As misinformation about food proliferates on social media and online, it’s more important than ever to counter these myths with science-based evidence. RDNs are the original food-myth busters, so in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, we’re sharing 100 food myths and the facts that refute them.
Busted! Carbohydrates, an important source of fuel, essential nutrients, and dietary fiber, are critical to a balanced diet. But not all carbs are created equal—complex carbohydrates often contain more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than simple carbohydrates, and carbohydrates with a high glycemic index can cause a spike in blood sugar.
Busted! Carrageenan has been used by home cooks for hundreds of years and is approved for use by regulatory bodies around the world (including in infant formula, one of the most strictly regulated foods). Numerous scientific studies and decades of widespread use show that it is a safe food ingredient, and research proves it does not cause inflammation in humans.
Busted! Many essential vitamins and nutrients have hard-to-pronounce names. For example, cholecalciferol is difficult to say but is just another name for vitamin D, which helps our bodies absorb calcium and phosphorus and prevents rickets.
Busted! The “wood pulp” in parmesan cheese is actually cellulose, an essential component of all plants, including fruits, vegetables, and trees, and the most abundant organic compound on Earth. Cellulose derived from trees is the same as the cellulose in fruits and vegetables. Cellulose is added to foods as a source of dietary fiber, to reduce fat, and, in the case of shredded cheese, to prevent clumping.
Busted! Any method of cooking can reduce and even destroy the vitamins and nutrients in a food.
Because microwaving food requires less heat and time than other processes, it is one of the best ways
to retain essential vitamins and nutrients when cooking.
Busted! Gluten will make you sick if you have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects 1% of the population and causes the body to attack the small intestine when gluten is ingested. While a growing body of research indicates that people with “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” may have a negative reaction to eating foods that contain gluten, for the majority of people, there is no scientific evidence that gluten will make you sick.
Busted! Consuming enough fluids every day is important to overall health, however daily fluid intake is not defined only by the amount of water you drink. It also includes the water consumed in other beverages and foods (such as lettuce and watermelon). In addition, factors such as how much you exercise, your age, the climate you live in, and whether you’re pregnant will all impact your daily fluid requirements.
Busted! While carrots contain vitamin A, which is important for eye health, they won’t actually improve your vision. This particular myth was deliberately developed by the British during World War II to convince Germany that the Royal Air Force’s success in shooting down German planes was the result of improved night vision due to eating carrots (instead of the actual reason—the new radar technology they were using!).
Busted! Both sucrose (table sugar) and HFCS are made up of the simple sugars glucose and fructose. Sucrose, which is made from sugarcane or sugar beets, has a one-to-one ratio of glucose and fructose. To make HFCS, corn syrup (which is 100% glucose) is processed so that 45%–55% of the glucose converts to fructose. Differences in how the body metabolizes the two sugars led to the hypothesis that HFCS is worse than sucrose, however studies clearly show that they have indistinguishable metabolic effects and the same health consequences. Both types of sugar should be consumed in moderation.
Busted! A salad may not always be the healthiest option on the menu. Many salad dressings and toppings (such as bacon bits, fried tortilla strips, and some croutons) are high in saturated fats and calories—a salad served with fried chicken and Caesar dressing could have well over 1,000 calories and a large amount of saturated fat! A truly healthy main-dish salad contains vegetables and beans, with small amounts of lean protein, vinegar-based dressing, and nuts, avocado, or low-fat cheese.
Busted! Extra calorie consumption is not advised until the second trimester, and even then the recommendation is for only 300 more nutritious calories. Cravings are natural during pregnancy, probably because of the increased production of certain hormones, but cravings don’t mean that you need to eat significantly more food. Although your body does need more nutrients than normal to support your baby, they can be consumed as part of your regular diet.
Busted! Water alone cannot kill harmful bacteria. Washing a chicken can actually increase the chance of spreading bacteria by contaminating surrounding surfaces. Instead of washing it, make sure the chicken is properly cooked and reaches an internal temperature of at least 165° F (75° C).
Busted! Like all citrus foods, oranges are a good source of vitamin C, but they are not the only source. Plenty of foods contain comparable amounts of vitamin C and also have less sugar. Depending on growing conditions, a medium orange generally has 69 mg of vitamin C. Other produce, such as various types of peppers, kale, and papaya, can provide 80 mg of vitamin C per cup.
Busted! Turkey contains only a miniscule amount of the amino acid L-tryptophan, which helps regulate sleep. The sleep-coma you had last Thanksgiving was probably just a reaction to eating a lot of sugar, not tryptophan. Turkey is no more responsible for sleepiness than any other kind of poultry. In fact, turkey has slightly less tryptophan than chicken.
Busted! Diet soda does not hold any nutritional value. Some are concerned that consumption of the artificial sweeteners found in diet soda can lead to overeating. Studies have indicated that individuals who drink diet soda continue to gain weight.
Busted! Although organic eating is a popular food trend, scientific evidence has not linked eating organic food to a lower risk of disease or to improved health long term. Organic farming, however, may benefit the soil and the environment.
Busted! Gum does not stick to your stomach walls or intestinal tract. Although your body cannot digest gum, it travels through your digestive tract and is released through bowel movements. Occasionally (and accidentally) swallowing gum isn’t harmful in the long term. Swallowing sugar-free gum or gums with artificial or non-natural flavors could cause some short-term problems such as nausea, headaches, or even diarrhea.
Busted! While short, intermittent fasting and very-low-calorie diets can offer some benefits, skipping meals is not the key to effective weight loss. In fact, it can have the opposite effect on metabolism, slowing it down to compensate for a lack of food to process. Be sure to do your research before jumping on the latest health-fad bandwagon.
Busted! Cholesterol is produced in the liver and is stimulated by saturated and trans fats, not by dietary cholesterol. Eggs are a source of high-quality protein and heme iron. They also contain inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight much of what poor cholesterol levels can cause, including some types of stroke.
Busted! While excess calorie intake can result in weight gain, other factors can be involved as well, such as hormones and the type of food consumed. While portion size should be one of the first considerations when trying to lose weight, consider quality (nutrient density) of food, as well.
Busted! Carbohydrates have the most drastic effect on glucose levels. Sugar-free products often contain a lot of unhealthy carbohydrate sources and fats. Sugar-free products may also be sweetened with sugar alcohols, which create a blood-sugar spike. Research is underway to develop guidance for the use of artificial sweeteners in food production.
Busted! Weight loss depends on what a person eats, vegetarians as well as omnivores. A lot of vegetarian-approved foods are extremely carb-heavy. When consumed in excess, these foods can lead to weight gain. A good rule to follow? When you’re subbing out meat, sub in a plant, not junk food. For example, instead of a chicken breast, try a baked Portobello mushroom.
Busted! How much food you can consume depends on the total number of calories––how many you require and how many are in the food you eat. You can consume too much of any food, even healthy food.
Busted! Studies did not find a strong correlation between soda and childhood obesity. Most children between the ages of 12 and 16 limit their soda intake to one can per day or fewer, which can easily be burned off through standard childhood activity. The regular consumption of excessive amounts (usually 3 cans or more daily) is too much sugar for a child to burn through in a given day and it will lead to fat storage and will cause obesity, even in children. The occasional soda can won’t make a child obese.
Busted! While cooking certain vegetables can eliminate some nutrients, it can also increase the absorption of others. Cooking vegetables can also assist the gut in digestion (typically, the gut has more difficulty digesting raw food).
Busted! Many reduced-calorie foods are not very different from their full-calorie versions. Reduced-fat foods can contain more sugar and carbs, which lead to weight gain. When in doubt, trust the nutrition information on the back of the label (calories, serving size, nutrients), not the claims made on the front.
Busted! Adding salt increases the boiling point of water, meaning it will take longer for the water to come to a boil. Adding a large amount of salt to a pot of water will raise the boiling point from 212° F to 216° F. This difference isn’t significant but might be useful if you need your water to be hotter before it comes to a boil.
Busted! The liver and the kidneys are designed to cleanse the body of toxins. Fasting for multiple days without medical supervision can prove harmful. Short-term or intermittent fasts (24 hours) usually are not harmful for healthy, non-pregnant people. Certain religions include short-term fasting in their mode of worship. Drinking enough water when fasting is critical. You should not go more than 24 hours without water; regular hydration is preferable.
Busted! The moisture contained in meat results from the correct internal temperature, fat content, and how long the meat rests after cooking. Searing meat does not have any effect on moisture. Reasons to sear meat include creating an attractive color, a flavorful crust, and a foundation for a sauce, if desired.
Busted! Soy has received a lot of negative attention in recent years due to its supposed connection to breast cancer. Proponents of this theory argue that because soy is rich in isoflavones, which are plant-based chemicals that are structurally similar to estrogen, and because estrogen has been linked to most forms of breast cancer, soy isoflavones also could be carcinogenic.
Regardless of their similarity in chemical structure, however, estrogen and phytoestrogens such as isoflavones bind and act differently with estrogen receptors in breast tissue. American Cancer Society research shows that soy consumed in moderate amounts poses little to no risk to the population in general or to cancer survivors in particular
If you are a breast cancer survivor or at high risk for the disease, talk with your doctor about including soy in your diet.
Busted! Trans fat is an artificially created fat that can clog arteries and cause cardiovascular disease. Trans fats are labeled as partially hydrogenated oil on ingredients lists. In 2015, the FDA banned trans fats and required all companies to remove the ingredient from all foods within three years. Currently, however, the FDA allows foods to be labeled as trans-fat-free as long as they contain no more than 0.5 g of trans fat per serving. If you’re eating more than 1 serving, that amount adds up.
Busted! Some white vegetables––such as cauliflower, turnips, and mushrooms––contain essential nutrients and are valuable in any diet. Dietary fiber, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin D and potassium are found in most white vegetables.
Busted! Although kale is a healthy food, a William Patterson University study found that spinach and romaine lettuce can be more nutrient dense than kale. Other leafy greens can also offer some surprising health benefits, including depression-battling folate, life-extending polyphenols, and appetite-suppressing thylakoids.
Busted! It is usually the amount of sugar in most chocolate that accounts for its poor reputation. The cacao bean contains flavonoids that may help prevent inflammation; the darker the chocolate and the more cacao it contains (by percentage), the healthier it is.
Busted! Bars often claim a range of health benefits, and although they may contain protein, fiber, and other healthy ingredients, many nutrition bars also contain a lot of sugar and can really pack in the calories. It is best to check labels for high sugar and fat content before assuming that something is healthy.
Busted! Because metabolism and body type differ from person to person, not everyone will benefit from this eating plan. The idea behind this approach is that it allows you to eat less and make better food choices because you are less hungry. Following intuitive eating and honestly listening to your body’s needs will give you what you need.
Busted! As with any food, including those promoted as meal substitutes, what’s important are the ingredients. Juicing fruit removes its fiber, which helps you feel full until your next meal. Unless produced in your own kitchen, most juices have high amounts of sugar and little to no pulp. A high intake of sugar will raise your insulin level, leaving you feeling hungry faster. To reap the full benefits of a brief juicing diet, throw some nutrient-dense veggies into the blender, too.
Busted! This myth was officially dispelled long ago. The claim was first made in the 1970s. Since then scientists have been unable to prove a connection. Because ingested aluminum is filtered out by the kidneys, it cannot result in Alzheimer’s.
Busted! Ginger ale doesn’t contain enough ginger to relieve a stomachache, but it does contain a lot of sugar, which is dehydrating. Ginger by itself has helped many people overcome occasional nausea and vomiting, including expectant mothers dealing with morning-sickness symptoms.
Busted! Although a farm may be free from pesticides, the shipping process doesn’t occur in a sterile environment. Even organic produce needs a good wash. Most organic-produce consumers understand that they will have to spend more time at the sink washing off farm particles such as dirt—it’s all part of the organic experience!
Busted! Certain types of seafood provide omega-3 fatty acids and protein, which are essential for a baby’s development. Although expectant mothers should avoid raw fish and fish that are high in mercury, the FDA actually encourages pregnant women to eat certain seafood, such as shrimp, salmon, and tilapia. Poor-quality meats like hot dogs, deli meats with a high nitrate count, and undercooked meats should be avoided, as well.
Busted! Calories certainly play a part in weight loss, but they are not the only factor. It’s best to take both the number and types of calories into account when planning meals. Cutting calories can slow metabolism, making weight loss even more challenging.
Busted! The color of an egg indicates the breed of the chicken that laid it, not its health content. Brown eggs cost more than white because they are more expensive to produce; chickens that produce them are larger and eat more. Brown eggs are often associated with free-range or organic chickens, which could potentially affect the nutrient content (e.g., more omega-3 fatty acid).
Busted! The USDA recommends grains as a part of a healthy diet because they provide iron, fiber, and other important nutrients. The types of grains you eat do have an effect on weight loss, but a diet that balances carbohydrates with other essential nutrients can help you lose weight.
Busted! All cells need sugar for energy, but cancer-cell growth is not increased by consumption of sugar alone, nor can you kill cancer cells by removing sugar from your diet. Consuming too much sugar can lead to obesity and diabetes, which can increase the risk of developing cancer and hinder the body’s ability to fight off other dangerous ailments.
Busted! Lemon water provides hydration and a dose of vitamin C. Lemon can affect the body’s alkaline level, which may correlate to temporary metabolism shifts; however, lemon water by itself will not help shed pounds. Much of one’s metabolism is genetically set. Metabolic rate can be influenced by reprogramming the thyroid through major lifestyle changes in diet and exercise, but there is no easy fix.
Busted! Preservatives are used to ensure freshness and improve the taste and texture of food. Some preservatives (e.g., salt, citric acid, and various herbs) are natural and can help protect the body from harmful bacteria and food-borne illnesses.
Busted! A study found that thinner adults who chewed gum had lower energy intake; the opposite was found for overweight adults. Chewing gum (even sugar-free gum) does not by itself promote weight loss. It has been reported, however, that chewing gum can assist appetite control and help manage hunger pangs in some people, both of which could indirectly support a healthy weight loss program.
Busted! Everyone’s body is unique; consequently, diets affect people differently. Family and personal history play a large role, and it is difficult to isolate the key issues for every person. It is important to learn what works for you and your body, taking note of positive or negative changes and adjusting accordingly.
Busted! No one nutrient can make you fat. Good fats are necessary to help your body carry out essential functions, including building cell membranes, covering nerves, blood clotting, and muscle movement. Some evidence suggests that high-fat, low-carb diets can aid in weight loss; be sure to pay attention to the types of fats you are consuming.
Busted! Although it is a good idea to fuel your body post-workout, it is daily protein intake that is important for muscle building. A recent study tested this theory in both strength (high weight, low repetitions) and hypertrophy (low weight, high repetition) workouts. In both groups, the timing of protein refueling did not make a difference in recovery or muscle building.
Busted! Although dehydration has many side effects, none of them is the sole catalyst for muscle cramps. The three root causes of muscle cramping are (1) inadequate blood supply, (2) nerve compression, and (3) mineral depletion, each of which could result from hydration level as well as from a variety of other factors, such as age, current medical conditions, and pregnancy.
Busted! Weight management is a matter of portion control and exercise. There is, however, some evidence that dairy foods may help control weight, perhaps by causing satiety or by influencing metabolism. Dairy products also contain calcitriol, which conserves calcium and may help regulate fat-cell activity.
Busted! You can be healthy and save money by planning menus weekly and buying fresh produce in season. Improved spending, along with fewer doctor visits and reduced overall healthcare costs, make healthy eating worth every penny.
Busted! All fats provide calories. A single gram of fat contains 9 calories, while a gram of carbohydrates or protein contains 4. Regardless of the type of fat, portion control is still important.
Busted! Science indicates that negative-calorie foods are nonexistent. A celery stick contains 10 calories, and it takes 5 calories to digest. Celery is a great snack on its own because it is fiber- and water-dense, but it’s no longer healthy when used as a vehicle for high-calorie dips and spreads.
Busted! Stabilizers improve the texture of ice cream and prevent it from melting and refreezing into crunchy ice crystals. They also helps protect ice cream from delivery or storage mishaps while traveling from factory to store to your freezer. Natural stabilizers, such as plant-derived ingredients, include carrageenan, guar gum, and xanthan gum.
Busted! There is no hard evidence that putting oil in water prevents pasta from sticking. Since oil is not water soluble, it collects on top of the water and adheres to the pasta as water is poured out of the pot. Most professional chefs advise against putting oil in your pasta water because it creates slick, oily pasta that won’t adhere naturally to pasta sauce. Instead of using oil, stir pasta constantly to prevent sticking.
Busted! A gluten-free label does not mean a food is good for you; many popular gluten-free products have very high sugar content, and a high-fat, gluten-free cake is not health food. Prepackaged gluten-free foods, which do not contain the vitamins and minerals found in wheat flours, may be a less healthy choice.
Busted! Studies have found that drinkers and nondrinkers have the same number of brain cells; however, long-term drinking can destroy dendrites, the connective wisps in the brain. Without dendrites, brain cells lose their ability to communicate with each other, which is a key factor in memory.
Busted! Some foods are better for the heart than others, but no “superfood” can prevent heart disease by itself. That is why health officials encourage eating various healthy foods as part of a nutritious diet. Although there is no “cure-all” food, a Mediterranean-style diet may help lower the risk of developing heart disease.
Busted! Chicken skin contains only 2.5 grams of saturated fat and about 50 calories. By practicing portion control, it is possible to enjoy chicken with the skin on from time to time and still maintain a healthy diet. Additionally, chicken skin is 55% monounsaturated fat, which, according to recent studies, is a heart-healthy fat.
Busted! Exercise breaks down muscle fibers, so after a workout the body is busy healing. Consuming healthy foods assists in this process. Eating after working out is important for metabolism and for building muscle mass.
Busted! It has been reported that some foods might increase metabolism, thus burning more body fat. Consumption of the amount needed for this effect, however, is unrealistic. The most effective way to reduce body fat is consistent exercise and a well-balanced diet.
Busted! Fruits and vegetables contain fat-soluble nutrients. A fat-free salad dressing can inhibit absorption of these nutrients. Making delicious and healthy salad dressing is easier than most people think; just use olive oil, vinegar, and few other ingredients to make a delicious vinaigrette.
Busted! Food is a complex mixture of macronutrients, micronutrients, and other substances. Use specific supplements to treat dietary deficiencies along with a trusted brand of multivitamin. Before using supplements, however, make the necessary improvements in your diet. Nutrients are most potent when they come directly from food and are accompanied by many non-essential but beneficial nutrients that are not found in most supplements.
Busted! Bread turns stale and hardens because of the recrystallization process the starches undergo when breads are cooled. To preserve freshness, keep bread on the kitchen counter, where it should be fine for about a week. On the other hand, refrigerating or freezing bread can stall the molding process, especially in less-processed breads.
Busted! Although there is some evidence indicating that alcohol can raise HDL (good cholesterol) when ingested in moderation, this does not mean that you can drink as much as you want. Heavy and frequent alcohol usage can cause multiple negative side effects, such as liver disease, memory loss, increased risk for depression, weight gain, and addiction.
Busted! Coffee contains antioxidants that protect cells from free radicals floating in the bloodstream. Studies have indicated that coffee drinkers have a lower risk for depression and cardiovascular disease.
Busted! The most common food allergens are milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. Many people experience reactions to foods like these from time to time, but they are usually due to food sensitivities or intolerances that are not caused by the immune system. In a food allergy, the body mistakes harmless food as something that could cause sickness, thus triggering the immune system to fight back.
Busted! Carbohydrates can adversely affect people with diabetes, but by following a healthy diet and tracking carbohydrate consumption, people with diabetes can eat starchy foods and still maintain healthy blood-glucose levels. For example, beans provide protein as well as fiber, which is especially important in a diabetic diet. Fiber is a carbohydrate the body cannot break down; it does not affect insulin levels to nearly the same extent as other carbohydrates do.
Busted! Dark meat has more minerals, such as iron and zinc, than white meat does. According to the USDA, 1 ounce of boneless, skinless turkey breast contains about 46 calories and 1 gram of fat, compared with roughly 50 calories and 2 grams of fat in 1 ounce of boneless, skinless thigh. The difference in calories is small considering the minerals available in the dark meat.
Busted! Sodium is an electrolyte the body requires to balance intracellular and extracellular fluids; however, sodium can be harmful when consumed in excess. Despite its bad reputation, table salt is 40% sodium and 60% chloride, meaning less than half of its weight comes from sodium.
Busted! Wood’s natural properties allow bacteria from meat to pass through the board; the only way to access the germs is to split open the board. Plastic cutting boards are not more sanitary. Deep cuts from a sharp knife cutting a chicken can insert bacteria deeply into the cutting board. To play it safe, salt and oil your wood cutting boards frequently.
Busted! Because not all travel the same metabolic pathway, foods have different effects on hunger, hormones, and health. Some types of high-quality calories can fuel your body, reduce cravings, and last for hours. Others, like those in refined carbohydrates, will leave you lethargic and hungry.
Busted! While we don’t know the exact reason, experts suggest that food cravings can arise from feelings such as stress, anger, and sadness. Most of the foods we crave are high in carbohydrates and fat, which produce the calming hormone serotonin.
Busted! There has long been a claim that because eating dairy foods leads to an increase in mucus, ice cream, in particular, can exacerbate the symptoms associated with the common cold. In fact, dairy does not make your body produce more mucus. Ice cream can soothe a sore throat and provide essential calories, which can be especially useful when you have trouble keeping food down.
Busted! Mushrooms must be washed to remove dangerous bacteria. Rinsing them quickly in cold water allows them to keep their shape and flavor while also eliminating unwanted bacteria.
Busted! A wrap does not necessarily contain healthier ingredients than those you would find in a sandwich. For healthier sandwich options, look for whole-wheat wraps and pay attention to what’s inside it.
Busted! Caffeine has been shown to be a mild diuretic (causing urination), but only in direct correlation to the volume ingested. Nevertheless, coffee should not be used as the primary means to ensure a well-hydrated body. Consuming water is the best way to stay hydrated. Water is calorie-free, caffeine-free, inexpensive, and readily available.
Busted! While there are correlations between diet and cancer, simply changing what you eat cannot reverse a cancer diagnosis. The influence of food on cancer is far more complicated. While research on cancer and nutrition continues, the best recommendation is to maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine.
Busted! No matter how fast you pick up your food, you will always pick up bacteria with it. While it is true that longer contact times can increase the number of bacteria transferred to the food, the composition of the food and the surface it falls on matter most. Watermelon has the highest rate of contamination while gummy candies have the least. Carpet transmits bacteria at a lower rate than tile and stainless steel.
Busted! Body composition does play a major role in metabolic rate. Muscle burns more energy than fat; the more muscle your body has, the better your metabolic rate will be. Thinner people can have a slower metabolism because they have less mass to burn.
Busted! The color of a bread does not always indicate its grain content. For example, white bread may look like whole grain due to caramel food coloring. Ingredient lists are a better indicator. Labeling terms like “multi-grain,” “rye,” and “7 grain” do not mean that a bread contains whole grains. The first ingredient on the list should include the word “whole.” The term “enriched” also does not denote whole grain; rather, it indicates that some, but not all, of the vitamins removed from the grain were added back after the refining process.
Busted! In healthy people, protein may increase the filtering rate of the kidneys but does not have an overall negative impact. When on a high-protein diet, it is important to stay hydrated.
Busted! Salt stops vegetables from losing nutrients to boiling water. Many recipes that call for boiling or blanching vegetables ask for salt in the cooking water to add flavor. If you are concerned about putting too much salt in your boiling water, use no more than 1 teaspoon of salt for each cup of water.
Busted! Milk and other dairy foods are not the only source of bone-building calcium. Beans and collard greens also contain calcium. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that people ages 19 to 50 consume 1,000 mg of calcium per day, and that those age 50 or over get 1,200 mg per day. Reaching 1,200 mg per day usually requires drinking 2 to 3 glasses of milk per day or taking calcium supplements.
Busted! Weight loss results from fewer calories consumed than expended in a given day. Although exercise does increase the number of calories your body uses in a day, it is still essential to plan and monitor your meals. For example, it’s easy to overeat after a difficult workout, which can quickly interfere with your fitness goals. Our bodies respond best to a healthy diet combined with an exercise program.
Busted! Some foods may have zero dietary cholesterol but still contain saturated and trans fats, neither of which is heart healthy. Most cholesterol found in the body is produced by the body itself; the remainder––dietary cholesterol–– is in the food we eat.
Busted! In a recent study covering 50 years of research, vitamin C showed very little impact on preventing or curing colds. Megadoses of vitamin C can result in kidney stones, but a small amount in your diet every day is good for your general health and for cardiovascular health, in particular.
Busted! Capsaicin, the compound that makes chili peppers hot, can be found throughout the pepper and is actually most potent in the white ribs found inside. Anyone who has touched a pepper and then rubbed their eye knows that capsaicin is also found on peppers’ skin. Studies have shown humans experience endorphin releases when eating hot peppers, which are meant to mask the heat. Though small, these endorphin releases could be the cause of many people’s love for hot peppers.
Busted! Bananas are one of the best sources of potassium. Other produce, however, such as edamame and watermelon, can provide more potassium with fewer calories.
Busted! Although natural peanut butters contain protein and essential fats, many peanut butters also contain high amounts of sugar, oil, salt, and less-healthy monounsaturated fats. It’s very easy to overeat peanut butter; just 2 tablespoons can contain more than 200 calories.
Busted! Sea salt and table salt have the same nutritional value; it is how they are mined and processed that differentiates them. Traditional salt usually comes from land mining; it is cleaned and processed and iodine is usually added. As its name implies, sea salt comes from the sea or salty lakes. Depending on the source, sea salt can require less processing than traditional salt.
Busted! Coffee contains polyphenols, which are antioxidants that create anti-inflammatory reactions in the blood that protect against disorders such as heart disease. Studies have shown that many people who consume coffee responsibly have normal or better-than-average heart health.
Busted! Protein is essential to muscle growth, but it does not build muscles on its own. During exercise, muscle fibers tear. These fibers are rebuilt through a cellular process that requires not just protein, but all three macronutrients and various micronutrients, as well.
Busted! The USDA recommends grain as a part of a healthy diet because it contains iron, fiber, and other important nutrients. Whole grains provide nutrients such as dietary fiber, iron, zinc, manganese, folate, magnesium, copper, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, selenium, riboflavin, and vitamin A.
Busted! Although taste may not always be the same, fruit can be frozen at peak freshness with little difference in nutritional value. Fresh fruits are often picked before they’ve had time to fully develop all of their potential vitamins and minerals; consequently, frozen fruit can sometimes be even better for you than fresh.
Busted! Fruit provides fiber as well as many critical antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Fruit is also very filling and can satisfy sweet cravings. Despite all these benefits, however, it is still possible to go overboard with fruit. Moderation is advised.
O-3 fatty acids are abundant in oily fish (particularly salmon, trout, and other cold-water species). O-6 fatty acids are found primarily in seeds, nuts, legumes, meat, and dairy products. Both contribute to joint health, skin health, brain health, improved metabolism, and more. In particular, O-3 fatty acids promote cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation.
The key to reaping these benefits is balance. O-3 and O-6 fatty acids function optimally when the ratio between them is relatively even. Most Americans, however, consume far more O-6 than O-3. To help remedy this situation, nutrition professionals recommend consuming fish high in O-3 fatty acid twice weekly (total of 8 ounces) and substituting cooking oils produced from flaxseed and chia seed for those made from corn, sunflower, and soy. Supplements are not a substitute for foods that offer O-3 fatty acids and an abundance of additional nutrients.
Busted! Potatoes have gotten a bad rap for their high glycemic load, but they do in fact contain some essential nutrients, such as vitamin C. A USDA study found that potatoes contain phytochemicals such as flavonoids and kukoamines, which help lower blood pressure. Potatoes, especially higher-nutrient sweet potatoes, can be included in a healthy diet.