Nutrition Myth Busters

nutrition myths

By Marisa Morales, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Studying nutrition, I get asked a load of nutrition questions. Most questions are based on what people read or see online. In this blog I’ll help clear up some of the most common myths!

Myth #1: Some types of sugars are worse for you than others

Fact: Sugars such as honey, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), table sugar, and agave have a similar chemical structure allowing them to be metabolized in similar ways. That being said, there is no significant evidence any one is better than the others. We do know, though, that there is a positive relationship between consumption of added sugars and risk for chronic disease. It is more important to limit consumption of added sugars to <10% of your daily calories, than worry about type of sugar.  Remember an added sugar is not naturally found in the food. For example, HFCS in fruit juice is not naturally occurring, it was added to the drink during processing. But fruit and 100% natural fruit juices contain no added sugar.  The current recommendation is less than 25 gm added sugar per day for women and 37 gm for men.

Myth #2: Coffee is bad for you

Fact: In research conducted thus far, it seems as though coffee is more likely to be beneficial than harmful. Coffee is a great source of phytochemicals, non-nutritive compounds known for their disease preventive properties. More specifically, the phytochemicals found in coffee have antioxidant properties. If you are looking to follow a healthy eating pattern, the 2015-2020 USDA Dietary Guidelines suggest that moderate black coffee consumption is about 4 – 5 cups per day. Of course, what you add to it may change the nutritional content significantly!

Myth #3: All fats are bad and should not be eaten

Fact: False, false, FALSE! Dietary fat is essential for membrane structure, synthesizing vitamins, and providing energy. Now, there are different categories of fat, some of which are healthier than others. Healthy fats are found in fish, nuts, avocados, and liquid vegetable oils as unsaturated fats. Less healthy saturated fats are found in red meat, butter, and high-fat dairy.  Trans fats, extra harmful, are largely being eliminated as we change food processing methods.  Partially hydrogenated oils are a source of trans fat in processed foods. The 2015-2020 USDA Dietary Guidelines recommends limiting saturated fat to less than 10% of your daily calories, which is about 15 gms/day for women and 25 gms/day for men.  Limit/avoid trans fats as much as possible.

Myth #4: Diabetes is caused by excess sugar intake

Fact: There are two types of diabetes; Type 1 and Type 2, and neither are caused by eating too much sugar. Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is a chronic disease that is the result of one’s pancreas failing to produce sufficient concentrations of insulin or none at all. The underlying cause of T1D is still being researched, but it is known that genes play a role. Like Type 1, Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) is a chronic disease, but unlike T1D it is the result of insulin resistance; the body’s cells do not use insulin as efficiently as they should. Research shows that overweight and inactive individuals have a higher risk of T2D than those of a healthy weight. Being overweight is the result of multiple factors, not just  consumption of sugar. It should be noted that T2D can be due to genetics, which is why we sometimes see lean individuals with diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Myth #5: Egg whites are healthier than egg yolks

Fact: Eggs whites are not necessarily healthier than egg yolks. Egg whites do have a lower calorie count and contain no fat as compared with the yolk. However, the yolk contains nutrients that are not found in egg whites; vitamin D and choline. Vitamin D functions in bone health and immune system. Choline is a vitamin-like nutrient that aids in liver function. On a similar note, there is no longer a recommendation for limiting intake of cholesterol. This is because research has shown blood cholesterol levels to be minimally influenced by dietary cholesterol.

If you have a nutrition question, ask us in the comments!

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