10 Food Myths You’ve Been Fed All Your Life

10 Food Myths You’ve Been Fed All Your Life

Hunger for the Truth

1. Some foods are calorie-negative


By calorie-negative, we mean that your body actually consumes more calories than it receives when you eat them. So, in theory, these would make the ideal diet – you can keep eating and eating and you actually lose weight. It’s such an appealing idea that it’s no wonder that this myth is so prevalent. However, that’s all it is, though – a myth.

Several foods supposedly boast this wonder characteristic, but celery is often heralded as the “King of Negative Calories”. Unfortunately, it is simply not true. Don’t get us wrong, celery does have very few calories, it’s full of fiber and rich in water content, but it still provides you with more calories than you burn by eating it. Plus, you’ll find it very hard to live off celery alone.

2. Coffee dehydrates you

Coffee and other beverages containing caffeine are considered by many to be unhealthy because they lead to dehydration. But is this true? Studies say no. There is some logic behind the thinking. Caffeine acts as a diuretic, meaning that it makes you pee more often. When you do this, you are obviously losing liquids therefore coffee acts as a dehydrator, right? Well, the thing is that the water content you get from coffee is more than enough to replace those lost liquids. It’s not like you wouldn’t have gone to the bathroom at all if you only drank water. You just would have done it a little later. So you lose fluids, but you replace them with other ones. It’s the standard process we all go through every day. Coffee has very little impact on it, if any. Moreover, regular coffee drinkers can develop a tolerance to the diuretic effect of caffeine, therefore negating the impact even further.

3. Adding salt to water increases the boiling point

Photo Credit: GRAN via WIki Commons

Photo Credit: GRAN via WIki Commons

You will see this “trick” employed often even by professional chefs. By adding a pinch of salt, you are raising the boiling point of the water. Therefore, when it starts to boil, it will actually be hotter than normal and cook the food better. Theoretically, that is true, but the proportions are way off. The amount of salt you would actually need to add in order to increase the boiling point by just one or two degrees would make the meal almost inedible. You would need to add at least 8 ounces (230 grams) of salt in order to have a noticeable difference.

4. Low-fat is always better

In today’s modern society, “fat” is a bad word. Food makers understand this and will look for every opportunity to stick a “low-fat” label on their products because they know it will make us think that it is the healthier, better option. However, that’s not always the case. First of all, there are several similar terms (fat-free, low-fat, light, reduced-fat) which we think mean pretty much the same thing, but there is actually a difference between them. Moreover, there is such a thing as “good fat”. Saturated fat is the one you want to avoid. Mono- and polyunsaturated fat is actually quite healthy and will even lower your cholesterol (the bad kind). You can get it from fish, nuts, avocado, olives, coconut and canola oil etc.

5. Kids shouldn’t drink cow milk

Photo Credit: Wes Schaeffer via Flickr

Photo Credit: Wes Schaeffer via Flickr

Humans have a love-hate relationship with cow milk (or milk, as most of us call it). Sometimes we say it’s bad, sometimes we say it’s healthy, we really can’t make up our minds. However, most people agree that it shouldn’t be given to young children. And this is partially true. It is recommended that cow milk is not given to infants under 1 year. However, for everyone else, it’s fine.

The biggest problem to worry about here is a milk allergy. In young children, these can be far more severe than the lactose intolerance we are familiar with as adults. These children should obviously not be given milk if they are allergic to it, but the percentage of kids this applies to is very small (between 1% and 3%).

6. Sugar makes kids hyper

This is one you are going to have a hard time convincing parents that it is a myth. However, while firsthand experiences suggest that kids really do go cuckoo-bananas after a few sugary treats, the empirical evidence suggests otherwise. Studies into this phenomenon showed that sugar works just as well as a placebo. What usually changes is the perception of the parent. If you know your kid just had an entire plate of cookies, you are expecting them to change into the Tasmanian Devil (and usually they do). However, it is likely that they would have behaved like that anyway, you just were less likely to notice. Basically, if you have a hyper kid, then you have a hyper kid. Just strap in and enjoy the ride.

7. You have to drink eight glasses of water a day

Photo Credit: Enid Martindale via Flickr

Photo Credit: Enid Martindale via Flickr

How many glasses of water did you drink yesterday? I’ll bet it was less than eight. And how are you feeling? Are you dying of thirst? Probably not. This is because the “eight glasses a day” idea is one of the biggest food/health myths around. At this point, we’re not even sure how it started anymore or how it became so widespread. Some point fingers at the bottled water industry, while others bring up some old health journals that have been referenced as being fact.

So how much water should you drink? Considering how different out bodies react to external factors, there’s probably no standard amount. If you feel thirsty, just get up and have a glass of water. This seems to work pretty well as a rule.

8. Your body needs to detox

Detoxing is another popular trend these days and it’s the basis for numerous diets. Supposedly, it helps your body eliminate toxins from its system. There’s just one problem, though. According to medical experts, it has “no basis in human biology”. Our bodies are already pretty good at dealing with toxins we ingest from food. We have organs for that purpose (the liver).

Some of these “detox” diets do have benefits often in the form of weight loss. However, this generally happens because they are low-calorie diets so, obviously, you are going to lose weight. It has nothing to do with detoxifying. Others give you a general feeling of wellbeing because they encourage you to eliminate bad habits such as smoking, drinking alcohol, eating fatty foods etc. Again, quite healthy, but it’s not flushing out your toxins. Then there are some diets which veer into the extreme. They often have you subsisting on nothing but juices and these usually cause you to gain weight after the diets are over because that’s how the human body reacts when it is starved of food.

9. Eggs are bad for your cholesterol

Photo: Marshall Astor via Wiki Commons

Photo: Marshall Astor via Wiki Commons

Eggs are in the same boat as milk – sometimes we think they’re bad, sometimes we think they’re good. At the moment, we have this idea that eggs are really bad for people with high cholesterol and that’s not really the case. High levels of (bad) cholesterol are caused by eating a lot of saturated and trans fats. Eggs don’t have any trans fat and very little saturated fat so eliminating them from your diet does little for your cholesterol.

While it is true that eggs have a high content of cholesterol, very little of that cholesterol actually enters the bloodstream and winds up in the arteries. If you want to take the best possible approach, you should stick to eating only the egg whites without the yolks.

10. No food after 6PM

There is a bit of truth behind this myth, but the common understanding of the average person is pretty removed from reality. The idea is that you shouldn’t eat after a certain hour (typically 6PM) because that food is more likely to turn into fat. By going to bed with a full stomach, your metabolism slows down while processing that food and turns all those extra calories into fat instead of burning them up as energy.

The truth is that your metabolism is, indeed, slower, while you sleep. However, it doesn’t stop or even slow down to the rate that most people think of. The metabolism is different for every person so there is no universal law regarding what works and what doesn’t. What you eat will always be more important than when you eat it. Moreover, if you have a very sedentary lifestyle that involves sitting at a desk most of the day, you aren’t exactly burning away the calories. The difference between doing that and sleeping is minimal. However, it must be said that some people do lose weight through this technique, but not for the reasons they think. By sticking to this kind of eating schedule, they actually end up eating less overall so it’s not a matter of burning the calories more efficiently, but of being less calories to burn.