogurt is high in sugar, corn syrup and a host of other sweeteners. (Shakti Yadav/HT Photo)

Puranik states, “Yogurt has always been considered as a health food but if you are into fruit flavoured yogurt, it is more likely that you are consuming plenty of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame and a host of other sweeteners, and not so much fruit. So when it comes to yogurt, stick to the plain variety.”

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