10 Food Myths Debunked

10 Food Myths Debunked
Katie Johnson

We've all heard our fair share of food-based fables: watermelon seeds growing inside your stomach, bread crusts turning your hair curly...

But how many of these old wives' tales are actually true? We sought expert advice from the Arizona State University School of Nutrition and Health Promotion. Offering their professional two cents are: Director Linda Vaughan, PhD, RD; Professor/ Associate Director Carol Johnston, PhD, RD; and Senior Lecturer/Registered Dietitian Rick Hall, MS, RD In some cases, the experts disagreed -- so we'll give you both sides and let you decide.

See Also: Is Organic Food Better For You Than Non-Organic Food? Good News: Coffee Might Extend Your Life. Bad News: Sugar Might Make You Dumb

Eating yogurt improves bad breath.

Vaughan: "It just might! If a person eats yogurt every day, the 'healthy' bacteria in the yogurt tend to overwhelm the odor causing bacteria that had been present in the mouth. Eating yogurt might also lower risk of gingivitis or gum disease."

Milk whitens teeth.

Vaughan: "Not by itself. Milk is a great source of protein, calcium and vitamin D, all needed for healthy teeth but if teeth are already yellowed due to smoking, poor dental health, genetics, aging or other reasons, milk alone won't whiten/brighten teeth."

Chocolate makes your skin break out.

Vaughan: "No, there is really no link at all between chocolate and acne. Virtually all forms of acne are hormonally caused and chocolate has nothing to do with it."

10 Food Myths Debunked
Katie Johnson

You shouldn't have red meat more than once a week.

Hall: "False. While there is evidence that over-consumption of saturated fats found in red meat may increase risks of some chronic diseases, consuming beef a few times a week is not in itself detrimental. Choosing cuts that have less saturated fats is smart; and using a marinade when cooking on a grill reduces potential carcinogens associated with outdoor grilling."

Vaughan: "Red meat is a great source of zinc and iron, two minerals that tend to be low in the diets of many American females. It is also a great source of high quality protein. If lean beef/red meat is chosen then there is little or no "down side" to having red meat more than once a week. What are examples of lean beef? 97% fat free ground beef, beef round (eye of round, top round), top sirloin, etc. Keep portions to 3 ounces/meal."

Johnston: "Substituting fish and poultry for red meat reduces saturated fat intake over time and is likely to help reduce blood cholesterol concentrations. Also, reducing red meat consumption will reduce one's 'carbon footprint'. Hence, reducing meat consumption is environmentally friendly. "


Carrots can give you better eyesight.... and orange skin.

Vaughan: "Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which converts to Vitamin A (retinol) as needed. If a person eats too many carrots or drinks too much carrot juice (or other vegetables/fruits very high in beta-carotene), the palms of the hand, soles of the feet and other areas of skin will turn a strange orange. Think of the shade of a really bad spray on tan!"

Johnston: "Vitamin A (retinal) travels to the eye and optimizes vision in dim light. Vitamin A is also important for mucus secretion keeping our skins and eyes moist.

In severe vitamin A deficiency not only is night vision impacted, total vision may be jeopardized if the eyeball dries out and is permanently damaged. "

10 Food Myths Debunked
Katie Johnson

You should swallow honey to cure a sore throat.

Vaughan: "No, it feels good when you swallow it but it doesn't have any long term impact. Strangely, putting honey on skin wounds or burns does help heal those tissues! Honey has a strong anti-bacterial affect but it needs to be in contact with the affected tissue for longer than the time it takes to swallow a spoonful of honey down your throat."  

10 Food Myths Debunked
Katie Johnson

Soda rots your teeth. Literally?

Vaughan: "Sodas are highly acidic and high in phosphates, both of which can erode tooth enamel over time. Some food additives used can also increase tooth enamel breakdown. These harmful effects are seen in regular and diet sodas. Regular sodas have the problem of added sugar (which feeds bacteria in your mouth, forming even more acid). What to do? Limit intake of soda, use a straw when you do drink soda, rinse your mouth with water after drinking soda."

It's impossible to drink an entire gallon of milk.

Vaughan: "Stomach capacity for most adults is about one liter but maximum capacity (be warned: there is a lot of discomfort when someone reaches max capacity!) can be as much as 2-4 liters depending upon body size.

One gallon = 3.8 liters so most people would have a very, very hard time drinking an entire gallon of milk at one time. Most people would start to vomit before reaching the bottom of the gallon bottle."

If you swallow gum, it will stay in your system...for years.

Vaughan: "No, the gum is either excreted in feces/stool or gut bacteria ferment the components in the gum that our human digestive enzymes have not already digested."  

A glass of red wine everyday is good for you.

Vaughan: "Not for everyone; for some women, even one drink/day increases their risk of breast cancer and in some adults, even one drink per day increases blood pressure."

Johnston: "Red wine is an excellent source of resveratrol, a phytochemical that has shown anticancer and antiaging effects in cell culture and animal models. Research is still underway to determine if these benefits occur in humans as well. Moderate alcohol ingestion is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease in humans - hence, other alcoholic beverages (in moderation) may be considered healthful, not just red wine."

Hall: "The phytonutrients in red grapes have protective characteristics that reduce inflammation and risks of certain heart diseases. People who consume 1-2 glasses of red wine on a regular basis may benefit from these nutrients. However, moderation is key.

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ASU School of Nutrition and Health Promotion

502 E. Monroe St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004


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