Every so often, I see a photo or comment online that turns on a spotlight in my brain and boom! here comes a blog post. That’s what happened when I spied this photo.
Health buzzwords were intended for marketing purposes to get people to buy certain diet aids, food products and draw attention to niche markets. However, a side effect has been that they have created a lot of fear in the marketplace. No longer can you go to the store and buy food without being attacked by “GLUTEN-FREE” “ORGANIC” “LOCAL” “HORMONE-FREE” labels. They exist, literally, everywhere. And no wonder we as consumers are confused, how can we not be when we have folks like Dr. Oz, the Food Babe and HSUS telling us how horrible our food is for us?
Well, put those fears aside dear readers, I have compiled common-sense and scientific data to provide you with the facts behind 5 common food myths, spurred on my health buzzwords.
MYTH: Don’t eat ingredients you can’t pronounce (other iterations include: If your 3rd grader can’t say it, don’t eat it) – This is asinine for so many reasons and you can thank ignorant fear mongers such as Dr. Oz and the Food Babe for this ridiculous advice. 1) A third grader’s reading ability shouldn’t define your nutrition choices. Why do I even need to say that?! 2) I cannot pronounce cyanocobalamin but I’d really like to keep it in my diet. Why? It’s vitamin B12 and found in healthy foods such as lean beef, cheese, low-fat dairy, eggs and fish. All amazing sources of protein which, as an athlete, is a nutrient my body craves. If you don’t recognize an ingredient or can’t pronounce it, look it up! It’s probably not as scary as you think. Trust me.
MYTH: Avoid processed foods – Point blank, technically almost everything you eat is processed. This advice comes straight from Bonnie Taub-Dix, a well-known registered dietitian, in an article she published in Family Circle. And unless you are growing it yourself and eating it straight out of the garden, you’re going to eat processed food. That doesn’t mean it’s bad! Whole-grain bread = processed. Whole muscle cuts of meat (chicken breasts, steaks, pork chops) = processed (the animal had to be slaughtered and the carcass broken down into cuts). Canned and frozen vegetables = processed. Read labels and if you don’t like too much sugar or sodium in something, don’t buy it. But don’t make your decision based solely on the fact that the food isn’t straight from the garden.
MYTH: Organic foods are healthier – Organic foods are mainstream but they are no more healthy or safe than their conventional counterparts. Don’t believe me? From the USDA website, “USDA makes no claims that organically produced food is safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced food.” Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too. If your family wants to purchase and consume organic or natural foods, that is your choice. Just know that you aren’t getting anything more healthy for your family out of it.
MYTH: Gluten-free foods are healthier than their counterparts – First off, let me clarify what gluten actually is – it’s not an ingredient. It’s a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. And “gluten-free” is a medically prescribed diet for people with celiac disease. Research from the University of Florida showed that 37% of people surveyed believed that gluten-free foods are automatically healthier. As it turns out, when products are formulated specifically to be gluten-free to reach interested consumers, manufacturers have to add in ingredients to replace the texture, chewiness and palatability. Know what they use? Sugar and fat. That means more calories and could mean weight-gain – if you’re looking to lose weight, cutting gluten out of your diet exclusively may not be the answer. Bottom line: There is no conclusive medical evidence or studies to support the claims that gluten-free “cures” what ails you (unless you have celiac disease, and then it’s a guarantee).
MYTH: *Everything* negative you hear about GMOs – I can’t stress this enough. GMOs are harmless. Read that again: GMOs are harmless. Do you know what a GMO is? A GMO is a crop that has very specific changes made to its DNA – usually having one to two genes added or silenced to achieve a desired trait. This is a kind of plant breeding technique. Additionally, GMOs are not a recent development. According to GMOanswers.com, more than ten thousand years ago, at the dawn of domestic agriculture, farmers changed the genetic makeup of crops they grew and the livestock they raised through selective breeding. Nearly every fruit, vegetable and grain that is commercially available today has been altered by human hands, including organic and heirloom seeds. There are only 10 GMO products that are approved for use in the U.S. – corn (field and sweet), papaya, canola, cotton, alfalfa, sugar beets, summer squash, apples and potatoes – and these products have to go through extensive testing by the FDA before they can be released for commercial sale. In fact, it takes an average of 13 years and more than $130 million dollars to bring a GMO product to market. So, in summary: it doesn’t matter whether you are eating a steak that has come from an animal that ate corn, wearing a shirt made from cotton, or enjoying a potato that doesn’t bruise as easily, GMOs have been proven safe, time and again.
I truly hope you will read these links and have faith in our American food supply. I have nothing to gain by sharing these truths with you! Regardless of your position after reading, I hope you know that one of the most beautiful things about the American food supply is we have A TON of choices. If you choose to continue a gluten-free, only organic and/or GMO-free lifestyle that is your choice but know that others may choose differently and that’s ok – don’t lambast each other for our food choices. My friend Val wrote a great post about this very topic on her blog Wag’n Tales that I highly encourage you to check out.
Eat peacefully, my friends.
Until next time
~ Buzzard ~
* Photo courtesy Mark Daniels via Facebook
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