Egg. Fat. Coconut oil. What do these three words have in common? Misunderstood. With so many different health claims being associated with different foods, it’s difficult to determine whether they are true. Below are three common nutritional claims that have been misconstrued.
Eggs are unhealthy
This is far from the truth – eggs are highly nutritious. While both the egg white and yolk contain protein, the yolk provides vitamin A, D, E and B12, riboflavin and folate. So, where does the unhealthy rep come from? It comes from the amount of cholesterol in eggs. One egg contains approximately 185mg of cholesterol, which is found primarily in the yolk. Similar to most foods, eggs should be consumed in moderation, and can make for a healthy food choice when intake of saturated and trans fat are restricted. A healthy person free from high blood cholesterol, history of heart disease and diabetes can eat an average of one whole egg per day.
How to include eggs in your diet: include in lean ground meat or poultry when making burger patties, slice hard-boiled eggs and add to salads or sandwiches, add to stir-fries ,and/or add to avocado toast.
Coconut oil is a miracle food
Although many health claims suggest that dietary coconut oil has many health benefits (e.g. reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity), there is no strong evidence to support these claims. In fact, coconut oil is 80-90% saturated fat – the fat that is thought to be linked to heart disease. For heart healthy reasons, various organizations (e.g. American Heart Association, Heart and Stroke Foundation) suggest limiting the intake of saturated fat. There are two main reasons behind why this oil is thought to be miraculous: it contains medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) that are rapidly absorbed by the body, and its’ heat stability characteristic makes it a good option for cooking at high temperatures. Coconut oil does contain MCFAs; however, the main source of fat is a long chain fatty acid which is not as easily absorbed by the body. While refined coconut oil is high heat stable, the more frequently retailed virgin or cold-pressed coconut oils have a medium smoke point. This is not optimal for frying. With all that being said coconut oil can be incorporated into a healthy diet that limits the intake of saturated and trans fat. The important thing to remember is that it should not be consumed in excess and that more research needs to be conducted to verify the proposed health claims.
High fat foods will make you fat
Too much of any food (healthy or unhealthy) will lead to weight gain and increased body fat. Fat is important for your overall health. It’s a source of energy, involved in the utilization of certain vitamins, production of certain hormones and protects our organs. It’s important to recognize that not all fats are created equally. The type of fat you consume will affect your overall wellbeing. Healthy fats (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated) should be included as they can lower bad cholesterol, reduce inflammation and increase fullness - who doesn’t want to stay full longer? Dietary consumption of unhealthy fats (saturated, trans) should be limited and/or avoided as they are thought to increase the risk for heart disease and stroke.
How to include healthy fats in your diet:
Use vegetable oils like olive, canola and soybean, use olive oil as a salad dressing, include unsalted nuts and seeds in your salad, yogurt, stir-fry or pair with fruit; consume at least two servings (2.5oz) of fatty fish weekly.
Devika is a registered dietitian, and is certified in health and fitness studies. She currently holds a position as a renal dietitian and nutrition consultant for Synaptitude Brain Health and is the founder of One More Bite - a Vancouver-based nutrition consulting company that aims to provide evidence-based dietary information to assist with nutrition impacted diseases. She is a strong advocate for health and nutrition and firmly believes that embracing the concept of moderation contributes to a sustainable healthy lifestyle.