Myth: Fruit juice is healthier than soft drinks
It’s time to sort fact from pulp fiction: 100 millilitres of 100 per cent orange juice amounts to 180 kilojoules – exactly the same figure as 100ml of Coke.
“There’s a direct link between obesity and your intake of liquid kilojoules,” says dietitian Megan Pentz-Kluyts. “People move from fizzy drinks to juice, thinking fruit juice isn’t as bad.”
Alas, with the fruit’s fibre stripped away and the sugar remaining, juice is a kilojoule bomb.
Your Move: steer clear of both. Water, anyone?
Myth: Artificial sweeteners are a better option than sugar
Yes, artificial sweeteners are low in kilojoules, but they’re often derived from an unnatural source, explains dietitian Lila Bruk – and that should set your alarm bells ringing.
“These products have not been around long enough to have been fully tested over enough years to really know the long-term health effects of their use,” says Bruk.
Artificial sweeteners can also stoke carb cravings and cause gut problems like bloating or diarrhoea. “Plus, sweeteners don’t get you used to less sweet tastes, so your sugar cravings continue,” says Bruk.
Your Move: if you have to sweeten the deal, use a dash of sugar or drizzle of honey, Bruk advises. “Even better, get used to using nothing at all.”
Myth: Popcorn is healthier than chips
True, researchers at Scranton University found that a 100-gram serving of popcorn contained an impressive 300 milligrams of polyphenols (compared to, say, 119mg for a serving of spinach).
But a supersized bucket of butter-slathered popcorn (2510kJ per 100g) can send the kilojoule count soaring past the much-maligned bag of salted potato chips (2240kJ per 100 grams).
Your Move: can a few handfuls of roasted cashews get you through that second episode of Stranger Things?
Myth: Brown bread is better than white
Don’t fall for the oldest trick in the baker’s book. Just because the bread’s brown, don’t assume it’s packed with low-GI, high-fibre goodness.
“Brown bread is made from unbleached white flour, and has an equally high-GI and low-fibre content as white bread,” says Bruk.
Your Move: give them both a wide berth. “Your best bet is a seed bread or pure rye bread,” says Bruk. “Both have a low GI.”
Myth: Low-fat cheese trumps the full-fat stuff
“Low-fat is not always lower in energy,” say Pentz-Kluyts.
The proof is in the cheese: cottage cheese has 775kJ per 100g with a reading of 15.8g total fat, while low-fat cream cheese measured 958kJ per 100g and a total fat reading of 19.8g.
Plus, many low-fat dairy products ramp up the sugar content so they can compete with the creamy texture of their full-fat brethren.
Your Move: when it comes to dairy, don’t fear the fat. A recent review in the European Journal of Nutrition found a lower risk for obesity among full-fat dairy eaters.
Myth: Sports drinks are vital during a cardio session
If you eat a proper meal an hour before setting out on your run (banana and peanut butter on wholemeal toast is a favourite in the Men’s Health office), you’ll have more than enough glycogen stores in your body to fuel 90 minutes of continuous exercise, Bruk says.
Chug a sports drink during that half-hour trot and all you’re doing is pumping unnecessary kilojoules into your body.
Your Move: running a half marathon? Down that Powerade with impunity. Anything shorter, stick with water.