Each weekend, you stumble down to the cafeteria or a diner to wash away the previous evening’s sins. You order eggs, bacon and some toast. Grease sits in little pools in the ripples of the bacon. You down three sugary coffees. When you’re done, you wipe the oil on your pants. You feel the food coma coming on. This seems the easiest way to overcome the pain you currently feel, but the food’s bad for you and you’re probably eating too much of it.
As students, it’s sometimes tricky to know how to eat well and find the time and money to do so. So every Sunday this semester, nutrition students Anna Richardson and Melissa Danchak will bring you a column on theeyeopener.com about various issues of nutrition and some simple recipes that you can make for cheap.
1. Meat and eggs are bad for you because they’re high in cholesterol.
Yes, many protein-rich foods are also high in fat and cholesterol, but don’t worry! Cholesterol is a substance naturally produced by the body – in fact, your body will produce several times the amount of cholesterol you eat every day for various metabolic processes. Unless your doctor has advised you to cut back, dietary cholesterol isn’t an issue.
Saturated fat, on the other hand, isn’t doing you any favours. Saturated fat actually increases blood cholesterol levels, not dietary cholesterol! Moderation is key – choose leaner meats and enjoy eggs regularly as they are fantastic sources of nutrients.
2. Eating a low-fat diet is healthy and will help you lose weight.
North Americans are terrified of fat. Low fat and fat free labels are everywhere, and choosing these foods isn’t always the best choice. Often, low fat options are full of sugar or artificial ingredients to keep them palatable. They also won’t keep you full as long, as fat keeps the stomach satiated. Fat won’t make you fat – eating more calories than your body requires will.
This doesn’t mean you should bust out your deep fryer – there are healthy fats and less-healthy ones. The best ones are oils like olive oil and coconut oil, and from food sources like avocados and nuts. Avoid overly processed oils and fatty cuts of meat.
3. You need to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day to stay hydrated.
A long time ago, someone said that drinking huge amounts of water every day is beneficial – it’s really not. Many claim that water helps detoxify the body, keep skin clear and the brain sharp. Although drinking water regularly is important, there is no need to drink water when you’re not thirsty and studies find little evidence to do otherwise. Keep water on hand to stay hydrated, but overdoing it will only lead you to the bathroom.
4. It’s better to many small meals a day than a few large ones.
It’s true that eating regularly will boost your metabolism, but studies show no overall difference in calories consumed or health. Most research is inconclusive on the subject. Bottom line: Eat when you’re hungry and keep a regular eating schedule that works for you·
5. Sugar is fat-free so it’s okay to eat regularly.
Sugar is what we should be avoiding instead of fat. Canadians on average eat more than 26 teaspoons of the stuff a day, and teen males eating more than 40 teaspoons – this makes up many kilograms a year. Gross! Sugar in its many forms – glucose, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup and dozens of types more found in ingredient lists – is just plain not good for you. It’s addictive, contributes to obesity and diabetes risks and increases inflammation in the body. Some sugar experts even call it toxic. It’s true that our brains run exclusively on glucose, but it can get more than enough from complex carbohydrates found in grains and veggies. Think twice about stocking up on all the Valentine’s chocolate in the clearance aisle.
6. Protein shakes and energy bars will help you build muscle when you’re working out.
Visit the RAC, and you’ll see a lot of protein shakes around. It’s true that when exercising, especially when lifting weights, it’s important to get enough protein if you want to bulk up. Many people feel buying expensive tubs of protein powder is the only way to do this – it’s not. Most people can simply eat a balanced meal to get the same nutrition and benefits. If you’re taking in too much protein and already getting enough food, your body will simply store it as fat.
Whey protein, a popular protein powder, was first marketed as a supplement because it is a byproduct of cheese production and the companies didn’t know what to do with it. Instead of eating expensive leftover cheese powder, spend your money on good food or maybe a new pair of shoes.
Energy bars are no better. They’re essentially glorified candy bars and the regular student probably doesn’t need its concentrated sugar and protein. Grab one if you’re in a rush or on the go, but in general, avoid them.