Real Food Tips: 8 (More) Common Misconceptions

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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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63 comments to Real Food Tips: 8 (More) Common Misconceptions

  • 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).

  • kitchenwench

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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).

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Martha

    I normally LOVE your blog so I hate to say this, but the last part of your paragraph about gluten is very uninformed and actually comes off as a bit offensive to those of us who do have problems digesting gluten. You really need to do more research about the subject before implying that it’s not legitimate. The grains that are available today are completely different than the ones that were available 100 years ago because of genetic modification, which is largely why an increasing number of people are having problems digesting it. I understand that this may be “hard to believe” (it is indeed a crazy situation) but that doesn’t make it untrue. Writing about nutrition should be based on facts, not hunches.

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      Hi there and I am sorry if I was misunderstood…I am not AT ALL implying “gluten-free” isn’t legitimate for some I just don’t believe it’s necessary for all. Also, most of that paragraph was a quote from Michael Pollan and not something I wrote…just to clarify. Thanks for your feedback!

    • Amanda

      They are absolutely not different. The only Grains that are different are the ones you purchase from GMO companies. If you purchase your grains from the various other organic farmers that have been linked from here, they do not use GMO grains, and they are not ‘hybrids’. Stop with this madness.

  • Tanya

    I just finished a book called Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis and in it he discusses why the “new”, hybridized wheat we eat is not good for us. It isn’t that wheat is bad for us, it is the modern wheat that is bad for us because it has been so drastically modified.
    Check out the website: The website says the following:
    “Over the past 50 years, wheat has been genetically altered by Big Food companies. The reason is simple: Genetically altered wheat means bigger yields and bigger profits for Big Food companies.

    That’s good for them but bad for you, because along the way, “modern” wheat developed a biochemical makeup that turns the human body into a metabolic mess.”

    Also check out this website:
    Where you can buy some of the “original” kinds of wheat and grain.

    • Anna

      I just commented about the same book without seeing your comment. :) It’s a great book!

    • Amanda

      People are just regurgitating this guys book over and over. Not every single grain we eat today (unless you’re eating bunny bread) is apart of the ultra-hybridized foods (or GMO). Lots of Independently owned companies online (that many of us in this community use) sell non-GMO grains that are exactly the same as they were hundreds of years ago. The problem with his assessment (and why many endocrinologist do not take him seriously) is because he waves his hand saying “all wheat is bad” while ignoring that whole grain is not the same as white flour.

  • Jessica McShane

    I work in the organic food industry.. I would add.. JUST BECAUSE IT IS ORGANIC, DOESN’T MEAN ITS GOOD FOR YOU..

    I get a TON of people in the shop buying processed organic food thinking they are making a healthy choice. Yes.. It is better to eat organic processed food thank conventional processed food, BUT it is STILL full of fat, salt, and calories!
    It is tough to sell things you cannot stand behind and would never eat yourself. Oh well. Its a step in the right direction I guess!

  • Katie

    Why does everyone keep posting about their gluten intolerances? Did you read the post? She specifically excluded those with intolerances so feel free to stop being so self-righteous about it.

    • Brittney

      People are posting about their gluten intolerance because many of them were not diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Many of the symptoms seem to not at all relate to gluten intake so most wouldn’t even think to remove gluten from their diet to see if it changes anything. They are posting so others may try it to see if it makes you feel any better. Again, there are no nutrients in grains that you can’t get from some other source so they aren’t necessary to a healthy diet.

  • Anna

    For more information about how wheat has changed and how cutting wheat helps improve your health and even reverse some health problems. It’s called Wheat belly by William Davis.

  • Christine

    Anyone with a brand of organic milk that is not ultra pasteurized?

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      We buy ours from Earth Fare and it comes from a farm in Virginia (that doesn’t ultra-pasteurize)…it’s called Homestead Creamery and comes in glass bottles.

  • Vanessa

    I hope the “WheatBelly” book has some wonderful, amazing facts… Because the website “hype” didn’t impress me at all.
    :( It looks like one of those things you would find on late night tv….
    Good for those who have found it works for them though…

    Loved this sensible list. And yeah, definitely check into the “organic” stuff…. Take “organic” milk for example. It might not only be ultrapasteurized, but the cows are often treated the exact same way as non organic milk, and can still be fed brewery mash-just so long as it’s “organic” brewery mash. You are much better to do whatever you can to support local farmers, even if they don’t have the “organic” label, many still do their best to avoid drugs and antibiotics, and care for their animals well (typical lifespan of a dairy cow on the line-4 yrs. Typical “family cow” lifespan-12-14 yrs!

  • Carol

    I see a lot of people posting that they feel much better after getting away from grain, and my question is simply this: were you eating truly whole grains, or did you do your best with what you found at the grocery store? When we decided to get away from meat (because of cholesterol and blood pressure issues) and go vegetarian, I decided that if our diet is based on grain, it better be the best possible. NOTHING in the grocery store is made from REAL whole grain. It ALL has the germ removed, since it isn’t shelf stable without removing the germ. I started grinding my own flour and making our bread (total bricks for about the first year, but I learned a lot and we persevered). I lost about 20 pounds and felt amazing in one summer. We added back some meat into our diet after moving to a more rural setting, because wild game and pasture raised meat were both available. I will never purchase meat from a grocery store again, nor do I allow items made from flour that I didn’t grind myself. If I no longer had access to fresh ground flour, I would not go back to breads from the store (or pasta). I would get my grains by boiling them, like rice. I believe all those posting about how much better they feel without grains, but I do think it may have as much to do with the quality of the grain as the presence of gluten (or more).

  • Diane Jaquay

    The fact with a lot of this stuff is that people believe what they want to believe. PERIOD! Those who believe that saturated fat is evil, or eating fat makes you fat, or that grains are the best thing since sliced bread (grin), are probably going to keep believing it because they WANT to. The science is out there folks, do your research if you want facts. I’ve done hundreds of hours of reading on health topics over the past 6 months since embarking on my new way of life, and I’ve based my decisions on that. And more importantly I’ve experienced profound health benefits based on what I put in my body. Those who are posting here about grains are not saying that every person who eats grains is going to get sick (although based on my research I do believe the “majority” of people, as in over 50%, will be impacted negatively by eating grains). What raises my hackles are statements like those made by Pollan regarding grains, and those made by people here who “think” they know the facts based on NO facts, but just that they have always eaten grains, how can they possibly be bad for us. If you want some nifty “facts” about gluten and what it does inside our body, watch this:

  • Diane Jaquay

    The fact with a lot of this stuff is that people believe what they want to believe. PERIOD! Those who believe that saturated fat is evil, or eating fat makes you fat, or that grains are the best thing since sliced bread (grin), are probably going to keep believing it because they WANT to. The science is out there folks, do your research if you want facts. I’ve done hundreds of hours of reading on health topics over the past 6 months since embarking on my new way of life, and I’ve based my decisions on that. And more importantly I’ve experienced profound health benefits based on what I put in my body. Those who are posting here about grains are not saying that every person who eats grains is going to get sick (although based on my research I do believe the “majority” of people, as in over 50%, will be impacted negatively by eating grains). What raises my hackles are statements like those made by Pollan regarding grains, and those made by people here who “think” they know the facts based on NO facts, but just that they have always eaten grains, how can they possibly be bad for us. If you want some nifty “facts” about gluten and what it does inside our body, watch this:

  • Deborah Jenkins

    I am so relieved to read the one about fresh vs. frozen! We are a busy family and my son is 18 mos and one week he loves something and the next not so much. So having veggies and fruits handy in the freezer as his tastes change is very economical for us!

  • Patt

    My husband and I quit eating grains over 7 months ago. He’s lost 43 pounds and I’ve lost 31 pounds. His constant acid reflux disappeared almost overnight. My bouts of depression are gone. The aches and pains in my joints are vastly improved. Our energy is higher and our minds are clearer.

    I read “Wheat Belly” by Dr. Davis and, although I don’t really appreciate the “hype” that comes with his info, it is still excellent information that is based on science. If you want less hype, try reading “The Perfect Health Diet” by Dr. Paul and Dr. Shou-Ching Shih Jaminet. They are scientists who spent 5 years studying the impact of diet on health in order to cure their own health conditions. They explain the same problems with wheat that Dr. Davis does, but they do not add the hype. Fascinating reading. The wheat of today is NOT the same wheat our grandparents grew up on. If you are really interested in eating healthy, you owe it to yourself to check it out. If you only want to read one book, I highly recommend the second book I mentioned.

  • Dareen AbouShackra

    I’m loving this post. thank you for sharing. It’s crazy u point these all out. I’ve realized that people just follow trends, while disregarding the obvious “money-making’ schemes. One day pomegranates are the fad & the other day something comes up that switching people against it due to one or two studies. I loved your first point about Gluten!! we definitely have to rethink the full “no gluten” concept. If it doesn’t harm you then why stop it.

    follow me on twitter @IngeniousHealth

  • sarah

    Last summer I was excited to buy from a local farmer with a roadside stand. In conversation though, I found out that he does not grow the food he sells. The potatoes were from Texas, the peaches were from North Carolina, etc. And he was not concerned with pesticide use or GMOs, so I had no more knowledge of what’s in it than what I buy at the grocery store.

    Make sure to talk to the farmers/sellers and ask questions! Never just assume it’s locally organically grown!

    • This is a great point. When we go to the Farmer’s Market, we make sure and ask the questions – how do you deal with pests? How do you grow your plants (feed your animals)? etc. You can’t assume that because it’s a farmer or farm stand it’s fresh, local and/or organic.

    • LisaA

      I think your point is excellent. I had a similar exerience with a road side stand. I have since begun getting my foods at another Farm Market and they post information about their growers and farmers. They also only buy from farmers who practice minimal and natural pesticide practices. They clearly advise that their food is not “organic” but also point out that many practices are beyond organic. They also only get their product from farms within 120 miles from the shop. I feel so confident buying from them even if they aren’t organic.

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