20 Food Myths That Will Surprise You

Courtesy: Sammy Williams

All of us have grown up hearing stories that we believe to be true, especially in the case of food. We are presented with a misconception or an unfounded idea that we follow like gospel. Look at some of the trendy diets and fads introduced over the years. In hindsight, some of them were bad for you.

How do you know what is true and what is a myth? There are so many food myths out there that I thought I would share some of the more interesting ones that I have come across.

Myth #1: When trying to lose weight, avoid grain products such as bread, pasta, and rice.

Grains themselves are not necessarily fattening—or unhealthy. However, if consuming them, at least half should be whole grains. Examples of whole grains include brown rice and whole-wheat bread, cereal, and pasta. Whole grains provide nutrients that are important for your daily nutrition, such as iron and fiber. The Canadian Food Guide recommends 6 to 8 servings of Grain Products per day, depending on your age and gender.

Myth #2: Fat makes you fat.

Fats, although having a bad rap, are an important part of our diet. First of all, they keep us feeling full longer by slowing down the digestion process. Slowing down digestion allows the body time to absorb any nutrients better. Certain fats also provide essential nutrients but should be limited because they have more calories per gram. Try eating healthy fats like avocados, olives, or nuts.   

Courtesy: Devon Breen

Myth #3: Eating vegetarian is better for you and will help you lose weight.

Research has shown that a healthy vegetarian eating plan that includes foods primarily from plants will only lead to weight loss if the total number of calories eaten lowers.  According to Stanford Medicine, the only way vegetarian food can be good is if it emphasizes the consumption of fibrous vegetables, beans, legumes, fruits, and whole grains.  Consumption of processed foods should be minimal.  In addition, supplemental vitamins, such as Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, and zinc, must be added. The amounts of these nutrients naturally found in vegetables do not meet our daily requirements.  Studies have also shown that although eating vegan and vegetarian diets can lower the risks associated with heart disease, the risks associated with stroke are higher.  Per 1,000 people studied, there were ten fewer cases of heart disease and three more strokes than their meat-eating counterparts. 

Myth #4: The five-second rule.

We all have that friend who picks up a piece of food after it drops on the floor, blows on it to remove dust, eats it, and says “five seconds”.  Germs, unfortunately, never learned this rule.  According to a Rutgers University study, bacteria can latch onto food in seconds. This study also found that the wetter the food, the faster the bacteria transfer occurred.

Myth #5: Cage-free chickens are the same as free-range ones.

Cage-free simply means that chickens can roam in a building or open area instead of being kept in a cage.  Free-range chickens, on the other hand, can roam free in the outdoors.  Studies have found that free-range chickens are significantly lower in fat and higher in protein, iron, and zinc.  These chickens consume less feed as they are out foraging all day.  Unfortunately, they are at a higher risk from predators and may eat some harmful plants.

Myth #6: You should throw out honey when it passes its expiration date.

Surprisingly enough, honey is an ingredient that does not expire.  According to the National Honey Board, honey can remain edible for centuries when stored in a sealed container.  The expiration date indicates when the honey will start to crystallize and lose some of its aromas.

Myth #7: The French invented French fries

Nope – thank you, Belgium!  There is good evidence that when the River Meuse froze, fishing became impossible for villagers.  They then resorted to frying potatoes. American soldiers discovered this dish during World War I.  Since most people in the area spoke French, they named this potato dish French fries. 

Courtesy: Barbara Jackson

Myth #8: It’s so hot, you can fry an egg on the sidewalk!

Although this expression gives you an idea of the heat of the day, an egg needs 158 degrees Fahrenheit to cook through.  A sidewalk’s heat might only get up to 145.  A black car, on the other hand, can reach 194 degrees with a 120-degree temperature outside.  Maybe it’s time to change the expression!

Myth #9: Don’t swallow your gum – it will not digest.

Do you remember your mother telling you not to swallow your gum?  Putting the fear of God in you that it will stick to the inside of your body and never go away?  According to Duke University, this time, she was wrong.  Your body digests gum just like any other food.

Myth #10:  Coffee stunts your growth.

Your height mostly depends on your genetic makeup. Good nutrition also plays a role. Depriving yourself of coffee won’t change how tall you will be.  That must be why I started enjoying it from an early age.

Myth #11:  Wash chicken before cooking it.

That was one of my mother’s go-to expressions (for all meat).  The truth is that washing chicken may spreads germs around the kitchen.  In addition to that, water cannot kill bacteria.  Pat your chicken dry with a paper towel that you can discard afterward instead.  Doing this removes any excess moisture that creates steam in the oven.  (The more steam, the soggier the skin – the less moisture, the crispier the skin).  Make sure to wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly after handling raw meats.

Myth #12:  Eat no-calorie vegetables when dieting.

According to studies, no-calorie is simply not true.  Two prime culprits include celery and lettuce.  Although they are full of nutrients, two medium stalks of celery have 15 calories and two cups of green leaf lettuce 10.  All food will add to your caloric intake, so don’t assume that eating these will give you a hall pass.

Myth #13:  Turkey makes you sleepy.

A substance found in a turkey called tryptophan can cause that tired feeling.  The amount, however, required to create this feeling is not sufficient in turkey alone.  It is the act of eating a big meal that is more likely to blame.  In fact, turkey meat has no more tryptophan than chicken or beef.

Myth #14:  You should drink eight glasses of water a day.

How much water you drink in a day depends on your exercise, activity level, and outside temperature.  Basic hydration requirements will increase when exercising or in high heat.

Myth #15:  You should never eat after 6:00 pm.

Storing fat in your body does not have a schedule.  What is more important is that you ensure you balance your eating with activity.  To manage your weight and health, how much you eat and exercise matters much more than the time of day you eat.

Myth #16:  Ground turkey is healthier than ground beef.

Ground turkey comes from any part of the bird, including the higher-fat dark meat.  Extra-lean ground beef, on the other hand, is much lower in fat than most ground turkey.  Both have similar proteins and minerals.  If you want the ground turkey to be the winner, look for fat-free.

For a quick snapshot:

Per 85 gramsExtra Lean Beef (95%)Fat-Free Turkey (99%)Lean Beef (93%)Lean Turkey (93%)
Calories164117178181
Protein25 g25 g25 g23 g
Fat6.4 g2 g8 g9.9 g
Saturated Fats2.8 g0.6 g3.3 g2.5 g
Sodium72 mg50 mg73 mg77 mg
Iron2.7 mg0.7 mg2.7 mg1.3 mg
Zinc6 mg1.9 mg5.9 mg3.2 mg
B122.4 mg0.6 mg2.4 mg1.6 mg
Courtesy: Healthline.com

Myth #17:  Choose sugar-free and fat-free foods.

Just because something is sugar-free does not mean it is good for you.  Read the label every time to see what sugar substitute is used (read all about it in my previous blog, What a Sweet World It Is).  Fat-free also requires caution before consumption.  Fat-free food often involves a chemical process that removes all the nutritional fats and replaces them with flavor enhancers.  With this in mind, both are a myth.

Courtesy: Peggy Choucair

Myth #18:  Brown eggs are better than white eggs.

Even though we have been raised (or marketed) to believe this, there is no nutritional difference between white and brown eggs.   Eggs are full of nutrients, whatever color they may be.  The brown color is from a pigment in the egg determined by the type of chicken that lays it.  The reason they are more expensive is because of this reddish-brown chicken. They are bigger and require more food, thus making them more expensive to keep.  Voila!  More expensive egg.

Myth #19:  Eating margarine is better than butter.

Absolutely not!  Margarine contains unhealthy trans fats that contribute to higher and dangerous LDL cholesterol levels.  Butter contains Vitamin D and calcium, nutrients vital for bone growth, development, and strength.  Studies have even shown that you can eat butter every day in moderation.

Myth #20:  Only fresh vegetables are good for you.

This last myth is an eye-opener!  Vegetables that sit on a truck during transport can quickly deplete nutrients.  University of California studies show that vegetables can lose up to 55 percent of nutrients like Vitamin C within a week.  Spinach can lose 90 percent within the first 24 hours of harvest.  Flash-frozen vegetables, on the other hand, retain nutrients better as flash-freezing stops this degradation process.   Of course, picked and eaten right away is always the best choice!

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