Real Food Tips: 10 Common Misconceptions

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Don’t be fooled by these misleading food myths:

  1. A healthy diet means eating “low-fat” and “fat-free” food products…wrong!
    Michael Pollan basically abolishes this myth in his book In Defense of Food, and you can check out our mini-pledge post from week 6 for some detail.
  1. Mutli-grain crackers are better than crackers made from white flour…wrong!
    “Mutli-grain” is a misleading buzzword because unless those grains are actually “whole grain” the product is really no better than those made from refined grains (like white flour).
  1. It’s “natural” so it must be a good choice…wrong!
    If a product is natural it simply means it wasn’t made from any artificial ingredients, which is certainly desirable, but don’t forget that white flour, sugar, and even high-fructose corn syrup are all derived from “natural” ingredients and they are also all highly refined.
  1. Organic packaged food is better than conventional…okay, mostly true.
    The problem is though that since the product is organic people sometimes just assume it’s also “healthy.” But there’s an awful lot of what I call “organic junk food” out there that’s still highly processed (like organic cookies, organic ice cream sandwiches, and organic candy) so no matter what the package says you still have to read – and scrutinize – the ingredient label.
  1. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is much worse for you than sugar…wrong!
    According to Michael Pollan HFCS has not been proven to be worse for you than sugar it’s just a “reliable marker for a food product that has been highly processed.”
  1. The bread that’s being made in the grocery store bakery is “fresh”…wrong (in most cases)!
    I certainly haven’t surveyed every single supermarket in America, but all the stores I’ve been to have a bustling bakery where workers appear to be pulling “fresh” baked bread out of their ovens. While it’s true they’re baking the bread right there in the store oftentimes they didn’t actually make the dough themselves, which means it’s full of preservatives and other unnecessary additives like dough conditioners (just read the ingredients and you’ll see what I mean).
  1. I was told that margarine and Earth Balance are better for my family than butter…wrong!
    As Michael Pollan says in his book Food Rules, “Avoid foods that are pretending to be something they are not” because it’s best to just stick with the “real” thing as opposed to an imitation. Need I say more?
  1. Some people say, “Well, isn’t cheese a ‘processed’ food?”…right (sort of).
    Our family actually avoids all highly processed food because even cooking is technically a form of “processing” or changing your food…and we definitely aren’t practicing a “raw food diet.” Mainly to draw the line somewhere we define highly processed food as products containing  more than 5 ingredients. But – just for the record – no matter how many ingredients are on the list, if a product is made with anything refined (like “wheat” that’s not whole) or if it’s deep-fried in refined oil then we definitely consider it to be highly processed as well. That means bags of 3-ingredient deep-fried potato chips are out (sorry!).
  1. Following the latest food trend (that’s oftentimes led by the food industry) is the way to go…wrong!
    If something feels like an up and coming food “trend” I mostly try to avoid it because I prefer to stick to traditional diets that people have survived on for centuries, which certainly didn’t include “boosting your omega-3’s” with a box of enriched pasta.
  1. This cereal box says it will lower my cholesterol so maybe I should give it a shot…wrong!
    Do not believe – and in fact don’t even read – misleading health claims on the front of food packages. Only trust the ingredients.



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88 comments to Real Food Tips: 10 Common Misconceptions

  • Nicole

    Nicole on January 16, 2013 at 11:11 pm said:
    Thank you! I am a homemaker, mother of four uber jocks, wife of a super athlete. I am providing something like 32,500 calories per day to this family, in certain proportions, to help them reach their personal goals and dreams. Big dreams- like college dance and college football. Over the years I have made any changes needed in our diets, all around the world- but what a wake up call your website is! This and Food Babe have been my reading of late, and my inspiration. Went to the grocery store tonight. Well- food labels are shocking!! Here is what amazed me the most; I shop at the United States Air Force Military Academy Commissary! One would think that this would be the epitome of healthy shopping, since the supreme fighting force in the world eats from its shelves. Nope- I will have to do the best I can, and I will have to consider additional local grocery stores too. Thank you, Nicole

    Reply ↓

  • Jackie

    Hi, Is Organic 100z% Durum Semolina and organic 100% Durum Wheat Semolina pasta Bad?

    Also is citric acid in 100% certified organic products bad?

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Jackie. For the pasta, I would probably try and stick with 100% whole wheat pastas. Citric acid is a natural substance found in many fruits, although, the form in which it is added to products is probably different and somewhat processed (I’m not exactly sure what products you are referring to). I don’t think it’s unsafe per se but probably not something you need to have in your food unless it’s naturally occurring.

  • Pam

    I am a vegan so I do use Earth Balance and they use Non-GMO, sustainable practices (found through much research), to provide a “butter” made of real fruit and nut oils. I understand the predicament, however, I must say that I would rather eat Earth Balance than butter which has pus, antibiotics, and hormones in it (regardless of organic, there is still issues with dairy I have).
    I agree, everything in moderation!

  • newt

    I would assume that High fructose corn syrup would be bad since 90% of the corn sold is genetically modified, resulting in possible new chemicals in them that human bodies have never been exposed to before. That, and they’re engineered to produce their own pesticide as well as be showered in round-up (hence “round-up ready”). I’ve never seen organic HFCS put in ordinary products too so I’d just suggest staying away from that in general.

  • Concerning HFCS vs table sugar: check this article:

    There is something to it affecting us differently.

  • Susan Peterson

    All due respect because this is a very useful and educational post however I do think there is significant evidence pointing to why HFCS is significantly worse than sugar. Check out this lecture called Sugar: The bitter truth in which Dr. Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF, talks about how HFCS is actually poison. This is NOT to say that sugar is ok by any means, but there certainly is a difference in the way we metabolize HFCS and sugar.

  • Robin

    The store bread thing really shocked me. Here in TX H-E-B bakes a ton of bread. I used to buy it until I read the ingredients which is a mile long. Fortunately they have an organic Tuscan bread with very few ingredients. I also found Como bread at Walmart.

    • Elizabeth

      Robin, my husband and I recently moved to Houston, and I have discovered the HEB. It is my favorite conventional supermarket ever, but I’ve never seen the organic Tuscan bread. Is it in the bread aisle or the bakery? I would love to try it. Thanks! (And it’s good to be back in Texas after 13 years in a small town out of state, btw!)

  • Christina

    My doctor said that to lower my cholesterol (or he would prescribe meds), I needed to cut out eggs, beef, and pork. I started walking and ignored the diet advice. The next time I went to his office my cholesterol had gone down 40 pts. I told my chiropractor what the doctor said and he told me to NEVER take meds that lower cholesterol because your brain is mainly made of it and those medications are worse than having “high” cholesterol (the high number is lowered every few years).

  • Brittany

    Sorry but you lost me when you said HFCS was ok.
    I would never feed this poison to my family.

  • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

    Hi Brittany. We aren’t advocating consuming it. We are just saying it is not that different from refined table sugar. We say stay away from both. ~Amy

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