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It is great that many people are beginning to eat healthier – it’s better for society, the environment and everyone. However, as with anything new, it is easy to make mistakes when you are just starting out. Here are 5 common mistakes and misconceptions about healthy eating that you can easily avoid:

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Mistake 1: Changing Your Diet Suddenly

Enthusiasm is great and it’s never too soon to start eating healthy but you have to do it gradually! A sudden drastic change in diet can pose great challenges for your body –you might begin to detox so quickly that your body may not be able to keep up with eliminating those toxins… end result is that you poison yourself all over again. Not to mention a list of potential side effects– fatigue, headaches, indigestion, withdrawal symptoms, lightheadedness, nausea…

How to avoid it: Start slowly incorporating healthy foods into your diet and gradually eat more of them and less of the regular foods you are used to. Soon your diet will be changed and you will feel great as your body has time to transition and adjust.

Mistake 2: Overcooking Healthy Ingredients

You got yourself some organic vegetables and now you want to make a meal? That’s a great start but the nutritional value of vegetables and other foods is affected by how you process them and how you eat them. For example, frying leafy greens significantly diminishes the amount of vitamin C contained in them and baking nuts makes them harder to digest. Boiling vegetables that you are going to eat as sides also drains a lot of the nutrients – they go into the water! Only boil vegetables when you will eat them together with the water they have been boiling in (e.g. – soups) otherwise it is better to steam them.

How to avoid it: Educate yourself on how to treat healthy ingredients for the maximum impact.

Mistake 3: Cooking With Refined Olive Oil

Yes, olive oil is healthy because it is high in fatty acids and antioxidants. However, there is a stark difference between an average, refined olive oil and extra virgin olive oil. The latter has much higher nutritional and antioxidant values minus the loads of chemicals used in refinement. In addition, extra virgin olive oil has high resistance to oxidative deterioration (loss of nutritional value) due to the presence of phenolic antioxidants. These phenolic antioxidants are lacking in refined olive oil, meaning that when you cook (bake / sauté / fry) with refined olive oil, the oil loses the benefits you thought you were getting.

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How to avoid it: Buy extra virgin olive oil. It is more expensive but you get so much more out of it! Yet, even extra virgin olive oil is affected when it reaches its smoking point – around 190°C, 375°F. Therefore, aim to cook your food at lower temperatures and use other oils for stir-frying or high-heat baking.

Mistake 4: Opting For Skim Milk

Many people believe that all animal fat is bad. Therefore it is easy to imagine that low-fat or zero-fat dairy is better than whole milk and whole dairy products. WRONG. There are 2 main factors that make low-fat milk a suboptimal choice:

1)      Skim milk is often loaded with sugar – 1 cup of average 2-percent milk contains 12.3 grams of sugar! This is almost as much as a chocolate chip cookie and Harvard scientist are cautioning that this substitution of sugar for fat may actually be a main cause of weight-gain in many children and adults.

2)    The vitamins contained in milk and dairy products are fat-soluble and therefore will not be absorbed by your body unless you simultaneously take in sufficient amount of fat.

How to avoid it: If you love milk, try organic whole milk or nut milk. To get sufficient calcium, eat more of other great sources of calcium such as greens, nuts and fish.

Mistake 5: Over-relying On Supplements

There is no substitute for healthy eating. Supplements are just for that – supplementing a healthy diet, and should never become your primary source of nutrition! Unfortunately, it is easy to perceive supplements as a short-cut to health – why go through the trouble of buying, cleaning and eating fresh foods when you can take that powder capsule with your coffee?

How to avoid it: The best (and most natural) way to eat healthy is to eat more home-cooked meals made from fresh, organic ingredients. Cooking at home takes time but it does not have to take a lot of time! There are healthy meal planning services that take care of planning what to cook (including planning for variety and richness of your diet), what to buy and how to make a nutritious and delicious dinner in under 30 minutes. You can start today by downloading a free 1-week meal plan.

References:

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf001418j

http://www.forbes.com/sites/melaniehaiken/2013/07/02/lowfat-milk-may-not-be-as-healthy-as-we-thought-says-harvard-expert/

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/calcium-and-milk/

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1745-4557.1997.tb00483.x/abstract?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false


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