20 Worst Food Myths That Still Persist
Think fats are bad? We've got some major truth bombs for you.
After all these years of being told false information by family, the media, and even some health care practitioners (yep, even experts get fooled sometimes!), so many people still believe some of the most common food myths to be true.
If you're wondering if milk really does help build strong bones, if juice cleanses are as reliable as they seem, or if you should be stocking up on chocolate to increase your sexual appetite this Valentine's Day, you're in luck: Some major truth bombs are coming your way. For more truth bombs, check out the 40 Biggest Myths About Life After 40—Busted.
Chocolate is an aphrodisiac.
The idea that chocolate is an aphrodisiac has been around since the 80s, and that's probably why box upon box fly off the shelves on February 14th. Unfortunately, all those heart-shaped boxes don't have as strong of an impact after all. Studies haven't been able to prove a solid link between chocolates and sexual arousal and satisfaction, but that doesn't mean the placebo effect isn't still going strong.
Since people believe chocolate can help them amp up their sex drive, they can sometimes make it happen simply by thinking it will. There might not be any science, but hey — whatever works, right? Even though chocolate may not be able to get you in the mood, here's How Chocolate Will Boost Your Workout (Seriously).
Eating fat makes you fat.
Even though avocados, walnuts, olive oil, and other healthy fats are full of body-boosting benefits, there's still this weird fear that eating fat is going to make you fat, even though it's a total myth.
"So many women still fear eating fat, stemming from the low-fat craze that captivated the public in the '80s and '90s. But we got it wrong," says Michelle Cady, integrative nutrition health coach of FitVista.com "When you increase your healthy fat intake and lower your intake of refined, white carbohydrates, you'll stay satiated longer, stabilize your blood sugar, and teach your body to burn off extra body fat, rather than rely on quick bursts of carbs, sugar, and glucose for energy."
Eating carrots keeps your eyes healthy.
Everyone grows up thinking eating carrots help keep their eyes healthy, whether that's improving your eyesight or just keeping your already-great vision strong. The funny thing is even though they're super good for your body and contain eye-boosting vitamin A, Harvard Medical School says eating fresh fruits and dark leafy green veggies are even better, more beneficial choices when it comes to your eye health. Who knew? For more ways to seriously improve your health, check out these 50 Ways to Be a Higher-Energy Person Immediately.
It takes 7 years to digest gum.
One thing that's probably sent you straight into panic-mode both as a kid and as an adult is accidentally swallowing your gum. It's pretty widely-known that it takes seven years to digest it, but that fact just isn't true. When it comes to your digestive system, gum doesn't get any special treatment — it goes in and comes out the exact way (and speed!) other food do. And for more fun facts, here are 20 Amazing Facts You Never Knew About Your Body.
If you're trying to be healthy, you should only shop the perimeter of the supermarket.
When you're trying to up your health game, you probably abide by one grocery shopping rule: Stick to the perimeter of the store. But you don't have to spend all your time in the produce section; as long as you avoid the processed junk, those middle aisles aren't as bad as they're believed to be.
"Make the most of the middle aisles — they're stocked with superfoods. Otherwise you'll be missing out on fiber-rich ancient grains like sorghum, millet and amaranth, and plant-based foods containing protein, like nuts, chia, flax, and quinoa," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read it Before You Eat It – Taking You from Label to Table. "Also, how can you resist the value of beans? The underrated supermarket gem is full of soluble fiber that could help control cholesterol levels while providing a whopping 6 grams of plant protein per half cup, weighing in at only about 40 cents per serving." For more healthy hacks, check out the 30 Best Ways to Stick to Any Diet.
Milk builds strong bones.
Ready for a shocker? Despite getting served a carton of milk with your school lunches and all those "Got Milk?" ads that promise strong bones, milk isn't as good for you as it's advertised to be. A 2010 study published in the journal Nutrition in Clinical Practice found milk might be the reason bones lose calcium, doing the opposite of what it promises to do. On top of that, a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered the rates of bone fractures were highest in the countries that consumed the most dairy. Interesting, right? Maybe it's time to make the switch to soy or almond after all.
Using the 5-second rule ensures your food is still safe to eat.
The five-second rule has saved you from having to remake your food plenty of times. Bad news, though: Despite the world thinking food is safe from the germy floor as long as it's picked up within five seconds is a total myth. Unfortunately, it only takes a very small fraction of one second for bacteria to contaminate your food — so fast there's no way you could pick it up in time to save it, unless you have Flash's superhero speed. If you still want to try your luck, though, keep your floors super clean and hope for the best.
A juice cleanse is a lasting way to lose weight.
Year after year, women spend hundreds of dollars on juice cleanses in hopes to shed some pounds. The problem? You don't get long-lasting results — and it's really horrible for your body.
"When you drink just juice, you're missing the balance of nutrients that your body needs on a daily basis. Cleanses are also typically really low in calories, a lot less than you would need to get through your day," says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. "A lot of people look to quick fixes for weight loss, but there is no such thing as a quick fix."
Instead, Gorin recommends simply eating as wholesome of a diet as you can to lose weight the right way. You'll keep your health in check, create a healthy lifestyle that sticks, and be a lot happier in the process: "Eat a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein, and healthy fat." And for more great advice, check out The New Weight-Loss Secret Everyone Is Talking About.
Turkey makes you sleepy because of the chemicals it contains.
Eating a plateful of turkey can easily make you sleepy, but not for the reason you think. People tend to think turkey has a special sleep-inducing quality because of the chemical tryptophan it contains, which is known to make your body relax. There are plenty of other foods that contain much more tryptophan than turkey, though, and the real reason it makes you so tired is because you typically eat it paired with an entire Thanksgiving feast — AKA so much food that anyone is going to want to pass out afterward.
You have to count calories to stay healthy.
There are many reasons people count calories, and one of the main ones is to either become healthier overall or lose weight. The truth, though? There's absolutely no need to engage in the soul-sucking numbers game.
"Our bodies are smarter than any super human computer. When we try to track or manipulate our calorie intake, we set ourselves up for a potentially restrictive relationship with food," says Michelle Cady, integrative nutrition health coach of FitVista.com . "Some days we're naturally hungrier than others. Some days we need to eat less. Focus on water, protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs and reduce sugar and processed food, then let your body do the rest."
Organic food is better for you.
If it's more expensive, it's better for you, right? Not necessarily. Despite organic food being free of herbicides and pesticides, there's really no evidence that it's any better for you than standard produce.
A 2012 study from Stanford University looked into the difference between organic and non-organic foods and didn't find anything that showed the organic versions were any more nutritious or carried less health risks than the regular stuff, even though people are paying so much more at the grocery store for it. Basically, eat your fruits and veggies and don't worry about paying a premium to do so.
You shouldn't drink less than eight glasses of water a day.
When it comes to drinking water, everyone tends to abide by the same standard rule: Drink eight glasses a day and you'll stay healthy and hydrated. The funny thing, though, is it's actually a myth; that number has been around forever, but you don't have to abide by it to get all the fluids your body needs. According to the Mayo Clinic, proper intake has more to do with you as an individual, not a standard number: People should drink depending on their age, location, and health, and some of those fluids can come from foods.
Carbs aren't good for your body.
People have this weird vendetta against carbs. Thanks to the media, they've went from being something that fuels your body and gives you energy to something that's supposedly going to make you gain weight. The truth, though? They're pretty crucial and shouldn't be feared.
"Your body needs carbohydrates to function. And if you're an athlete, your body really needs carbs to maximize your athletic performance and also to help you build muscle," Gorin says. "You'll need to eat some carbohydrates after a strength-training session because otherwise, your body will break down those carbs to replenish your body with the glycogen that was used up during your exercise session. Without the carbs, your body would dip into its own stores of protein to get the glycogen, possibly leaving your body short of the protein it needs to help your muscles recover and grow."
When you are filling your plate, just be sure to look for the right kinds. Cut the refined carbs out of your diet — like white rice, white bread, and white pasta — and go for the body-fueling, fiber-loaded whole grains, like brown rice and whole-wheat pasta and bread. And for more great weight-loss advice, here's The Single Best Way to Boost Your Metabolism Every Day.
Coffee will stunt your growth.
Your mom's reasoning for wanting you to avoid coffee in high school doesn't really check out on the truth front. According to Harvard Medical School, despite it being a common belief that it stunts growth, there's absolutely no merit whether you're a growing kid or an adult: Research shows there's no link between drinking coffee and osteoporosis, which can reduce your height.
The only thing that's truly stunting your growth is your genes and overall health; your parent's height determines how tall you'll be and eating a balanced diet can help you grow big and strong, but coffee has nothing to do with it.
Eating small meals throughout the day will boost your metabolism.
When you're trying to give your metabolism a boost, it's not uncommon to come across the advice to eat smaller meals throughout the day. Unfortunately, there's no proof that actually works. A 2013 study published in the journal Obesity found there's absolutely no difference in metabolism when comparing those who consumed six smaller meals with those who ate three normal-sized meals. In fact, the people who ate the smaller meals tended to be hungrier than those who didn't, increasing their desire to eat. Talk about backfiring.
Eggs raise your cholesterol levels.
There tend to be mixed opinions on whether eggs are good or bad for your health, but the 2015 Dietary Guidelines are setting things straight when it comes to cholesterol.
"We now know that the dietary cholesterol in eggs may not affect blood cholesterol. And eggs offer many benefits: A large egg boasts 6 grams of high-quality protein, helping you feel fuller for longer," Gorin says. "It also offers choline, which we now know is important for a baby's developing brain and can benefit cognitive health later in life."
With that being said, eggs might not be bad for your cholesterol, but there's still something to watch out for.
"One large egg does contain 1.6 grams of saturated fat, and you'll need to take that into account with your daily saturated fat limit," Gorin says. "It should be no more 10 percent of your daily calories, so no more than 20 grams for a 2,000-calorie daily diet."
Drinking milk increases phlegm.
There's nothing worse than dealing with phlegm, the sticky mucus that hangs out in the back of your throat when you're under the weather. The good news is the myth that milk increases the amount isn't true — but according to the Mayo Clinic, drinking it might make it thicker and more irritating than it would normally be. So maybe skip dairy when you're sick and don't worry about it causing phlegm in general.
Brown sugar is better for you than white sugar.
Well, bad news, brown sugar lovers. You might feel healthier replacing white table sugar with the brown stuff, but according to the Cleveland Clinic, the only difference is the taste. When it comes to your health, sugar is sugar: No matter its form, it's going to elevate your blood sugar levels, and that could increase your risk of obesity and diabetes.
You can't get enough protein on a vegan or vegetarian diet.
When people think of protein, they usually think of beef, poultry, seafood, fish, eggs, and other animal-derived options. The good news is you don't need those options to get a proper amount of protein — you can easily do that through plants, too.
"I've been a vegetarian for about half my life, and I can say first-hand that you can absolutely get enough protein on a vegetarian diet. You just have to give it some thought and make sure to incorporate protein sources at every meal," Gorin says. "For instance, edamame, aka soybeans, contain 17 grams of protein per cup. In addition to adding these to a stir-fry, you can also blend them into a smoothie. Also, a half-cup of cooked white beans offers about 10 grams of protein, and I love using them as a pizza topping."
Eating an apple a day truly keeps the doctor away.
As long as you get an apple in your diet every day you're in the clear, right? Well, not so much. According to Harvard Medical School, studies have shown that although apples are a healthy, filling snack and definitely offer plenty of health benefits, there's no evidence that eating one a day keeps you from visiting the doc on the regular. But despite not being able to skimp on doctor's visits, there was some good news on the apple front: Those daily apple-eaters use fewer prescription meds than the average person, so keep munching away. But before you do so, be sure to check out The Science-Approved Best Way to Wash an Apple.
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