Stay away from gluten. Eggs will raise your cholesterol. Fruits have too much sugar.
These are just some of the nutritional myths that keep people from eating food that's actually healthy for them, says Washington, D.C., dietitian and author Katherine Tallmadge.
In a recent Washington Post article, Tallmadge shared a list of seven myths she often hears from her clients seeking nutrition and diet counseling.
Of course, the oft-repeated wisdom about moderation goes without saying here, but her list may make you think again about what's "good" and "bad."
Eggs: Yes, eggs are relatively high in cholesterol, but eating one egg a day isn't going to raise your blood cholesterol level very much. It's the saturated fat in the bacon, sausage and buttered toast that you eat with that egg that's a lot worse for you. Besides, eggs are a good source of protein and the nutritious yolk is where all those important vitamins -- A, D and B -- are concentrated.
Gluten and wheat: How did these ingredients get so demonized? Only 1 percent of the population cannot tolerate gluten and must eradicate it from their diet to avoid severe abdominal pain, but that doesn't mean it's bad for everyone. Gluten-containing foods, such as whole wheat, rye and barley -- as well as whole-grain cereal like bran flakes -- are vital for good health, writes Tallmadge, and are associated with a reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and excess weight.
Potatoes: Sorry spud, you've been targeted as one of the culprits behind increases in type 2 diabetes, obesity and spikes in blood glucose levels, recent research says. The problem is, the studies that have picked on the poor potato have lumped all forms of potatoes, including chips and fries, together. But Tallmadge reminds us that potatoes are a great source of potassium -- which can reduce your stroke risk -- vitamin C and fiber. You don't always have to go the baked route; try this warm chickpea potato salad with lemon-garlic dressing from the Post's Nourish columnist Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.
Fruit: Tallmadge says her clients often ask her if fruit is too high in sugar. She thinks this may be some kind of cockamamie fear left over from the Atkins high-protein diet fad. Avoiding fruit can actually damage your health, she writes. Study after study over many decades show eating fruit can reduce the risk of some cancers, heart disease, diabetes, plus help lower blood pressure. Simply put, fruit is good for you.
Soy: Some studies have found elevated rates of breast cancer among rats that were fed a concentrated soy derivative. But studies looking at whole soy foods in humans haven't found that connection. Soy has been popular for centuries in Asian cuisines, and other research shows it has a protective effect against heart disease. So enjoy some tofu with this easy, delicious ground pork and tofu stir-fry that's low in saturated fat and only 210 calories per serving.
Alcohol: Moderation. Moderation. Moderation. Unless there are complications like liver disease or the potential for alcohol abuse, a small drink daily (like a five-ounce glass of wine), has many nutritional benefits.
Fried food: It's true, frying adds calories, but that's not necessarily bad, Tallmadge writes. Food fried in healthy oil like canola, safflower or olive oils -- not the re-used stuff that fast food places often use -- can be healthful and nutritious. For the occasional splurge, here's a video for making homemade fried chicken.
In other health news:
Task force recommends against hormones for women already past menopause. The Wall Street Journal reports that a federal task force has once again examined the use of hormone replacement therapy and is again recommending against hormones for preventing fractures, dementia and other chronic diseases in women who are already past menopause. The recommendations don't apply to women who are experiencing menopause and use hormones to treat hot flashes and other symptoms.
Hospital-at-home programs spread for intensive-care patients. Hospital-at-home programs refashion care for chronically ill patients with acute medical issues, testing traditional notions of how to treat people who become seriously ill, reports USA Today.
Scared of spiders? Phobia therapy changes brain's reaction to fear in 2 hours. New research from Northwestern University finds that just a two-hour therapy session could cure spider phobia by rewiring brain's response to fear. Scientific American reports that the exposure therapy changed activity in the brain's fear regions just minutes after the session was complete.
Photo credit: Top, courtesy cleananddelicious.com; small photo, courtesy mytophealth.com