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Call them old wives' tales, or Grandma's beliefs, but myths can often be quirky and cute until they start to cause harm. Listed below are some common nutritional myths that need to be de-bunked as they can greatly impact your long-term health.

1. If a label says fat-free, it usually means it has 0 calories.

When a label reads 'fat-free', it just means that a fat substitute has been used, not that it is low in calories! Usually, fat-free foods are high in sugar calories and maybe even in sodium. Beware: Fat free = 0 calories is too good to be true.

2. If I skip a meal or two, I will lose weight.

Quite the opposite, in fact. Skipping meals can make you put on weight because:

It results in a slowing of your metabolism.
Your body begins to believe that you are going into starvation mode, so that it body converts all the food you eat into fat.
When you do eat, you begin to overindulge or binge on junk foods instead.
Light meals at frequent intervals are your best option -- and never, ever skip breakfast.

3. Say NO to nuts, bananas and milk if you want to lose weight.

The issue is with quantity. If you stick to the correct portions, these foods can easily be included as healthy foods for a weight loss diet.

Yes, nuts, bananas and milk are dense in energy but rich in nutrients (vitamins, minerals, proteins and essential fats necessary for growth and development). If losing weight is the concern, stick to these portions -- 6-8 almonds (45 calories), 4 walnut halves (45 calories), 10-16 pistachios (45 calories), 1 extra small (4 oz) banana (60 calories) and 1 glass of low-fat milk (100 calories).

4. The best way to control diabetes is by avoiding all starch and sugar/ carbs.

No. The best way to control diabetes is by keeping blood sugar levels under control.

Most foods have carbs in them, so does that mean a diabetic stops eating everything? The best way to control diabetes is by eating a diet rich in complex carbs such as whole cereals (oats, whole wheat, ragi, bajra, jowar, masoor and rye), whole pulses, legumes, fruit and vegetables in recommended portions and at specific intervals.

5. Avoid oranges and other kinds of citrus fruit when you have a cold, as these are cold foods.

Just because someone you know may be sensitive to citrus fruit when ill, it doesn't mean you are sensitive too. In fact, citrus fruit is high in Vitamin C and is known to help stave off a cold.

There is no such thing as a cold food or a hot food, just as there is no such thing as good food or bad food. One should heed one's own body signals and respond to them accordingly. Our immune system reacts to a particular food when we have a cold, cough, fever, the runs or sneezes only if it is sensitive to them.

6. 100 percent fruit juice is a healthy substitute for fruit.

None of the commercially available fruit juices have 100 percent fruit content. The majority of these prepared fruit juices contain not more than 10 percent fruit.

For example, a serving (4oz) of apple juice has approximately 15g carbs (sugar), and 0.5g fiber, whereas a small (about 100g) fresh, crunchy, juicy apple has 15 g carbs, and 2.4g fibre.

7. Pregnancy means eating for two.

You're putting me on! Eating for two does not mean eating twice the quantity. For your baby to be born healthy, you only need to consume an additional 300 calories at the most, daily (and that too only in the 2nd and 3rd trimester). If you gain unnecessary weight during your pregnancy, you may have a difficult labour and will have to work much harder to drop all those pounds post delivery.

During pregnancy, the need for essential vitamins and minerals is only slightly increased. Make your calories count by choosing nutrient-rich foods and essential fatty acids like DHA (decosahexanoic acid) and arachidonic acid that are vital for the development of your baby's brain and vision.

8. If you drink enough milk throughout your pregnancy, your child will be born with a fair complexion.

Come on! Do you think if you drink chocolate milk your child will be chocolate-coloured, or if you drink strawberry milk your child will be pink? Adequate milk intake (2-3 cups of milk and milk products) will help meet both the mother and child's essential calcium and protein requirements.

Skin colouring is genetically driven, not milk driven!

9. Pure ghee or even full fat milk should be given to children for overall health and growth.

All children below the age of 1 year can take full fat milk and ghee, since fat is required for brain development. However, after they are 2 years old, 2 percent milk is safe if the child is eating healthy otherwise. Ghee can be included sparingly as part of a child's healthy diet if s/he is within the normal weight range. Parents must realise that these foods are rich in saturated fats and can pose the risk of childhood obesity, leading to adult obesity and even future health complications.

10. A plump child is a healthy child, but a skinny yet active child is unhealthy.

A plump child may not necessarily be healthy, and may be at risk of developing chronic illnesses. On the other hand a skinny child that is very active, eats a balanced diet and is not prone to getting ill can be considered ideally healthy.

In this day and age of information technology and the savvy consumer, we must use common sense over myth. We know what's best for our bodies in terms of nutrition, so go for what your gut says is medically sound and not otherwise.

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