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. |

      I love this!! Especially #1. Whole grains are healthy for you and should be a part of a well balanced diet (unless you have a gluten allergy or intolerance like you mentioned).

    2. kitchenwench |

      Thanks for this Lisa! A lot of misconceptions are out there!

    3. |

      Nutrition fads come and go so quickly. I like Pollan’s common-sense approach.

    4. Brittney |

      I’ve been doing a lot of research on gluten. It seems that a lot of our wheat or other grains have been modified or changed from what grain used to be. The gluten content of many foods is much higher than it used to be due to this modern day wheat. Many believe that may be the reason for the increased sensitivity to gluten. I’ve been trying to limit my gluten intake and replace it with healthy fruits and vegetables instead as I think I get more nutrients from them than gluten-filled foods.

      • C |

        It is important for me to eat g-free to keep stomach and skin problems at bay. While I do not have Celiacs disease, I know and feel the difference when I’m eating g-free compared to if I eat wheat…I tested it out shortly after changing the way I ate and it was not fun at all. But even with my intolerance, I am still able to get whole grains into my diet. I can still enjoy rice, quinoa, buckwheat (yes, it’s gluten free even though wheat is in it’s name), and oats. Additionally, my intolerance has led me to make even more real food at home. Lisa’s blog has helped me a ton and her tortilla soup and crockpot chicken (and broth) are my current obsessions.

      • Christine |

        I had read that as well about the changing of wheat over the years. So sad that GMO’s are taking over and sickening us like this.

      • kelly |

        Yes, except #1- boo. While there is no doubt that any “processed” food is best avoided even if it’s gluten free, Many people have an undetected gluten sensitivity that isn’t revealed thru most blood test. I went gluten free to support my husband who was gluten free due to depression and viola’ he improved dramatically, my tendentious & bad PMS went way. My son with ADD also improved. It is very addictive and in EVERYTHING, so many people have a hard time giving it up and this type of info is just what they need to continue with the addiction. Wheat Brain is real! I feel fabulous without wheat & whole grains.

    5. Anna |

      I’ve been wondering why the eggs we get from our friends’ ranch had yolks that are more orange than yellow. Thank you for the explaination. And to anyone hesitant to try fresh eggs, do the water trick (mentioned in a previous article) then enjoy their richer flavor!

    6. Diane Jaquay |

      I’m 53, and ate grains my whole life, thinking they were perfectly healthy (and I ate a relatively healthy diet too, not a lot of junk food). Gave them up 6 months ago as an experiment to see if I could improve my health issues, and all I can say is that my results have been life changing. My osteoarthritis pain has vanished, the depression I was suffering from has improved dramatically, my peri-menopause symptoms have disappeared (hot flashes, etc.), and I’ve lost 30 pounds to boot (without “dieting”). Considering the fact that it’s estimated that 60% of Caucasians have, at the very least, an intolerance to gluten, this is not a subject to be taken lightly, or thought of as some “fad”. You might be fine at 20, or 30, eating all the grains you like, doesn’t mean it’s healthy in the long term. Gluten causes inflammation in the body, period. And inflammation is the root of much of the disease that is running rampant in our society today.

      • Roxanna Walkovik |

        Diane is right on target Gluten is not the same anymore and unless you do Orangic whole wheat’s still has major problems with inflamation which causes many illness. RIGHT ON DIANE!!

      • Amanda |

        Gluten does not cause inflammation for the majority of people. Eating grains, which is a great place to find Fiber, is incredibly healthy for you. People have been eating some form of grains for 10,000 years. There’s no reason to stop now just because a few people are connecting it to their current pain problem (which may of been something ELSE inside the grains itself, not the gluten specifically).

    7. |

      This is one of the main reasons that I love your site. I think that you present a balanced, common sense approach to eating and living better in today’s world. Your posts are well thought out and researched, and I always learn something new. Thank you!

      • 100 Days of Real Food |

        Thank you for that!

    8. Katherine |

      I am gluten free, and healthier for it. I have Crohn’s and gluten intolerance so it is a must for me. Additionally, I choose to be grain free most of the time. I do indulge in the occasional corn chip or rice cracker, but those are rare events and generally happen when I’m in a social setting. I think it is important to note that while some gluten free products ARE junk filled with sugars and so forth, that a great deal of gluten free folk don’t actually eat that junk regularly once we have adapted to our new lifestyle. Most of us maintain our health with sustainable meat, dairy and fruits and veg, instead of replacing items with fake outs. At least, that is the case after we transition to a place of accepting our new dietary restrictions. It is hard and alienating to be gluten free, and those foods help us ease into a new life style AND allow us to participate in social settings. There is very much a grieving process that comes with adopting a gluten free lifestyle and it isn’t one that many would choose to go through. They help us feel normal and occasionally help us to cope so please don’t be judgmental. We are capable of reading the label, but sometimes, we are just trying to get by. And food isn’t our only enemy. There is gluten in cosmetics, personal care items, and all kinds of hidden places. Gluten free means far more than a label on a food product.

      • NJ |

        Thanks for these words. So appreciated the clarification for those of us who are dealing with gluten free. My children are gluten free and we have done the same to generally stay away from packaged stuff and eat fresh. There is a difference for those who are gf and need to be.

    9. |

      the colour of the egg yolk is not always a good indicator any more, since many farmers are now feeding their chickens saponified marigold to “dye” the yolks orange. As you said about local farmers and organic products, the best way to know you are getting a great product is to talk to your farmer.

    10. Denise |

      Grains today are hybrids of hybrids of hybrids. Years ago, our bodies handled grains -which were much different then -better than they can now. But it is a fact that a person could never eat another grain for the rest of their lives and be perfectly healthy. If you do well with them – eat them. Many do not and we avoid them.

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