Americans wrongly believe it’s “impossible” to find dairy-free food options, eating carbs causes weight gain and plant-based diets lead to iron deficiency.
A study of 2,000 adults found 63% have believed something about food which they later found out to be untrue, leaving them feeling confused, uneducated — and even deceived.
Others are under the false impression that a dairy-free diet leads to calcium deficiency (22%), humans need red meat for protein (30%) and margarine is unhealthier than dairy butter (32%).
Despite this, 69% do not actually understand the difference between dairy butter and margarine.
This confusion has led to a quarter of people struggling to understand what foods are “good” for them and over two in five wish there was more education on the health values of certain diets.
The research was commissioned by Upfield, who worked with nutritionist and member of the British Dietetic Association Priya Tew to debunk some popular food myths.
“With so many different sources of information out there today it’s hard for consumers to know what to believe when it comes to diets and food misconceptions,” said Tew.
“The research showed over a sixth of the nation believe all margarine contains trans fats. However, in truth, all market-leading margarines removed partially hydrogenated oils many years ago, meaning they contain virtually no trans fats.
“Similarly, almost a quarter of people are under the impression carbohydrates cause weight gain – of course overeating any food can lead to excess weight, but it’s all to do with energy balance, and carbohydrates are not something to be avoided.
“In this day and age it’s confusing with blogs, online forums and social media all offering differing opinions of what we should and shouldn’t eat.
“Trends such as juicing are promoted – which over an eighth believe is a more nutritious way of consuming fruit and veg, when really juicing breaks down the fiber and makes it easier for the natural sugars to be taken up by the bloodstream, so they are less nutritious.”
However, fruits and veggies that are blended to make a smoothie retain the pulp and flesh, making them a healthier alternative without the disadvantages of juicing.
The study also found nearly a quarter (23%) think a plant-based diet means a diet with no animal products whatsoever.
In truth, this type of diet is made up of 80% food derived from plants with some meat and animal products.
And while 79% don’t think margarine is plant-based, 42% don’t believe peanuts are either.
Despite the confusion, three in 10 have given “clean” eating a go, due to 55% wanting to be “healthier” and a third simply hoping to eat more vegetables.
Similarly, 44% of the nation have cut out meat and bread in an attempt to have a healthier lifestyle while a sixth have cut out dairy and 38% have avoided sugar.
Over an eighth of those polled via OnePoll have even experienced a plant-based holiday meal, such as at Christmas or Easter.
But factors including cost, lack of knowledge and less options has stopped some Americans from trying a “free from” diet.
A third admitted they worry about the health and safety process of shop bought foods, such as products containing plastic particles and a third often check the ingredients labels.
More than two-fifths who have cut something out of their diet realized there was no difference in the money they were spending.
“With the increase of plant-based options across America, we have witnessed a growing curiosity amongst consumers about what is good, bad, processed or healthy for them,” said a spokesperson for Upfield.
She continued, “As a leader in plant-based nutrition, we are excited to lead the charge in debunking some of the misnomers about plant-based options. With information they can trust, consumers can make more educated decisions about what they are fuelling their bodies with.”
TOP 20 FOOD MYTHS AMERICANS BELIEVE
1. Eating fresh food is better than tinned or frozen
2. Margarine is highly processed and unnatural
3. Margarine is unhealthier than dairy butter
4. Eating carbohydrates will cause weight gain
5. Humans need red meat in their diets for protein
6. Organic foods are better for humans
7. A plant based diet is more expensive than a diet comprised of more meat
8. A plant based diet means you cannot eat meat, fish or dairy
9. Dairy free diets lead to calcium deficiency
10. Eating too much fruit is bad for you due to the sugar
11. All margarine contain trans fats
12. A plant based diet will lead to iron deficiency / anemia
13. Plant based diets don’t provide enough energy for humans
14. It is impossible to find food options without meat or dairy
15. Juicing fruit and vegetables is much more nutritious than eating them
16. Planted-based foods have no flavor
17. Vegans can’t build muscle
18. Plant-based options are highly processed
19. Plant-based meals will not fill you up
20. Plant-based diets and veganism are emasculating