Overwhelmed by all of the nutrition information out there?
Unsure of where to start and what to eat?
Check-out these common nutrition myths that will help to clear up some of the misinformation.
NUTRITION MYTH #1: Eating junk food helps battle stress
You’ve been there: Stressed out and sprawled across your sofa with one arm elbow deep in a bag of cheese puffs. In the moment, it can be comforting, but a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that people who consumed the most highly processed foods were 58 percent more likely to be depressed than those who ate the least. Your move: Find a healthy stress snack like almond butter and an apple, for example.
Foods that help with stress:
Strawberries: Strawberries are surprisingly high in vitamin C, which has been proven to have a significant effect on stress levels. Increased vitamin C consumption has been proven to help people cope with stressful situations. Levels of cortisol (one of the stress hormones) decreased rapidly in subjects given vitamin C supplement, and the blood pressure of the study participants returned to normal more quickly in the vitamin C group than in the control group.
Salmon: If you don’t like fish, you have good reason to be stressed. But you can get the same benefits from an Omega-3 supplement. A study out of Ohio State University found that students who took regular omega-3 supplements had a 20% reduction in their anxiety levels, in comparison to students who were fish-free and didn’t take supplements. If you know you have a big day ahead, plan to have some lox with breakfast for salmon on your salad. It will fight those overwhelmed feelings from stress and also keep you focused, so you can nail that afternoon presentation or meeting.
Nuts: Nuts are crunchy, so there’s a stress relieving activity for you. More importantly, nuts are high in magnesium (so are leafy green veggies), a vital nutrient when in it comes to our body’s natural stress coping mechanism. The majority of us are magnesium deficient, the RDA for adults is between 320 and 420mg daily and the average American gets about 250mg daily. A common sign of magnesium deficiency is an inability to manage stress, and the physical ramifications of that like high blood pressure, insomnia, fatigue, or loss of appetite. Go ahead, eat that PB & J, it will calm you down.
NUTRITION MYTH #2: Dark Chocolate is good for you
Plenty of studies have shown that polyphenols – nutrients found in darkly colored plant foods like chocolate – can do everything from lowering blood pressure to raising our ability to burn fat. A 2013 study in the journal Diabetic Medicine even found that eating dark chocolate lessened the effects of high blood sugar in diabetic patients. Unfortunately, the more chocolate is processed, the more of the polyphenols are lost. Creating “Dutch” chocolate, in which an alkalizing agent is added to the cocoa to reduce acidity, destroys up to 77 percent of the nutrients in the cocoa. To get the health benefits, look for a dark chocolate that says 70% cacao (or higher) on the label. The rest? It’s just candy.
NUTRITION MYTH #3: Oatmeal is good for you
Okay, oatmeal really is good for you. If it’s just oatmeal that you made from scratch, and then sweetened yourself with a little fruit. But most of what’s sold as oatmeal today is more like a package of Kool-Ade mix. Consider Instant Quaker Oatmeal Strawberries & Cream, which features delicious sounding “flavored and colored fruit pieces.” What does that mean, exactly? What they’ve done is taken dried apples and/or figs and injected them with corn syrup solids, corn starch, and trans fats, and mixed it in something called a “creaming agent.” Or check out the Fruit & Maple Oatmeal offering at McDonald’s. It’s a breakfast cereal with 32 grams of sugar – the equivalent of nearly 13 cups of Kix cereal!
NUTRITION MYTH #4: Bananas are the best source of potassium
Your body uses potassium to keep your nerves and muscles firing efficiently, and an adequate intake can blunt sodium’s effect on blood pressure. One 2009 study found that a 2:1 ratio of potassium to sodium could halve your risk of heart disease, and since the average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day, your goal should be 6,800 milligrams of daily potassium. You’re extremely unlikely to ever reach that mark – and never with bananas alone. One medium banana has 422 milligrams and 105 calories.
Here are the sources that earn you roughly the same amount of potassium in fewer calories:
Potato, half a medium spud, 80 calories
Apricots, 5 whole fruit, 80 calories
Cantaloupe, 1 cup cubes, 55 calories
Broccoli, 1 full stalk, 50 calories
Sun-dried tomatoes, a quarter cup, 35 calories
NUTRITION MYTH #5: Oranges are the best source of vitamin C
Far more than a simple immune booster, vitamin C is an antioxidant that plays a host of important roles in your body. It strengthens skin by helping to build collagen, improves mood by increasing the flow of norepinephrine, and bolsters metabolic efficiency by helping transport fat cells into the body’s energy-burning mitochondria. But since your body can neither store nor create the wonder vitamin, you need to provide a constant supply. An orange is the most famous vitamin-C food, and although it’s a good source, it’s by no means the best. For 70 calories, one orange gives you about 70 micrograms of vitamin C.
Here are five sources with just as much vitamin C and even fewer calories:
Papaya, ¾ cup, 50 calories
Brussels sprouts, 1 cup, 40 calories
Strawberries, 7 large fruit, 40 calories
Broccoli, ½ stalk, 25 calories
Red Bell Pepper, ½ medium pepper, 20 calories