April 1st in the US is a day when people play practical jokes on family and friends. Those who fall victim are called April Fools. But there’s no reason to be fooled when it comes to nutrition. Whenever I talk to someone about food or their diet, I often have to spend a little time debunking a myth or two. Here are a few of the most common nutrition myths I’ve heard. Have they fooled you, too?
Nutrition Myth 1: Sugar makes you hyper.
Here’s the fact about sugar: I know that I will never convince firm believers, but there is no scientific evidence that sugar makes people hyper. Kids get hyper at parties not because of the sugary soda and birthday cake—they’re cranked up because they’re excited. Adults often consume their sugar with caffeine, like sodas or coffee drinks, so it’s usually the caffeine, not the sugar, that’s gotten them wound up.
Nutrition Myth 2: The nutritional benefits of honey are better than sugar.
It’s been said that honey is better for you because it’s a source of B vitamins. But considering the amount that most people would eat at a sitting, the minuscule amounts that you might take in aren’t going make much of a dent when it comes to meeting your vitamin requirements. It’s true that honey is a natural product, while white sugar is a refined processed product, but the nutritional differences between the two are negligible. Calorie-wise, you’re looking at about 50 calories per tablespoon of white sugar, a little bit more—around 60 calories—for a tablespoon of honey.
Nutrition Myth 3: Eating after 8 PM makes you gain weight.
This one almost makes sense. The thinking goes that if you load up your system with calories at night when your body is winding down, you’re not going to burn them off. But the fact is, your body doesn’t know what time it is, and it doesn’t micromanage calories that way. If you don’t ‘use up’ your calories after dinner, you’ll just store them away and use them up the next day. But if you continually take in more calories than you need, whether it’s at 8 AM or midnight, you’ll gain weight.
Nutrition Myth 4: Brown eggs are better than white.
I’m not sure where this idea comes from, but I suspect it’s that brown says “natural,” while white screams “processed.” Egg color is determined by the breed of chicken, but nutritionally speaking, all eggs are pretty much the same. The diet of the hen can affect the nutritional quality of the egg, but that would be true whether she’s laying a white egg or a brown egg.
Nutrition Myth 5: Fresh vegetables are better than frozen.
I wish more people felt better about eating frozen vegetables. The truth is, frozen vegetables are packaged up and frozen very soon after picking, which means that much of their nutritional value is retained. Frozen veggies—just the plain ones without salt or sauces—are convenient and healthy, and sometimes even superior to fresh. Supermarket produce sometimes sits around for a while, and exposure to air, light or water can all sap vitamin content.