Real Food Tips: 8 (More) Common Misconceptions

As soon as I published my first list of “common food misconceptions” I thought of a few more, so here they are…

  1. If it’s “gluten-free” then it is good for you…wrong (for most people).
    Unless you have an allergy or intolerance we do not believe people should avoid gluten…or any grains for that matter. And like I’ve said about organic packaged food, just because a product is “gluten-free” doesn’t mean it’s a “whole food.” There are lots of highly processed “organic” and “gluten-free” products out there and when buying grains – whether it has gluten or not – it’s best to select those products made with the whole-grain (check the ingredients to be sure). And to back this up, in a recent New York Times FAQMichael Pollan said, “People who eat lots of whole grains are generally healthier and live longer than those who don’t.” In the same article Pollan also addressed gluten-free diets saying, “They are very important if you have celiac disease or can’t tolerate gluten. But it’s hard to believe that the number of people suffering from these conditions has grown as fast as this product category. Gluten has become the bad nutrient of the moment, the evil twin of Omega 3 fatty acids. Could it really be that bread, a staple of Western civilization for 6,000 years, is suddenly making millions of us sick? I’m dubious.”

    Unedited photo of eggs from "pastured" chickens

  1. Brown eggs are better for you than white ones…wrong!
    Brown eggs simply come from a different breed of chicken than white eggs. We personally don’t worry about the color of the shell and instead pay attention to the color of the yolk on the inside. We believe that the best and most nutritious eggs come from pastured chickens (pastured = animals that graze on grass), and you can see the difference in the color of the yolk because it’s usually bright orange as opposed to pale yellow, which you’ll find inside most supermarket eggs. We buy our pastured eggs from our local farmers’ market and some have brown shells, some have white shells, and some even have light blue or green shells. But how those chickens are raised and fed is a lot more important to us than the color on the outside. If you can’t find eggs through local farmers then at least try to buy the organic “cage-free” variety.
  1. Speaking of eggs, they are healthier for you if you avoid eating the yolks…wrong!
    In the same NYTimes interview, according to Michael Pollan, “Eggs are great and always were. The nutrition researchers have rehabilitated them in recent years — they used to think that cholesterol in eggs raised cholesterol in the blood, but this turns out not to be the case for most people.”
  1. Local food is better than well-traveled organic food…unfortunately there’s no good answer for this one.
    Michael Pollan helps sum this one up nicely, “It depends on what you value most. If keeping pesticides out of your food is your highest value, then buy organic. If you care most about freshness and quality or keeping local farms in business and circulating money in your community, buy local. But very often you can do both. Some local farmers are organic in everything but name, so before you decide to pass them up, ask them not ‘Are you organic’ — to which the answer must be no if they haven’t been certified — but rather, how do you deal with fertility and pests?” Long story short…it’s expensive and timely for small farms to become certified organic so it’s always good to ask questions!
  1. Turkey burgers and turkey bacon are better than their beef and pork counterparts…wrong!
    I think this is a case of comparing apples to oranges. Beef, pork, and turkey are all from completely different animals. In general, no matter what kind of meat you choose, if it’s from humanely raised and properly fed animals (preferably pasture-fed from a local farm and/or organic) and you consume that meat in moderation then from there it’s just personal preference.
  1. In order to avoid genetically modified (GMO) food you must buy organic…right!
    Per Wikipedia, “A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques … To date the most controversial but also the most widely adopted application of GMO technology is patent-protected food crops that are resistant to commercial herbicides or are able to produce pesticidal proteins from within the plant, or stacked trait seeds, which do both.” Right now there is no law in the U.S. that require food manufactures to label foods that have been genetically modified, but the USDA rules for organic do prohibit GMOs so at the moment buying organic is the only way to avoid them.
  1. Organic milk sometimes has a later expiration date because it is “fresher”…wrong!
    According to Michael Pollan, longer expiration dates mean “Much of the organic milk in your market is ‘ultra-pasteurized’ rather than simply ‘pasteurized’ — that is, it has been heated to a higher temperature in order to extend its shelf life. This is a holdover from when organic milk sat longer on grocery shelves. Some nutritionists believe that ultra-pasteurization damages the quality of milk; many cheese makers won’t use it. In some busier markets, you can find organic milk that has not been ultra-pasteurized.”
  1. Fresh produce is better than frozen…depends.
    According to Pollan, “Frozen vegetables and fruits are a terrific and economical option when fresh is unavailable or too expensive. The nutritional quality is just as good — and sometimes even better, because the produce is often picked and frozen at its peak of quality. The only rap is that freezing collapses the cell walls of certain fruits and vegetables, at some cost to their crunch. But this has no bearing on nutrition. Do look for frozen foods with a single ingredient — no fake herb-butter sauce!”
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  • Comments

    1. Stacy |

      Hey There, So with regards to #1 This whole gluten free thing confuses me. I tolerate gluten fine and am probably reading too much about how its bad for you, and then I read the post above about how its fine. I love bread and really can’t imagine a life without my sandwiches among other bread things. (but mostly sandwiches :p) I spoke with a nutritionist recently who has researched why so many people lately have come forward with gluten intolerance’s. At first I was also thinking it was “the new thing” to hate on gluten because of some ailments. (Please note I am not dismissing any diseases, or gluten intolerance’s at all, so no disrespect intended towards that) because just like your quote above, bread has been a baking forever so whats the deal now? I just didn’t want to think my love for bread could be bad for me. She informed me that my worst fear was true! Yes gluten intolerance is on the rise and really isn’t good for you to be eating all the time. However, she said of course everything in moderation. If you don’t have an intolerance already there isn’t any reason to go completely gluten free, just to moderate. Pushing her for more answers as to why my beloved bread is bad, she said it isn’t bread or grain or anything in its whole form. She said its all the GMO that they put in products with gluten. After its added and the bread(or whatever item you want to insert, bread is just my example) has been processed it has almost little to no true nutrients left. What it is left with is GMO’s that your body doesn’t know what to do with, that your insulin after ingestion goes through the roof, and in some cases results in celiacs or other intolerance’s because your body is essentially trying to fight off an organism that shouldn’t have ever existed in the first place. This doesn’t mean that’s how it started for everybody, she just explained that’s why its on the rise. She highly recommended me making my own bread from GMO free ingredients. What are your thoughts on all this? I really want to get to the bottom of this gluten thing

      • 100 Days of Real Food |

        If you buy organic then it’s not made from GMO crops…that’s what we do!

    2. |

      I’m always so upset when, despite living in the middle of nowhere being surrounded by farms, farmers markets are never where I expect them and in very, very few numbers. I have to settle for a lot of frozen veggies, which for a lazy cook such as myself (tons of soups and one-pot dishes) is kind of a blessing. Frozen veggies are my favorite things, though it seems increasingly difficult to find them without being covered in butter or sauces.

    3. Leiya |

      THANK YOU! Thank you for passing the word on this new GF diet fad.
      My family has HAD to be GF for the last 9 years. My son has celiacs.
      When I started seeing the fad start for the GF diet it frustrated me how naive people are to the supposed health benefit. It’s not a fad diet, and just because it says GF it is not HEALTHY for you. We still don’t eat the GF junk foods, and look for more whole grain options all the time.
      On the other hand, while the fad will come and go, it has benefit celiac patients. It has upped the demand in our local markets. Giving more of a selection and more competitive prices. As those Celiac shoppers know, GF is not CHEAP.
      If people would jump on the idea of eating in moderation, eating from all the food groups, and getting active the way they do Fad diets. We wouldn’t have such an issue with obesity. There is no quick fix, just long term changes.
      Thank you again for spreading the word!

    4. Valerie |

      I know there is a lot of confusion about gluten and I am not going to get into the argument other than to say that before my daughter was diagnosed with a gluten issue via extensive testing, we ate a fairly healthy diet. I tried to incorporate as many “real” foods as possible. When she first went gluten free, I did go overboard in purchasing packaged foods as it can be very overwhelming to switch your diet so drastically. However, as the year has progressed we have begun to shy away from that type of food. One thing, though, that has been hard for us is pasta. We like pasta in our family! I have been wondering for some time if there was a gluten free pasta that is considered real food and would love any input anyone has on this.

      • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill) |

        Hi Valerie. My husband is gluten free and we use brown rice pasta. I get it at Trader Joe’s and everyone in our family (even those who are not gluten free) enjoy it. Good luck. Jill

    5. kendra burton |

      When people buy “whole wheat flour” and “whole wheat bread” they are not actually getting that. Actual whole wheat flour has a 24-48 hour shelf life before it goes rancid. that is why your great-grandmother went to the mill a few times a week to get flour. And, that is why I own a mill and all of my family’s bread products (loaf bread, flour tortillas, bagels, crackers) are made with freshly milled flour.

      There is a mountain of evidence that taking away freshly milled grains is a huge problem in our society. eating this way has completely cured these issues in my family: constipation, eczema, warts, acne, and significantly helped asthma. Also, my energy level has skyrocketed!

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