13 Outlandish Food Myths You Shouldn’t Fall For
Have you heard a “fact” or two about food and nutrition that just doesn’t make much sense? Whether you’ve heard that a Thanksgiving turkey can put you to sleep or a piece of gum stays in your stomach for 7 years, there are plenty of tall food tales out there.
And some are particularly outlandish. If you’re wondering which food facts are true and which are total myths, we have the answers.
1. An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
You’ve definitely heard this popular refrain – it’s often recited to children in an effort to get them to eat healthier snacks like apples instead of chips, cookies, or other processed snacks. But no matter how great it sounds, a single apple each day isn’t going to keep you healthy.
While apples are rich in important nutrients, the truth is one apple can’t fulfill your nutritional needs. And it shouldn’t keep you from seeing a doctor. There are many, many ailments that require a doctor’s care. Don’t make the mistake of avoiding necessary treatments just because you eat apples often.
2. Chewing Gum Takes 7 Years to Digest
Many parents try to stop their children from swallowing chewing gum with a slightly scary myth: if it’s swallowed, you’ll have to live with it in your stomach for 7 years.
But this myth is completely untrue. While chewing gum is definitely different from all other foods, it’s indigestible. That means when it’s swallowed, it comes out in your stool. We probably don’t even notice when it happens. Swallowed gum is only harmful when it happens in large quantities, or if a person has a pre-existing intestinal blockage.
3. Watermelon Seeds Will Grow in Your Stomach
As a kid, you were probably frightened by this myth: if you accidentally eat the seeds from foods watermelon, they’ll grow into a fruit in your stomach. This myth, which appeared on popular children’s TV shows, is pretty prevalent, but it’s entirely untrue.
Any seed that’s swallowed passes through our body, just like gum. It painlessly comes out the other end. Our stomachs are full of acid, and plants need light and air to grow – so there’s no way a seed could turn into a flourishing fruit plant.
4. Swimming Within an Hour of Eating Gives You Cramps
Another common food-related myth, even among adults, is that it’s a really bad idea to go swimming within an hour of eating a meal. The wisdom behind this myth is that your stomach is so busy digesting foods, there’s no blood left to carry oxygen to your muscles. And that can lead to paralyzing, potentially fatal cramps.
But the “fact” that blood leaves your extremities to travel to your stomach while you’re digesting food is simply untrue. Muscle cramps are caused by a variety of factors, including electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. So, if you do have a big meal, make sure you drink plenty of water before you head back out to swim.
5. A Popular Food Flavoring Comes from Beavers’ Butts
Ever heard of castoreum? It’s a popular scent used in flavorings and perfumes – and it comes from the anal gland of a beaver.
And for a while, there was a rumor that castoreum was used to flavor vanilla ice cream. This outraged animal rights activists, as well as people who just didn’t want beaver anal secretions in their favorite dessert. It turns out that while castoreum is a popular scent, it’s extremely expensive. It’s primarily used within the luxury perfume industry, so your food is perfectly safe.
6. Sugar and Chocolate Are Aphrodisiacs
In the 19th century, the sugar industry tried to attract new customers with a variety of elaborate marketing ploys. Sugar companies started advertising that sugar and chocolate were powerful aphrodisiacs that could help women feel more amorous. The Kellogg corporation even claimed that its candy and spices were able to “powerfully excite” genitals, leading to increased thoughts of and desire for sex.
While sugar and chocolate do taste great, there’s no proof they stimulate our sexual appetites. Don’t expect to get anything other than some satisfaction for your sweet tooth!
7. Mixing Energy Drinks and Alcohol Gets You Drunker
When Red Bull and other highly-caffeinated energy drinks became popular in the early 2000s, there were plenty of myths circulating about them. One of the most common was that mixing an energy drink with alcohol made you drunker.
While it’s true that an energy drink with added alcohol will make you feel more energized, this kind of cocktail won’t actually raise your blood alcohol level. What likely happens is those who mix energy drinks and alcohol feel like they’re sober because they’re more energetic, so they overindulge without realizing.
8. Drinking Soda Will Burn a Hole in Your Stomach
Many parents try to encourage children to drink healthier beverages by telling the little white lie that soda burns holes in your stomach. Because soda is so sugary and acidic, this myth seems like it makes a lot of sense.
But while it’s true that sodas like Coke and Pepsi are high in sugar and have almost no nutritional value, there’s no way these drinks would ever burn a hole in your stomach. It’s possible that people with peptic ulcers or acid reflux could find that soda exacerbates their condition, but soda alone doesn’t cause these conditions.
9. Carrots Help You See in the Dark
Carrots get a lot of attention for a vegetable. You’ve likely been told eating carrots will help you see in the dark or achieve better vision. Unfortunately, you probably heard these myths from your well-meaning parents who were just trying to get you to eat your vegetables.
Carrots are rich in vitamin A, which does have a connection to vision. Vitamin A is necessary for your eyes to operate in low light. But even if you eat a dozen carrots per day for your whole life, you’ll never develop the ability to see in complete darkness – and you won’t be able to correct your poor vision.
10. There Are Bugs in Your Strawberry Frappucino
While this myth was technically based in fact, you can rest assured – if you order a strawberry Frappucino from Starbucks, it’s now 100 percent bug free.
This myth originated when it was revealed that Starbucks’ strawberry Frappucino was colored with a red dye made from cochineal, a deeply-colored paste made from minuscule red bugs. Once people found out what cochineal was, there was such an outcry that Starbucks switched its dye. However, plenty of other food products are still made with cochineal.
11. The Five-Second Rule
Anyone who’s ever dropped a delicious treat on the floor knows the "five second rule". It’s the justification that most of us use for eating food off the floor – as long as we pick it up quickly, it’s still safe to eat.
However, it’ll disappoint you to learn that bacteria can contaminate food within a millisecond of touching it. Even a split-second on the floor can contaminate food, so it’s likely that your kitchen floor isn’t clean enough to eat from.
12. Chocolate Causes Acne
A myth that’s often repeated by anxious teenagers and breakout-prone adults is eating chocolate causes acne. People who believe in this myth think that abstaining from this delicious treat will help clear up spotty skin.
While there are a lot of things that influence the look and feel of our skin, fortunately chocolate doesn’t appear to be one of them. Studies done as far back as 1969 have shown that no amount of chocolate has any effect on acne.
13. Turkey Causes Sleepiness
Many people blame their post-Thanksgiving or Christmas naps on tryptophan, an amino acid that triggers physical relaxation. Since many people overindulge in turkey, the common wisdom is that the tryptophan is responsible.
However, the amount of tryptophan found in turkey is roughly the same as many other foods, including chicken, eggs, fish, and milk. Cheddar cheese actually has more tryptophan than turkey. The amount of tryptophan also isn’t enough to induce sleep – it’s likely that the large amounts of carbs and alcohol we ingest that actually causes holiday meal sleepiness.
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