Fruit and Vegetable Myths (and Truths)

Are potatoes bad for you? Is there a "best" lettuce? Are carrots full of sugar? We give you the facts you need to eat smart.

How could fruits and vegetables actually get a bad reputation? It's true - some produce has been convicted of contributing to weight gain, serving up too much sugar or fat, coming up empty in the nutrient department, or being just plain not worthy of our time. But is there any truth in it all, or does this produce deserve to be pardoned? For the record, here's what you need to know. 

Are Potatoes Bad for You?

Potatoes are one of the most vilified vegetables, probably because they're high in carbohydrates—a nutritional component that's restricted by some popular diets to encourage weight loss. But the truth is that healthy carbs—potatoes among them—are a critical fuel for the body and the brain's only source of fuel. And ironically, too few carbohydrates in a diet can actually hurt weight-loss efforts. 
The truth: Potatoes are a smart choice, serving up only 120 calories and zero fat per plain potato, and are a great source of potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. For the skin, they also provide fiber. Need a topper? Try a little Greek yogurt or salsa.

Is There a "Best" Lettuce?

Darker leaves of lettuce are the most nutrient-dense. Romaine, for example, is 15 times higher in beta-carotene than iceberg lettuce, ten times higher in vitamins A and C, four times higher in vitamin K and folic acid, and also has more fiber than the pale variety. That said, if iceberg is your favorite lettuce, go ahead and mix it with darker lettuce to get used to new flavors. After all, the most nutrient-rich lettuce does you no good if it ends up in the trash. Any variety that puts more produce in your day is healthy.

Are Carrots Full of Sugar?

The idea that carrots are a sugar-full vegetable can probably be attributed to a modern-day idea called the glycemic index, which measures how eating a particular food affects a person's blood sugar. Though the glycemic index value for carrots is higher than pure table sugar, the full picture can't be appreciated until you consider how researchers arrived at that value. In truth, you'd have to eat up to seven servings of carrots (7 cups!) to equal the effect of ¼ cup of sugar on a person's blood sugar.

Are Avocados Full of Fat?

Though avocados do contain fat, it's healthy monounsaturated fat—the same sort found in peanuts and olive oil. Monounsaturated fats can help reduce your risk of heart disease, increasing good cholesterol while lowering bad cholesterol and triglycerides. One of the smartest things you can do for your health is to cut back on foods high in saturated fat, like butter, and replace them with foods containing monounsaturated fats, like avocados.

Do Pretty Fruits Have the Best Flavor?

Bigger is not always better, and neither is a perfectly symmetrical piece of fruit. Small berries are often far superior in flavor than the jumbo variety. For tomatoes, stone fruits (like peaches and plums), apples, and pears, being lumpy and misshapen is usually a sign of better flavor. Once fruit is engineered for looks, something has to give, and that will generally be flavor.