5 Health News Stories to Take With a Grain of Salt

Here are some common diet headlines that could lead you down the wrong path if you’re not careful.

Many of us make our nutrition and diet decisions based on the latest health headlines. But due to conflicting reports and rapidly changing data, following the news can leave people confused about what to eat and what not to eat. Here are some common diet headlines that could lead you down the wrong path if you’re not careful.

The news: “Red wine is good for the heart.”

The wrong result: Drinking too much red wine.

According to U.S. News Health, an American Heart Association (AHA) survey found that “Most Americans have heard that red wine has health benefits, but many don’t understand the need to limit consumption.” So how much red wine is good for you? The suggested amount is relatively low: about eight ounces for men and four ounces for women.

Advice: Invest in an inexpensive scale or use a measuring cup to figure out the amount of wine you should be drinking—ladies, a half cup; men, a full cup. When dining out, order a bottle and pour it yourself. Take the extra wine home—most states allow this now. Also, as WebMD.com cautions, “if you don’t drink alcohol, the AHA warns against starting in order to prevent heart disease, especially when you can take so many other preventive measures.”

The news: “Reduce sodium from table salt.”

The wrong result: Thinking sea salt is healthier than table salt.

The same AHA survey that found confusion about wine consumption also discovered that “The majority of respondents also mistakenly believe that sea salt is a low-sodium alternative to table salt.” In fact it’s not–and neither is kosher salt. As it turns out, though, table salt isn’t the major criminal in the excess sodium problem. “Processed foods such as soups, canned foods, prepared mixes, condiments and tomato sauce account for up to 75 percent of sodium consumption in the United States,” U.S. News Health reports.

Advice: Ideally, skip both excess added salt and the hidden sodium in packaged foods. Look for frozen vegetables without any added sodium and low sodium broths. Many natural food stores carry lower sodium soups. When you cook, use herbs to flavor your food. Once you lower salt, you will begin to see just how salty processed foods really are.

The news: “Eat breakfast to lose weight.”

The wrong result: Eating a huge breakfast.

Eating breakfast is good from a nutritional standpoint; eating a huge breakfast is not good. WebMD.com reports that one German study found that “people [eat] the same at lunch and dinner, regardless of what they had for breakfast.” So eating more in the morning just means adding on more calories, and thus can lead to weight gain.

Advice: Plan out your calories across the day so that you won’t be overeating at night or in the morning. Eat until you’re satisfied, not until your comatose.

The news: “Dark chocolate is good for your heart.”

The wrong result: Liberally indulging in all types of chocolate in order to get in the “flavonoids,” thus consuming excess calories and sugar, negating chocolate’s beneficial effect.

Advice: Small amounts of dark chocolate have the highest heart-healthy elements. Choose a chocolate with a low amount of sugar and eat small amounts. Sorry, Peanut M&Ms and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are out.

The news:Olive oil is better than butter.”

The wrong result: Eschewing reasonable amounts of butter for rivers of olive oil on everything. Olive oil still has 120 calories per tablespoon so pouring it freely will still cause calorie overload—never heart healthy.

Advice: Remember this advice from Weight Watchers, “a little goes a long way.” Measure it by the teaspoon and try flavored oils to boost the satiating effect.

Sources: health.usnews.com, WebMD.com, WeightWatchers.com

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest