Food myths that just won't go away

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All of us receive a lot of information on a daily basis, just turn on the tv or radio and you'll be instantly updated with all the latest stuff. Same goes for new researches about claiming that one food is better than the other. Every week there are new findings on how product x really increases your health. Couple the above with stories that are passed on generation after generation, and you'll find that it's hard to separate fact from fiction. We've compiled a list of food myths that just won't go away that easily.

Food myth #1: Adding salt to water will speed up the boiling process

This is one of our favorite food myths, and we'll keep hearing about it again and again. Not just from home cooks, but also from professional chefs. Very strictly speaking, adding salt to water will slightly alter the boiling point. Rule of thumb is that the concentration of salt dissolved in water is directly related to the increase in the boiling point. In fact, if you actually want to change water's boiling point appreciably, you would have to add in so much salt to the point that the water will be nearly inedible.

The amount of salt that usually goes into water (usually a few pinches) while cooking will only alter the boiling point by a few tenths of a degree celsius at most. Even though that adding salt doesn't really do anything to the boiling point of water, it surely makes your pasta more tasty. We still recommend adding salt to water, but only to improve taste.

Food myth #2: Dairy is the best food for your bones

Most people confuse dairy with calcium, assuming they are one and the same thing. Dairy does contain calcium, but the same goes for dark-leafy greens. Milk is fortified with vitamin D like all other milk alternatives. To keep your bones healthy, you'd have to go further than to just drink milk. For example: vitamin K is very important for bone health. Fun fact is that dark-leafy greens actually contain this vitamin, where dairy doesn't. Another important role in bone health is played by magnesium. You can find magnesium in foods like almonds, cashew nuts and potatoes. I assume you've already noticed that dairy is not present in this list.

If you are really worried about your bone health, you can do two things: go see a doctor or make sure you get enough calcium in your diet. Milk and cheese are good sources of calcium, but they are by no means the only source. Digest as much dark-leafy greens and chug it down with a nice glass of milk. Finish with a lovely plate of cheese, and you'll be good to go!

Food myth #3: Don't use wooden cutting boards with meat or fish

I (Marco) must admit, I've told myself this repeatedly: don't use wooden cutting boards when handling meat or fish. The notion comes from the fact that knives leave behind tiny scratches in wooden cutting boards (also plastic ones, but that is not the case here). If you use the same wooden cutting board and cut meat and/or fish with it, surely all of the meat and/or fish juices will settle into those tiny cuts? And no matter how much and how well you scrub, those dirty germs aren't coming out of the cutting board.

For that reason, I always use plastic cutting boards. Unfortunately, there are a lot of researches disputing my notion. One of the most famous ones was conducted by the University of California: Davis, by Dean O. Cliver. You can see that in his research he clearly points out that there is absolutely no significant benefit from using a plastic cutting board over a wooden one.

He even states that if you apply bacteria to a wooden cutting board, its natural properties cause the bacteria to pass through the top layer of the wooden cutting board and settle inside. Since you can't reach them while cleaning, you'd have to actually split the cutting board open in order to remove the bacteria. And by that, you've destroyed your cutting board. Long story short, if you want to use a plastic cutting board, anti-bacterial properties are absolutely no reason to buy one. If you use a wooden cutting board, just don't be scared about bacterial infection. Just be sure to thoroughly clean your cutting board, plastic or wooden.

Food myth #4: Low fat foods are always better

It's a fact that without fat, the human body is not able to absorb a large amount of nutrients we need to survive. The low-fat vs. high fat food debate has been around for a long time. It's best to read labels and see for yourself what kind of fats are in the food. This way you can make an educated guess yourself, instead of instantly believing what's on the front of the label. As a matter of a fact, low-fat products are often advertised as the healthy choice. They actually can contain more sugars than the high fat products, which make the low-fat products even worse for your health.

A good intake of healthful fats are beneficial for cardiovascular health. Many low-fat diets are actually very high in sugars and refined carbohydrates (like white flour). Keep reading labels and make your own choice about what kind of foods you are willing to consume.

Food myth #5: Avoid all high-sodium salty tasting snacks

Most salty snacks have a high amount of sodium, so you should probably stay away from them. Previous statement is absolutely true for people who need to manage salt and sodium intake, because they are at risk for diabetes or hypertension. The big problem with managing sodium intake, is that not all high-sodium based foods taste salty. Most surface salts you find on pretzels and salted nuts are noticeable. So called stealth sodium is way harder to taste.

For this reason for a lot of people it is hard to believe that a Dunkin' Donuts corn muffin contains as much sodium as 9 chicken mc nuggets. Again, it's very important to read the labels as stated in food myth #4. Even when dining out it's possible to ask your waiter about high sodium foods.

Food myth #6: Your cholesterol levels will explode when eating eggs

A lot of times, a person diagnosed with high cholesterol levels will go out of her or his way to avoid eating eggs. This is unnecessary because your body's cholesterol levels are greatly influenced by certain saturated and trans fats. Eggs contain very little saturated fats, namely: 1.5 grams of fat per normal-sized egg. They also don't contain any trans fats! Avoiding eggs altogether means you are skipping on 13 naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. Also, eggs are very delicious!

Avoiding eggs in your diet won't change anything when you're concerned about cholesterol levels. If anything, it will do more harm to you, because you are missing out on the obvious health benefits they have. Yolk does contain a lot of cholesterol, but very little actually makes it into your bloodstream (where it matters).

Food myth #7: Don't eat after 6, 7 or 8 PM

Not eating after these hours are just a silly weight-loss gimmick. What really matters most is that you're eating small portions throughout the day. It's just not true that food magically turns into fat after 6, 7 or 8 PM. This myth actually comes from not completely understanding how human digestion works. If you eat (too) late and go to bed on a full stomach, your body's metabolism will slow down and the food that you just ate will be turned into fat rather than energy. This is only partially true, and not universally applicable to every human being.

Your metabolism does slow down when you go to sleep (which is a good thing), but it doesn't stop. Your body will still digest the delicious food stuffs trough the night, albeit slower. If you have a diet where your meal will most likely turn into fat rather than energy, eating at 5 PM versus 7 PM is not going to change any of that. In essence, you are just eating less overall when skipping breakfast after going to bed on a full stomach. Keep your blood sugar balanced with small(er) meals, thus increasing calory intake during the day. This is a way more succesful approach for body weight maintenance and general alertness.

Food myth #8: Wine is better than beer and liquor

Wine does have health benefits when properly managed. It's widely accepted that all alcohol (when consumed in moderate doses) can raise levels of HDL (high density lipoprotein, or the good cholesterol). This protects the heart against plaque that can build up which may cause heart attacks. Europeans have proven that 1 or 2 alcoholic beverages help to reduce the risk of heart diseases. This does not only apply to wine, but to beer and other liquor too.

Just don't start developing an alcohol problem just yet, a glass of wine or a couple of beers can actually reduce risk for heart disease when combined with a good diet and exercise. The one thing to keep in mind is the amount of calories you take in when drinking wine, beer or liquor.

We could go on and on about more food myths, and the above list has only scratched the surface of topics. We're curious to know what your favorite food myths are. Leave your thoughts by using the comment form on this page.

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