To help separate fact from fiction, one of our 360 dietitians, Savina Rego sets the record straight on some common health myths:
Myth 1: All fats are bad
Fats are an essential part of healthy balanced diet. They are important for good health and therefore shouldn’t be excluded. When it comes to dietary fat, what matters most is the amount and type of fat you eat.
Like anything, if eaten in large amounts, fats can lead to weight gain, so try to limit your fat intake, and make sure your diet is well-balanced, and rich in fruit and vegetables.
Fats are often classified as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. So-called ‘good’ fats refers to unsaturated fats, found in foods like nuts, seeds, oily fish and avocados. Try and focus on incorporating foods containing unsaturated fats into your diet, and limiting your intake of saturated fats – particularly those found in processed foods, butter and cheese.
Whilst some recent studies have shown that saturated fats might not be as bad as we once thought, research hasn’t proven them to be ‘beneficial’ either.
Our advice? Focus on getting the majority of your fat intake from unsaturated fats, and enjoy as part of a healthy, balanced diet – but if you have any concerns, speak to your dietitian or GP.
Myth 2: ‘Natural’ sugars are better than white sugar
When it comes to the sweet stuff – all sugars are created equal.
‘Natural’ sugars like coconut sugar, honey and maple syrup are very on trend at the moment, as they are perceived as being better for you than white sugar due to the fact that they are less ‘processed’. ‘Natural’ sugars are sometimes referred to as ‘free’ sugars, but our bodies treat them just the same as white sugar - which also happens to be plant-based
Just because the label says ‘no added sugar’, or ‘refined sugar-free’, this doesn't necessarily mean a product is entirely sugar-free. ⠀
Often people talk about less processed sugars providing nutrients like vitamins and minerals, or having antibacterial properties. However these are found in such tiny amounts that you would have to consume them in very large proportions to see any benefit, making it counterproductive.
Our advice? Try and stick to the World Health Organisation’s guidelines, which recommend that we limit our daily sugar intake to six teaspoons for adults, and three teaspoons for children.
Myth 3: Coconut oil help reduce our risk of heart disease
Coconut oil is a rich source of saturated fat (containing around 92%) and is particularly high in a ‘healthier’ type of saturated fatty acid called lauric acid. Lauric acid tends to mimic unsaturated fats by increasing our ‘good’ cholesterol. However, it can also raise our ‘bad’ cholesterol, and total cholesterol too, which isn’t good for heart health.
Our advice? Don't rely on coconut oil for your intake of unsaturated fats.
Myth 4: Himalayan salt is healthier than table salt
Salt is a mineral largely consisting of the compound sodium chloride.
Whilst it is true that Himalayan salt contains 84 different trace elements and minerals (including calcium, magnesium and potassium), they are only present in very tiny amounts. The most obvious benefit of these minerals is that they make it a nice pink colour. So if you like your salt pink, the Himalayan variety may be for you.
Himalayan salt is composed of around 98% sodium, just like regular salt. However as a result of the larger crystal size of Himalayan salt, there is slightly less salt per serving.
When it comes down to it, ultimately, all types of salts contain similar levels of sodium, and too much of any type isn’t good for you.
Our advice? Try and follow the Australian Heart Foundation’s recommendations, that adults should aim to consume less than 5g (or less than a teaspoon) of salt a day.
Overall, we recommend that you check where the information you read is coming from, don’t believe everything you see in the headlines, and talk to a healthcare professional before making any big changes to your diet.