Five Biggest Lies We've Been Fed About Food

by WiseFool

So many common beliefs about food and nutrition are wrong. In some cases, we've been actively lied to about what is and is not good for our health.

Along with air and water, food completes the triumvirate necessary for our continued existence. And yet, for many of the inhabitants of the planet, food is no longer just something that sustains us - in fact, in many cases, it's doing the exact opposite: it's killing us.

Processed, convenience, high-sugar and high-fat foods are 'advancements' that have led us to eat what we 'like', and not what will make our bodies function properly. On the whole, we've forgotten that food is fuel; of which our bodies need the right kind.

However, even when we are thinking of the health repercussions of what we put in our mouths, do we really know the facts behind the old wives' tales, received wisdom and untruths concocted by multimillion-dollar-making food corporations or diet industries?

1. Dairy Products Are The BEST Source of Calcium

Why Are We Still Being Told That Milk is Good For Us?

The only beings that should be drinking cow's milk are calvesWe need milk for healthy teeth and bones: it's what we've been told our whole lives. 

And yet, it's a big, fat lie. Not only is dairy not the best source of calcium, it is, in fact, the worst.

Why? Well, because consuming a lot of animal protein actually leeches calcium from your bones. This is all thanks to heavy doses of methionine (which is an amino acid) in animal proteins. Although methionine is essential for metabolic function, too much of this sulfur-containing amino acid turns the blood acidic.

Because an excess of methionine can be toxic, when chugging down milk, the body neutralizes the acid in the only way it can: it sucks the calcium right out of the bones, leaving them with less than before you took that drink. 

In other words, telling a post-menopausal women to drink plenty of milk and eat lots of yogurt to avoid osteoporosis is akin to advising smoking as a means to avoid lung cancer. 

Insanely, scientists have documented that diets rich in animal protein will result in more calcium being excreted in the urine from as early as the 19th century. More recently, this has been investigated by N. A. Breslau, in 1988 - his findings were published in the Journal of Endocrinology. And, in 1994, another study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The results were the same: the more animal protein you consume, the less calcium will be present in your bones. 

So, got milk? Likely to have brittle bones and osteoporosis in your old age.

And, of course, that's not to mention the plethora of other health problems that can come from consuming high-fat, high-cholesterol foodstuffs, like milk, cheese and yogurt. 

Want to Know The Best Plant Sources of Calcium?

Think cow's milk and dairy products are the only way to ensure strong, healthy bones? Think again!

2. If You're Anemic You Need Red Meat

Which Foods Provide Lots of Iron?

Our blood cells need iron; they don't need meatMany people are under the misapprehension that becoming vegetarian (or worse vegan), is a fast-track to iron deficiency. After all, if you're not consuming any meat, you're red blood cells are going to be up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

The truth of the matter is that vegans and vegetarians do not have higher incidence of anemia than omnivores.

But how do plant sources of iron stack up against animal sources? Well, when it comes to meat, beef offers the highest quantity of iron: a 5oz steak contains around 5mg of iron. Keep in mind, with that iron goodness, you're getting the package deal: 42% of your RDI of saturated fat; almost 40% of your daily allowance of cholesterol; approximately 20% of your recommended salt...and (with the exception of the iron) almost nothing of any nutritional value whatsoever.

Plant sources, on the other hand, such as a half cup of spinach, contains 3.2mg of iron, and with this package you get: just 3.5 calories; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; only 0.5% of your RDI of salt; 28% of your recommended intake of vitamin A; and 7% of your vitamin C. 

Other good plant sources of iron, include beans, grains, tofu, any of the leafy greens, lentils, nuts, some fruits (such as figs and raisins), and molasses. And if you want a really great source of iron, I'd like to point you in the direction of grape nuts - half a cup of which will give you a whopping 90% of your iron needs for the day. 

3. If You're Vegan You Can't Get Enough Protein

You're Vegan? Where Do You Get Your Protein?

Derek Tresize is a vegan muscle and fitness trainerHuman beings are a funny species. We see someone scarfing down a greasy burger, and we don't feel the need to ask them where they're getting they're fiber, vitamins or minerals. In fact, we don't really care what people are eating until...they say they're vegan.

And if you happen to be vegan you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

For most of my life, I was a pretty unhealthy vegetarian. I ate, predominantly, processed rubbish. I wasn't putting anything of any significant nutritional value in my mouth, but, by and large (because vegetarianism is not quite seen as the 'hippy' fad it once was), nobody said a word about my dietary choices - I was certainly never advised to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, or whole grains, which are the things I needed to be eating more of.

When I turned vegan (cut out all animal-derived foods; milk, eggs, etc.), however, every single person I knew suddenly became an 'expert' in nutrition and, oddly, they had a rush of concern for my well being.

Apparently, I could not possibly be getting enough protein if I was eating no animal foodstuffs.

Well, there are two truths to address. The first is that the amount of protein we actually need is very much debatable. Opinions vary, but the for the sake of argument, we'll go with the American Dietetic Association's recommendation of a daily intake of around 0.8 grams of protein per 1kg (2.2 pounds) of body weight. So, someone who weighs 130 pounds would need 47 grams of protein per day.

How would a vegan ingest that kind of figure with only plants?!

  • 1 avocado = 10 grams
  • 1 cup of oatmeal = 6 grams
  • Non dairy milk = 7-9 grams
  • 2 slices of bread = 8 grams
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter = 8 grams
  • 1 cup of pinto, kidney or black beans = 14 grams

And that's just breakfast, lunch and one ingredient for dinner. Many plants are full of protein and it's no struggle at all for vegans to get their daily quota. And, as you can see in the picture above, vegan Derek Trezise is in rather fine fettle on his exclusively plant diet. 

4. To Lose Weight You Have to Eat LESS

It Depends What You're Eating

You can eat more and still lose weight if you're eating the 'right' foodsAs I write this, it's January and lots of people I know are a week or so into their New Year diet. Some of them are starving themselves; some of them are only eating one type of food, believing it to be the one that will fight the flab; and some are spending huge amounts of money on low-fat (ergo high-sugar), diet snacks, milkshakes and salt-crammed ready meals. 

This is, of course, purely anecdotal, but I am convinced that losing weight does not require any of these measures. All you need to do is eat right. Ever since I made a concerted effort to avoid processed foods and eat more fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds (and just a few nuts), I've been dropping weight without even trying. It wasn't my goal, it wasn't even something I hoped would happen; it just did.

I don't find that I'm hungry. I'm satisfied after meals and occasionally graze between them, and I haven't thrown any additional exercise into my weekly routine - but my pants no longer stay up on their own.

So, I am convinced that it is possible to lose weight without depriving yourself, or sacrificing your health by taking up a crazy fad. 

5. Vitamin Supplements Are The Quick Route to Good Health

Are We Being Duped by Health Supplement Market?

Who would rather swallow these than eat a tasty piece of fruit?Now, I am not for one moment saying all vitamin and mineral supplements are bad or even unnecessary.

There are occasions, when an individual has a deficiency, that they're vital. However, they are not a means to rude health in and of themselves.

The problem is that you put a magic health-giving substance in a bottle, and many people will believe they can swallow a couple of pills and continue to eat and drink whatever they like. And, of course, in reality it simply doesn't work that way.

Additionally, some vitamins and minerals are toxic if consumed in too high a dose. For instance, if you're eating foods with plenty of calcium, and taking a high dose of calcium supplement, you run the risk of becoming ill.

Moreover, vitamin supplements are not a natural sources of the vitamin; they are synthesized. Vitamin A, for example, is made by the body from the lovely carotenes (beta-carotene in particular). So, your body wants a carrot in order to do the job itself. It doesn't want a capsule containing laboratory-made vitamin A, with glycerin, sucrose, corn starch, artificial flavors and colors.

With the exception of vitamin B12 (and vitamin D, during the winter, if you live in cold climes), every single nutrient your body needs is readily and plentifully available in foods - why would we ever want to ingest them in any other way?

The Truth is Actually Very Simple

Keep it as Nature Intended

Eat the good stuff!Eating foods as close to their natural state is always best.

I don't mean everything needs to be eaten raw, but our addiction to over-processed, over-salted, fatty, animal protein-rich foods is killing us.

Food is fuel.

And if we want these wonderful machines that are our bodies to function at their peak, we have to ensure that we're filling up with the right kind of gas. 

Updated: 06/01/2014, WiseFool
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jptanabe on 01/27/2014

I agree each person needs to learn to pay attention to what their body needs - not just jump on the latest bandwagon diet or food fad. I've always loved fruit and vegetables but also enjoy a balanced diet (yes, including dairy products, love my cheese and milk in my tea!)

WiseFool on 01/20/2014

Thanks, Tolovaj. You're right, it seems crazy that we're not taught the basics of nutrition from a very early age, because it's certainly not innate in many of us and the 'western' diet doesn't really encourage a lot of 'good eating'.

But, I think, thanks to Campbell and co., the tide is turning. Information (like that about the effects of milk on calcium levels) is being more mainstream knowledge, and that's a positive at least.

Tolovaj on 01/20/2014

I understand ordinary folks don't know a lot about nutrition but am always shocked when I hear doctors how good source of calcium is milk which actually steels calcium from body.

Such mistakes are supported with thousands of cases of people who became vegetarians or vegans without getting the basic knowledge about metabolism. I know several cases who got very sick because they simply stopped eating certain groups of food. Think first and act accordingly!

It is very good to see a critical approach to some common myths about food.

WiseFool on 01/15/2014

Hello Violette. I was also ten when I decided to turn vegetarian; my mum already was, so met no resistance from my parents.

Absolutely! You can be a very unhealthy vegetarian and a very unhealthy vegan, because there are still plenty of heavily processed, high-fat, high-sugar foods that contain no animal products. In fact, I think overly processed meat replacement products (like Quorn and Textured Soy Protein), can have very negative health effects.

VioletteRose on 01/15/2014

Nice article, I am not a vegan but I chose to be a vegetarian when I was 10 years old. Even though I had my parents support, many seemed to be concerned that I was not taking meat or fish. Till this date I do not regret the decision. But as you mentioned it is more important to include more fruits and vegetables in the diet and limit the processed food, sometimes a vegetarian diet can also go wrong.

WiseFool on 01/13/2014

Hey Dustytoes, thanks for the comment. I've found that making your own food is time-consuming, and I can understand why busy lives get in the way. As you say, though, it's something we need to make time for. I find it's good to make more than I need, then leftovers make a base for the next night's meal.

It's so frightening when you start reading the ingredients on food packaging! So much salt and fat, and long chemical-sounding additives. Most of us put all that crap in our mouths without even realizing or thinking twice.

I'll add a bit to make the vegan/vegetarian difference clear; thanks for pointing that out. Sometimes, I forget that it's not as obvious to everyone as it is to me.

dustytoes on 01/13/2014

Here, here... you are absolutely on the right track. We have to do our homework and discover the truth about eating well for health, not to get skinny. As you have said, the pounds will fall off if we eat the way we are meant to.
The problem is that many adults have too much on their (daily work) plate, and grab what is easy for their dinner plate. Eating well means pretty much making your own food and that takes time. But we need to get back to doing that.
I have PKD (kidney disease) which has me reading labels for less salt intake, and that was very eye-opening.
Bottom line: be aware of what you eat, and be willing to cook that good stuff yourself.

Maybe you could explain the difference between vegetarian and vegan, on this page, as I, for one, am not sure.

WiseFool on 01/13/2014

Thanks, Mira. I agree completely, not everything is right for everyone. If we listen to our bodies; pay attention to how we're feeling and realize that fatigued, bloated and all the rest of it is not how we're 'supposed' to feel, we can't go far wrong.

Thank you, Ologsinquito. I'm glad you enjoyed the article and greatly appreciate the pin.

ologsinquito on 01/13/2014

You and I think alike about food and health. People are slowly waking up to the fact that bottled and laboratory-made vitamins are not good for us over the long term. This is an excellent article and I'm pinning it to one of my natural health boards.

Mira on 01/13/2014

Hi Sam :)

The thing about nutrition is that even when you finally realize, for whatever reason, you have to eat right, there's some confusing info out there about certain aspects: amount of protein, grains, etc. So it's hard to figure out what to eat. I'm constantly trying this and that. But as I do that I'm learning more about my body, and am moving in the right direction, I feel.

But yes, I know people who followed diets and kept gaining more weight after each one. And it has happened to people who went to see nutritionists, too. Because nutritionists themselves have certain ideas about calories and type of foods -- and these may not agree with your body.

I've come to believe this is a journey everyone has to do on his/her own, picking up advice from various places but ultimately judging things for themselves according to how their body reacts and what feels healthy. But what you're writing in this article is hard to dispute :)

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