Here are some of the biggest food lies we need to stop telling ourselves:
1. One slice of processed cheese is the same as a glass of milk
Processed cheese, like a lot of processed food, is merely a shadow of what it originally was. Those 'singles' or slices you have been dolling out to your toddler, may not really have much nutrition in them, let alone the same as a glass of milk. It is cheaper as compared to traditional cheese and lasts longer. But have you wondered why? It is processed using whey and emulsifiers, and often inexpensive imported milk protein concentrate. When it comes to cheese, it is better to stick to natural cheese like ricotta, gouda, feta, parmesan, etc. They may be more expensive, have a shorter shelf life but are far more nutritious.
Processed cheese, like a lot of processed food, is merely a shadow of what it originally was2. Two minutes is all it takes to make instant noodles
This is one of the smaller lies, but one that we all believe. Two minutes is all it takes to make instant noodles? Nope, not really. If truth be told, two minutes is possibly what it will take for the water to merely boil. Ten minutes is more like it, but then that wouldn't make catchy taglines, would it?
It is a lie that it take just two minutes to cook any noodle3. All fruits are guilt-free indulgences and 'diet food'
Often when one wants to lose weight, we go on a diet. The simplest one we can think of is to ditch heavy food and sustain on fruits instead. However, which fruits you choose is important too. Here, a word of caution, we are not saying that these fruits are not healthy or do not have nutrients. Merely that they are also high in calorific value, and thus may not really be the low-calorie food you thought they were. Examples include avocados, bananas (one banana can have 100 calories), mangoes (a cup of chopped mango has around 100 calories) and coconut flesh/ coconut cream (up to 283 calories per cup).
Choose fruits that are healthy and those which have lesser calorie content4. Margarine is healthier than butter
Before you choose the low-calorie spread, know that it really may not be the healthier choice for your family. The key word is 'healthier' here and not 'low calorie'. Margarine and such spreads may contain hydrogenated oils, trans fats, emulsifiers, preservatives, etc., all of which can wreak havoc in your body. Butter, though higher in calories, is definitely healthier. Moderation is the key.
Margarine and such spreads may contain hydrogenated oils, trans fats, emulsifiers, preservatives5. It is too difficult/ time consuming to cook from scratch
I may have believed this before I moved to Singapore but I do not anymore. If you have a few tricks up your sleeve, cooking from scratch can be a breeze. My arsenal includes a mini electric chopper (which dices vegetables in seconds), an onion-tomato-ginger-garlic masala that I make and store in ice-cube trays in the freezer for quick curries and the ability to multi-task. Oh, and a box full of peeled garlic in the fridge goes a long way in quick cooking.
Storing food is unhealthy. It is better to cook from the scratch6. Brown sugar is more nutritious than white sugar
Our panel of nutritionists debunked this theory. Sugar is sugar, Dr. Shilpa Arora said. It may be lesser processed (and thus treated with lesser chemicals or machines) but it does not magically have more nutrition or lesser calories. It still remains sugar. And you know what they say about sugar being the new smoking.(Also read: 5 Types of Sugar that are Better Alternatives to Refined Sugar)
Any form of sugar is unhealthy. Brown sugar is as unhealthy as white sugar7. Raw carrots are more nutritious than cooked ones
Vegetables are often best consumed raw. This is because the cooking process and the application of heat may 'kill' nutrients like Vitamin C. However, there are some vegetables which are best eaten cooked. And carrots are high on the list. Cooking helps thin cell walls of the veggie and helps our body absorb greater amounts of beta-carotene (which is great for good vision). Tomatoes, spinach, asparagus and pumpkin are other vegetables which are healthier cooked than raw.
Carrots are high in beta-carotene ans is best when cooked8. You'll sleep better after a drink
If only this were true. You may have noticed that you get drowsy after a drink or two. However, the belief that it will help you sleep better, is unfounded. On the contrary, it leads to disrupted sleep. Studies have confirmed that a couple of drinks may help you sleep faster and you may even be blessed with 'deep sleep' for part of the night, but for the rest of the night, you may not get the rest your body needs. The amount of alcohol consumed and how often also plays a role here. As with everything, moderation is key.
Drinking before going to bed may disrupt your sleep9. Carbohydrates make you fat
The easy one line rebuttal to this is - No, carbohydrates don't make you fat. And carbohydrates don't only hide in rice and bread, some vegetables have carbohydrates too. But nothing in life (and definitely not in the nutrition world) is easy or can be explained in one line. Carbohydrates are important for your body, like all other food groups are. Yes, if you cut them out, you may see short-term weight loss. However, in the long term, this is a recipe for disaster as it may also lead to low metabolism, poor gut health, depression, insomnia and low testosterone. Your appropriate carbohydrate intake depends on your activity level, energy requirements, body type and age. Like any food group, eliminating this one will only cause more harm in the long run than gain.
Carbohydrates do not make you fat. They are as important as any other food groups10. Salads are the healthiest thing on a menu
And finally, dispelling one of the greatest food lies we tell ourselves, salads are really not always healthy. Nor are they necessarily low in calories. The ingredients play a large role here, especially the salad dressing. If you load your salad with a creamy Thousand Island or Caesar's Dressing, there is a good chance that it is far less healthier and more calorie rich than a good main like grilled fish. So, don't follow convention blindly. Arm yourself with knowledge, know fact from fiction and make healthier choices. Your trainer will thank you for it (as will your family doctor).
About the Author:Harnoor Channi-Tiwary is an MBA who wandered into the world of writing and never left. For more than a dozen years, she has been writing about food and travel. Harnoor steered the editorial direction for NDTV Food till January 2017 as Head (content) prior to which she worked with Marryam Reshii on the Times Food Guide 2014 amongst other notable works. She blogs at TheThoughtExpress, tweets as @HCdines and now lives in Singapore with her husband and six year old daughter (who's first word reportedly was 'yummy' and not mummy).
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