Nutrition Myths

With so much information on nutrition available, it leads many people to be confused about what’s healthy and what’s not. I was lucky enough to attend the Egg Nutrition Council breakfast to discuss nutrition myths and unravel the maze of information that is out to confuse everyone!
The first myth discussed was “Are carbohydrates bad for you?” This is a topic that comes up regularly due to the bad rap that carbs have been given in the past when it seemed like everyone wanting to lose weight was cutting carbs! It is important to consume low GI and high fibre complex carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread and legumes rather than simple carbohydrtaes such as sugar as they provide nutrients for gastrointestinal health and bowel problems and can help to reduce risk of colon cancer. Refined simple sugars like those in cakes, biscuits, white bread and many other processed foods are of little nutritional value, however fruits should still be included as they contain vitamins and minerals important optimum body functioning. However, this does not mean that we are to consume carbohyfrates as much as we like. Moderate consumption of high fibre complex carbohydrates is recommended to provide essential vitamins and minerals as well as keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Those who exercise regularly will make better use of good quality carbs during their workout over those with low levels of physical activity. This does not mean that if you exercise you can eat what you like. Instead it is best to use food as fuel for your body to exercise. If you put in bad fuel (unhealthy food) you will put out bad performance (less gains in sports performance). Supplementation in sports nutrition can also be used for convenience, however it is always best to get your adequate nutrient intake from whole foods, according to Exercise Scientist and Personal Trainer, Damien Kelly. Protein supplements are to be used as a back up only, and preparation is the key to adequate nutrition.
Another myth that was discussed is whether eating eggs is bad for your cholesterol. Eggs are actually very high in omega-3 oils and are Heart Foundation Tick approved. This means that they are actually a helpful food source in lowering risk of heart disease. Instead, it is saturated fat that we must consume with caution. Fatty cuts of meat, full fat dairy and many processed foods contain saturated fat that can increase blood cholesterol levels and eventually block arteries, leading to heart disease. Eggs are a good source of nutrition and can be introduced early to infants in their cooked form to lower the risk of egg allergies. Whether eggs are from free range, organic or cage hens, the nutrient content is very similar, therefore it simply comes down to ethical choices. 6 eggs per week is recommended by the Heart Foundation for optimal health.
So are eggs perhaps the new ‘superfood’? The word ‘superfood’ is perhaps an overused term which describes a very nutritious food source, however, according to Dr Grant from the Egg Nutrition Council “there will always be a new trending superfood as long as there is money to be made.” It is important to eat a combination of wholesome healthy foods to give you all the nutrients your body needs, rather than relying on a new ‘superfood’!
Another question addressed was “is eating organic food more nutritious than non-organic food?” The nature of organic food means that it is often seasonal, where the vitamin and mineral content is at its optimum level. Homegrown fruit and veges are possibly the most organic you can get, however purchasing non-organic foods when they are in season provides similar nutrient levels, therefore it mainly comes down to cost and availability to you. As most Australians do not consume the optimum serving of fruit and vegetables, more important than choosing organic foods is simply aiming for 2 serves of fruit an 5 serves of vegetables daily.
Supplements are available everywhere now, but are vitamins and mineral supplements better than whole foods? A healthy, balanced diet should contain all of the nutrients you need, however if you take part in lots of physical activity, aren’t getting enough rest or are feeling fatigued, then a good quality multivitamin can help. Of course, a healthy diet is the first and foremost aspect, however supplements can be used as a great back up. More specific supplements may be required such as folate and Vitamin D during pregnancy, but nutrients from your diet are always best.
Another myth discussed was “should sugar be avoided?” Refined sugars such as biscuits, white bread and confectionary are of little nutritional value, however natural sugar from fruits containing vitamins and fibre should still be included in your diet. When cutting back on refined sugar, take care not to compensate with artificial sweeteners or salty foods.
Accordng to Damien Kelly, many individuals need a structured diet plan and exercise regime with shopping lists and further follow up for success. It is important to make healthy eating easy and a health priority to get the best possible results.