We all have misconceptions about food, whether it be from old wives’ tales or from a chain email that continues to make rounds on the internet. Some may make sense but others you are left wondering about the credibility. Here are a few food myths busted.Myth — If I do not get the nutrients I need then all I need to do is take vitamin supplements.

Truth: A poor diet supposedly boosted with supplements is still a poor diet. Food is still the best source for all minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Remember it is a supplement and not a substitute for a healthy diet and there has been no scientific evidence to show that people who take supplements are healthier than those who do not. Instead of buying supplements, spend money on fruits and vegetables.

Myth – Potatoes are bad

Truth: Some “white” foods such as white rice and white bread are stripped of their nutrients because they are highly processed but potatoes are nutritious, fibre-rich and packed with vitamins such as Vitamin C, B-6 and folate. People have been told to stay away from potatoes because they are usually cooked with a lot of oil — alu tikki, batata wada, pattice for example. For some reason even the everyday potato subji many times has quite a bit of oil. Roast potatoes in the oven with a smidgeon of oil, or bake whole for a nutritious snack. Runners are encouraged to eat a boiled potato before a race because it gives the energy needed for endurance. Benefit from this vegetable the correct way.

Myth – Bananas are fattening and make you gain weight

Truth: Bananas are one God’s wonderful gifts to us. The omnipresent and omnipotent banana is one of the healthiest, safest, and cheapest fruits to eat. One banana of about 7 inches long has 0 grams of fat, 3 grams of fibre, and appromimately 100 calories. It is satiating and provides needed energy. This too is a favourite snack for athletes before and during the event – both Federer and Nadal eat them regularly. Why it has been deemed as having too many carbs or too much sugar is a mystery. It does have a few more carbs than other fruit but remember they are good carbs.

Myth – It doesn’t matter what you eat as long you are not eating too many calories.

Truth: Having only a burger for lunch and ice cream for dinner may make you lose weight but your health will deteriorate. Not getting the nutrients you need, you will feel sluggish. There is a big difference between eating 600 calories of roti-suzi-dal-chawal for lunch as opposed to 500 calories of a pastry and a coca-cola. The latter will give you zero nutrients. The former is part of well balanced diet giving you fibre, vitamins, minerals and health-enhancing phytochemicals. If you continue to eat a diet of junk food you will become undernourished and disease prone.

Myth – You should not eat dahi at night if you have a cold

Truth: Dahi, whether it is cold or room temperature will not worsen your cold, eaten at night or any other time. This is definitely one of those old wives’ tales. In Ayurveda, eating cold foods at certain times is discouraged but from the traditional medicine point of view there is no harm eating dahi at night – even if you have a cold.

Myth – Carbohydrates cause weight gain

Truth: Carbohydrates do not cause weight gain unless they add up to excess calorie intake. The same holds true for protein and fat. Findings from the US National Weight Control Registry show that people who successfully maintain weight loss tend to eat diets that are higher in carbohydrates and lower in fat, but while watching their total calorie intake. However, some people who eat a diet that is extremely high in carbohydrates and low in protein and fat get hungry sooner, which may trigger overeating. Our Indian staple diet is carbohydrate rich. We must learn proper proportions and add lean protein with meals such as sprouts and soya.

Myth — Eating most of your calories in the evening promotes weight gain.

Truth: No matter when you eat your calories, you gain weight when you eat more than you burn off. Dinner has become the main meal for most people and the tendency is to overeat at night with something sweet to accompany the meal or a dessert. This is what causes the weight gain – not the time of day it is eaten. Mindless munching in front of the TV at night is also a calorie bomb.

Myth –Egg yolks are bad for you

Truth: This is a debate that never seems to end. Egg yolks are high in cholesterol but whether to eat them depends on what your dietary needs and goals. Healthy adults with normal cholesterol levels, who exercise regularly and who follow a low fat, healthy diet can safely eat eggs with the yolk. Whole eggs are rich in choline which helps with memory and also in lutein and zeaxanthin which are antioxidants. If losing weight is your aim then take note that one egg white has 18 calories and one whole egg has 78 calories. But even then, whole eggs can fit into a balanced diet. They are filling, also an important factor for the weight conscious.

Published in Pune Mirror, July 11, 2011