The biggest food myths in Britain

Updated on 31 March 2011 | 0 Comments

What are the biggest food myths you shouldn't believe? Kirsty Page investigates.

It seems every day a new miracle food pops up.  Things that were once good for us are now bad and the guidelines for our wellbeing are constantly chopping and changing.  Let’s separate fact from fiction...

Myth 1) Fresh is always better than frozen

For years, frozen foods have been thought of as second class.  When you walk into a supermarket you are usually greeted by mountains of brightly coloured fresh fruit and veg.  The frozen aisle tends to be hidden right at the back, next to the household appliances and pet food.

When something is fresh, we automatically think it is better for us.  But this is not always the case.  Nutrient levels start dropping from the moment something is harvested and time ticks away as food sits in transportation and on the shelf.  Not to mention the time it spends lurking in the bottom of the fridge.

Frozen food tends to be frozen within hours of being picked to retain their nutrients.  Birds Eye even claim that their Field Fresh Garden Peas are frozen within two and a half hours to lock in all the goodness.

Of course, fresh fruit and veg are a brilliant source of nutrition and can taste fantastic.  But don’t rule out frozen fruit and veg because they happen to reside in the freezer next to the pizza and ice cream.

Myth 2) I have to drink eight glasses of water a day

We have long believed that we need to drink eight glasses of water a day to maintain our health and wellbeing. 

The scientific research, however, is less than convincing.  US Research revealed that we get plenty of fluid from tea, coffee and the food we eat and don’t need to worry about topping up with an extra eight glasses a day.

Some people swear that drinking lots of water makes their skin better and helps them concentrate, but actual scientific evidence is rather thin on the ground. What do you think? Let us know your views using the comments box below!

Myth 3) Low fat foods are always better for me

We live in an age of serial dieting.  Labels such as ‘fat free’ or ‘low fat’ are extremely effective ways of encouraging consumers to buy products on the basis that they are better for you.

While it is true that eating less fat (especially the saturated kind) is good for us, many of these so called ‘low fat’ options are making compromises elsewhere. 

Let’s look at yoghurts for example.  A Sainsbury’s 1% fat Fabulously Fruity strawberry yoghurt is 91Kcal per 100g and contains just 1g of fat – sounds good right? Well, it does until you look at the sugar content – 15.1g.

If we look at a comparable product, a Taste the Difference West Country strawberry yoghurt, we can see that the low fat version is not as virtuous as it may seem.  Per 100g, the Taste the Difference yoghurt contains 115Kcal and 4.9g fat.  So more calories and fat than the low fat version, but each 100g contains just 9.5g of sugar.

Some foods labelled as low fat do seem to be genuinely healthier, managing to keep fat content, calories and sugar levels low.  Just don’t get taken in by the marketing - make sure you read the label to ensure your fat isn’t being substituted for heaps of sugar.

Myth 4) Eggs will raise my cholesterol

Eggs got a lot of bad press when research was carried out that linked high cholesterol with increased risk of heart disease.  Egg yolks have a very high concentration of dietary cholesterol and the ‘c’ word alone is enough to put many people off.

In fact, research by the University of Surrey showed that most people could eat as many eggs as they wanted without damaging their health.  Approximately only a third of cholesterol in the body comes from the food we eat and it is actually saturated fat that is the bad guy when it comes to raising cholesterol.

In 2007, The British Heart Foundation dropped advice to limit egg consumption to three a week on the basis that it was a misconception based on out-of-date evidence.

Myth 5) ‘Superfoods’ are always super

The term ‘superfood’ has exploded onto the scene in recent years and certain foods elevated to God-like status.  It began with the blueberry and soon spinach, broccoli and even Goji berries followed suit.

Nobody can deny that these foods are good for you, but by allocating the term ‘super’, people suddenly expect them to work miracles.

Jeremy Spencer, of Reading University, has attacked the use of the term ‘superfood’, branding it meaningless and misleading.  He argues that breaking a food down into its different components is pointless.  The effect of the whole food may be quite different from the sum of its parts and it is impossible to predict the reactions of individual metabolisms to specific foods.

The EU seemed to agree when they banned the use of the term unless backed up by an authorised health claim.

What do you think? Are a lot of claims made by the food industry just a load of hot air, or are you still inclined to believe them?

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