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12 common food myths debunked by a Dietitian [VIDEO]

How many times have you googled something, seen something on social media or by a celebrity or influencer and been left feeling more confused than when you first started? For this reason, our Accredited Practising Dietitian, Melanie Hudono placed 12 popular food trends and myths under the microscope. Only using the latest evidence-based practice, let’s shine some light on these popular food myths.

1. Dairy is not actually bad for you

There has been many celebrities or even people we know claiming that milk and dairy should be avoided, however for many people cutting milk and dairy out is likely to do more harm than good. Milk and dairy foods are affordable, safe to consume daily, wholesome and a delicious source of essential nutrients.

Most people would think ‘calcium’ as the main nutrient of dairy and milk, but did you know that a single glass of light milk also provides protein, phosphorous, potassium, iodine and B12 vitamins too?

There is also evidence that dairy helps:

  • Keep muscles, bones, nerves, teeth, skin and vision healthy

  • Reduce tiredness and fatigue by helping your body efficiently release energy from foods

  • Maintain healthy blood pressure

  • Support normal growth and brain development and immune functioning

What’s most important is HOW people eat dairy, as opposed to demonising the food itself. Take cheese as an example – is it constantly consumed in things like burgers/pizzas/pasta that is already higher in sodium, refined CHO and saturated fat? Or served in moderation, eaten with wholegrain crackers or fruits?

2.Frozen veggies are not better for you than fresh veggies

This is a tricky one, because the truth is both fresh and frozen ARE good for you!

It is true that as soon as fruit and vegetables are picked, they start to lose nutrients. Frozen fruit and vegetables are frozen shortly after they’ve been harvested and this helps to preserve the nutrients.

But fresh vegetables are also an amazing option, especially when it comes to taste and texture. Nutrition wise, if it’s eaten in a few days after purchase, it makes a minimal difference.

At the end of the day, eating veggies fresh or frozen is better than eating nothing at all. Go with the option that best suits your taste and budget.

3. Eating cooked carrots is healthier than raw carrots

Did you know cooking certain vegetables could actually help your body absorb some nutrients more easily? Cooking breaks down the cell walls, making its nutrients more available. Carrots are indeed one of them! Carrots provide almost double the amount of antioxidants when it’s cooked compared to eating them raw.

As a fun nutrition fact, boiling carrots with the skins on helps prevent it’s nutrients from leaking into the cooking water, so when possible, remember to leave it’s skin on and avoid boiling it for longer than 15 minutes, as boiling any vegetable for too long causes it’s water-soluble vitamins to leach into the cooking water.

Again, similar to what we discussed before, eating raw carrots is better than none at all!

4. Carrots can really help you see better

A diet of carrots won’t give a blind person 20/20 vision. But, the vitamins found in carrots can help promote overall eye health. Carrots contain beta-carotene, a substance that the body converts to vitamin A, an important nutrient for eye health.

Vitamin A can prevent the formation of cataracts and macular degeneration, the world’s leading cause of blindness. So having an extreme lack of vitamin A can cause blindness. However, if your vision problems aren’t related to vitamin A deficiencies, your vision won’t change no matter how many carrots you eat.

5. Butter is better than margarine and Nutalex

The reason butter may actually be a better option is because some brands of margarine contain a substance called trans fats.

Trans fats are fats formed when liquid oils are turned into solid fats through a process called hydrogenation. Trans fats are known to increase risk of chronic disease. Typically, the older brands of margarines had high levels of trans fats that raised levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), which is what we don’t want.

However, some of the newer margarines are now free of trans fats, and can be a reasonable choice as long as it’s used in moderation, as they are still rich in calories.

6. Cheese does not gives you nightmares

For all you cheese lovers out there – you are in luck! There’s no proven evidence to suggest that eating cheese before bed can give you weird dreams or nightmares. The research on the subject is extremely limited, flawed, and the facts just aren’t there.

Rather than bring on nightmares, a study actually found that it had may have a relaxing effect. The main reason for this is the presence of an amino acid called tryptophan in cheese. Your body uses tryptophan to produce serotonin, commonly known as the ‘feeling happy hormone’ that plays a key role in good sleep.

Instead, eating heavy, fatty foods with cheese right before bed can give you indigestion, which messes with your sleep. And if your sleep is disturbed, you might remember your nightmares more than usual.

7. The gluten free diet is not better for me (unless you have coeliac disease)

There is no compelling evidence that going on a gluten free diet will improve health or prevent disease if you don’t have coeliac disease.

If you cut all gluten out of your diet, there’s a risk that you could miss out on nutritious whole grains, fiber and micronutrients. Whole grains can lower cholesterol levels and even help regulate your blood sugar, particularly in those at risk for heart disease or diabetes. In addition, some gluten-containing foods are sources of important vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins, iron and magnesium.

Keep in mind that some processed gluten-free foods contain high amounts of added sodium, sugar and fat. Consuming these foods can lead to excessive weight gain, blood sugar swings and high blood pressure. A gluten-free label doesn’t necessarily make a food healthy.

So if you don’t have celiac disease or gastrointestinal irritation, we recommend reducing highly processed foods from your diet before removing gluten. Add in more fruits, vegetables, whole-grain bread or pasta, and lean proteins. Many people find they feel better just by eating better, not by removing gluten.

8. Microwaving food does not destroy nutrients in food

Microwaves may slightly reduce the nutrient content of some foods, but not enough to make a significant difference. As far as cooking methods go, microwaving is actually one of the best methods for preserving the nutrients in food.

All forms of cooking reduce the nutrient content of food. When you heat food, some of the water evaporates, taking a portion of the nutrients with it. If you want to retain nutrients in your food, then you want to cook them quickly and with as little water as needed, which is exactly what microwaving does.

Boiling vegetables for too long isn’t ideal, as it causes water-soluble vitamins to leach into cooking water. Because microwaves penetrate food, they heat it much more efficiently and quickly, so there is less time for vitamins to break down.

Microwaving retains about the same nutrient levels as steaming, which is traditionally considered to be the best method of cooking for nutrient retention. So if steaming your vegetables isn’t a feasible option for you, microwaving is actually a great alternative!

9. Eggs are not bad for your heart

It seems logical to think eggs would be bad for heart health due to its cholesterol content, especially in egg yolks. However, recent research has shown most of the cholesterol in our body is made by our liver, not from the cholesterol we eat. In fact, it a study found that having 1 egg/day helped increase levels of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).

Eggs are:

  • Highly nutritious and super affordable – it supplies many micronutrients such as Choline, Vitamin D and B12 which is hard to get from food

  • Excellent source of quality protein – It contain all 9 essential amino acids to support effective muscle growth and recovery

  • Assists with weight management – Since it is a rich source of high quality protein, eggs are generally more filling and help increase satiety of meals, which then helps manage hunger levels

Eggs can be enjoyed freely as part of a healthy diet in the general population. However, those with an increased risk of heart disease, it is recommended to limit eggs to 7 per week.

10. Red meat is not bad for you

Similarly to the topic before about eggs, no one food is necessarily bad for you. Red meat has plenty of benefits and can be part of a healthy diet in moderation.

Benefits of Red meat

Contains many important nutrients

  • Protein - to help maintain muscle mass, enzymes, bone and other tissues

  • Iron – The iron found in red meat is heme iron, which is more easily absorbed and used by the body compared to iron found in plant based sources

  • B12 vitamin – which is hard to find in food. Meat and dairy is the main source of dietary B12, which is why those following a vegetarian or vegan diet may need a B12 supplementation to prevent deficiencies.

While red meat itself isn’t bad for you, we also need to take into account other factors, such as how often one is eating it and how it’s being cooked or prepared. When cooking red meat, avoid burning it or cooking it at high temperatures, which can generate carcinogenic compounds, which we want to avoid. Additionally, we recommend choosing lean cuts of red meat where possible to avoid excessive saturated fat intake.

The general guide from the World Cancer Research Fund is to aim for 3 servings of red meat per week.

11. Carbs are not bad for you

Carbs has had a bad rep in many communities, and often gets the blame for causing obesity, diabetes, inflammation and many other diseases. The problem with this claim is that not all carbs are created equal. To break this myth properly, it’s important to understand what carbs actually are.

Carbohydrates are a macronutrient found in many food and drinks that eventually break down into glucose by your body. Our bodies use carbs as the MAIN source of energy: It keeps our brains, kidneys, heart, muscles and even our nervous system running. In fact, the fibre found in carbs has been shown to lower risk of

Carbs can be classified into either simple or complex carbs.

  • Simple carbs are digested easily and gets absorbed into your bloodstream faster. Traditional examples of carbs are things like sugar, chips, bread, biscuits, rice and pasta. But did you know, things like fruits, vegetables and dairy are also examples of simple carbs?

  • On the other hand, complex carbs take longer to digest and get absorbed into your bloodstream at a slower rate, which can help you feel fuller for longer and provide a steady stream of glucose for your body compared to simple carbs. Whole foods like beans, wholegrains and starchy vegetables are examples of this.

There is a lot of evidence showing that a diet high in fibre and complex carbs reduces the risk of chronic disease, such as heart disease, stroke and even some forms of cancer (colon and rectal).

So despite what you may have seen on social media, carbs can and should be part of a nourishing diet. The key is knowing and understanding the types of carbs you are feeding your body, opting for high fibre and complex carbs where possible.

12. Sugar substitutes are bad for you.

In March 2023, when this webinar was recorded, the evidence when using sugar substitutes was different. As of 17th July 2023, the World Health Organisation has recommended against the use of sugar substitutes. If you re-watch the recording, please disregard our answer to this myth. For more information Aspartame hazard and risk assessment results released (who.int)

Want more Food myths debunked?

Take a look at our Food Myth Series.

Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list to be the first one to know when the next one is released. Or keep an eye out on our event pages for more details.


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