Eight common food myths you don't have to worry about
Sometimes it seems as if we dare not put a mouthful of food near our lips for fear of cancer, heart disease or diabetes.
We live in an information age where you can Google almost any food item and find both good and bad comments about it. Take broccoli, for instance, says Consumer NZ food writer Belinda Castles. A few years ago there were even rumours floating about that broccoli was bad for you.
Here are some of the most popular food myths that you really don’t need to worry about:
- Non-organic food is covered in pesticides and you really should be buying organic fruit and vegies for your children.
“There’s little evidence to support this claim,” says Belinda, who goes on to add that pesticide residue levels are tested in New Zealand to make sure they remain low. Pesticides in our food are monitored by the New Zealand Total Diet Survey. Results confirm New Zealand's food supply, including fruit and vegetables, has one of the lowest pesticide residues in the world. And you can reduce the risks further by washing fruit and vegies.
- You should buy free-range chicken because the cheaper alternatives are pumped full of antibiotics.
Antibiotics are used to prevent disease and levels are kept low, says Belinda. “There’s really no need to worry about antibiotics in chicken,” she says.
- Macdonald’s thick shakes are pumped full of pig fat. Not true, says Macdonalds. The shakes contain no animal fat.
- Canola oil was used to make mustard gas. Really?
Nope, says Belinda. Many years ago canola (rapeseed) oil used to contain high levels of toxic erucic acid. But the type of canola oil sold domestically now contains hardly any erucic acid and canola oil is very "heart healthy".
- Diet drinks will give you cancer:
“That one’s been around for a long time and aspartame (the artificial sweetener) is one of the most tested foods in the world,” says Belinda. But still no one has come up with any real evidence of links to cancer.
(However, still try to avoid giving such drinks to your kids because even though diet drinks contain very few calories, they’re acidic and will lead to tooth decay.)
- Butter is better than Margarine and other table spreads because it’s natural.
“Butter is very high in saturated fats and that’s something all New Zealanders should be watching,” says Belinda.
Also, she says. today's range of table spreads is very different from the old-style Margarine. In most spreads now you'll find negligible amounts of trans-fats becasue the industry is responding to pressure to phase them out.
- Carbohydrates are bad for you.
This is so not true, says Belinda. Good-quality carbs such as wholemeal bread, rice, oats, Weetbix, are an important part of the diet for both adults and children, she says.
- Raw (unpasteurised) milk is much better for you.
Milk is pasteurised for a reason – it kills bugs that can make you very sick, says Belinda. If you do buy raw milk you must handle it with extreme care.