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9 Myths About Food You Probably Think Are True

author image Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN
Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN, is a chef, nutritionist, recipe developer, media personality and award-winning cookbook author. She’s a cooking instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education and frequent contributor to Rachael Ray Every Day magazine. Her newest book is the second edition of "The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook." Instagram/Twitter: @jackienewgent

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9 Myths About Food You Probably Think Are True
We’re myth-busting nine foodie falsehoods. Photo Credit: KucherAV/iStock/GettyImages

Some things, such as family heirlooms and old photographs, get passed down from generation to generation and are meant to be cherished. But when those things are food myths, they deserve to be downright busted. Some tales seem to be cyclical — like the one about carbs being good or evil. Or fat being good or evil. Or salt. Or there are the ones you heard as a kid and believed them to be true because a trusted adult told you as much.

Say NO to food fairytales. It’s time for some major myth-busting. Check out nine of the most irritating food and beverage lies, and find out once and for all the real truth as we dive into the facts.

Myth 1: Gum Takes 7 Years to Digest
Does it really take seven years for gum to be digested by the human body? Photo Credit: Rawpixel Ltd/iStock/GettyImages

Myth 1: Gum Takes 7 Years to Digest

We’ve all heard the tale that it takes seven years for gum to be digested by the human body, but it’s unclear when or how this myth got started. And why seven years? In any case, you’ll be pleased to know that if you accidentally swallow chewing gum, it’ll go through the same digestion process, at the same pace, as anything else you eat. Enzymes will break down most of it, and the rest will be eliminated. So if you’re just a sporadic gum swallower, no harm, no foul.

The key here is “sporadic.” According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there have been a couple of rare cases in which young kids have had intestinal distress due to blockages caused by gum, but only after regularly swallowing chewing gum over a short period of time. The bottom line: Don’t make chewing gum your entree of choice, but swallowing an occasional piece is not dangerous for healthy people. And if you choose to chew gum, do it at work. Research suggests that doing so may boost attention and work performance.

Read more: Cut Calories With These 9 “Pasta” Poser Recipes

Myth 2: Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day
Water plays an integral role for the human body, but eight glasses a day is just an estimate, not a rule. Photo Credit: stocksy/Studio Firma

Myth 2: Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day

Sure, go ahead and aim to drink eight glasses of H2O every day. The zero-calorie drink quenches thirst and plays a vital role in maintaining body temperature, ridding waste and much more. But drinking eight cups of water daily is only a rough estimate, not a rule. Fluid needs vary based on age, sex, weight, activity level and climate and will vary from day to day. Plus, you can satisfy your body’s need for fluid with more than plain ol’ water.

According to the National Academies of Engineering and Sciences, most healthy people can meet daily hydration needs by letting thirst guide them. The report also provided general guidelines for women to consume about 91 ounces (roughly 11.5 cups) of total water from all beverages and foods daily. For men? Aim to drink about 125 ounces (approximately 15.5 cups) daily. If you’re eating a lot of produce, know that it has a high water content and contributes to your overall goal. So eat right and drink whenever you’re thirsty or, better yet, before you’re thirsty.

Read more: 10 Low-Carb Breakfasts That Will Fill You Up

Myth 3: Cooking Veggies Destroys Nutrients
Cooking vegetables may enhance their nutritional value. Photo Credit: Ogdum/iStock/GettyImages

Myth 3: Cooking Veggies Destroys Nutrients

Thinking about trying the raw-food diet? It turns out that may not always be the best way to get the most from your veggies, at least from carrots and tomatoes. Not only are a significant amount of nutrients retained in veggies throughout the cooking process, in some cases cooking makes nutrients more available, not less.

A study from the National Center of Biotechnology Information suggests that steaming carrots until medium firm can increase beta carotene by 40 percent. And another study found that heating (or thermal processing) tomatoes can enhance their lycopene content. This happens because heat breaks down cellular walls that typically “trap” nutrients like beta carotene and lycopene. Bottom line? Eat cooked (think al dente, not mushy) vegetables and raw vegetables too.

Read more: 10 Smoothies That Won’t Spike Your Blood Sugar

Myth 4: Sulfites in Wine Cause Headaches
Wine-induced headaches are very real, but the reason you think causes them may be false. Photo Credit: Kerkez/iStock/GettyImages

Myth 4: Sulfites in Wine Cause Headaches

Is your throbbing head the result of that glass (or glasses) of wine you drank last night? While there are naturally occurring chemicals in wine associated with headaches, sulfites are not to blame.

Alcohol acts as a vasodilator and a natural diuretic. Mild dehydration from a night of overimbibing alcoholic beverages can trigger headaches as well. But the real culprit when it comes to wine? Histamines or tannins present in wine are more likely the cause of a wine drinker’s headache. Sulfites can trigger shortness of breath or other allergy symptoms for those sensitive to sulfites. If that’s the case, look for USDA-certified organic wines with no sulfites added (NSA); they’ll contain less than 10 parts per million of sulfites. But if it’s an aching head that you’re complaining about, it’s not the sulfites.

Read more: LIVESTRONG’s 2018 Wellness Guide

Myth 5: Wash Chicken to Remove Bacteria
Washing chicken increases the likely chance for a foodborne illness. Photo Credit: OksanaKiian/iStock/GettyImages

Myth 5: Wash Chicken to Remove Bacteria

It’s probably something you saw your mom or dad do, or perhaps it was a grandma. In fact, this advice has been around for decades — rinsing chicken under running water before cooking it, that is. But this is one time you can tell grandma or your parents that they’re doing it all wrong.

First, water won’t wash away bacteria; cooking chicken or other poultry to the proper internal temperature (165°F) is the only thing that gets rid of it. Second, washing off chicken can cause “bad” bacteria from uncooked poultry to splatter onto countertops and beyond. Anything that’s within three feet of the sink is fair game. This rinsing habit increases the likelihood of foodborne illness due to cross-contamination, which occurs when a ready-to-eat food comes in contact with uncooked poultry, meat or fish, for instance. Research from Drexel University supports this safer “no-rinse” approach. The school even produced a “Don’t Wash Your Chicken!” campaign.

Read more: 4 Cereals That Are Terrible for You (and 5 Better Options)

Myth 6: Salt Is Bad for You
Salt is essential for your body to function, but too much salt is a bad thing. Photo Credit: YelenaYemchuk/iStock/GettyImages

Myth 6: Salt Is Bad for You

Salt isn’t inherently dangerous for you. In fact, it’s fundamentally good. First, know that table salt contains sodium. One teaspoon salt contains 2,300 milligrams of sodium. Your body needs sodium to manage blood volume, regulate blood pressure and maintain proper functioning of nerves and muscles. It’s vital for the human body to operate.

So why does salt get such a bad rap? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Americans often consume it in excess — more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily. Too much sodium in a diet can contribute to high blood pressure and heighten the risk for stroke and heart disease. And according to the American Heart Association, about 70 percent of that sodium comes from processed and restaurant food. In general, the “2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans” recommends consuming less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. So salt isn’t bad for you — but too much salt can be.

Read more: The Impossible Burger Can Change the Planet and Has Us Obsessed

Myth 7: Fruit Juice Is Sugar Water
Avoid fruit juice that isn’t made with 100 percent fruit. Photo Credit: Rohappy/iStock/GettyImages

Myth 7: Fruit Juice Is Sugar Water

Fruit punch and other fruity drinks are most often glorified water with artificial fruit-like colors, flavors and added sugars. Sometimes they’re completely free of fruit. Fortunately, 100 percent real fruit juice contains just the fruit and nothing but the fruit! For the full health benefits, choose 100 percent real fruit juice and not something with labeling lingo like “contains 5 percent fruit juice.”

While eating whole fruit is the number-one choice recommended by nutrition professionals, drinking 100 percent fruit juice counts as a fruit serving too. What you may not know is that some companies process the whole fruit into juice, so you get benefits from the fruit peels as well. For instance, there’s a significant amount of hesperidin in 100 percent orange juice. Hesperidin is a powerful polyphenol found in high levels in orange peels and membranes; it offers potential heart health and cognitive benefits.

Listen now: Why America’s Obsession With Happiness Is Totally Stressing Us Out

Myth 8: Avoid Eating Egg Yolks
Turns out that eating the yolk of an egg doesn’t impact cholesterol as previously believed. Photo Credit: Derkien/iStock/GettyImages

Myth 8: Avoid Eating Egg Yolks

Eating the egg white without the yolk is like wearing pants but forgetting your top — it’s rather incomplete. Why eat the whole egg? You get high-quality protein in egg whites; but, you’ll get several heart-friendly nutrients in the yolk, such as choline, lutein, zeaxanthin, omega-3s and even a little more protein. And, yes, you do get cholesterol just in the yolk.

But according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, cholesterol in the diet has no appreciable impact on LDL (“bad”) blood cholesterol; saturated and trans fat in the diet can have an impact. In fact, there’s no longer a dietary cholesterol limit of 300 milligrams per day in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. High blood cholesterol is often associated with “bad” genes coupled with lifestyle factors like unhealthful eating patterns, lack of exercise, smoking or excess body weight.

Read more: 9 Chocolate Desserts That Are Actually Good for You

Myth 9: Celery Is a “Negative-Calorie” Food
Go ahead and chew on celery, but don’t believe you are burning more calories than you’re ingesting.

Myth 9: Celery Is a “Negative-Calorie” Food

This myth has been around forever, although there’s nothing harmful about it. Regardless, it’s helpful to know the facts. According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one large (11- to 12-inch) celery stalk provides 10 calories.

At the same time, have you heard about the thermic effect of food (TEF), also called diet-induced thermogenesis? Technically, it’s the energy expended above fasting level divided by the food’s energy content. Think of it as calories burned due to the entire digestive process (eating, digestion and metabolism) of food. For instance, if the TEF of celery is about 10 percent, that stalk of celery provides nine calories, not the 10 you were led to believe, which is great. But that still doesn’t mean celery has negative or even zero calories.

Read more: How to Make the Avocado Art That Instagram Is Obsessed With

Do YOU Think?
What do you think? Photo Credit: Milkos/iStock/GettyImages

What Do YOU Think?

Did any of these myths surprise you? Is there another food myth that drives you crazy? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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