Making healthy food choices can be difficult with so much conflicting information and opinions out there to research, especially if you have a chronic illness. So, do tomatoes really cause inflammation? Are eggs inflammatory? In this article, we are going to clear up some of the misconceptions you may have around your dietary choices by debunking 9 common food myths.
1. Myth: Tomatoes Cause Inflammation
Tomatoes are members of the nightshade family, which also includes eggplants, white potatoes, and peppers. Some spices are part of the nightshade family as well, including cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, chili pepper, and paprika. Though it is not uncommon to have an allergy or sensitivity to tomatoes, research has shown they don’t actually cause inflammation — in fact, quite the opposite.
This popular food gets a bad rap, especially among those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, due to a belief that tomatoes increase inflammation and joint pain. The truth, though, is that tomatoes are rich in nutrients and antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate, as well as being a great source of lycopene — all of which may reduce and inhibit inflammatory activity.
This versatile fruit found in so many dishes may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer, while improving blood sugar regulation and the health of your microbiome. Unless you have an intolerance or allergy to this fruit or to nightshade plants in general, tomatoes and tomato products could be a great addition to an anti-inflammatory diet. (Source, Source, Source)
2. Myth: Organic Produce Is More Nutritious
Organic produce is farmed without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and must meet U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic guidelines. We know fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense sources of vitamins and minerals, but does it truly matter if you buy organic versus conventionally grown produce?
Research shows the benefits of consuming organic produce over conventional include reducing your toxic exposure to pesticides and insecticides. Although this may be beneficial to your overall health, it doesn’t necessarily mean organic produce is more nutritious for you. Produce, whether conventional or organic, provides good sources of vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron. Research into whether organic foods contain higher levels of these nutrients than non-organic foods has yielded mixed results, and while it’s often said organic foods are more nutritious, solid evidence for this is lacking. (Source, Source)
The non-profit Environmental Working Group gathers data from the USDA and the FDA to publish its annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which includes its popular list of the Dirty Dozen foods it considers to be best purchased organically, as well as the Clean 15 it considers safe to eat when grown conventionally. Whether you buy organic or not is a personal choice, but you may find this kind of data-driven information helpful.
3. Myth: Dairy Promotes Poor Gut Health
There is a lot of skepticism around dairy and whether it is beneficial for overall gut health, but whether dairy is good for your gut or not is a very personal matter. Dairy products such as cheese, milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese are high in calcium, vitamin D, and are a decent source of protein. Fermented dairy such as kefir and sour cream may contribute to a healthier microbiome.
For some, dairy does not cause any gastrointestinal issues, but for others that just isn’t the case. If you are lactose intolerant or sensitive to dairy in general, you may suffer from constipation, diarrhea, bloating, or sinus issues that could be linked to poor digestive health from dairy consumption. A negative response to dairy could promote poor gut bacteria, resulting in chronic inflammation of the gut lining. If you have symptoms that you suspect are from dairy consumption, remove dairy from your diet and see if they clear up. If you tolerate dairy well it may play a role in a healthy microbiome and promote strains of beneficial bacteria — it all depends on your individual response, really. (Source, Source)
4. All Fat Is Bad
There has been a lot of talk around fats in years past, and a lot of misinformation about whether fats are beneficial to your health. The truest statement about this controversial topic is that fats are a necessary part of a balanced diet, but not all fats are created equal. We have trans fats, saturated fats, and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — but how to know which fats to consume and which to avoid?
Fats are actually an important part of your diet to support healthy hormones, maintain healthy cholesterol levels, and create energy. Consuming the right fats is important to help your body absorb vitamins A, D, and E, as well as make essential fatty acids such as omega-3s and omega-6s, which your body can’t produce on its own. Eating a balanced amount of fat has health benefits, as long as you avoid trans fats — these hydrogenated fats can cause more harm than good. (Source, Source)