Myth: Whole grains are always healthier than refined grains. continued...
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's "My Pyramid" dietary guidelines recommend getting at least half of your grain servings from whole grains.
"It doesn't say you have to replace all of your breads with whole grains or all of your foods with whole grains," Rosenbloom says. She adds that enriched grains -- refined grains with certain nutrients added (such as wheat enriched with folic acid, an important nutrient for preventing neural tube birth defects) -- have some perks.
"Enriched grains generally are going to have more folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and iron. The whole grains usually have more fiber, vitamin e, selenium, zinc, potassium -- so there's kind of a trade-off," Rosenbloom says.
Myth: Sugar causes behavioral problems in kids.
Reality: You might want to check your expectations about sugar and children's behavior.
For most children, "the excitement that kids have when supposedly they eat sugar is probably more related to the event and the excitement of the event than it is to actually consuming sugar," Rosenbloom says.
She cites research showing that when parents think their kids have been given sugar, they rate the children's behavior as more hyperactive -- even when no sugar is eaten.
Myth: Protein is the most important nutrient for athletes.
Reality: "It is true that athletes need more protein than sedentary people. They just don't need as much as they think. And they probably don't need it from supplements; they're probably getting plenty in their food," Rosenbloom says.
But timing matters. Rosenbloom recommends that after weight training, athletes consume a little bit of protein -- about 8 grams, the amount in a small carton of low-fat chocolate milk -- to help their muscles rebuild.
"That's probably all you need," she says. "You don't need four scoops of whey powder to get that amount of protein."
How to Spot a Diet Myth
New diet myths can crop up at any time; fads come and go. To Duyff, the task of telling nutrition myth from reality boils down to this: Step back, check out the evidence, and be a bit skeptical. Here is Duyff's specific advice:
- Look for red flags, such as promises that sound too good to be true or dramatic statements refuted by reputable health organizations.
- Think critically. Consider the "facts" touted in diet myths. Are they from biased or preliminary research? "One study doesn't make a fact," Duyff says. "The messages need to be evidence-based," which means multiple studies conducted in large groups of people and reviewed by independent scientists.
- Ask an expert. A registered dietitian or other health professional can help you tell nutritional fact from fiction.
- Remember, there are no magic bullets. "The true approach to good health includes an overall healthy eating pattern, enjoyed and followed over time," Duyff says.