You’re twelve years old and enjoying a deliciously forbidden piece of chewing gum as you daydream your way through your least favourite lesson. Suddenly the teacher turns to you, catching you off guard, demanding the answer to a question. GULP! As you fumble your way through an answer a sinking feeling sets in; the realisation that the chewing gum you just swallowed will linger inside you for seven whole years!
We’ve all been there. Or if not there, exactly, we’ve all been in the position of believing a plausible and well-spread myth about food. Well, we’re here to put an end to this! We examine eight commonly accepted myths, put them to pasture and look at why they’ve taken hold in the way they have.
1. MYTH: Chewing Gum Stays in Your Stomach for 7 Years if you Swallow It
It’s incredible how many fully-grown adults still believe this myth, despite having a functional understanding of the human digestive system. Well, we can tell you now that, despite its unrivalled ability to stick stubbornly to pavements, the underside of school tables and shoes, chewing gum will not stick in your innards should you swallow it. The origins of this myth are simply down to chewing gum’s imperviousness to digestion. Apart from some components, such as sweeteners, chewing gum resists being broken down by digestion but does pass from the body, largely unchanged, in a normal amount of time. Phew!
2. MYTH: Eggs are Cholesterol Bombs
Eggs do contain a high amount of cholesterol, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad for you (unlike bombs!). Blood cholesterol, specifically LDL (low-density lipoprotein), is the “bad cholesterol” that can build up in arteries if too high and lead to disease. The dietary cholesterol found in eggs is not directly linked to LDL and is, in fact, vital to your body for hormone creation and cell repair.
But you should avoid the yolk, right? Wrong. Egg yolks are higher in fat, but are also the most nutritionally rich part of the egg, full of protein and vitamins A, D and E. Hopefully you’ll think twice before you throw out your egg yolks next time.
3. MYTH: Red Meat is Bad for You
Over the years red meat has had a bit of a bad rap. On top of being attributed as the cause of high cholesterol and heart disease, fingers have also pointed at red meat linking it to various cancers, diabetes, kidney disease and obesity. The truth is it is processed meats, not red meats, that are behind these nasties! Research has shown that red meats can be consumed regularly as part of a perfectly healthy diet, but quite the opposite has been proven of processed meats. Processed meats, such as bacon, sausages, ham and most meat you’d find in frozen meals, ready meals and fast food, contain all sorts of additives. This is so they can last much longer in their packaging than fresh meat. It’s these additives – including large amounts of sodium, nitrates, nitrites and more – that are to blame for the ailments that red meat are usually believed to be guilty of.
4. MYTH: Carbohydrates Make you Fat
It seems that the trend, in recent years, for low carb diets may be to blame for this popular myth. We’re looking at you Dr Atkins!
The truth is that any food can be fattening if overeaten. Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy and recommended by all leading medical bodies (including the NHS) as part of a healthy diet. In fact, cutting carbs from your diet could put you at risk of health problems as a result of the deficiency in essential nutrients, such as fibre, calcium iron and B vitamins.
What you do need to bear in mind is this; not all carbohydrates were created equal. While high fibre and naturally starchy foods are important in any healthy diet (including weight loss regimes), those containing refined carbohydrates (e.g. white rice, pasta and flour to name a few) and added sugar are more likely to contribute to weight gain and the development of certain common chronic diseases.
5. MYTH: Microwaving Kills Nutrients
Microwaving is no worse for the nutritional credentials of your food than any other form of cooking. In fact, microwaving can actually help to minimise nutrient loss. This is because it’s the heating of food and length of time spent cooking it that affects nutrient loss, especially when it comes to water- and heat-sensitive ones like vitamin C. Where microwaving often cooks food more quickly it can lessen this.
6. MYTH: Eating Little and Often Increases Metabolism
There’s a very good chance that a friend or colleague has told you this ‘fact’ at one time or another, demonstrating their superior knowledge in this area. It may be that you too are guilty of propagating this wide-spread mistruth. Well, next time you hear this you have our full, unreserved permission to blow this myth out of the water! The truth of the matter is that no scientific research has been done that has yet given any credence to this belief. So, if you’ve gone three hours without eating, worry not, your metabolism will not have slowed to a snail’s pace!
7. MYTH: Sugary Foods Make Children Hyperactive
If you have ever been to a children’s birthday party this myth is an easy one to believe. Science will, however, disagree with you. Extensive studies have explored this belief, yet none have found a link between sugar consumption and one’s behaviour or cognitive skills. One study did find that parents who had been told that their child had just consumed a load of sugary food were more likely to say their child was behaving in a hyperactive way. So, it seems sugary foods are more likely to affect your behaviour than your child’s!
8. MYTH: Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever
This myth is a mum special and is believed to date back to 1574 where a published dictionary stated “fasting is a great remedy to fever”. Really though the saying ought to be ‘feed a cold, feed a fever’. During a fever your body raises its temperature in an attempt to make it inhospitable for harmful bacteria and viruses. This process increases your metabolism and consequently your energy demands. Meeting these demands with food is important for supporting your bodies efforts against infections. So, for the sake of your health and others’ let’s all kill this myth off once and for all.