The truth: While olive oil, packed with monounsaturated fat, is better for your heart than the artery-clogging saturated fat in butter, both have 100 to 120 calories per tablespoon. In fact, all fats have roughly the same number of calories, says Samantha Heller, RD, author of Get Smart: Samantha Heller’s Nutrition Prescription for Boosting Brain Power and Optimizing Total Body Health. So go easy. One way is to try an oil mister—one spritz delivers a fraction of a teaspoon. (We like the Prepara Tabletop Oil Mister, $19.95; Prepara.com.)
The truth: Frozen produce can be as nutritious as fresh, Heller says, because it’s flash-frozen shortly after picking, which means it retains more nutrients than if it has to travel, unfrozen, for days before being sold. Plus, frozen often costs less. If you prefer fresh, try to buy local. (Check LocalHarvest.org to find a farmers’ market in your area.)
The truth: A dark bread might just have caramel coloring but be no better than white bread, University of Scranton psychology professor Michael Oakes, PhD, says. Look for the words “whole grain” or “100 percent whole wheat” on the package: that means the bread is made from unrefined wheat, which has more than double the fiber and is also higher in selenium, potassium, and magnesium.
If the label says “natural,” it means it’s better for you
The truth: The word “natural” is not defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and can mean just about anything, according to Oakes. Even products labeled “all natural” can be highly processed and contain high fructose corn syrup, a manufactured sugar that some researchers think is a contributor to the spike in obesity. The word “organic”? Now that’s regulated by the USDA and means the food is made without most conventional pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, growth hormones, and antibiotics.