There are so many misconceptions surrounding food and diet. Like much of what we hear in the media, mainstream information about nutrition is usually someone’s opinion, rather than fact. There’s always a new “healthy” fad (acai, avocado, garcinia cambogia, etc) or weight loss product in the news. There are also products and diet plans that actually help people. In a world where doctors receive a commission for pharmaceutical sales, and fruits are being cloned, and sold at half the original price, its no wonder we’re so confused about what is actually healthy. Here are a few misconceptions to remember on your next trip to the grocery store:
1. Fast casual food is healthier than fast food
This is a HUGE misconception! During my streak as the fast food queen, eating at places like Qdoba, Chipotle, Panera, or McAlister’s just felt healthier. However, some of the ingredients these restaurants are using are identical to fast food restaurants. As a matter of fact, traditional restaurants, buffets, fast food, and fast causal restaurants, are generally equally unhealthy. Unless you’re eating at a restaurant that’s advertised as grass-fed or organic, you’re subject to consume the same low-quality ingredients. Component ingredients are the most important part of a recipe, something most people don’t think about. Chemicals can be dressed up to look and taste delicious, but they’re still chemicals and can have adverse affects your health.
After returning from Germany, a very health conscious country, I began to really thinking about what I was putting in my body. In Germany the FDA requires genetically modified consumables (food, soap, etc) to be clearly labeled. The ingredients are listed in their true form, and not “artificial flavors and colors.” Next time you plan a nice dinner, make sure you’re paying for quality!
2. Soul food is unhealthy
African-Americans are nearly twice as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites. Diabetes, high blood-pressure, heart disease, and stroke plague the African American community. A staggering 15% of African Americans over age 20 are diabetic. This seems to be directly related to diet and upbringing.
However, conducting research for my paleo cookbook, I found that traditional soul food wasn’t the problem. Dark greens and organ meats are some of the most nutrient-dense foods available. Staples like okra, celery, corn, and rice won’t kill you. My granny used to go to her families’ farm and pick greens. She was a jarring and canning expert, using only vinegar and boiling hot water to preserve food for several months. All the meat she cooked was grass-fed, the vegetables were organic, and she used bacon fat for frying. Today, nearly all of the products used for soul food preparation are processed, refined, or chemically altered. Soul food can be healthy for you, it all depends on how its prepared.
3. The food pyramid is still relevant.
This one goes without saying. For reasons I cannot understand, people are still using the food pyramid or diet pyramid as a guide. Grains should absolutely NOT make up 40% of your diet as depicted on the food pyramid. There are so many gluten free options and a growing number of lactose-free options available because our bodies can’t break it down very well. Obviously “fats, oils, and sweets” are not something we need to be promoting as a dietary necessity either. A true nutritional pyramid should look more like this:
4. You should follow expiration dates
Have you ever examined how quickly fresh cow’s milk spoils compared to commercialized milk? Just think of spoilage as a synonym for freshness. Of course fish will spoil faster than meat, honey never spoils, and cheese is generally eaten slightly spoiled. However, spoilage is one sign of decay, and only live foods spoil. By live foods, I’m referring to stable, sustainable vitamins & nutrients, as well as energy. I use spoilage as a guide to let me know how many nutrients are left in my food. Refrigeration and preservatives are usually methods to prevent or deter spoilage, but fresh, unaltered, grass-fed, pure, organic foods spoil fast. Instead of following expiration dates, use the sniff test for fresh foods and DON’T BUY anything that lasts more than a month or two! Don’t be fooled by eating canned vegetable soup or a bag of sliced apples that never turn brown. A long shelf life is usually a sign of the lack of nutrients in foods. Spoilage is a good thing.
5. Fruits are just as healthy as vegetables
If a child has an affliction with a certain food, it’s more than likely a vegetable. Many adults also struggle with eating veggies, and turn to fruits instead. Another horrible idea from the food pyramid is that we should group fruits and veggies together. As you saw in the image on the previous page, “most raw greens” has its own category. Although fruits can be very good for you, I could write an essay on the greater benefits of eating veggies. My track coach used to tell me to eat bananas for potassium when my muscles cramped up. However, a medium banana gives you a measly 422 milligrams of potassium. To reach the daily recommended value, you’d have to eat 9-10 bananas! A cup of cooked Swiss chard packs 961 milligrams of potassium, and one avocado contains over 975 milligrams. Eating more fruits is a good start to a healthier lifestyle, but make sure you get enough veggies!