We pick up funny thought patterns, us humans. Sometimes these ideas are planted by companies with an agenda to sell items, other times old wives’ tales get engrained into our beliefs. Although the list of nutrition myths is long and varied, in this article I’d like to tackle three of the most common myths I encounter in my practice…
Rumor #1: If you have a cold, drink some orange juice.
This recommendation likely comes from the fact that oranges are rich in Vitamin C, an important nutrient for supporting the immune system and kicking infections like the common cold or flu.
Oranges tend to make our mucus and saliva thicker and stickier, however, which is the last thing you want if your throat or sinuses are already stuffed up with a cold. Orange juice, furthermore, is higher in sugar than in anything else (yes, even if it’s 100% juice). Sugar feeds infections, suppresses the immune system, and increases inflammation. Orange juice is therefore likely to do little, if anything, to help kick a cold or flu.
Your best bet? Eat fruits in their whole, raw forms, and skip the processed juices.
Other great sources of vitamin C include:
- Red chili peppers
- Brussels sprouts
- Green peppers
Rumor #2: Need potassium? Eat bananas.
Potassium is an electrolyte that’s essential for the proper contraction and relaxation of muscles. Potassium is so important, in fact, that people doing water fasts or eating restricted diets (such as the HCG diet) must take a separate potassium supplement to keep their hearts beating properly!
Bananas do, in fact, contain potassium (and very little sodium), but they shouldn’t be the only food getting the credit. All fruits and vegetables are rich in this mineral! Whereas a medium-sized banana contains 440mg of potassium, a medium avocado has 1,360mg!
Other great sources of potassium include:
- Dried apricots and dried figs
- Pinto beans
Bananas are also much higher in sugar than most other fruits and vegetables, so it’s a good idea to get some variety in the diet.
Rumor #3: Take a calcium supplement if you don’t eat dairy.
Nope! This myth is not only wrong; it’s so wrong!
The dairy lobby has spent a lot of money to get us to believe that milk is a good source of calcium. The reality is that the calcium found in milk is hard to digest in the gut and poorly assimilated into the bones. A diet high in dairy actually reduces bone density. In fact, the countries that consume the most dairy have the highest rates of osteoporosis!
But isn’t milk important for kids? Read more about that in my blog post on dairy.
If you look at a label of cow’s milk and compare it to that of almond, organic soy, coconut, or hemp milk, you’ll see there’s little to no reason to choose cow’s milk over plant-based drinks.
Better sources of calcium include:
- Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, etc.)
- Nuts, seeds
- Legumes (beans and peanuts)
- Small fish (like sardines and kippers)
Taking a calcium supplement is unnecessary for most people. High doses of calcium may even be harmful to health; studies show that supplemental calcium dosed higher than 800mg per day may cause hardening of the blood vessels, over time increasing the risk for a heart attack!
What do these rumors teach us?
Each of these nutrition myths popularizes one food for containing one single nutrient. But the beauty of natural foods is that they are rich in myriad nutrients, and that the key to a healthy diet is diversity; a mix of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and ethically raised meats is the cornerstone to good health.
Marz R. Medical Nutrition from Marz. 2nd Edition. Portland, OR: Omni-Press, 1999.
Feskanich D, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA. Milk, dietary calcium, and bone fractures in women: a 12-year prospective study. Am J Public Health. 1997 Jun;87(6):992-7. Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9224182
Anderson J, Kruszka B, Delaney J, He K, Burke G, Alonso A, et al. Calcium Intake From Diet and Supplements and the Risk of Coronary Artery Calcification and its Progression Among Older Adults: 10‐Year Follow‐up of the Multi‐Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Journal of the American Heart Association. 2016;5:e003815. https://doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.116.003815. Link: http://jaha.ahajournals.org/content/5/10/e003815