Nutrition is one domain that's constantly inundated with fads and claims that promise everlasting health if you just jump on the bandwagon. But is there any truth to them? Here are four of the most popular health myths worth delving deeper into.
1. Claim: Hot lemon water drunk first thing in the morning will revolutionise your heath
Truth: Health-conscious celebrities are constantly singing the praise of warm lemon water; crediting it for weight loss, flushing toxins, even preventing wrinkles. In truth, drinking lemon water first thing in the morning does have some benefits as a part of a broader self-care regime; but it is not going to transform your health if it's the only change you make.
What it will do is stimulate the appetite and digestion, give a good dose of vitamin C, and have an alkalising effect in the body. Be careful sipping on lemon water all day though, as this will erode the enamel on your teeth; I recommend keeping lemon water to once in the morning and following it with a rinse of plain water.
2. Claim: Consuming loads of green veggies, green smoothies and green juices daily is good for everyone
Truth: Green juices and smoothies have definitely reached the zeitgeist of the recent health movement, but surprisingly, consuming loads of the green stuff isn't good for everyone. The brassica family (kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, mustard greens) contains goitrogenic substances that prevent the utilisation of iodine and need to be consumed with caution by anyone with an underactive thyroid.
Of course, this family of vegetables has an array of health benefits and most people can enjoy them daily without any worry, but if you know your thyroid is underactive or you have been diagnosed as hypothyroid, speak to a professional about formulating a nutritionally dense diet that limits or excludes these veggies.
3. Claim: Raw desserts don't count
Truth: These types of desserts have slipped quietly out of the realm of occasional treats and settled into the daily snack column in the minds of a lot of health-conscious people.
However, the truth is raw treats are often made with more nuts than the body can break down in one go. They also tend to be high in sugar, unrefined yes, but sugar of any kind is still going to cause a spike in blood glucose and insulin. If that sugar isn't ultilised for energy, it will be stored as fat in the liver and adipose tissue. It is fantastic that handmade, raw treats have become widely available, as they're leaps and bounds ahead of packaged, processed cakes and sweets in terms of nutritional value, but treats they still are and should be consumed in moderation.
4. Claim: Gluten-free products are better for you
Truth: Unless you have been diagnosed as coeliac or gluten intolerant; gluten-free products usually aren't the best choice. Supermarkets aisles are lined with high glycaemic gluten-free options that are overly processed. Gluten-free bread can have up to twenty ingredients making it miles away from being a wholefood.
By contrast, properly prepared sourdough bread is made by combining a starter culture with flour and water and leaving it to ferment for several days. During fermentation, bacteria break down gluten proteins, rendering them virtually harmless. Many people who switch from factory-made bread to a properly prepared sourdough are able enjoy it without any bloating or discomfort. Try it for yourself: if this is the case for you, a quality sourdough is a far more healthful choice than a gluten-free bread.