You should eat – in the morning like a king, at midday like a nobleman … many widely held beliefs have been handed down from generation to generation. But are they true? Some nutrition myths persist.
Celebrity chefs and the media advocate one nutritional trend after the other. But what is the public’s understanding of healthy eating? Developing an informed and sensible approach to food is best learnt in childhood, Prof. Dr. Berthold Koletzko is convinced. Time to examine a few myths in more detail. Many certainly know the saying “In the morning eat like a king, at midday like a nobleman and in the evening like a beggar” from childhood. But is it true? The Professor of Paediatrics explains: “When it comes to planning your daily meals, more important than the size of the portions is how they are spread throughout the day. People who take three main meals and two snacks are on average less overweight than those who spread the same amount over three portions. In other words, it is not recommended to eat like a king – or only on special occasions like family gatherings. The motto should be: eat moderately and more often during the day.” We have put more well-known myths to the test.
The highest vitamin C content is found in lemons
Citrus fruits are certainly healthy and contain a lot of vitamin C. However, there are many other vegetable and fruit varieties that also contain very high levels of vitamin C, such as kale, broccoli, boiled potatoes or blackcurrants. By the way, citrus fruits like oranges contain even more important dietary fibres and are more filling if eaten instead of juicing them. Apples and local fruits also provide a lot of vitamin C. It is recommended to take advantage of the wide range of fruits and vegetables and to eat five roughly fist-sized fruit and vegetable servings a day to ensure you are getting many different vitamins. There should be no vitamin C deficiency if a balanced diet is maintained.
Potatoes are a calorie bomb
Cooked variants such as boiled potatoes are not an unhealthy calorie bomb. They contain a lot of vitamin C and only approx. 70 calories per 100 grams. Nutritionally, they are thus more valuable than pasta or rice. However, the way potatoes are prepared can turn them into a calorie trap. When fried, the same amount has four times as many calories compared to when cooked, i.e. approx. 280 calories per 100 grams! That said, dishes containing boiled potatoes served with rich sauces can hide many calories. Boiled potatoes with fried eggs and spinach is recommended as a classic, very high-protein dish.
Children should eat plenty of spinach
Children should be allowed to eat a lot of spinach if they like it, but they do not have to. Spinach has the reputation of being a particularly good source of iron. Basically, all dark vegetable varieties contain iron, a high amount is found, for example, in kale, chard or black salsify. However, the human body cannot absorb iron in vegetables as well as iron from animal sources. It can best be assimilated if combined with foods containing vitamin C such as potatoes. You should keep offering all vegetables to children again and again, even spinach. In particular, at the age of six months to two years, they often do not want to eat anything unknown. Studies show that children need to try new tastes up to eight times until they get used to them. Therefore, it’s worth offering new foods several times. However, forcing children to clean their plates by withholding dessert, for example, is more likely to turn them into “difficult eaters”.
The less meat, the better
The average German consumes more than a kilo of meat per week, which is considerably above recommended guidelines. Eating some meat occasionally is certainly beneficial in ensuring that all your nutrient needs are met – for example, with iron or trace elements such as zinc. In general, it is more unhealthy to give up meat altogether than to eat moderate amounts of 100 to 150 grams per serving. The general rule of thumb applies: it is advisable to eat meat less often and to be more discerning in choosing higher-quality meat. Meat of a higher quality is not only good for your health, it also mostly tastes better and thus increases your eating enjoyment. Lean white poultry, red beef and pork are better than their processed versions. Sausages in large amounts can increase the risk of bowel cancer.
Spicy meals are good for your health
Spicy dishes stimulate gut motility, i.e. muscle activity in the gut (bowel). This is beneficial especially in hot tropical countries because this climate increases the risk of constipation. Current data does not necessarily indicate that everyone – also in countries with a moderate climate – should opt for chilli peppers, especially if they do not like the taste of them in their soup. Everyone should season their meals according to their taste, as eating is not only about health but also pleasure and enjoying life. By the way: high-fibre food with plenty of vegetables also supports a healthy digestive system.
Coffee dehydrates the body
Yes. Coffee increases blood pressure and stimulates the blood circulation in the kidneys. This leads to an increased production of urine. In Vienna, the capital of coffee drinking, you therefore always receive a glass of water with your coffee. Of course, it also depends on how you drink the coffee, as Espresso or Latte Macchiato. In general, it is not a bad idea to uphold the Viennese tradition of drinking a glass of water with your coffee.
A daily glass of red wine protects the heart
Some studies do actually substantiate that, from a statistical point of view, a moderate consumption of alcohol slightly reduces the cardiovascular mortality risk. Women are therefore allowed to consume 0.1 litre of wine a day and men can drink twice this amount. In reality, alcohol is often consumed in excessively high quantities and can damage the liver and pancreas or cause alcohol-related cancer. Furthermore, alcohol contains many calories and can be responsible for a person being overweight. Therefore, the following also applies here: it is better to enjoy in moderation than in large quantities.