Myth Debunking: Beans cause gas

black beans

black beans

Beans are an important part of my diet as a legume with a high fiber and protein content.[1] I eat them daily, and it hadn’t crossed my mind recently that they may cause gas, until the subject came up during work discussions surrounding our Cinco de Mayo potluck preparations. Since then, I’ve been wondering: are beans a musical fruit that makes you toot?

A recent research study found that the myth that beans make people gassy is vastly exaggerated. Less than 50% of participants became more gassy when they introduced beans into their diet, and black-eyed peas specifically caused less than 19% of participants to become flatulent.[2] So while one type of bean may make you fart, your body may react differently to another kind of beans.

Another study found that if you pre-soak beans prior to cooking them you actually allow them to ferment a little, which introduces bacteria that prevents flatulence.[3][4] Therefore, the gas you may experience after eating beans could also be caused as a result of how they were prepared.

About two months ago, I slow-cooked a large batch of pre-soaked beans and packaging them in 2-cup zip-locks to freeze and eat later. I tend to eat about 2 cups of black beans a week, which is why I packaged them in that quantity. I never expected that cooking my own beans, instead of eating canned beans, would reduce the odds of gassiness – this is yet another example of the unintentional positive effects of avoiding processed food.  I thought that I was just avoiding sodium!

For some people, beans may cause gas, but for most of us they are a healthy, filling food that can be eaten regularly with no worries. Additionally, if you do have symptoms of flatulence, pre-soaking beans and cooking them can naturally help your body deter the gas. It’s worth the effort given their nutritional benefits, which include high-quality protein, low fat and high-fiber content.[5]

Myths About Feeling Pregnant

pregnant style

pregnant style

I’ve always heard stories that women feel a certain way when they become pregnant; that they “just know” that that is it. I realize everybody is different but I want to share how I’ve been feeling. Today, I’m about a month and a half into my first pregnancy and, for me, “just knowing” turned out to be a myth. Noting symptoms of pregnancy, even when you’ve just begun trying for one, was also much more complex than I had expected.

Myth #1: I did not “just feel” pregnant

Myth #2: The symptoms of pregnancy are obvious

In hindsight, my first clue that I was pregnant should have been my abdominals. I had been attending bar method classes regularly during the month of March. The workouts are super core-focused and I felt my abdomen tightening up starting from day one. By mid-month my stomach began to expand despite my consistent diet and these tough, regular core-focused workouts!

Then, I actually thought that my period was late a couple of weeks ago. At the time I was feeling bloated, and had the same type of slight mood swings that generally signal PMS for me. I skipped on drinking with some friends because I knew that alcohol makes me feel worse at the start of my period. I expected it at any moment…

But the bloated feeling continued and the period never started. The pressure began to change too; it went from just feeling like I may have gas to an outward pressure on my stomach.  At that point, I took an at-home pregnancy test and it came out positive. My husband and I took a few days to let it sink in before telling a close friends and family.

I also began telling my yoga teachers at this point. I did not know how to adjust to the pain in my stomach, and what feelings were good or bad. Right now I’m pretty comfortable with all of the adjustments and am continuing to deepen my practice. It’s fairly intuitive adjusting to the changes in my body so far, both in yoga and other aspects of my life. Mostly I’m very much looking forward to the next few years, more than ever before. I also now feel much closer to my husband and have been experiencing strong emotions from time to time, but they’ve been controllable thus far. I’m incredibly thankful for all of the support I have from the people in my life, the research I’ve been doing for this blog, and for the hard work I’ve put into making my lifestyle healthy and happy.

Debunking Myths about Supplements: Vitamins, minerals and herbs

supplements

The fact that I took supplements in the past is a tough pill to swallow because supplements can do us a lot of harm! I used to take a daily dietary supplement to make sure that I was getting all of the vitamins and minerals my body needs. I had picked an herbal, all natural supplement that was gluten free and felt great while taking it.

I don’t remember when or why I stopped taking the supplements, I know it was after more than half a year. However, I recently considered researching supplements to see if I should really be taking one. A lot of credible sources, including Tony Horton, the P90X trainer, recommend supplementing your diet, but I also have been trying to cut down on processed food and these pills are definitely highly processed.  Now I’m wary not only about the fact that they are processed but that they are barely regulated.

Myth #1: Supplements are completely safe, they can only help!

The FDA, which tests the safety of our food, does not analyze the contents of dietary supplements. At the end of the day, this lack of testing gives supplement manufacturers free reign on what to include in their products — who will check to make sure that the ingredients on the label are the actual contents? In fact, the FDA has a long list of potentially hazardous supplements with hidden ingredients that includes a disclaimer that the FDA cannot possibly be aware of all of the supplements that may contain harmful hidden ingredients.[1]

If you take other medications or drink alcohol, they may adversely interact with some supplements to hurt you. For example, a calcium supplement can interact with diuretics, among other things, to cause hypercalcemia[2] that has symptoms like nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, excessive thirst, abdominal pain, muscle weakness, confusion or fatigue.[3] Additionally, overdosing on certain vitamins and minerals can also be harmful to your health.[4]

Myth #2: Supplement health claims are scientifically-backed

Health claims on supplement labels are not regulated. In fact, supplement manufacturers are not required to run studies to determine how effective their products are. They can contain powerful active ingredients, even natural ones, in doses that may do you more harm than good. There are even some known toxic herbs like aristolochia, yohimbe, bitter orange and chapparral that are included in some supplements on the market.[5][6]

There are scientific organizations that do test supplements, including consumerlab.com[7], which may be a good resource to finding an appropriate one. Your doctor should definitely approve the supplement too, just to make sure you have no health problems it could aggravate.

By eating all kinds of food groups, especially dark leafy greens, I have made sure that my diet is well-rounded and so I should also be getting all of the necessary nutrients from my food in its natural state. This would be hard if I introduced empty processed calories from processed foods. If you choose to not eat a well-rounded diet, then supplements may be necessary for you to get proper nutrients into your system.

Myths about Granola

granola

Granola has a great, healthful reputation. However, I’ve been stunned by the nutrition labels on granola products that I have picked up at the store, and I haven’t bought any in over a year. I’ve decided to boil down why I reach for granola bars (the myths), and also why they haven’t crept into my diet (backed by research of course).

Myth #1: Granola is healthy

More than 95% of store-bought granola bars and cereals contain caloric sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup or sugar [1] and they are also often high in saturated fat. If you love granola, you can try this homemade version from Marvelous Girl instead – and always make sure to buy unsweetened dried fruits!

Granola bars have a higher glycemic load than white bread [2]! To substitute you could choose to eat whole-grain oat cereal or porridge, which have been found to have a much lower glycemic load and are great for your gut.[3]

Something else to keep in mind about granola bars is that they can lead to cavities. Granola bars that are soft and moist are three times more likely to lead to cavity formation than crispier and dryer alternatives.[4]

Myth #2: Granola products are environmentally friendly

Most granola bars and cereals are highly processed, and the ingredients are sourced from a diverse range of ecosystems and transported from around the world to reach our supermarkets. Additionally, granola products are often wrapped in single-serving packs. While this may help keep on track portion-wise, it creates a lot of excess packaging waste that is often composed mostly of plastics that cannot be recycled and end up clogging landfills.

Granola, just like cucumbers, does not live up to the healthy, green image it conjures. It’s often sugary, overly-processed, cavity-creating and wastefully packaged. Such research just furthers the fact that we all need to carefully read the official nutrition labels on every food we buy, instead of buying into myths manifested by decades of marketing.

Myths about Organic Products

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Foods labeled with the USDA Organic food label are not necessarily completely organic products, and may be incredibly unhealthy because even sugar can be organically grown.
Myth #1: The organic certification seal means 100% organic

Actually, there is another certification, 100% Organic, that producers can strive for.  The regular USDA logo at the top of this post allows manufacturers to include up to 5.0% of non-organic content when excluding water and salt. Salt and water are not regulated under this certification. Also, be aware of the label that says “made with organic” ingredients because only those specific ingredients are organically produced.

Additionally, there is a long list[1] of (pretty gross) products that can be used as ingredients for products labeled as “organic.” I only used the quotation marks here because the USDA does as well!

Ingredients on this extensive list of allowed non-organic ingredients in certified organic products include casings from processed intestines, many colors and extracts, gelatin, lecithin, several types of starches and seaweed. So any products labeled as organic but containing these or other ingredients from this list are probably not organic after all.  There are similar lists of nonagricultural ingredients[2][3], and even synthetic substances for growing organic crops[4].  Examples of substances on each of these lists, respectively, include: xanthan gum (derived from corn, dairy, soy or wheat using the same black bacteria that rot your broccoli or cauliflower, and which oil companies use to thicken drilling mud), biologics (vaccines) and liquid fish products.

Myth #2: Organic means healthy

Certified organic products may be highly processed and contain a high proportion of sugar or salt, or they may be whole foods. Examples of organic products vary from gummy bears to whole fruit and everything in between. This means that we should make the same choices and read nutrition labels just as carefully for organic products as with any other food.

Myths about various foods and classifications are prominent because of numerous instances of misleading marketing and public programs. Figuring out what is true and who to trust is tough, and eating right becomes even tougher. But it’s best to take an extra minute to find out whether or not our conscious choices make a true difference in what we use do fuel our bodies each day.

With organically certified products I will question highly processed foods or those that contain ingredients from the lists I cited above, because I believe that the companies that are using such ingredients are most likely to mislead consumers in other ways as well. What are your thoughts? Comment below or on Facebook to let me know!

Myths about Body Fat

fat-suitBody fat is incredibly misunderstood; I am still struggling to fully comprehend how harmful it is when it accumulates in excess within our bodies. Most of my life, I believed that body fat is mostly what we see at the surface of and in the folds of our skin. I first learned about internal body fat through the Weight of the Nation documentary. More recently, I also heard about a new study that found that fat does not regulate our body temperature to the extent that was once believed. Myth #1: Body fat is mostly at the surface of our skin Body fat is not just what we see at the surface of our skin. Fat stores are actually accumulated throughout our entire bodies. This is what clogs people’s arteries, which in turn makes it harder for blood to circulate resulting in overdeveloped arterial muscles that are inefficient. The first installment of the Weight of the Nation documentary does a great job explaining the process and showing organs with excess fatty tissues, compared to normal organs. Myth #2: Body fat can help keep you warm Scientists used to believe that brown fat, a type of body fat, was entirely responsible for keeping us warm. However, this fatty tissue is now believed to play only a minor part in regulating our temperature. Our muscles are actually more beneficial to regulating body temperature. There are two ways in which

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science shows that our muscles regulate it. It’s not completely understood by scientists yet, but a recently discovered muscle protein called scarlopin is believed to help our bodies regulate temperature.[1] The other way that muscles help keep us warm is through shivering, which are contractions in our muscles that generate heat. Body fat slows down processes in our bodies. It percolates into all of our organs through our bloodstream, and will eventually cause serious health issues if it continues to accumulate. That said, even athletes have between 15 to 20% body fat so nobody will have none. But even the few positive things I used to think some extra body fat does for our bodies are turning out to be myths so its best to get active and burn off the excess.

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Debunking Myths about Dietary Fat

avocado-and-nutsI used to feel guilty when eating avocado, seeds or nuts, which are some of my favorite foods. But now I eat them daily because I learned that dietary fat is a necessary component of our diet.

Marketing ploys and other misinformation led me to believe that you should avoid high fat foods and that fat-free foods are actually better for you. I now know that I was making the wrong choices and hurting my body as a result of feeding into these myths.

Myth #1: You should avoid foods with a high fat content

Myth #2: Fat-free foods are better for you

I’m busting both of these myths with the same facts:

  1. Your tongue and mouth have sensors that detect the fat content of your food. Fat in your meals positively signals your brain, independently from your taste buds. It helps you to feel satisfied from your food.[1]  [2]
  2. Dietary fat has even been shown to reduce the development of cardiovascular disease in overweight people. [3]
  3. Your liver and skeletal muscles are positively affected by higher unsaturated fat intake.[4]
  4. Foods marketed as fat-free tend to also be highly-processed, which makes them difficult to digest

Meanwhile, foods that are high in saturated fats are, indeed, bad for your health. Not only can saturated fat intake boost the chances of developing chronic heart disease or cancer, but it can also weaken your reproductive health.[5] So you should avoid foods with high saturated fat content, which include certain types of meat and dairy like bacon, ribs, ground and corned beef, fried chicken, roasted ham, cheese and whole milk (link to dairy post). Choose lean meats to avoid high saturated fat content. Other foods high in saturated fat are processed foods, especially those that contain certain oils and butter. Even coconut oil is extremely high in saturated fat! As is palm oil and cocoa butter.[6]

Unsaturated fat, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, is beneficial to your health. Eating such fat helps decrease your risk of heart disease and diabetes by facilitating your body’s insulin production and reducing blood sugar spikes, and reducing cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. Such fats are found in olive oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, and plant-based foods like avocados and nuts.[7]

Every body craves fat because it is an essential part of our diet and historically it was in short supply. Nowadays there is an abundance of it, and the oversupply of saturated fat is particularly troublesome for our bodies. Luckily, our hunger is satiated if we add in moderate amounts of healthy fats into our daily diets.

Debunking Myths about Dieting for Weight Loss

thin girls

thin girlsUntil I researched, experimented and realized how dieting could change my life, I was cynical towards it and believed that dieting is for weight loss. But after nearly three years of mindful eating and one year of intensive self-education and testing a variety of diets, I now understand that dieting simply means restricting certain foods from your daily meals as opposed to going hungry because of dietary restrictions. Yes, dieting can benefit your appearance, but for me it’s been my improvement in mental health that has been much more drastic and self-motivational.

People ask why I won’t eat or drink certain things, assuming that I don’t have to diet because I’m thin. And from such casual conversations and personal experience, I am sure that most of us do not understand how food affects our bodies. I am learning new things each day and it took me more than 20 years to understand why I should eat well. Although I have always known that choosing to eat whole foods contributes to long-term health, I did not understand why people gave up eating certain foods completely; such beliefs were enforced subtly as I grew up, for example I used to get sugary lollipops at the doctor’s office! Nowadays I restrict my diet not just because it feels good, but also because I know that unhealthy foods are so cheap and accessible that eating mindlessly will eventually lead to a slow painful death.[1]

In addition to overall health, many people have specific allergies and intolerances that make eating certain foods especially difficult. About 5.5% of children have food allergies[2] and I believe that I was intolerant to dairy for a long time because when I stopped eating cereal (with milk) for breakfast, I stopped having migraines that had been plaguing me regularly for years. I still minimize the dairy I consume because my mind feels off when I have it sometimes. Also, I minimize grains in my daily diet because that seems to help clear my mind. Every body is different!

Directly contradicting the popular belief that dieting is for weight loss, some people go on diets to gain weight. Men in particular are more likely to try to gain muscle mass to fit into the strong male stereotype. [3] Also, some sports like boxing have weight classes that determine who you can compete against, so athletes that want to compete in a certain weight class may diet to gain or maintain a heavier weight than their natural state.

From gaining weight to simply staying healthy, people regulate their diets for many reasons apart from weight loss. In fact, I am more and more convinced that dieting is necessary to living a full, healthy life.

Debunking Myths About Running

runningmyths

Many people choose running as a primary exercise because they think it’s something easy and free. Not only do they spend a lot of time hurting themselves with improper form but they also tend to only run, foregoing other types of workouts. This is a problem because it only works a few muscles in a limited direction, and these are the same muscles that we use anyway whenever we walk!

Myth #1: Running is easy

Proper running form does not come naturally.

In fact, the incidence of running-related injury is high. This is regardless of how quickly you ramp up running intensity, according to a recent study a graded training program for novice runners that was centered on reducing the risks of injury failed to prevent injuries. About 20.8% of runners that were in a graded training program got injured, compared to 20.3% of runners that got standard training. The study disproved the most frequent advice given to novice runners, which is to increase running intensity (duration and speed) by no more than 10.0% at a time.[1] [2]

Despite countless studies, sports scientists are still unsure what training errors are most likely to lead to which running injuries because sports are so complex.[3] Lastly, maintaining proper running form is hard for many of us because we’ve been running in bad form for our entire lives.

Here’s a video that goes over proper running form in a simplified but step-by-step manner

Myth #2: Running is free

The majority of Americans run on a treadmill, for which they either have to buy a gym membership or the treadmill itself. To complicate the issue, people don’t generally realize how important it is to have proper running shoes. This has to do with the high-impact of running that can easily lead to injury. For example, I did not go to a running-specific store to get my walk judged and appropriate shoe recommendations until after I had developed a case of runners knee, which still bothers me two years later. The time commitment of going into a running-dedicated store is worth the investment to get customized advice because everybody’s feet are unique so you can’t just pick out the same running shoes as your buddy.[4] Also, sneakers should be changed more often than I had ever imagined, it depends on the brand so make sure to do your research! Good running shoes easily run $60, which still may be cheap compared to other exercise equipment but running is definitely not free.

An elliptical machine can be the solution to doing workout similar to running, but much lower impact. Also, there are many introductory offers for fitness classes, whether they are sport-specific, bootcamps or gyms, where you can learn new moves. Either way, if you just run or do cardio workouts exclusively, you end up hampering your potential health and strength wise.  Consider new kinds of workouts, like weight lifting, to reduce injury risk and amplify the effectiveness of the time you spend on fitness.

Debunking Fruity Myths

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, or so the old adage goes. But does it really? It took me a long time to start debunking fruity myths like this.

When I started P90X I was shocked that it only included one serving of fruit a day in my diet. Before that, I had always been under the impression that fruit is all good and that I should eat as much as possible. I was probably eating three or four fruits a day.

Myth #1: Eat lots of fruit because it is full of vitamins and minerals

Fruit is mostly water and sugar. The vitamins and minerals found in a medium apple are minimal, you can look at the vitamin and mineral charts here; you would need to eat 7 apples to get your daily-recommended dose of vitamin C. Eating them would also mean you would ingest about 132 grams or more than ½ a cup of granulated sugar.[1] Even fruits deemed “superfoods” are relatively sugary, including blueberries[2]. Even natural sugar that is found in fruit, known as fructose, is highly likely to be stored by our bodies as fat. Some studies go so far as to conclude that fructose is the cause of the worldwide obesity, hypertension and metabolic syndrome epidemics.[3]

Myth #2: Pre-sliced fruit is just as good as whole fruit

Packaged fruit is actually more likely to be contaminated because nature’s protective seal, the skin, has been broken. Furthermore, bacteria that fruit are exposed to at packaging facilities could be harmful to you. Sliced apples, for example, were recalled as recently as August 2012 as a result of contamination.[4]

These fruits are also often processed to preserve their appearance. If they are not refrigerated with a near-term expiration date or frozen, then pre-sliced fruits must contain some sort of preservatives to maintain freshness.  Some pre-cut apples, for example, are sprayed with a lemon juice solution so that they do not brown.[5]; chemicals are used to treat some fruits, and some producers even add sugar to enhance flavor.

So if you are going to reach for a fruit, think twice about going the pre-sliced route or be extra wary of reading ingredients if you do. And most importantly, remember to be mindful of portion control with this sugary part of your diet.