Popular food myths debunked

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Nutrition advice can be confusing, and even contradictory. Dietitian Nelile Nxumalo explains which rules we should follow — and which ones are long past their shelf life.

Dark chocolate is better

Dark chocolate contains antioxidants called flavonoids, which may provide a health benefit. It also contains polyphenols, which can be good for heart health. However, chocolate also has saturated fats, which may potentially raise bad cholesterol levels. Also bear in mind that in some dark chocolate the sugar content may be high, so everything in moderation.

Red wine is good for your heart

Moderate amounts of red wine can boost heart health, as it contains an antioxidant that delivers this benefit. However, high consumption of red wine (or any alcohol) leads to an increased risk of developing alcohol-related cancers. If you don’t drink, there’s no need to start! If you do, drink responsibly. A basic guideline for daily wine limits is one unit for women and two units for men. A unit of red wine is one 150ml glass.

Healthy eating is more expensive

Eating healthily definitely doesn’t need to be expensive. If you start by decreasing portion sizes, your food will go further and you can already start saving. If possible, you can also grow your own vegetables. Or choose seasonal fruits and vegetables when you shopping, as this is more cost effective.

Eating dinner late leads to weight gain

It is better to eat your last meal of the day two to three hours before bedtime, or rather opt for a light snack instead of a heavy late-night meal. If you have a large meal close to bedtime, this may result in your body not using the calories from the food effectively, as our metabolism is slower when we’re sleeping or resting. This can result in faster weight gain, as the energy is stored as fat reserves in our bodies.

Egg yolks are bad for you

This one is not true. Egg yolks do contain cholesterol, but the amount is still within healthy limits, not to mention that eggs also contain good sources of high-quality protein. You can safely eat six to eight eggs a week without increasing your risk of higher cholesterol levels. What you choose to eat with your eggs may be the cholesterol culprit. For example, the bacon and sausage you have higher amounts of cholesterol than egg yolks.

Organic food is more nutritious

In terms of nutritional value, there’s not enough evidence to show that organic foods are best. But the fresher you eat your fruit and vegetables, organic or not, the better. And organic foods are better for the environment, as there are no pesticides.

Nxumalo is a registered dietician who runs a private practice in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, and has 15 years of experience in the nutrition sector. In her private practice, Nxumalo focuses on critical-care nutrition and other health and lifestyle conditions that require nutrition and dietary management.

This article first appeared in print in the Sowetan S Mag March 2018 edition.

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