Dispelling health myths

No matter how healthy we think we are, there are often small ways we can tweak our mindset and our choices to make our lifestyles even healthier. These are some of the most common health mistakes that people make:

“I use honey, maple syrup or agave nectar instead of white sugar, so it’s healthy.” To an extent, choosing honey, maple syrup or agave nectar over refined white sugar is a good decision. These are natural food sources that have been proven to contain some nutritive benefits.

However, regardless of the nutrients that we might find in these liquid sugars, they still remain sugar and are therefore not actually “healthy.” By all means replace your white sugar with honey, maple syrup or agave nectar, but watch your portion sizes and reserve any kind of sugar for a treat rather than as a part of your daily food intake.

“If I exercise daily, I don’t have to worry about what I eat.” If you exercise a lot, you might not need to watch what you eat in order to maintain a healthy weight. However, your body can only take that kind of treatment for so long. Within a few years, your body will no longer metabolize junk food the way that it can when you are younger.

Exercising does not offset the amount of junk that you put into your body. If you nourish your body with wholesome foods, you will have more energy and be able to exercise at a higher performance level than when you eat poorly.

It’s healthier to eat egg whites than to eat the whole egg.” Egg whites are a fat-free, low-calorie source of pure protein. Whole eggs have a little bit of fat and a few more calories than egg whites, but they also contain much more nutrients in the yolk. This includes vitamin B12, vitamin E, and folate. Unless you have health problems related to high cholesterol, eating whole eggs are incredibly nutritious for your body. Choose eggs that are nest-laid from free-range chickens.

“Muffins that contain applesauce instead of oil or butter are healthy for me.” Although a bakery might claim that their muffins are “healthy” because they are lower in fat, this generally means that they are compensating by using the same amount of sugar (or more!) as regular muffins to increase flavour. In your own baking, try to reduce the sugar content to no more than ¼ cup per batch; use spices and pureed or dried fruit to enhance flavour and add sweetness.

“The first ingredient on the loaf of bread is ‘wheat flour’, so it must be good for me.” The term “wheat flour” does not imply whole wheat, as is frequently believed. “Wheat” usually refers to all-purpose white flour, which has a low nutrient content. Instead, choose foods which have “whole wheat” as their first ingredient. Other grains such as spelt and millet also contain a high nutrient content and are healthy choices as well.

University of Winnipeg student Sagan Morrow writes a health and wellness blog. Check it out at http://livingintherealworld.net/healthy.

Published in Volume 64, Number 26 of The Uniter (May 27, 2010)

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