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Common food and nutrition myths cracked

15 April, 2016

We’ve all heard the old wives tale that carrots help you see in the dark, or that taking Vitamin C will help prevent a cold. But how many of these myths are actually true, and which ones should you pay attention to?

With so many different pieces of information on the Internet, it can be hard to know what is true (and what isn’t). We’ve debunked the top myths to do with food and eating habits, so you can see which ones are worth forgetting about - and what you need to do in order to stay healthy. 

Taking Vitamin C will stop you from catching a cold – FALSE (but it won’t hurt)

Research has been conducted on whether higher levels of Vitamin C will actually ward off colds and flu. Stephen Lawson, a researcher at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, says: “It's fair to say that vitamin C supplementation both shortens the duration of cold and offers some protection against colds, though it's not very dramatic”. So it appears that for the most part taking vitamin C won't prevent you from getting a cold. However, taking vitamin C before the onset of cold symptoms may shorten the duration of symptoms. 

Supplementing Vitamin C may provide benefit for people at high risk of colds due to frequent exposure — for example, children who attend group child care during the winter, marathon runners or soldiers on sub-Arctic exercises. 

Eating celery burns more calories than you take in - FALSE

For many years that old story of celery as a “negative calorie” food, meaning that it takes the body more energy to burn it off than it is to intake it, has been running amok. Although this is false, celery is a low calorie food with only around 10 calories per serve, so it still makes a great snack to eat during the day. 

Carrots can help you see in the dark - TRUE

CBHS-Food-Myths (7)Carrots contain vitamin A, (retinol) which is required for your body to synthesise rhodopsin - the pigment in your eyes that operates in low-light conditions. If you have a vitamin A deficiency, you will likely develop nyctalopia or night blindness. Eating carrots can help to correct this and therefore improve your night vision. Doing so will only return your night vision to the point of an ordinary healthy person – it won’t ever let you see in complete darkness. 

Another common myth about carrots (and other vegetables) is that they lose some of their nutrition whilst cooking them. This isn’t true for carrots.  According to Readers Digest, cooking carrots actually increases their nutritional value. This is because cooking them breaks down the cellular walls of the vegetable that surrounds the beta-carotene. In fact, the enzymes lost whilst cooking any vegetable is minimal, and the human body is capable of producing them naturally in any case.

Legumes need to be eaten with grains to be a “complete” protein - FALSE

Beans and legumes are high in nutrition and can do a world of good for your health and diet. They’re high in protein, fibre, vitamin B, iron, potassium and other minerals, all whilst being relatively low in calories. They don’t necessarily have to be eaten at the exact time as grains for you to get the full benefits. 

Reduce fats and calories by removing the skin from chicken before cooking - FALSE

When you cook your chicken, whether it’s by baking, broiling, grilling or roasting, you should leave the skin on to help preserve the natural juices in the meat. To reduce the calories of your poultry, remove the skin before serving it. 

CBHS-Food-Myths (3)Eggs should be avoided due to their cholesterol content - FALSE

Eggs are a great source of many nutrients such as zinc, iron, vitamin D, choline and antioxidants. Eggs don’t actually contribute to high cholesterol levels, and can be a great food to add to your diet due to containing high levels of protein, keeping you feeling fuller for longer during the day. If you’re watching your cholesterol levels, instead focus on reducing saturated fats in your diet.

Eating carbohydrates will make you fat/not as healthy - FALSE

The more important aspect of carbohydrate intake is to consider what kind of carbs you’re consuming. When choosing carbohydrates to eat, choose the healthiest options possible, such as whole grains. Although some diets will reduce carbohydrate intake to help lose weight, studies have shown that those who eat whole grains have less occurrences of heart disease and have overall lower body weight. 

Use margarine instead of butter to save calories - FALSE

Butter and margarine have approximately the same amount of calories, but margarine was created using vegetable oils in the hopes to make a product that was “healthier” than butter, as butter contains cholesterol and saturated fats. However, some margarines are unhealthier than butter due to their trans-fat content, which can have even worse effects on your cholesterol levels and heart health than saturated fats. If you prefer margarine, look for trans-fat-free products instead. 

Nuts are just as bad as junk food - FALSE

Nuts are a really great source of protein and nutrients, and certainly aren’t as bad as junk food. The key to eating nuts is to ensure you limit your intake of them to approximately a handful per day. In fact, it has been shown that regular consumption of nuts can lead to having less chance of developing Type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, it can promote heart health, and can protect against heart disease. 

CBHS-Food-Myths (14)You will sleep better after a nightcap - FALSE

Truth is, drinking just a glass of alcohol before bedtime can be terribly disruptive to your sleep. Alcohol can increase your wakefulness, upset your sleep patterns and make your snooze less restorative. Yoga and meditation before sleep will work a lot better than a nightcap if you’re having difficulty getting to, and staying, asleep. 

Carbonated drinks are bad for you - FALSE

Your drink isn’t bad for you because it’s carbonated - it’s what’s added to that carbonated water base that’s doing the damage. What kind of carbonated drinks you are consuming is what matters here. Carbonated water, for example, will help quench your thirst, won’t add unnecessary calories, and can add variety to your water intake, especially if you’re not a fan of plain old water. Drinking sugary soft drinks isn’t a great idea as it can contribute unwanted calories to your daily intake, leading to weight gain, high blood pressure, cavities, and other issues. 

People with diabetes can’t eat sweets any more - FALSE

Some patients suffering with diabetes may still be able have the occasional sweet treat. Maintaining healthy blood glucose levels is all about balance when it comes to meals and snacks, which should include a mixture of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Please first consult with your doctor and always follow their advice if you suffer from this condition. 

CBHS-Food-Myths (8)Cranberry juice can cure a urinary tract infection - FALSE

Although drinking cranberry juice or taking supplements can help prevent infections in the first place, it won’t clear up an infection already in place. Infection-causing bacteria can be stopped from sticking to your bladder wall if you are drinking the juice consistently. However, if you have a bladder infection, please consult your doctor who will advise of the best course of action. 

Avoid milk if you are sick or have a cold - FALSE

The myth is that milk will increase mucous production, and therefore make you feel worse for wear if you have a cold or flu. Truth is, there is no link with milk causing this, and so if you’re not well and feel like drinking milk, you can go right ahead.

Frozen and canned vegetables are less nutritious than fresh produce - FALSE

Fresh produce is more nutritious than the frozen and canned goods, but only the moment it is picked. If you have the ability to get your fruits and vegetables straight from a farm or grow it yourself, it will likely have more nutrients than frozen or canned goods. When fresh produce goes through transportation to a store, the natural enzymes in the product are released and they lose nutritional value. Fruit and vegetables that are quick frozen keep most of their vitamin and mineral content better than their fresh counterparts. 

Comfort foods make you feel better if you’re feeling down - FALSE

When you’re feeling sad, lonely, or just had a rough day, a big plate of your favourite comfort food always makes you feel better, right? Not really. Whether it’s your favourite take-away meal or something quick and unhealthy whipped up at home, the fact remains there is nothing to suggest these foods actually lighten your mood. 

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