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Take It In: New science busts nutrition myths

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Take It In: by Carol Bareuther

Pick up a magazine, click through websites, or read the latest Twitter rant or rave about food and nutrition, and the news is always changing. What we thought was smart to eat years ago is now bad for us, and the foods we’ve reluctantly stopped eating are the ones nutritionists are now giving a thumbs-up. Nutrition advice can certainly seem confusing. However, nutrition is a science, and thus always inherently evolving. Just as we now know the world’s not flat, so researchers are blazing new frontiers in the realm of food and how its components function in our bodies. Consider that when the U.S. Department of Agriculture published its first dietary recommendations back in 1894, vitamins and minerals hadn’t even been discovered.  So, what are some of the biggest nutrition myths that have been busted recently?

Eggs: Bad for your heart, right?

It is true that eggs contain a potent source of cholesterol, over 200 milligrams per egg – when  the maximum recommended daily cholesterol intake was 300 milligrams per day, up until the release of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. There’s no warning to restrict cholesterol, and therefore high-cholesterol foods like eggs, in these latest guidelines. Why? Scientists have discovered that factors such as body weight, eating trans and saturated fats, age, heredity and physical activity all exert a greater influence over the likelihood of heart disease than the cholesterol in foods. In fact, Canadian researchers published a study this summer that revealed consumption of 6 to 12 eggs weekly, eaten in the context of a heart-healthy Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, had no adverse effect on major risk factors for heart disease.

Coffee: Time for a break?

Yes. A cup of Joe has for years been associated with health and heart ills attributed to its caffeine content. No longer. In fact, health professionals now say that drinking up to five cups of coffee daily is fine. More specifically, the recommendation from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans states: “Moderate coffee consumption (three to five 8-oz cups/day or providing up to 400 mg/day of caffeine) can be incorporated into healthy eating patterns.” Even better, some research shows that drinking coffee can be good for health. In fact, German scientists earlier this year published an article in the journal, Planta Medica, that drinking caffeinated coffee can actually help to prevent chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes mellitus and liver disease.

Potatoes: Fattening nutritional fluff?

Slim chance! A medium-size potato, one that is about 7 ounces or 3 inches in diameter, provides only 160 calories – about 30 calories more than a large fresh pear. Plus, potatoes are chock full of nutrients. Consider that a medium potato provides half of an adult’s daily requirement for vitamin C, one-quarter for potassium, one-third for vitamin B6 and one-fifth for dietary fiber.  What’s more, research published last year by Canadian food scientists show that yellow and purple fleshed potatoes not only deliver nutrients, but also phytonutrients such as beta-carotene and polyphenols that may help to lower the incidence of hypertension, heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

It’s important to keep up to date on nutrition news for good health. However, realize that there is no one food or nutrient that magically heals or hurts.  What’s important is to eat a variety of foods in moderation.

Carol Bareuther is a registered dietitian and freelance health and nutrition writer. Comments are welcome below.

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