Soy milk may increase the risk of breast cancer.
Fat-free foods are healthier than high-fat foods.
Vegans and vegetarians have protein deficiencies.
seem to linger in the culture like a terrible song stuck in the head.
To set the record straight, the New York Times posed a question to 10 of America's leading nutrition experts: What is the one nutrition myth you wish would go away, and why?
These are their answers, which can be applied to consumer habits both there and here.
Myth 1. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always healthier than canned, frozen, or dried ones
Despite the long-held belief that "fresh is best," studies have shown that frozen, canned, and dried fruits and vegetables can be
just as nutritious as fresh
Fresh fruits are nutritious, but so can frozen ones.
"They can also help save money and be an easy way to make sure
fruits and vegetables are always available at home
," says Sara Bleich, outgoing director of nutrition security and health equity at the US Department of Agriculture and professor of public health policy at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.
A word of caution: Some canned, frozen and dried varieties contain sneaky ingredients like
added sugars, saturated fat
and sodium, Bleich said, so be sure to read nutrition labels and opt for products that keep those ingredients to a minimum.
Myth 2: All fats are bad
When studies published in the late 1940s found correlations between high-fat diets and high cholesterol levels, experts reasoned that reducing the amount of total fat in the diet would lower the risk of heart disease. .
In the 1980s, doctors, federal health experts, the food industry, and the media reported that
a low-fat diet could benefit everyone
, even though there was no strong evidence that doing so would prevent problems such as heart disease or overweight and obesity.
Vijaya Surampudi, associate professor of medicine at the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, says that as a consequence, vilifying fats led many people -- and food manufacturers -- to
replace calories from fat with calories from carbohydrates. refined
, such as white flour and added sugar.
"Instead of helping the country stay lean, the rates of overweight and obesity have gone up dramatically," she says.
Actually, adds Surampudi,
not all fats are bad
Although some types of fat, such as saturated and trans, can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, healthy fats, such as monounsaturated (found in olive oil and other vegetable oils, avocados, and some nuts and seeds ) and polyunsaturated (found in sunflower oil and other vegetable oils, walnuts, fish, and flaxseeds), help reduce risk.
The monounsaturated fat in the avocado is healthy.
are also important for energy supply, the production of important hormones, cell function, and the absorption of some nutrients.
If you see a product labeled "fat-free,"
don't automatically assume it's healthy
, Surampudi says.
Instead, prioritize products with simple ingredients and no added sugar.
Myth 3: "Calories in, calories out" is the most important factor for long-term weight gain
It is true that if we consume more calories than we burn, we will probably gain weight.
And if we burn more calories than we consume, we'll probably lose weight, at least in the short term.
But the research does not suggest that
eating more causes sustained weight gain
that leads to overweight or obesity.
According to Dariush Mozaffarian, a professor of nutrition and medicine at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, "rather it
's the types of foods we eat
that may be the long-term cause" of these disorders.
Ultra-processed foods, key to weight gain.
—such as refined, starchy snacks, cereals, cookies, energy bars, baked goods, sodas, and candy—can be especially detrimental to weight gain, as they digest quickly and
flood your bloodstream with glucose, fructose and amino acids
, which the liver converts to fat.
Instead, what it takes to maintain a healthy weight is to move from counting calories to prioritizing overall healthy eating:
quality over quantity
Myth 4: People who have type 2 diabetes should not eat fruits
This myth comes from
confusing fruit juices
- which can raise blood sugar levels due to their high sugar and low fiber content - with
But research has shown that this is not the case.
Some studies prove, for example, that those who consume a serving of whole fruit a day -especially blueberries, grapes and apples- have
a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes
And other research suggests that if you already have type 2 diabetes, eating whole fruits may help control blood sugar.
Fruit juices are not the same as whole fruit.
It's time to debunk this myth, says Linda Shiue, an internal medicine physician and director of culinary medicine and lifestyle medicine at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco, adding that everyone -- including type 2 diabetics -- can benefit from the
healthy nutrients in fruit
, such as fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Myth 5: Non-dairy milk is healthier than cow's milk
There is an idea that
, such as those made with oats, almonds and rice, are more nutritious than cow's milk.
"It's not true
," says Kathleen Merrigan, a professor of sustainable food systems at Arizona State University and a former US assistant secretary of agriculture.
Consider protein: Cow's milk typically has about 8 grams of protein per cup, while almond milk typically has 1-2 grams per cup, and oat milk typically has 2-3 grams per cup.
Although the nutrition of plant-based drinks can vary, according to Merrigan,
many have more added ingredients
-- such as sodium and sugars, which can contribute to poor health -- than cow's milk.
Myth 6: Potatoes are bad
Potatoes were often reviled in the nutritional community due to their
high glycemic index
, meaning they contain fast-digesting carbohydrates that can spike blood sugar.
Potatoes can also be beneficial for health.
potatoes can be beneficial to health
, according to Daphene Altema-Johnson, program manager for food communities and public health at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.
They are rich in vitamin C, potassium, fiber and other nutrients, especially
if eaten with the peel
In addition, they are cheap and are found all year round in supermarkets, which makes them more accessible.
Among the healthiest preparation methods are roasted, baked, boiled and deep-fried potatoes.
Myth 7: You should never give peanut products to your children during the first years of life
For decades, experts have told new parents that the best way to prevent their children from developing food allergies is
to not give them common allergenic foods
, such as peanuts or eggs, during their first few years of life.
But now, according to allergy experts, it's best to give your child
peanut products right from the start
With care, peanuts can also be incorporated into the diet of babies.
If your baby does not have severe eczema or a known food allergy, you can start introducing peanut products (such as diluted peanut butter, powdered or pelleted peanuts, but
not whole peanuts
) between 4 and 6 months, when prepared to eat solids.
Start with two teaspoons of smooth peanut butter mixed with water, breast milk, or formula two to three times a week, according to Dr. Ruchi Gupta, professor of pediatrics and director of the Center for Food Allergy and Asthma Research at the College of Northwestern Feinberg Medicine.
If your baby has severe eczema, first consult your pediatrician or allergist about starting peanut products around 4 months.
"It's also important to feed the baby
a varied diet during their first year of life
to prevent food allergies," says Gupta.
Myth 8: Plant protein is incomplete
'Where do you get your protein?'
, is the No. 1 question vegetarians are asked," said Christopher Gardner, a nutrition scientist and professor of medicine at Stanford University.
"The myth is that plants are completely lacking in some amino acids," also known as the building blocks of protein, he explained.
Foods of animal origin have a better proportion of amino acids, but vegetables also have protein.
But in reality,
all plant-based foods contain all 20 amino acids
, including all nine essential amino acids, Gardner noted -- the difference is that the ratio of these amino acids
isn't as ideal as in animal-based foods
Thus, to obtain an adequate mixture, it is enough to eat a variety of foods of plant origin throughout the day -such as beans, cereals and nuts- and
consume enough total protein
"It's easier than most people think," Gardner said.
Myth 9: Eating soy-based foods can increase the risk of breast cancer
In animal studies, high doses of soy plant estrogens, called isoflavones, have been shown to stimulate the growth of breast tumor cells.
"However, this relationship
has not been substantiated in human studies
," says Frank Hu, professor and chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.
So far, the science does not indicate a relationship between
soy consumption and the risk of breast cancer
Conversely, consumption of soy-based foods and beverages—such as tofu, tempeh, edamame, miso, and soy milk—may even
have a protective effect
against breast cancer risk and survival.
This food may have a protective effect against the risk of cancer and heart disease.
"Soy foods are also a source of beneficial nutrients linked to lowering the risk of heart disease, such as high-quality protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals," Hu says.
The research is clear:
feel confident incorporating soy foods into your diet
Myth 10: Fundamental nutrition advice keeps changing - and a lot
Not so, says Marion Nestle, Emeritus Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University.
"In the 1950s, the first dietary recommendations for the prevention of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and
the like called for balancing calories and minimizing foods high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar
. Current Dietary Guidelines of the USA urge you to do the same".
Basic nutrition guidelines have not changed over the years.
Yes, the science evolves, but
the underlying dietary guidelines remain the same
Author Michael Pollan sums it up in seven simple words: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
This council worked 70 years ago and is still working today, according to Nestle.
And it leaves plenty of room to eat the foods we like.
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