‘Carrots help you see in the dark’, ‘spinach is full of iron’, ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’… Who among us hasn’t heard these little phrases to get us to eat a healthier diet? But what if there was more to having a healthy, balanced diet than just being well-informed? Maxisciences has been having a look into these common misconceptions about eating well in order to debunk a few well-known myths.
‘My mother always told me to ‘finish my dinner because there are children in other parts of the world starving to death’.
So I forced myself to finish all my food even when I wasn’t hungry. The nutritionist I consulted when I had concerns about being overweight explained that this bad habit prevented me from realising what being full felt like. And so I didn’t know when to stop eating,' explained Anne-Laure, quoting one phrase that almost every child has heard at the dinner table at one point in their lives, but which ultimately ends up having negative consequences on the general health, weight and diet of so many people. Here are some of the most common misconceptions about food.
Eat carrots, they help you see in the dark
After all, we have never seen Bugs Bunny wearing glasses, have we? In fact, he always seems to be carrying carrots around with him! The only logical assumption that we can draw from this is that this is why he has such good eyesight! But other people seem to believe another myth. According to an article posted on the website Health 24, a rumour was started during the Second World War about the benefits that this orange vegetable has on our vision. According to this rumour, pilots at the Royal Air Force were so talented and good at bringing down German planes because they ate carrots. In reality, however, their aircraft were equipped with extremely efficient radar systems! But that doesn’t mean we should just dismiss the benefits of beta-carotene and vitamin A that these vegetables contain. They play a big role in preventing cataracts and macular degeneration (AMD). However, it might actually better to take an additional food supplement containing these vitamins, depending on what your body needs of course, since you would need to eat several kilos of carrots a day to get enough. But you should also bear in mind that when eaten excessively, beta-carotene can be toxic and can even cause the colour of your skin to change.
Eat spinach, it’s full of iron
Popeye is really strong after all! That’s obviously because he gobbles up tonnes and tonnes of spinach every day. Ahh… how many children do you think were wrongly misled and forced to eat something that looks so gross just because of this prominent and tattooed marine sailor? To be fair to him though, that’s not really his fault, but that of a German biochemist who, during the 19th century, made quite a significant error! Instead of writing that spinach contains 2.7 grams of iron per 100g of spinach leaves, he actually wrote 27 grams. And this huge mistake led this green vegetable to wrongly be known as the superhero of iron. Although it has many other nutritional benefits (fibres, minerals and vitamins), it is not as beneficial as lentils and beans in terms of its iron content, which is essential for the body. Especially when it comes to battling anaemia.
Drink a glass of fresh orange juice in the morning, it’s full of vitamins
It’s true, citrus fruits are a good source of vitamins, micronutrients, minerals, fibre, antioxidants... but they are also full of sugars! And generally, the juice from just one freshly squeezed orange isn’t enough and we end up needing to use several, which therefore considerably increases the amount of sugar we consume. And let’s not forget that squeezing oranges removes the fibre benefits. Instead, it would be better to just eat the whole fruit and not make juice out of it. And we won’t even mention store-bought juices which have been enriched with extra additives and sugars. They are just a disaster for a balanced diet.
Drink lots of milk to strengthen your bones
Rich in calcium, which is an essential mineral for your bones, teeth, regulating your heart rate and your health in general, dairy products have long been considered a vital addition to our diets. But don’t be fooled! In 2014, a Swedish study reported that drinking a huge quantity of milk could actually have very some serious consequences for your health. As an article from the Huffington Post explains, women who drink three or more glasses of the stuff a day have a 90% higher risk of death and a 60% higher fracture risk in comparison to those who drink less than one glass a day. An increased risk has also been recorded for men. These results should, however, be taken with a pinch of salt, since a potential, preexisting lack of vitamin D recorded in these patients could also explain these figures. Until further research proves whether these results are true or false, it is nevertheless advised to only drink 1 glass of milk a day and find other ways to get more calcium into your system, such as by eating green, leafy vegetables, soy products, fish, fat…
Never skip breakfast or you’ll get fat!
This line is generally followed by the phrase ‘it's the most important meal of the day’! That’s a lot of pressure for people who have woken up late or who are unable to stomach anything in the morning other than coffee. According to a study known as the Bath Breakfast Project that was carried out by British scientists, this saying is not completely false but neither is it completely true. In fact, it depends on each individual and their metabolism. However, scientists have also observed that, for people who are overweight and skip this meal, it only makes their weight problems worse. Eating a balanced breakfast is, and always will be, the best way to start the day.