Dr. Fuhrman Dr. Fuhrman

Three things I thought I knew about health and nutrition

Healthy sandwich. Or so I thought.

Sometimes I assume everybody knows the same things about nutrition as I do. They make different choices in what they eat, but they must know they are eating unhealthy. Of course, that's not true. In the past few years I learned so much about nutrition, it is sometimes difficult to remember that what is common sense for me now, is not common sense at all. When I was eating my junk food diet, I actually thought I was living pretty healthy. Here are three things I thought I was doing well, that turned out to be completely wrong.

  • I thought a food item was just the sum of its ingredients. I was a vegetarian, I was used to looking at labels so, unlike most people, I actually knew pretty well what I was eating. I thought potato chips were potatoes with oil. That's not that unhealthy, right? Sure, oil is not that good, but I was a vegetarian, so I assumed I did not get that much fat in my diet anyway (I have no idea how I justified that argument, seeing the amount of cheese I ate). It never occurred to me that there is a difference between boiled potatoes with a dressing with olive oil, and deep fried potatoes. Oil and potatoes were oil and potatoes for me.
    The same can be said for many products. There is a huge difference between traditional Dutch rye bread (made from sprouted rye berries, baked at a low temperature) and crisp rye crackers (made from rye flour, baked at a high temperature) even though the ingredients on both of the packages are almost the same, they are both 95% whole rye.
  • I thought that multi-grain bread was whole wheat. I feel really stupid about this one, because I had read about it for years on American message boards. I always dismissed it as an American thing. I had so much faith in our overregulated government, I never thought it would be allowed to market white flour bread with a tiny amount of whole grains as super healthy bread. I thought that the darker the bread, the healthier it was. One of the reasons why I felt I ate a pretty healthy diet, is that I always ate multi-grain bread. I actually felt betrayed when I found out that the dark color was simply added (by using malt), and that I had been eating white flour bread all the time.
  • I thought that sunburn, not the sun itself caused cancer. Ever since I learned about the sunburn->skin cancer connection, I made sure to prevent sunburn for myself and my child. I prefer not to use skin care products with dozens of chemicals, so I used a good sunscreen from a health food store with an SPF of 25. Again, I felt betrayed when I found out my responsible sunscreen did not protect against UVA rays at all and that UVA rays may be even worse than sunburn causing UVB rays. In fact, my responsible sunscreen may have been worse than no sunscreen at all, since it allowed me to stay in the sun for a much longer time, unprotected from harmful UVA radiation.

July 14, 2006