In honour of National Nutrition Month, this third installment of our annual series takes a critical look at three popular myths. Read on for the real facts on fruits, veggies, and turmeric.
Disclaimer: The information in this feature is intended to encourage you to think critically about the information we are bombarded with. It is not meant to cause worry or make you revamp your diet completely. At the end of the day, we all need to make the food choices that make the most sense to us at the time.
Fruits and vegetables are healthy, so I can eat as much as I want, right?
It’s true that the majority of Canadians do not consume a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables; however, some people do and may even eat too much. There is no set maximum, but keep in mind that you can only eat so much in a day, and you need to leave room for other food groups. Eating only fruits and vegetables may result in you getting insufficient essential nutrients — not to mention the discomfort that can result from eating too much fiber-rich foods. Think moderation and variety. According to Canada’s Food Guide, adults between the ages of 19-50 should aim to consume:
- 7-8 servings of fruit and vegetables per day for females
- 8-10 servings of fruit and vegetables per day for males
- At least one dark green and one orange vegetable per day 
Cooking destroys all nutrients in vegetables.
This is not entirely accurate. It is true that exposing vegetables to high heat or boiling water for extended periods of time diminishes some nutrients, but some nutrients are actually enhanced. Take lycopene for example, the main carotenoid in tomatoes. Cooking tomatoes breaks down the cell matrix, thereby making the lycopene more available . Cooking vegetables breaks down the plants’ cell walls, making them easier to digest and absorb.
Water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C and B, are the most vulnerable because they leach out into the cooking water. For foods high in water-soluble nutrients, steaming (even using a microwave) and dry cooking like grilling, roasting and stir-frying retain a greater amount of nutrients than boiling . If you tend to boil your vegetables, don’t be alarmed: just eat a variety of cooked and raw veggies (even frozen) and you’ll be good.
Here are some additional resources:
- Tips to maximize nutrient retention by Thinking Nutrition
- Guide to avoid overcooking vegetables by the kitchn
Turmeric has superpower curing abilities.
First there was kale, then coconut oil, and now turmeric has made it into the mainstream superfood consciousness. Not only is it readily available as a common spice, but it now can also be found in concentrated supplement form. Curcumin, the principal compound in turmeric, has been studied for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, but there still lacks clear and significant results. Some preclinical studies suggest that curcumin may help prevent and treat certain types of cancers and type 2 diabetes, however larger randomized controlled trials are needed to determine its efficacy. Also, curcumin taken orally is poorly absorbed and rapidly metabolized and eliminated in humans.
Bottom line: there isn’t sufficient evidence to suggest that it can prevent disease or cure illnesses . Long before it found its way into your latte, fresh turmeric root or ground turmeric spice was known for being flavourful and commonly used in many dishes. It can continue to be safely enjoyed in that way in small doses. You can find out more about how curcumin is metabolized, its bioavailability, as well as adverse effects and drug interactions here.
Interested in learning more about nutrition, detoxes, superfoods and hormones? Check out our Debunking the Diet Workshop Series.
For other nutritional myths we’ve debunked, see the previous articles written by Melissa:
Photo credit: UBC Communications & Marketing