Food facts and fiction

They can spread like wildfire, travel twice the speed of light and grow faster than any weed in your garden; we call them ‘myths.’ And there are many when it comes to food. You might be surprised to find how many of us still rely on age-old wives’ tales and food folklore to guide us in our eating decisions.

If you’re watching what you eat, it makes sense to get the raw deal on food. Are carrots really good for your eyes? Will chocolate break out your skin? Get the lowdown and separate fact from fiction with these popular food myths.

Fiction: Eat three meals a day

Fact: No doubt your jaws are dropping on this one. Despite what your mother told you, and even what her mother may have told her, the number of meals that your body needs is not arbitrary. Nutrition experts say you should eat only when you are hungry. Because we all have different body types and different calorie requirements, one person may need to eat more meals to satisfy their hunger, while another person may need less. It just depends on your metabolism. So how many times a day should you eat? Doctors now say you should eat only when you’re hungry.

Fiction: Eating chocolate or junk food causes acne

Fact: Acne is a hormonal problem. Say it again: Acne is a hormonal problem. Deprogramme yourself slowly because if you have acne, this may be disheartening to think the solution is a little more complex than just saying no to that Snickers bar.

Granted, eating too many sugary and fatty foods is never a good idea, but studies show that no specific food has been proven to cause acne. I can imagine there are probably millions of pimply-faced teenagers begging to differ. That’s because their mothers, like yours, probably warned them to keep away from chocolate too. This folklore took root easily - after all, which teen doesn’t eat junk food or chocolate? And since many teens have acne, the link was made and thus another food myth was born. If you have acne, just see a dermatologist.

Fiction: Nuts are very fattening and are not good for you

Fact: Eating too much of a good thing isn’t good for anybody, but eating modest amount of nuts is a win-win situation. They’re packed with nutrients, including protein, unsaturated fat, fibre, vitamin E, folic acid and other B vitamins, along with a host of other good-for-you ingredients. This is especially true for walnuts and almonds, which also lower cholesterol. When it’s time to snack, skip the junk food and go nuts.

Fiction: Eating carrots will help you see better at night

Fact: Carrots are loaded with beta-carotene, which our body converts to vitamin A. While the vitamin A in carrots does promote good overall eye health, to say that it can help you see better in the dark is pushing it. Experts say that the antioxidants in carrots protect the eyes against UV light damage.

Because carrots are good for the eyes and protect vision, you could say they may indirectly help you see better in the dark, but again, experts say that even that ‘indirect link’ is a long shot. If you need glasses to see at night and eat lots of carrots, you’ll probably still need them, but you will have a good set of chompers.

Fiction: You can eat natural food in unlimited quantities

Fact: I’ve fallen prey to this myth myself. The logic here is that because fruits and vegetables come straight from Mother Nature, you can eat them in any quantity and it will be good for you — there’s no way to overdose on natural foods, right? Wrong. Eat too many oranges and it will give you a sugar high. Believe it or not, oranges are very high in fructose.

When juiced or eaten whole, oranges can give you a high-dose sugar injection, and without the fibre you’d get from eating the un-juiced orange, you could still crash and burn and be left feeling hungry once the sugar high wears off.

Honey is another culprit. You might think you could eat this in endless quantities because it’s all natural. Wrong again. Honey is usually cooked before it’s packaged and that cooking process destroys most of the nutritional value. In fact, most cooked honey is roughly 75 percent sugar. Lay low with the honey. When it comes to natural, unprocessed foods, eat many different kinds, but don’t eat too many.

Fiction: An apple a day…

Fact: If it were only that simple! Yes, experts concur that eating an apple daily is a healthy habit to incorporate into your diet. After all, apples are good for you. They’re loaded with lots of dietary fibre and are a good source of Vitamin C which can greatly boost the immune system. But is it a cure-all, one-fruit miracle panacea that if consumed daily, can keep you out of the doctor’s office? Don’t we all wish!

Eating an apple can contribute to keeping you healthy, in other words, it will do it’s part in the whole scheme of eating a balanced meal. But it’s only one part of the dietary picture. Nutritionists say the rest of the diet needs to be good as well.

Fiction: Frozen vegetables are less nutritious than fresh ones Fact: Freshly picked vegetables do have more vitamins and minerals, but unless you’re right there on the farm waiting to eat them immediately, you’re unlikely to get all those nutrients. Nutrient levels drop during shipping and storage. They lose even more vitamins as they sit in the fridge.

Meanwhile, frozen vegetables are picked ripe and are immediately frozen with no downtime to allow any loss of nutrients, so they keep most of their nutritional value.

Start a diet plan at tescodiets.com

Thanks to tescodiets.com who have provided this article.