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14 Nutrition Myths and Facts: Busting Open the Rumor Mill

woman-healthy-groceries

Are these claims myth, fact or still up for debate? See what you think, and then scroll down for our experts' takes.

Nutrition Rumors

1. Bottled water better is for you than tap.
2. You should eat fruit on an empty stomach.
3. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables have more vitamins than those that aren't as colorful.
4. The more sugar you eat, the more you crave.
5. Even if you're not on a low-carb diet, you should keep your carb intake low.
6. Milk products are bad for an upset stomach.
7. Too much cheese can make you constipated.
8. Soda leeches calcium from your bones.
9. Foods can affect your memory.

Food Safety Rumors

10. It’s OK to drink out of a stream as long as it looks and smells clean and the water is running quickly.
11. You shouldn’t feed honey to babies.
12. Drinking alcohol with a meal can help prevent food poisoning.
13. You shouldn’t use plastic in the microwave because this can cause cancer.
14. Chlorine in tap water can cause cancer.

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Answers: Nutrition

1. Bottled water better is for you than tap.
False

Federal agencies regulate both bottled and tap water, so one is not necessarily safer than the other. Make your choice based on cost, convenience and taste.

Your tap water may taste better if you put a filter on the faucet. Also, keep in mind that most tap water contains fluoride, which protects the teeth from cavities, and bottled water usually does not. If your children rely mostly on bottled water, make sure their dentist knows.
Weisenberger


2. You should eat fruit on an empty stomach.
Still up for debate

This rumor seems based on traditional Indian diet principals and has made its way into American popular culture through various diet fads that advocate nonmixing of foods due to concern regarding putrification of such mixed foods in the stomach. (I see stomachs daily and have never found putrification of contents).

In a review of scientific studies, I didn’t find any evidence-based support for this claim. If eating fruit apart from other foods makes you feel healthier, I have no objection—as long as you eat enough!
Raymond


3. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables have more vitamins than those that aren’t as colorful.
Myth

This one's not true. Consider cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes, onions and leeks. The key to ensuring proper nutrition is not brightness but variety. Eat the rainbow—from purple to green to white.

Produce gets color from phytochemicals, the natural chemicals that help protect plants from environmental toxins. These same phytochemicals also potentially impart several health benefits to humans, namely helping with cancer prevention, memory function, eye health, bone formation, heart health and much more.
Stokes


4. The more sugar you eat, the more you crave.
True

Eating sweets quickly raises the level of the feel-good brain chemical serotonin. You keep eating sugar to keep that serotonin level from falling—or combat it when it does.

To avoid this roller coaster, choose complex carbohydrates (baked potatoes, whole-grain bread, whole-grain crackers), which will induce a more even serotonin production.
Bareuther


5. Even if you're not on a low-carb diet, you should keep your carb intake low.
False
bagels-assortment

Your muscles and brain and just about every other part of you need carbohydrates to function properly. In fact, about half of your calories should come from carbs.

What really matters is the source of those carbohydrates. They should be primarily fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and low-fat milk and yogurt. Much less should come from sweetened drinks, white bread, desserts, chips, snack crackers, and other junk and baked goods.

Of course, every good diet has room for something that’s just for fun. So enjoy your favorite junky food. Just make it small.
Weisenberger


6. Milk products are bad for an upset stomach.
True

Milk’s high protein and fat content slow stomach emptying—not a great thing if you’re nauseated. But this applies to any food that takes a while to digest. Milk gets singled out because in some people, a bug that causes vomiting and diarrhea may also cause a temporary lactase deficiency in the small intestines. Lactase is the enzyme you need to digest milk. This deficiency does not help with the diarrhea.

Besides, ever clean up curdled milk vomit?
Raymond


7. Too much cheese can make you constipated.
True

But … cheese always gets an unfair rap when constipation is the topic. It’s the lack of fiber if you consume a whole wad of cheese, and not something specific to cheese, that causes the trouble. Try eating it with whole-grain crackers and crudités (cut raw vegetables), and you should be fine. —Raymond


8. Soda leeches calcium from your bones.
Still up for debate

Much played up in the popular press, there has never been any definitive proof that the plentiful amount of phosphorus or caffeine found in sodas harms bones. What is certain is that when soda replaces calcium-rich beverages, such as fortified juice or milk, calcium deficiency can result, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
Bareuther


9. Foods can affect your memory.

True

A lifetime of regular consumption of caffeinated beverages has been associated with staving off age-related memory loss for women but not men. A diet high in fruits, vegetables and fish oil may have the same effect for both men and women. Glucose from carbohydrate-based foods has been shown repeatedly to enhance memory in the short term. This is the basis of recommendations that all kids eat breakfast before going to school.
Wheeler

 

Answers: Food Safety

10. It’s OK to drink out of a stream as long as it looks and smells clean and the water is running quickly.
False

The water may still contain bacteria or parasites like Giardia. If you can’t carry all the water you need for a long hike or camping trip, buy a water filter and/or bring water treatment tablets with you.
Briggs


11. You shouldn’t feed honey to babies.

True

Honey may contain Clostridium botulinum spores. Babies less than a year old who eat these bacteria can develop infant botulism, a rare, treatable, but life-threatening condition that weakens muscles.

Older children and adults tend to handle botulinum spores just fine.
Bareuther


12. Drinking alcohol with a meal can help prevent food poisoning.
Still up for debate

Small studies have suggested that it’s possible—especially if you drink a lot of it. Of course, lots of alcohol can also cause stomach irritation, called alcoholic gastritis, along with all sorts of other problems.
Raymond


13. You shouldn’t use plastic in the microwave because this can cause cancer.
Still up for debate

There's no scientific, peer-reviewed data to support this claim. We do know that plastic can release chemicals, though, so look for a “microwave safe” indication. This means that at least the Food and Drug Administration has said it’s OK for this purpose.
Kornmehl


14. Chlorine in tap water can cause cancer.
Still up for debate

After chlorine is added to drinking water, chemicals called trihalomethanes (THMs) form. There may be a link between long-term exposure (35 years or more) to high levels of THMs (substantially higher than the permissible amount in most municipalities) and a higher risk of bladder and colon cancer. The data are not sufficient to draw a conclusion though.
Kornmehl



The Experts

CAROL M. BAREUTHER, R.D., nutritionist, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

EVA F. BRIGGS, M.D., board-certified family doctor, Marcellus, N.Y.

CAROL L. KORNMEHL, M.D., board-certified radiation oncologist, St. Mary’s Passaic Hospital, New Jersey; author, The Best News About Radiation Therapy.

D. MILTON STOKES, M.P.H., R.D., C.D.N., registered dietitian, One Source Nutrition, Norwalk, Conn.; spokesperson, American Dietetic Association.

JILL WEISENBERGER, M.S., R.D., C.D.E., registered dietitian and consultant to the food industry with Jill Weisenberger Health Communications.

CLAIRE MICHAELS WHEELER, M.D., Ph.D., integrative psychologist (focusing on writing and teaching); author, 10 Simple Solutions to Stress.



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Last updated and/or approved: January 2012.
Original article appeared in various issues of the former print magazine. Bios current as of those issues. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.

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written by Bruce , February 08, 2012

I have wondered about some of these myths like fruit putrification in the stomach and low-carb intake recommendations. It seems unproven diet fads and theories have a way of spreading and becoming ingrained our thinking about healthy lifestyles. Its great to get a clear no-nonsense answer on these matters. Thanks!
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Take care with mayonnaise
written by Bill Robinson , May 15, 2011

I have just returned from visiting a sick friend - she is suffering from salmonella poisoning. Doctors have traced the contamination to a home-made egg mayonnaise. Here in Spain, with temperatures currently reaching 36c (and it's only May), conditions are rife for bacteria to multiply very easily and quickly.


What are the ideal safe conditions for making and storing such products?

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written by recognition plaque , November 05, 2010

There are so many myths when it comes to nutrition & health & more often than not older people think they know everything. For me, the safest way to deal with these things is to consult your doctor about it & not just assume.
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