15 Healthy Food Lies We’ve Been Told Our Whole Lives

Just drink more water, pretzels are better than bread, and yogurt is inherently good for you. Right? Wrong!

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Salted cashews are stationed everywhere, your raw veggie consumption has doubled, and you go to bed hungry more often than not. With a health plan like that, no wonder you—and so many others—fall off the bandwagon. There’s a common misconception by those trying to get “fit” that the more hunger pangs you endure and sweat you burn, the svelter and healthier you’ll be. You’ll be pleasantly surprised that this is, in fact, not the case. We’ve all been told plenty of half-truths and straight up lies throughout our lives about the food we eat, how we should cook it, and how it will affect our bodies. As you do more research, you may be a little put off when you realize some of your nutritious go-tos are actually a bigger mistake than that Kit Kat you snuck in last week. Check out this list to make sure you’re really taking two steps forward and not two pounds back!

1. Fresh is healthier than frozen.

Frozen is actually the most optimum food item unless your produce or meats are coming directly from farm to table. Fresh foods typically lose their high volume of nutrients only three days after being harvested. When you take into consideration travel time and fluctuation of temperature changes, it’s easy to see how the nutritional value has become depleted before your food hits your grocer. Typically, frozen foods are frozen directly after they’ve been harvested, which locks their nutritional benefits in until prep time. The con with frozen food is that it can be lacking the fresh flavor enjoyed by many. However, this is easily overlooked when you realize how much more padded your wallet will be once you switch over. Plus, it doesn’t spoil as quickly, so you’re never throwing dollars down the drain. It pays to bargain shop when it comes to these.

2. Flavored yogurt is a healthy choice.

Yogurt is one of those health foods that is laden with sugar. Unless you’re indulging in Greek yogurt, your intake should be kept to a minimum. Flavored yogurt is loaded with unnecessary grams of sugar that outweigh the probiotics it holds. Even if you’re opting for the sugar-free or fat-free brands, the false additives are only temporarily staving off your hunger, which will eventually cause you to overindulge. If plain Greek yogurt doesn’t do the trick, you can certainly sweeten it up with other natural additives. Honey, raspberries, blueberries, and other fruits are all great additions to help make it more appealing.

3. Raw veggies are more nutritious than cooked.

People love going on juice cleanses simply because it’s fresh and raw. These juices contain helpful enzymes when the fruit or vegetables are freshly squeezed, whereas anytime you heat produce above 118 degrees, these minerals are drained out. However, what most people don’t know is that humans already make enough of these enzymes on their own, so those nutrients from the veggies are actually moot. Veggies are loaded with plenty of other vitamins and minerals that are never depleted from the plant, regardless of how high of a cooking temperature you use.

4. 100 percent fruit juice is a healthy beverage.

Fruit juice is arguably one of the worst “health foods” you could possibly choose, especially if it’s not fresh squeezed. The amount of natural and added sugars for one serving of a drink can easily push you over the suggested daily sugar intake for three whole days. By choosing to eat your fruit this way, you consume all of the natural sugar found in fruit but none of the dietary fiber. A glass of apple juice contains only 0.2 grams of fiber, while a whole apple has 3.3 grams. Which seems like the smarter choice to you? Drinking fruit juice can also increase your appetite, which may cause you to eat more than you normally would have at your next meal.

5. Multigrain is the only bread that’s nutritious.

It may be all the rage to toss aside the white breads and pastas and go the multigrain route. But don’t get too caught up in your briefly self-satisfying lifestyle choice. What really matters for bread is the refinement quality. Most grains found in bread have already been stripped of their most important nutrients. Keep your standards high, even when you’re on the prowl for whole grain. The only bread worth buying is that which advertises 100 percent whole wheat. If you at all see “refined wheat,” that’s a big red flag that it’s just carbs and sugars. This also applies to snacks like pretzels and crackers. To be sure that you’re buying a relatively healthy product, check that the first ingredient listed is whole grain. If you’re really trying to step it up, choose something with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.

6. Fats should be avoided.

There are different categories of fats—polyunsaturated, saturated, and unsaturated fats are just a few. Nutritional experts often debate the benefits and dangers of fat consumption, so there is not always a clear consensus, but they do agree that eliminating fat from your diet deprives your body of something it actually needs. Polyunsaturated fats can be found in avocados, nuts, fish, and vegetable oils. These fats help lower your cholesterol, and since the human body doesn’t produce these types of fats on its own, it’s essential that you integrate them into each meal. Saturated fats are the worst of the worst; they’ll instantly add pounds, not subtract. Nutritionists recommend that your daily intake of these shouldn’t exceed 10 percent, while unsaturated fats are associated with positive results. All fats should be taken in moderation, but to willfully choose the fat-free option is doing your body a great disservice. You’re missing out on essential nutrients and possibly stifling the improvement of your health.

7. Brown eggs are more natural than white ones.

When you walk into a farmers market, there’s just something about seeing fresh eggs out at a stand. You can already smell them frying back home. However, there’s a common misconception that brown eggs are an indicator of being produced in a more organic state. The color of an egg is actually determined by the breed of the hen. There is virtually no difference in taste between the different colors of eggs. But there most definitely is a difference between an egg that comes from a free-range chicken and an egg that comes from a chicken who’s lived her whole life in a cage. Hens raised in cages typically live in extremely cramped conditions, and many scientists believe that their quality of life can affect the taste of their eggs. However, meat producers can label eggs as free range by simply giving the chickens access to the outdoors. Be aware, though, that this does not necessarily mean the animals are actually roaming freely in an open field. Look for the pasture-raised label for a little more peace of mind when buying eggs. It’s best, though, to research the farm where the eggs come from in order to be sure.

8. Eating after 7 p.m. causes weight gain.

How many midnight hunger pangs have you tried to ignore when you’re dieting? There’s just something about eating a tub of ice cream in the evening that seems so appealing; it can become an all-consuming thought. However, eating after 7 p.m. isn’t the problem; it’s the overeating that inevitably ensues. Those late-night cravings are actually due to an undernourished system. This is a common statement you’ll hear even from seasoned personal trainers, but the reality is there’s no scientific evidence behind it. This myth has become a “fact” because, typically, if you’re eating after 6 p.m., it’s usually due to your lack of food during the day. People tend to overeat at night if they haven’t properly nourished themselves throughout the day, leading to weight gain from late-night snacking.

9. The more calories you cut the more pounds you lose.

This is definitely false. Let’s create a scenario. Say you have a 100-calorie cookie in front of you. Then you have a 100-calorie bowl of veggies. Which do you think is going to help you lose weight quicker? Obviously the vegetable. Yet the calorie count is the same. Obsessively counting calories is probably doing you more harm than good—stressing about your diet often leads to weight gain, because stress hormones increase fat production. People who diet are also more at risk for binge-eating and ruining their progress. You’re far better off by simply incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet. If you focus your time and energy on what you’re consuming, then your calorie counting days will be far behind you.

10. Microwaving removes the nutritional value from food.

Yet another false statement! Don’t be so hasty to toss out your appliance just yet. The very act of cooking food, no matter what the method, does result in the loss of nutrients, but limiting the cooking time and the amount of liquid used is the best way to preserve the nutritional value of your meal. Guess what is specifically designed for this purpose? Your microwave. Take spinach for example. If you boil it on the stove, spinach loses over half its folic acid, but if you microwave it with just a splash of water, this leafy green remains nutritious. Of course, if you use too much water in the microwave, you’re basically boiling the food and sapping its nutrients. Be sure to cover the food tightly to effectively create a steam environment and only use a microwave-safe container.

11. Fiber is a cure-all.

Fiber products are quick to boast their nutritional value, but as science continues to develop experts are discovering that not all fiber is created equal. You’ve probably begun to notice the latest fad with yogurts now boasting their fiber-rich products, and many white bread products and cereals claim to be a “good source of fiber,” too. Well, the fiber that’s been supplemented into these products is not exactly natural, and adding something good like fiber to junk food doesn’t magically make it healthy. So if you’re looking for a fiber boost, try to stick with naturally fiber-rich products, like veggies, fruits, and grains.

12. Granola and nuts are healthy snacks.

When you reach for that granola bar or a handful of peanuts, you are probably thinking that you’re choosing a healthy snack, right? This may be true when we’re comparing these items to Cheez-Its. But did you know one cup of mixed nuts can contain up to 800 calories? That being said, nuts can be healthy if you avoid the unsalted varieties—almonds and cashews are high in monounsaturated fat, which, as stated previously, is the good kind of fat that is essential to your health. The New York Times conducted a survey with American consumers and nutritionists asking about the nutritional value of certain foods. The greatest discrepancy between these two groups’ responses was over granola bars: 71 percent of the consumers polled believe granola is healthy compared to only 28 percent of nutritionists. Granola bars would be healthy if it weren’t for all the added sugar. Frozen yogurt is another example of a sugar snack masquerading as healthy food. Next time you reach for an afternoon snack, check the sugar content on the label.

13. Genetically modified food is bad for you.

Much of the public believes that genetically modified produce is less nutritious than organic food; a large sector of that group believes it can actually have negative effects on your health. Genetically modified organisms have been a hotly debated topic for several years now, but the latest study done by the National Academies of Sciences reports that there is actually no scientific evidence that suggests genetically modified food is unsafe to eat. In fact, the majority of scientists agree that it poses no danger to your health whatsoever. There is still, however, some uncertainty when it comes to actually labeling genetically modified food as such. In summer 2016, President Obama signed a law holding the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) responsible for establishing standards for labeling, so only time will tell how genetically modified food will be marketed to the public.

14. On the flip side, organic food is healthy.

Labeling a food organic has nothing to do with its nutritional value, but over 60 percent of people under the age of 30 believe that organic produce is healthier than genetically modified foods. If a product is labeled organic, that means it is mostly free from pesticides, fertilizers, and additives. The USDA strictly regulates what can and can’t be labeled organic, but that doesn’t stop companies from marketing those products as healthier. Take Gatorade for instance. PepsiCo rolled out G Organic in September 2016 to capitalize on the fact that 50 percent of consumers who buy organic do so because they think it’s better for their health. While G Organic contains organic cane sugar, it contains just as much sugar as regular Gatorade. In fact, sports drinks are only necessary if you’re exercising for longer than an hour, so it may be best to skip them altogether. Just remember that organic produce is healthy because it’s produce—there is absolutely no debate over whether an orange or apple is good for you.

15. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Your parents may have warned you against skipping breakfast as a child, but science suggests that people who do aren’t any less healthy than those who religiously eat a bowl of cereal every morning. Waiting until lunch is increasingly becoming more popular, and studies indicate that our eating habits have shifted with time—millennials are more likely to skip breakfast than their older counterparts. What you eat for the first meal of the day is more important than when you eat it. If you typically eat sugary cereals or pastries, you are better off not eating breakfast at all. Why? Because all that added sugar and highly processed carbohydrates in those foods can cause blood sugar and insulin to rise. High insulin levels tell the body to increase its fat storage, which is a nightmare for anyone trying to lose weight. A meal that’s high in protein, however, is more likely to satisfy your appetite longer, causing you to eat less throughout the day. But if all you end up having this morning is a cup of coffee, that’s fine, too.

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