Another harmless myth

1.  Eating fiber lowers blood cholesterol.  Only soluble fiber reduces blood cholesterol by ushering it out of the body before it can settle in arteries.  Good sources of soluble fiber are oats and oatmeal, legumes (peas, beans, lentils) barley, fruits and vegetables, especially oranges, apples and carrots.

Whole wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts and many vegetables are good sources of insoluble fiber, which pass through the digestive system in close to their  original form.  They benefit intestinal health and reduce the risk and occurrence of hemorrhoids and constipation.

2.  Milk is the best source of dietary calcium.  Ounce for ounce, dried figs and soybeans contain more calcium than milk does—good news for the lactose-intolerant.

3.  Multigrain breads are always whole grain.  Multigrain means only that more than one grain is present, and the primary grain is often white flour.  The first words on the list of ingredients must be “whole wheat flour” or some other whole grain flour.

4.  Free-range chicken is more healthful and guaranteed to be produced more humanely than other chickens.   No and no.  Free-range chickens are not more nutritious than other chickens; nor are they safer from Salmonella or other infections.  “Free-range” means only that the chickens have access to leaving the cage, not that they go outside to their outdoor pen.  Because most chickens spend their first few weeks caged, they’re generally afraid to venture outside when their cage doors are finally opened.

5.  A label listing trans fats as “0” means it contains no partially hydrogenated oil.  The “0” means very little because of a loophole in the labeling law.  It simply means that the food can contain up to 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving, and since labels list a serving as something ridiculously small and unrealistic, there may be quite a bit of trans fats in an actual serving that a person consumes.

6.  Vegetables should be cooked for as little time as possible and are most nutritious served raw.  This is generally true, but not always.   Cooking or canning corn, tomatoes and carrots boosts their beta carotene, lycopene and some other vital phytochemicals.

7.  Adding baking soda to the water soaking dried beans cuts down on the gas-forming substance in the beans.  Baking soda may help a bit, but it increases the loss of B vitamins.  Replacing the soak water a couple of times before cooking removes a good part of the carbohydrates called oligosaccharides that produce gas.

8.  Ground meat labeled “75% lean” is a good choice because only 25% of its calories come from fat.  They got us again with another loophole.  The meat is 25% fat by weight, which is totally different from the percentage of calories from fat.  A 3-ounce broiled patty of this meat would have about 235 calories and 16 grams of fat.  Multiply 16 by 9, the number of calories in a gram of fat, and you get 144, about 62% of the total calories.

9.  Flaxseeds are a good source of alpha-linolenic acid, a healthy omega-3 polyunsaturated fat.  Only if you grind them.  Whole flax seeds, often sprinkled over “whole-grain” breads & rolls, pass right through the body.

10.  Fresh pasta is better for us than dried pasta, and spinach pasta is better than plain.   Fresh pasta has no nutritional benefit over dried.  The amount of spinach or other vegetable used in pasta is miniscule and contributes insignificant nutritional value.  On the other hand, whole wheat pasta is the most healthful, having 3 times more fiber per serving than plain pasta.

Source:  University of California, Berkeley Food and Nutrition Issue, Summer 2012.  And other sources


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