Common Food Myths | The Student Pocket Guide
by Neela Kumar

It’s very easy to listen to media hearsay about the next ‘superfood’ or ‘best ever’ new diets. Here are 10 food myths that you’ll probably hear about but just aren’t true!

1) Avoiding carbohydrates is the only way to lose weight

Though you may see some weight loss in the short term, this is more likely because you’re eating less. Getting rid of carbohydrates from your diet will actually mean that you’ll gain fewer health benefits from foods such as grains, fruit, starchy vegetables and legumes. Carbohydrates are actually good because they increase fibre, lower cholesterol, are high in nutrients, give a stable energy level and also can boost metabolism to reduce fat! Eating too few of these can cause constipation, dizziness and fatigue, as well as other symptoms. So overall, it’s better to keep some of them in and have a healthy, balanced diet.

2) Vitamin and mineral supplements are needed to keep healthy

Whilst some of these are really good for health, they can’t replace the benefits of real food. The most natural and beneficial source of vitamins and minerals is from the food itself. Though it may be necessary to take supplements, not all nutrients are provided, so it’s ultimately a better idea to try to get them from the food you eat. You know, vegetables and things?..

3) Energy drinks are a good way to get energy, fast

Students drink these a LOT – on both nights out and as a way to wake up for early lectures. They might give a short rush of energy, but they contain lots of sugar and caffeine which can cause rapid heartbeat and insomnia if misused. As mixing with alcohol goes, it isn’t recommended. Alcohol is a depressant whilst energy drinks are a stimulant, which can confuse the nervous system and lead to cardiac problems. Ever woke up with a fast heartbeat after a night out? It’s better to keep energised by staying hydrated and getting enough sleep.

4) Healthy foods are expensive

It’s tempting for students to buy cheaper food which a lot of the time is unhealthy. Supermarkets do however stock cheaper foods that are also healthy, if you look in the right places. Foods such as flours, grains, in season vegetables, eggs and frozen vegetables are usually fairly cheap and it’s good to look for deals or bulk buy with friends or flatmates. There are plenty of healthy and cheap options available and a lot of Universities have healthy eating initiatives – the key is budgeting!

5) 18 litres of water a day is needed to stay healthy

This is one that students usually don’t focus on. It’s important to drink enough, but the correct amount will depend on your gender, size and activity. The best way to check how hydrated you are, is to check the colour of your pee – the clearer the better. Remember, it’s really important for concentration and focus to remain hydrated, and even more important on nights out! Around 2 litres a day is a good starting point.

6) Foods that are low in fat or fat-free are always healthy

This is not always true and in fact, fat-free or low in fat is not always healthy. Companies sometimes replace the fat with high sugar quantities meaning higher calories and additives to improve taste. There are foods that are higher in fat but are also healthy such as fish, nuts and avocados. It’s therefore really important to look at the overall nutritional value of food, not just fat, as some is necessary for a healthy and balanced diet.

7) Drinking tea causes dehydration

Seeing as tea is mainly water, it’s unlikely that it will dehydrate you, and the level of caffeine in it won’t cause this either. Hot or cold tea without sugar is near enough calorie free and can keep you alert. Though this may be a myth that you appreciate hearing isn’t true, it’s still sometimes better to drink water and never replace it fully with other drinks.

8) Fruit Juice is as good as a fresh fruit

Fruit juice is something that students drink a lot. However, these are deceptively high in calories and the sugar content is almost equivalent to soft drinks. These can cause you to gain weight, harm your teeth, and the extra calories don’t even fill you up. Natural fruit provides vital vitamins, fibre and is a healthy and filling option. It’s cheaper to eat actual fruit and it’ll make you feel healthier and better about yourself in the long term!

9) Skipping breakfast helps you lose weight

It’s easy to amalgamate meals, but breakfast is really important as it is good to ‘break the fast’ after 8 or so hours of sleep without any food and gives you better metabolism. It allows you to catch up on daily vitamins and minerals that can be used later in the day so you won’t need to snack on foods that are high in sugar or fat which can also cost more, and increases your alertness and concentration earlier in the day.

10) Fresh vegetables are better than frozen ones

It’s always good to eat fresh vegetables, but it’s not possible to know when they were picked and if they are of good quality. Frozen vegetables already have the flavour ‘frozen’ into them so are just as nutritious. They also last longer so won’t go bad as quickly and are easier to cook and store than fresh ones.