Food Myths: Busted

The definition of a food myth found on Urban Dictionary reads:

“The little white lies women tell themselves in the pursuit of eating smarter or better. Usually when they settle for lesser options of foods they love or know are good for them.”

But it’s not only women who tell themselves little white lies about the foods they eat. EVERYONE does it. (Yes, even me.) We’ve all seen reports on the news or read articles online proclaiming one food fad or another, but how many of these food myths can truly be trusted?

Common Food Myths

Let’s take a look at a few common food myths that are long due to be busted…

Butter

Oh, you mean the nectar of the gods? That golden ambrosia sent from the heavens? (Obviously, I’m a fan.) There are those who will try to tell you that butter is supposed to be bad for your health in comparison to alternatives like margarine, but it’s high time that myth was properly busted!

Butter has been a part of the human diet for thousands of years. Yet it’s only in the last 40 years or so that we have begun to view butter as unhealthy. Upon closer examination, you’ll find that it’s the low-fat craze of the groovy 70’s that might be to blame. It’s also around this time that mass production of highly processed vegetable oils and margarines began, and many homes adopted these new alternatives to butter in hopes to lower their fat intake. Butter was said to clog arteries and raise cholesterol, and took much of the blame for the time period’s epidemic rise in heart disease. This is a myth we can confidently confirm to be false.

Unlike its “healthier” counterparts, butter is not highly processed, and it contains many fat-soluble vitamins that vegetable oil and margarine lack. The truth is, butter is just as good for you, if not better, than its most common alternatives. So feel free to welcome it back to your table. If you can find higher quality butter it really is worth its weight, and contains more of those fat-soluble vitamins than other versions. Continue to practice moderation, though. Too much any good thing is a bad idea.

Coffee

Despite the common myth that coffee is not good for us, it still remains a staple in most American homes. There are coffee shops dotting every roadway which offer whipped-cream covered Frappes and sweet Caramel Mochas, but these sugary treats are not what I’m talking about when I say “Coffee”. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t turn down a nice French Vanilla Latte if offered, but today we’re talking about classic, strong black coffee.

Despite what you may have heard, you can drink as many as four 8 ounce cups of coffee per day before you have any need to worry about health concerns, assuming that you don’t have any adverse reactions to caffeine. In fact, coffee has many positive health benefits and is a reliable source of antioxidants. There are even newer recipes, such as Bulletproof Coffee, which are taking the health world by storm with claims of overwhelming health and wellbeing benefits.

So if you can stand to take your coffee black, without all the additive syrups and sugars, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t partake. Drink up!

High Fructose Corn Syrup

You’ve probably heard a little something about the evils of high fructose corn syrup in comparison to sugar. But you may not have heard that both cause the exact same spikes in insulin production, and they both contain the same amount of calories. The myth that high fructose corn syrup is any worse for you than sugar is completely false.

High fructose corn syrup can be found most often in processed foods, mostly because it is a cheaper sweetener than sugar. It is essentially the same as sugar, except that it contains a slightly different structure of glucose and fructose. This means that it is nutritionally that same as sugar in basically every way, and one is no better or worse for you than the other.

There is, of course, a need to limit all sugar consumption in our everyday diet. This can be incredibly difficult, simply because there is way too much sugar present in almost everything we eat. But any type of sugar, regardless of type, is fine in moderation. Cutting back on soda and processed foods with high sweetener content is a smart choice no matter how you slice it.

Salt

If you’ve ever despaired at hearing the myth that encourages you to restrict salt in your cooking, buck up. This myth is false.

Salt is a basic nutrient that all humans need to survive. On the list of things that your body needs to be healthy, consider it non-negotiable. The reason this myth became popular is not because salt is bad for you, but because our culture simply uses entirely too much of it.

How much is too much?

Despite what most people believe, most of your daily salt intake does not come from home cooked meals or direct from the salt shaker. The majority of the salt we consume is found in processed foods, added in huge amounts as a preservative and to make the food taste better.

Most of us have a weakness for at least one of these nutritional disasters. (Can you say “potato chips”?) And if you can cut these overly processed foods from your diet that is where you will really see the difference.

Of course, there are certain health concerns, such as high blood pressure, that do require a lower dose of salt in your daily diet. But taking salt out of your recipes and off of the table is not likely to make a big dent. Instead, switching to more home cooked meals and cutting down on processed foods can dramatically lower your sodium intake. So, while less salt in general in not the answer, lowering your salt intake from processed foods is always the right choice.

Dark Chocolate

Have you ever heard the myth that dark chocolate can cause weight loss? If this myth were true, I’d be bathing in the stuff. Unfortunately, this myth is just too good to be true.

Dark chocolate does contain vitamins and minerals our body needs, such as iron, magnesium, and many others. These are healthy in moderation, but there are no significant, controlled studies that prove dark chocolate has any magical weight loss properties.

Of course, if you were to simply run a Google search on dark chocolate and weight loss, you’d probably find a plethora of fake studies and unsupported claims that will tell you these mystical powers do exist. Many readers believe these claims and spread them through social media and word of mouth, perpetuating the myth.

That’s not to say dark chocolate does not have any health benefits at all. As I said, it’s very high in the minerals and vitamins that we need for our daily health. Just remember to enjoy in moderation, and don’t expect it to do anything to help with your weight loss goals.

Sum-up

These are just a few of the numerous food myths you can find on the internet today, and there will be more new myths tomorrow. The important thing to remember is that not everything you read online, or even in your grandmother’s cookbook, is true. Always be skeptical of new myths and do your own research before adjusting your diet to accommodate them. Look for legitimate studies to confirm any claim, and as always – use your common sense!

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