We all want to know the secret to a long, happy, and healthy life. This is why we tend to follow, blindly, the latest headline proclaiming to have found the new superfood. After all, it’s all backed by rigid science right? Well, wrong! We’ve been watching two documentaries about healthy food claims:
- ‘The Truth About… Healthy Eating‘ – by the BBC (link below).
- Science Myths and Health Misconceptions, – by Deutsche Welle (link below).
Here are some key points from those films:
Scientists and media are responsible for creating myths. We were made to believe that some foods are healthier than others. These foods were even elevated to the status of superfoods; such as goji berries, chia seeds, coconut oil and quinoa. Through clever marketing we were made to believe that these foods will boost our health and may even protect us from getting cancer. But are these claims really true? And are these foods really worth your digging deep into your wallet?
You may be surprised to know that goji berries, chia seeds, coconut oil and quinoa are no better (as to their nutritional value) than their cheaper counterparts, such as strawberries, barley or rice, rapeseed oil, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds. Goji berries don’t contain more vitamin C than our regular strawberries. And there is no significant difference between quinoa and barley. Through marketing we were brainwashed to overpay for our health. But as it turns out there is really no need for you to spend all that money to stay healthy.
Water hydrates us better than anything else, right?. We have heard this many times. We have been told to drink around 8 glasses of water a day. But is water the best source of hydration? As it turns out, water is no different to coffee or to orange juice when it comes to hydration. If you want to stay hydrated you should drink a mixture of water, salt and sugar. What it does is it retains the liquids in your body better that just water alone. Because of the consistent repetition that water is necessary for optimal hydration we tend to blindly believe what the scientists and health reporters tell us without further questioning.
Spinach and Iron
Another misconception is that spinach will make you stronger just like it did with the famous spinach eating cartoon character Popeye. Spinach is for sure one of the top healthy green leafy vegetables, but it is average when it comes to its iron content. In fact pumpkin seeds contain more iron that spinach. This myth was created by scientist themselves by a mere accident. It all boils down to misplaced decimal point. Instead of writing 3.5 mg of iron on a peace of paper, a scientist wrote 35 mg instead. You can imagine media loved it and told the the public. Although the misunderstanding was cleared up decades ago, the spinach myth of a miracle vegetable lives on.
I don’t know if you are familiar with the ‘chocolate study’ released in March 2015. It must have been (probably) the happiest day for the chocolate lover. Unfortunately it was a hoax. The study was designed by German filmmaker Diana Lobel. Her goal was to show the fallacy of scientific studies. So she came up with a caption nobody could resist “Slim through chocolate.” Her study and data were twisted to match her premise. After the study was completed, the results were posted under a non-existent institute and with only a small press release. The positive media reception of this chocolate diet surprised everyone though. It went viral. And nobody questioned the results or inquired for further information. With this she proved her point. Many nutritional studies are designed in the fashion Diana Lobel designed her chocolate diet. By collecting a massive amount of data and cherry picking the data that fits the purpose of the study.
Friedrich Nietzsche said that Faith is ” not wanting to know what is true.” And he was probably right. We all want to believe in something. This is what keeps us going every single day.
Way back we had religion. But as Nietzche so tactfully pointed out: “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.” Faith in a higher power was replaced by faith in science. Now we believe in a man with a white lab coat. But Nietzsche had something to say about that too: “Science is about finding ever better approximations rather than pretending you have already found ultimate truth.”
You might think, so what? Science doesn’t provide fixed answers like religion, but at least it is based on logic and rational reasoning, isn’t this better than religion? Well, hold on to your hat. Because scientific results in the nutritional and medical fields change all the time (due to better data, better experiments, new scientific paradigms), our opinions of what is good or bad to eat change all the time as well. This makes us massively gullible to marketing. Say what you want about religion, never has it caused droughts in parts of Chile just because some news article proclaimed that avocado’s make your hips thinner (source). Take a critical stance and before you religiously follow the next food-hype, think about who’s profiting from it and whether the same results cannot be achieved with you spending less instead of more.
There is no single diet that can guarantee that you will live until an old ripe age. So next time when you read health news be skeptical.