Health stories make the news every day, often causing confusion, fear and self-doubt. One day a food will be the best thing you could eat, the next day it's likened to poison.
Meghan Telpner, a Toronto-based author, speaker, nutritionist and founder of the Academy of Culinary Nutrition tackled several health "myths" in a recent article on the Mindbodygreen website.
Here are some of those myths debunked.
"Stay out of the sun and always use sunscreen."
Popular wisdom is that we should avoid the sun and slather ourselves in sunblock when we're exposed to its "death rays."
But some sun is vitally important to overall health, according to Telpner. "It's our primary source of vitamin D, which is crucial to bone health, the immune system and hormone production," she said. Vitamin D is found in small amounts in some foods, but 80 to 90 percent of our supply comes from being exposed to the sun's rays.
Wearing sunscreen can block that important absorption.You can enjoy the sun and protect your skin by covering up well, getting sunshine during off-peak hours, eating sun-protective foods and making a batch of homemade natural sunscreen, according to Telpner.
"Too much kale is bad for you."
Kale experienced a swift rise as a superfood. But it wasn't long before people were told kale can be "poisonous" to thyroid health and cause heavy metal toxicity.
In theory, large quantities of cruciferous vegetables could affect the thyroid, according to Telpner. However, you'd have to ingest massive amounts of kale every day.
Thyroid health is more likely affected by drinking fluoridated water because it displaces iodine, an essential mineral to the thyroid. And the health benefits of kale and other cruciferous vegetables far outweigh any potential risk, Telpner said.
Choose organic kale to reduce exposure to heavy metals. For overall health, it's helpful to rotate kale with other greens.
"Avoid saturated fat because it causes heart disease."
Throughout the last few decades we've been told that fat would make us fat and lead to cardiovascular disease. This led to the low-fat and fat-free food craze â€” which really just replaced fat with sugar and refined carbohydrates, according to Telpner.
"We've now learned that we had it wrong: sugary foods and refined carbs increase our risk of heart disease, while a recent meta-analysis concluded that the nutritional warnings we had received about fats decades ago was unfounded," she said.
In fact, good fats contain a multitude of health benefits, including nourishing the brain and liver and improving mood. The reality is that it's the source of fat that is most important. Choose clean, organic sources from either animals or plants to reap the health rewards.
"We need dairy for strong bones."
Marketers have convinced us that lots of dairy is the most important way to prevent nutrient deficiencies and diseases, according to Telpner.
"The truth is, you don't necessarily need milk or cheese or yogurt to have strong bones," she said. North America has one of the highest rates of dairy consumption in the world â€” and yet has some of the highest rates of osteoporosis. And studies have suggested that drinking more milk doesn't protect against fractures.
Although calcium has become synonymous with bone health, no mineral is an island, Telpner said. "Vitamins and minerals work in synergy. It's not just calcium we need but also magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D, vitamin K and more."
Plant-based sources of calcium such as sesame seeds, almonds, dark leafy greens, rhubarb, broccoli and seaweed are more bioavailable â€” meaning we are better able to digest, absorb, and use the calcium in those foods.