Angela Dowden: Banishing those food myths

We’re constantly hearing contradicting advice about how our diet affects our health. So what’s the truth about those old chestnuts like “I’m overweight because of my slow metabolism” and “You must drink 8 glasses of water a day”? Angela sorts the facts from the fiction below…

Classic Food Myths…

Myth

Chocolate gives you spots.

Some experts think that a generally unbalanced diet might exacerbate acne, but there is no evidence specifically linking chocolate with spots. A more likely cause of acne is hormonal imbalance. However, too much chocolate is not so forgiving to your waistline.

Myth

Eating late makes you put on weight.

Subjects monitored in a metabolic unit for 48 hours showed absolutely no difference in the amount of fat stored whether they ate their main meal at midday or at 8pm.

Myth

White bread is unhealthy.

It may not be as high in fibre and iron as the wholemeal type, but it’s still nutritious. White flour must be fortified with a range of nutrients by law, which means it is actually richer in calcium than whole grain types.

Myth

People who are overweight have a slow metabolic rate.

In fact, the bigger you are, the more calories you use up per day. Your internal organs have to work harder, and you use more energy in carrying the extra weight around. However, being overweight can put a strain on your body and organs. Everybody is different and so it’s best to discuss your ideal weight with your doctor.

Myth

Sweet foods are bad for you.

Not all of them. Some naturally very sweet foods, like fruit juices, raisins, mangoes and other delicious fruits are really good for you. And whilst cakes and desserts can often be very fattening, they’ll be less so if the sweetness comes from an added sweetener (such as Canderel which has only 2 calories per teaspoon), rather than sugar. You can also reduce their calorie content further by making your own sweet treats using other low calorie ingredients such as low fat spread instead of butter. You’ll find plenty of low calorie recipes in the Canderel Kitchen.

Myth

Tea and coffee don’t count towards your fluid intake.

You can count all drinks except alcohol towards your fluid intake. And fruits and vegetables, which often have around 90 per cent water, also count towards it. Eight cups or glasses of fluid a day is a good guide, but it’s okay for healthy adults to rely on their sense of thirst to tell them when they need to drink.

Surprising food myths

Truth

Frozen vegetables can be better for you than fresh.

Frozen vegetables are blanched (quickly plunged into boiling water) before freezing, which slightly reduces the nutrient content. But thereafter the vitamins stay intact, and don’t deplete any further like they do in “fresh” veg. In fact vegetables that have hung around in the supermarket and then in your fridge can be far less nutritious.

Truth

Red wine is better for you than white wine.

Red wine is rich in proanthocyanidins which relaxes blood vessels and helps lower the risk of heart disease. 1-2 units daily of any type of alcohol is good for you, but red wine has the most benefits. Drink more than 3-4 units of any form of alcohol and the health benefits are reversed however!

Truth

Green tea helps burn fat.

Green tea contains catechins – antioxidants that appear to have an affect on metabolism, causing you to burn a few more calories. But it’s only a small effect – equivalent to say 70-80 extra calories expended if you have drink 5 cups of green tea over a day.

Truth

A spread is healthier than butter.

Butter is high in saturated fat which scientists agree increases blood cholesterol. For a while margarines weren’t very healthy either because they contained varying amounts of trans fats, which are worse still than saturates. However virtually all modern spreads have been reformulated to be trans-fat free, and are a lot healthier option than butter.