Food Myths By: John Hart

All about Food Myths:

High Protein diets are good for me.

No. While protein is essential for repair and important for receiving essential amino acids, the average consumer consumes far too much protein. The average Australian consumer takes in about twice his/her daily requirement. Too much protein causes kidney damage, constipation and contributes to arthritis and coronary disease. Good carbohydrates should still make up over 60% of your daily intake.

It’s best not to eat much after about 7 o’clock at night

It’s not when you eat, but what you eat that counts. No matter when they’re eaten, calories appear to have the same effect on the body. Evidence does suggest, however, that regular mealtimes, including breakfast, reduce fat intake and minimise impulsive snacking, which results in fewer total calories. Staying up late at night may lead to extra snacking, which can increase the total caloric intake. Weight gain would then occur, not because when you ate the food but rather how much you ate.  66% of people surveyed believed this myth to be true. (Extract from: The Australian Food and Grocery Council AFGC)

It’s better to eat three good meals a day than to eat whenever you’re hungry

Don’t eat because the clock says it is time to eat. Eat when you have a physiological need for food, stop eating when you have met that need.

Most people feel like eating something every three to four hours to avoid becoming too hungry. Dividing your calories into three meals and two or three snacks instead of three large meals can help to keep you well fuelled throughout the day and lessen the chances of over–eating when meal times come around. Depending on what you choose, snacks can also make significant contributions to the day’s total intake of vital vitamins and minerals.  55% of people surveyed believed this myth to be true. (Extract from: The Australian Food and Grocery Council AFGC)

Generally, Australians have enough variety in their diet

The very first guideline to healthy eating is “enjoy a wide variety of foods every day”.

Unfortunately, Australians do not always have enough variety in their diet and this occurs in two ways; they don’t always eat from all of the five food groups (bread, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles; dairy; meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, legumes; fruit and vegetables) and when they eat from a food group, they often don’t choose a wide variety of those foods.

It is important to eat from all of the food groups as this will likely mean your diet contains all the nutrients you need. Selecting a variety of foods from each group also increases your chance of getting all of those essential vitamins and minerals that you need.

Researchers at Monash University suggest that for good health you need to be having 30 or more different food types a week. 48% of people surveyed believed this myth to be true. (Extract from: The Australian Food and Grocery Council AFGC)

Most Australians suffer from food allergies

About one–third of all adults believe they have food allergies. However, true food allergy is estimated to affect less than two percent of the population. Far more common are food intolerances.

Reactions to food chemicals are not, strictly speaking, allergies. Unlike allergies, they seem to work by irritating nerve endings in the different parts of the body.

Symptoms vary from person to person. The most common ones are recurrent hives, headaches, mouth ulcers, stomach pains and bowel irritation.  Some people can also have flu–like aches and pains or feel unusually tired and run–down.  Children can be irritable or restless, and are sometimes diagnosed as being ‘hyperactive’.

Food allergy is quite different from intolerance to food chemicals. It is caused by antibodies to food proteins, and usually involves only one or two foods. It affects mainly infants and children with a family background of allergic disorders like asthma, hay fever and eczema. Peanuts, eggs and milk are the foods most likely to provoke food allergies. Allergies to peanuts, in particular, can be very severe and may last for life.  Reactions occurring from other foods are likely to be due to chemical intolerances. 36% of people surveyed believed this myth to be true. (Extract from: The Australian Food and Grocery Council AFGC)

It is healthier not to mix carbohydrates and proteins in the same meal

Some fad diets suggest that proteins and carbohydrates should not be consumed together. However, for many people, this may lead to sharp fluctuations in blood glucose levels. Although the glucose in the blood is usually tightly controlled, it can fluctuate sharply with the consumption of carbohydrate only meals, rising sharply and then falling rapidly, leading to feelings of fatigue, hunger or light–headedness. Combining protein with carbohydrates should help avoid these highs and lows

In fact, eating mixed meals which naturally combine proteins with carbohydrates is one of the best ways to control your blood glucose, or sugar levels. 25% of people surveyed believed this myth to be true. (Extract from: The Australian Food and Grocery Council AFGC)

Chickens are often given growth hormones to improve production

Unfortunately, a large number of people in Australia still believe that chickens are fed hormones. In part, this stems from a television program in July 1985 in which hormonal abnormalities in young women in the Caribbean Island of Puerto Rico were linked to feeding of hormones (oestrogen) to chickens.

Without actually saying so, the story implied that the feeding of oestrogen to chickens was a common practice worldwide—and indeed a practice followed in Australia.

However, the feeding of oestrogen to chickens was banned in Australia in the early 1960s—more than four decades ago.

In order to maintain consumer confidence in poultry products, the Commonwealth Government’s National Residue Survey (NRS) regularly tests for growth hormones. No residues have ever been detected. 80% of people surveyed believed this myth to be true. (Extract from: The Australian Food and Grocery Council AFGC)

Compared with food cooked at home, processed foods have a lot less nutrients

Many processed foods are just as nutritious or in some cases even more nutritious than fresh foods, depending on the manner in which they are processed.

Frozen vegetables are usually processed within hours of harvest. There is little nutrient loss in the freezing process so frozen vegetables retain their high vitamin and mineral content. In contrast, it can take days or even weeks before fresh vegetables reach the dinner table and some vitamins are gradually lost over time.

Some processed foods have added vitamins and minerals for extra nutrition. In fact, the growing interest in health and nutrition has spurred the production of a whole new range of foods with added health and nutritional benefits called functional foods, such as margarines with added phytosterols to lower cholesterol.

Processing can also make some nutrients more available. For example, processing tomatoes into either paste or sauce increases the concentration of lycopene—an antioxidant Harvard University researchers have found may reduce the risk of prostate cancer by up to 40 per cent.  77% of people surveyed believed this myth to be true. (Extract from: The Australian Food and Grocery Council AFGC)

Carbohydrates cause you to gain weight
Carbohydrates do not cause weight gain unless they contribute to excess calorie intake. The same holds true for protein and fat. It’s all in the selection: The trouble with carbs is they can be easy to overeat. If they are highly processed, like white flour and pasta, it is turned into sugar quickly and means you don’t stay full for long. So you need to choose the right sort.
I’m a big fan of carbs. They help you concentrate. It’s a good brain food, just don’t overeat. High-protein low-carb is a fad diet and not a life choice. So choose good-quality wholegrain carbs; they are more fulfilling and keep you satisfied longer. Source: Source:The Age Newspaper

Light olive oil is “light” on calories
The “light” refers to the colour, not the fat content. Shoppers are tricked into thinking light olive oil is better for you. That’s impossible: it’s still oil, it’s simply lighter in colour. This is a case of really having to check the labels. Source: Source:The Age Newspaper

Fat-free equals calorie-free

Munching on fat-free foods may seem the guilt-free way to lose weight but a lot of fat-free foods have the same amount or even more calories than regular versions. You’re just as likely to gain weight from high-sugar products as high-fat products. Get the facts on fat-free foods by checking food labels for the serving size and number of calories per serving. Source:The Age Newspaper

People with high cholesterol shouldn’t eat eggs

The myth that people with a high blood cholesterol level shouldn’t eat eggs because they contain large amounts of dietary cholesterol has been around for a long time. It came about because it was thought was that cholesterol from food directly related to blood cholesterol levels. While it is true that eggs contain cholesterol – a medium size egg has just over 200mg of cholesterol all contained in the yolk – we now know that although dietary cholesterol is able to raise blood cholesterol to a small degree, it is the overall fat content of the diet, particularly the amount of saturated fat, that more strongly determines your blood cholesterol level.

And several studies have now concluded that egg consumption is not associated with an increased risk of high blood cholesterol or heart disease. So, if you have a high cholesterol level, you can still enjoy 2-3 eggs per week, just make sure they’re not fried and served with bacon! (From the Sanitarium website:

Carob is healthier than chocolate

Carob is often used as a chocolate substitute and many people feel less guilty if they snack on carob rather than chocolate, believing carob to be a healthier alternative. While pure carob does contain more dietary fibre and less caffeine than cocoa, carob as we generally buy it – in bars and other carob confectionery – usually come laden with added sugar and fat, similar to chocolate. So, unless you are eating pure carob, there are not a lot of health advantages to choosing carob over chocolate. Mmm…..thought the ladies might like this!

Myth: Milk increases mucus production

While some people believe that milk and other dairy products increase mucus production and so tend to avoid these foods, particularly when they have a cold or flu, research has not been able to confirm this belief.

Myth: Mushrooms are a good source of vitamin B12

While some people believe that mushrooms are a good source of vitamin B12, the fact is that plant foods, including mushrooms, do not naturally contain vitamin B12. The vitamin B12 that most people consume comes from foods of animal origin. It is made by micro-organisms and is incorporated into the flesh of animals and their products such as meat, dairy products, seafood and eggs. Therefore, vegetarians, and in particular vegans, should make sure they include foods fortified with vitamin B12  (From the Sanitarium website:

Myth: Taking a Vitamin C supplement will prevent the common cold

This is a popular myth but research tells us vitamin C supplementation to prevent a cold is not necessary for most people. While a minor group of people – such as those under heavy physical stress or exposed to very cold environments – may benefit from taking extra vitamin C, regular supplementation has no effect on the incidence of developing a common cold in the general population. However, some studies have suggested that there might be a small benefit in reducing the duration and severity of colds by taking a vitamin C supplement but more research is needed before we can be confident of this fact. (From the Sanitarium website:

Myth: Skipping breakfast helps you lose weight.

While it may seem logical that skipping a meal and therefore eating less food, will help with weight management, this is not so where breakfast is concerned. Research has shown that people who skip breakfast tend to have higher body weights than those who regularly eat breakfast. This may be because breakfast skippers are less efficient at burning up the energy from the food they eat during the day and they are actually more likely to snack and overeat later in the day, usually on foods that are less nutritious and have far more kilojoules than a simple bowl of cereal. (From the Sanitarium website:

Myth: You need to eat meat to get enough protein.

Eating a variety of protein-rich plant foods each day will give your body all the protein it needs for good health. Nuts, seeds, legumes and grains are all good sources of protein – and the key is to simply eat a variety of these foods every day to make sure you get the best balance of essential amino acids. Soy protein is a particularly high quality plant protein that provides all of the essential amino acids we need in the one food. And compared to meat, plant protein foods offer the additional benefits of thousands of phytochemicals that protect against disease. (From the Sanitarium website:

Myth: All fats are bad for you.

Healthy fats are essential for good health and have been shown to protect us from a range of diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Healthy fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, found in nuts and seeds, olives and olive oil, avocados, canola and canola oils. They also include omega-3 fatty acids found in linseeds, soybeans, dark green vegetables and oily fish. Healthy fats have been shown to help decrease total cholesterol levels, while omega-3 fats in particular have been shown to have many other health properties, including reducing blood pressure and assisting with inflammatory bowel disease. (From the Sanitarium website:


John Hart

“Master’s In Education” (Disability) Newcastle University Australia

“Grad Cert Education” Newcastle University Australia

“Diploma Fitness/Recreation”

“Cert 4 Personal Training”

“Level 1 Strength and Conditioning Coach”

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