There are so many nutrition myths and fairytales out there that sound so convincing it’s hard to pick the real ones. The words of John F. Kennedy sum this up perfectly don’t you think…

“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

Nutrition myths and facts – Let’s nail a few of them right now!


Don’t worry about cow’s milk for calcium – just eat sesame seeds

It is true that dairy products are not the only sources of calcium.  Calcium can be found in many other foods besides milk, cheese and yoghurt.  The question is, are you prepared to eat 45 tablespoons of sesame seeds to obtain the same amount of calcium that you will find in 250 ml of milk?

People often ask me if they can use sesame seeds, green leafy vegetables or nuts as an alternate calcium source to dairy products.  The table below gives an indication of the quantities of some common foods that contain the same amount of calcium as 250ml of milk.

Food Quantity

Almonds 120 grams

Apples 7.5 kilograms

Apricots, dried 430 grams

Baked beans 900 grams

Bread, wholemeal 20 slices

Broccoli 1.0 kilogram

Eggs, boiled 18

Salmon, canned with bones 140 grams

Sesame seeds 45 tablespoons

Spinach 600 grams

The other factor to consider is that the calcium in dairy foods is absorbed more efficiently than from other sources. 

This means that although you might be feeling REALLY hungry and manage to munch your way through 7.5 kg of apples, you still won’t absorb the same amount of calcium found in 1 cup of milk.

Most people will be able to obtain their average daily requirement of calcium by eating three serves of dairy every day.  One serve of dairy is equal to:

  • 1 glass (250ml) of milk
  • 1 tub (200g) of yoghurt
  • 2 slices (40g) of cheese

nutrition myths and facts _2

Silver beet and spinach are good sources of iron

Whenever spinach is mentioned in the same sentence as iron, the image that comes to mind is Popeye clutching his can of spinach and gulping it down with biceps bulging. Should we be doing the same?

Silver beet is the vegetable with big, dark green leaves and white veins that many people mistakenly call spinach.  Silver beet is a close relative of both spinach and beetroot.  Spinach has a smaller flatter leaf and green veins. Both are good sources of Vitamin A and C, fibre, folate and iron.

Unfortunately, Popeye did not get his iron and strength from spinach. Dietary iron is found in two forms – haem iron which is found in animal foods and non-haem iron which is found in plant foods.  Spinach and silver beet provide non-haem iron, which is not well absorbed by our bodies.

The symptoms of iron deficiency are tiredness, breathlessness and poor immune function and this affects one fifth of adult females in developed countries.

Raw or brown sugar is better for you than white sugar

It is often thought that raw or brown sugar is the ‘wholemeal’ variety of sugar.  However, all sugar is 100% carbohydrate and provides kilojoules or calories but little else.

Apart from flavour, there is no advantage in replacing raw and brown sugar or honey for white sugar. One teaspoon of sugar contains 80 kilojoules, which is equal to two jellybeans.  Consider that when you are next about to spoon sugar into your coffee.

Connect here with WatchFit Expert Julie Meek 



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