Experts debunk some of the biggest nutrition myths

The nutritional value of canned or fresh fruits as well as cow’s milk and other alternatives have been widely debated. Picture: Supplied.

The nutritional value of canned or fresh fruits as well as cow’s milk and other alternatives have been widely debated. Picture: Supplied.

Published May 7, 2024


There is a vast amount of information when it comes to nutrition, leading many more confused than ever before.

The one piece of advice that most experts can agree on when it comes to eating is “everything in moderation”, but this is where the consensus generally ends.

With this in mind, Richard Smith-Bernal, the founder of health company, The Juice Smith, has debunked the following nutrition myths.

Fresh produce is healthier than frozen or canned goods

Although many people believe that fresh fruits and vegetables offer the more nutrients than canned produce, there is no evidence to support that, the health expert believes.

He explained that produce that has been frozen or canned is packaged directly after being harvested, sometimes even making the nutritional value of canned or frozen food higher than fresh fruits or vegetables, which might have been flown across the world before arriving in your supermarket.

“Vegetables and fruits keep most of their nutrients right after being picked, but nutrients start to decrease the longer they are off the stem,” he added.

“If frozen or canned immediately, they retain their nutritional value.”

The debates rages on when it comes to different types of milk. l FILE

Plant milk is healthier than dairy milk

Plant-based milks have risen in popularity in recent years and are seen as an alternative for people who follow vegan diets or have lactose intolerance.

They are usually marketed as being healthier than normal dairy milk, but science proves otherwise, Smith-Bernal said.

“Though plant milks made of soy, almonds or oats serve as good substitutes for dairy milk in terms of texture and use, they are often inundated with added ingredients like sugar to make them taste better.”

He added that cow’s milk has about eight grams of protein per cup, while almond milk only has about one to two grams of protein and oat milk has about two or three grams of protein.

Make tofu for a protein kick in your diet. l PIXABAY

Plant protein is insufficient

Smith-Bernal explained that plants offer a significant amount of natural protein and that foods like tofu, chickpeas and lentils rank as the most protein-rich plant-based foods.

“Soy-based products like tofu and tempeh can provide up to 15 grams of protein per half-cup serving,” he said.

Soy is bad for women

It has become a common belief that soy products cause breast cancer. The nutrition expert believes that this fear stems from the fact that soy is a food that has high oestrogen levels and it has been proven in some animal studies to cause breast cancer cells to multiply.

“This has never been demonstrated in humans,” he insisted.

“In fact, eating a lot of soy is actually very good for your health because it has high levels of protein and fibre, so eating one or two servings of soy products daily, like tofu or edamame, can help your digestive and muscular systems.”

There are many simple ways that you can use olive oil in your everyday cooking. l PEXELS/RON LACH

All fat is bad for you

Smith-Bernal said that this nutrition myth may be one the longest-standing of them all.

“For decades, fat in food has been labelled as the worst thing you can eat and after saturated fats were linked with heart disease in the late 1940s, a fear of fats swept across the world.”

He added that many people go on “no fat” diets but this also ends up making them avoid good fats like olive oil.

“After some time, people realised that there wasn’t much of a difference in their weight after cutting out all fats and some even gained weight because they had swopped fats for highly processed carbohydrates.”

He also believes that not all fats are equal.

“So if you want one to cut out, reduce your intake of saturated fats and stick to the mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats in avocados, cooking oils, nuts, and seeds.”

Carbs have been a huge source of contention in the nutrition world. l PEXELS/MARTA DZEDYSHKO

Cutting out carbs is the key to healthy living

Just like with fats, there is also a long-standing trend raging on how low-carb diets can aid weight loss.

“People think that if they cut out carbs, they will lose a lot of weight, but that is not true,” Smith-Bernal insisted.

He believes that humans need carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits and vegetables to provide the body with fibre, protein and vitamin B.

“The only carbs you should avoid are over processed products like sugary cereals and snack cakes.”

Eating gluten-free is healthy

Although eating less gluten might help with issues like inflammation, it does not necessarily mean that a person is eating healthier than others.

He warned that many gluten-free alternatives are often full of filler ingredients that are very processed.

“To live a healthier gluten-free life, try baking your own wheat-free desserts instead of buying all the processed products you find in stores,” he suggested.

“Eating gluten-free can be a healthy way to live if you cook for yourself and limit your intake of processed foods.”