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15 false food myths

Some food-related myths, misconceptions, and inaccuracies have been passed down through the ages, but the internet age has given rise to a staggering amount of puzzling new falsehoods and mistaken beliefs. To help unmask fallacies and fiction, here are some of the most common false food myths. 

An apple a day keeps the doctor away

Apples are packed with vitamin C and fiber, both of which are important to long-term health, but they’re not all we need. And now more than ever, we know that if certain viruses or bacteria get into our system, an apple will unfortunately do nothing to protect us. Flu shots, vaccinations, healthy eating, exercise, balanced diet… All combined, keep the doctor at a safe distance.

annurche apples are in season

Coffee inhibits growth

False food myths alert: studies show that there is no correlation between caffeine intake and bone development in children. In adults, researchers have noted that increased caffeine consumption can very slightly limit the absorption of calcium, but the impact is so minuscule that a tablespoon of milk will effectively counterbalance the effects of a cup of joe.

Eating carrots improves your eyesight

This has been drumming in my ears since childhood. But it’s actually no more than a rumor: the myth was actually started by the British air force to play the Germans during WWII. The British had just started using radar technology to detect German bombing raids but wanted to keep it secret. So they invented the lie that a diet rich in carrots helped their pilots see Nazi bombers in the dark. This may have fooled Nazi Germany and, sure carrots are very healthy and rich in Vitamin A, but eating them won’t make give you night vision.

do you peel carrots?

Oysters are aphrodisiac

Named after Greek love goddess Aphrodite, aphrodisiacs were identified by early civilizations and cultures who associated potency and virility with power and prosperity. This fascination has lingered over millennia. Science has yet to prove a link between rumored “romance remedies” and increased sexual performance, yet aphrodisiacs still thrive. Specifically, there’s no evidence to support the notion that oysters — or any food really, including chili pepper and chocolate — stimulate sexual desire.

Feed a cold, starve a fever

This is probably the oldest among the false food myths. There’s no medical motivation behind limiting food when you’re feverish. While you may have less of an appetite, you should eat whatever you can tolerate. In fact, when you’re sick, your nutritional needs increase because your metabolic rate goes up.

Waiting 1 hour after meals before swimming (3 hours, if you’re Italian)

I have traumatic childhood memories of waiting what felt like an eternity on the beach in Positano before being allowed to splash back into the sea after lunch. I’d have my annual requital when visiting Dad in California –– where after meals we never waited even a minute! The myth stems from the belief that digesting food will draw blood to your stomach and away from other organs. Cold water will thus cause cramps, or worse –– a congestion. But there’s no evidence to support this claim. Of course anyone after a gargantuan 4-course meal wouldn’t dream of jumping in a frozen lake, would you?

48 hours in Positano

Cranberry juice cures UTIs

There’s no proof that cranberry juice can treat a urinary tract infection, which should be medicated with antibiotics. But drinking the juice or taking supplements regularly can prevent UTIs, because compounds in the juice stop infection-causing bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall.

Eating roast turkey makes you sleepy

Who doesn’t love that post-Thanksgiving snooze? It’s part of the holiday celebration! It’s a known fact that turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid that the body uses to make melatonin and serotonin. These help regulate sleep. But turkey doesn’t contain an especially high amount of tryptophan. It’s got the same amount as chicken, beef and other meats. Cheddar cheese has even more than turkey, yet cheddar is never pointed out as a sleep-inducing food. Could it be the carbs, alcohol, and general size of the turkey-day feast to cause those delicious holiday naps?

Cure a hangover by drinking more

I remember a family friend telling us that the best thing for a hangover was a B&B. What he meant was a shot glass with equal parts brandy and Benedictine liqueur. Said friend was always tipsy. Truth is that the “hair of the dog” is a false myth. Drinking a Mimosa or a Bloody Mary in the morning won’t make you feel better. Quite the opposite, it’s just prolonging the hangover. Same goes for coffee: like alcohol, coffee is a diuretic so it will dehydrate you even more, extending the hangover. Instead, proteins and rest will do the trick.

false food myths: curing a hangover by drinking more

It takes 7 years for the body to digest bubble gum

As a kid, you probably heard that you shouldn’t swallow gum because it could take seven years to digest. Not true. Gum is mostly indigestible, but an occasional swallowed piece will pass through your intestines and exit just like anything else you eat that your body doesn’t need and can’t digest.

Brown sugar is healthier than white sugar

As far as your body is concerned, white and brown sugar are the same. The darker color of sugar doesn’t make it more “natural” or healthier than its white counterpart. The color comes from residual molasses. Brown sugar is mostly white sugar with some molasses. While molasses contains some vitamins and minerals like potassium and magnesium, there is very little in the standard brown sugar packet. If trying to eat healthier, just ditch the sugar altogether. 

false food myths: brown sugar vs. white sugar

The 5-second rule

This, we all know, isn’t a real thing. Germs can latch on to wayward food pretty darn fast. According to a study by Rutgers University, in some cases bacteria can contaminate a food within milliseconds. The wetter or stickier the food, the faster the bacteria transfer occurs. 

Cashews are nuts

Cashews –– as well as walnuts, almonds and pistachios –– are often marketed as “nuts.” Technically, they are actually seeds. Peanuts are another nutty imposter… they’re legumes! To learn more on this topic read my post, Seeds are everything.

Swallowing watermelon seeds will make a plant grow inside your stomach

So you probably didn’t believe this false food myth even as a child. But it’s true: A watermelon won’t grow inside your stomach if you eat the seeds. I wonder how and why this myth came about…

false food myths on bananas

Banana mythology

There are false myths and misinformation (online and common Italian knowledge bordering on superstition) about bananas. This includes spiders laying their eggs in the black tip; mold growing there; that the ends of the banana taste bad; that banana peel is hallucinogenic… Banana tips and peels are not poisonous. As a matter of fact, banana peel is edible and packed with nutrients, vitamin B6 and B12, as well as magnesium and potassium.

What false food myths were you made to believe?

false food myths

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