Welcome to the third installment of the Common Misconceptions About Nutrition series! Let’s get right into it!
#1) Brown Sugar Is Healthier for You Than White Sugar
This is sort of a trick-statement. Here are the facts: sugar is sugar, no matter the source. They’re all composed of the same basic molecules, be it glucose, fructose, mannose, galactose, etc. So, why do we keep hearing that brown sugar is healthier than white sugar? What even is brown sugar?
Brown sugar is white sugar, coated with molasses. This addition changes the consistency of brown sugar slightly, allowing it to sometimes clump up. Molasses does add some nutritional value to white sugar. It contains a remarkably higher amount of Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, and a less remarkable higher quantity of Iron, Phosphorus, Zinc, and Selenium (source: Canadian Nutrient File).
However, despite having a slightly higher nutritional value, processed sugar provides us mainly with empty calories. It is better to provide our bodies with the same nutrients from fruit (that also contain sugar), than to eat spoonfuls of brown sugar, all because it is coated with molasses. Brown sugar does contain slightly more nutrients, but when compared to white sugar, it isn’t very significant. It is therefore not much healthier than white sugar.
#2) The Raw Vegan Diet Is Healthier Because the Food’s Enzymes Aren’t Destroyed By Heat
The concept of Raw Vegan diet is relatively new. The philosophy behind it is that the only food that can be consumed is those that haven’t been heated above 118 degrees Fahrenheit (about 48 degrees Celsius), because heating food above those temperatures destroys the enzymes that can be beneficial for the human body.
Enzymes are proteins that are active and useful to the body it is apart of, whether humans or plants. Human enzymes are active and useful to humans, just like plant enzymes are active and useful to plants.
It is factual to state that most enzymes are inactivated at temperatures above 40-50 degrees, depending on the enzyme, but it simply isn’t possible to compare the activity of plant and human enzymes, because the environment in which they are active is so different. Humans and plants function in very different ways, have different resting body temperatures and feed ourselves differently, among other differences. It is a possibility the enzymes that are active in plants are unable to be active in the human body and accomplish the same functions, therefore making eating intact plant enzymes useless to humans.
Besides, the pH of the human stomach is incredibly acid when compared to the rest of the body. Adding to this acidity are all the human digestive enzymes that are present, whose solemn purpose is to digest and split into fragments all the nutrients we eat in order to absorb them properly. It is therefore highly unlikely that enzymes that have been eaten intact survive. It is inevitable that they will be inactivated and digested at the stomach’s pH and at the encounter of human digestive enzymes, rendering them useless. They will be used as amino acids, like any other protein.
The use of eating enzymes (from plant-based sources) intact have yet to be scientifically proven. Adopting a vegan diet is a choice that can be backed and validated by a variety of reasons, but eating raw food simply because of the potential (and unproven) benefits of plant enzymes, is not necessarily healthier than a regular vegan diet.
#3) Carbohydrates Make You Fat
The truth is, too much of pretty much anything will make you ”fat”. I really hate using that word. Carbohydrates are an important source of energy, especially for your brain. Simple carbohydrates, particularly glucose molecules, are your brain’s main source of energy. Certain people say that cetonic bodies are the brain’s main source, but your brain only uses cetonic bodies as a source of energy when it is in survival mode, during an extended fasting period (over 24 hours). It is its last resort.
An excess of carbohydrates does turn into fat by the body, as does an excess of sugar, which are also constituted of carbohydrates. This absolutely does not mean you should completely cut out carbohydrates from your diet. Just eat as much as your body requires to function properly, and not excessively.
#4) Radiation From Microwaves Create Dangerous Elements in Food
This is another myth that really started to get around in the 90’s. If your microwave functions properly, as in none of its parts are damaged, no weird elements will form in your food once its heated. It’s the same concept as saying heating your food on a stove top does the same. At the end of the day, heat is a type of radiation, but not a particularly dangerous one.
#5) If Everyone Would Follow The Same Healthy Diet Plan, Then Obesity Wouldn’t Be Such a Problem
This is exactly the beauty of the science of nutrition. It is ever-changing. Everyone is different, and no two bodies are exactly alike. One type of diet (and by diet I mean what-you-eat and not weight-loss-plan) will not work for everyone. However, it has been scientifically proven that a diet that includes more fruits and vegetables, with less meat, often leads to less chronic diseases. This includes heart disease, obesity and maybe even cancer.
However, I truly believe that everything in moderation is key to a healthy life. Healthy food, a sufficient amount of water, plenty of exercise, and regular sun exposure will lead to a healthier lifestyle. A treat now and again will not make you unhealthy, but a restrictive ”weight-loss” diet plan might.
I hope you enjoyed today’s post, because I enjoyed writing it! That’s what happens when you do what you love, I guess.