Eat Healthier: 13 Food Myths You Still Think Are True

Are carbs evil? Does chicken always have to be cooked skinless? Ditch your old-school thinking and get savvy to the latest healthy eating facts.

Food myth: Vitamin C can keep you from catching a cold.

Healthy eating: Research has shown that vitamin C does not ward off colds, except among marathoners, skiers, and soldiers on sub-Arctic exercises.

Food myth: Eating celery burns more calories than you take in.

Healthy eating: It’s a food myth that celery has “negative” calories. But, with less than 10 calories per serving, it’s great to munch on to lose weight.

Food myth: Legumes must be eaten at the same time as grains to get a “complete” protein.

Healthy eating: Eat a mix of amino acids throughout the day and you'll get all the complete nutrition you'll need. But yes, beans and legumes are nutritional powerhouses, high in protein, fiber, B vitamins, iron, potassium, and other minerals, while low in fat.

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Food myth: Raw carrots are more nutritious than cooked.

Healthy eating: Cooking actually increases carrots’ nutritional value! The process breaks down the tough cellular walls that encase the beta-carotene.

Food myth: To minimize fat and calories, always remove the skin before cooking chicken.

Healthy eating: Baking, broiling, grilling, or roasting poultry with the skin intact helps preserve its natural juices. Cook with the skin—and then remove before serving.

Food myth: Avoid eggs because of their cholesterol content.

Healthy eating: Eggs have gotten an unfounded bad rap; the latest research shows that they don’t actually contribute to high cholesterol. In fact, eggs are an inexpensive source of many nutrients, including zinc and iron, antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin D, and the brain-boosting chemical choline. Keep cholesterol in check by monitoring saturated fat in your diet. 

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Food myth: The fewer carbs, the healthier you are.

Healthy eating: Choosing the healthiest carbohydrates, especially whole grains, is more important to your well-being. At least seven major studies show that women and men who eat whole grains have 20 to 30 percent less heart disease. Separately, in a 2010 study of more than 13,000 adults, those who ate the most servings of whole grains had lower body weight.

Food myth: Using margarine instead of butter will save calories.

Healthy eating: Butter and margarine have about the same amount of calories. But while margarine, made from vegetable oils, was created as a more healthful alternative to butter (which contains cholesterol and saturated fat), some margarines are actually unhealthier because they contain trans fats, which have even more adverse effects on cholesterol and heart health. If you choose margarine, look for trans fat-free brands.

Food myth: Nuts are as bad as junk food.

Healthy eating: Nuts are excellent sources of protein and other nutrients, as long as you keep servings to a handful. Harvard researchers found that women who ate that amount about five times a week were 20 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who didn’t eat them as often. Additionally, several large studies have found that a regular intake of nuts protects against heart disease.

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Food myth: The MSG found in some Chinese dishes can trigger headaches and other reactions.

Healthy eating: It probably is not the monosodium glutamate; people are most likely reacting to histamine, tyramine, and phenylethylamine.

Food myth: You’ll sleep better after a nightcap.

Healthy eating: Drinking alcohol before bed may disrupt your sleep and increase wakefulness, even in healthy adults.

Food myth: Carbonated drinks are bad for you.

Healthy eating: Sodium-free seltzer with a wedge of lemon or lime quenches thirst without hurting your health. Soda, on the other hand, will contribute to weight gain, cavities, high blood pressure, and many other unhealthy problems.

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Food myth: Those with diabetes have to give up sweets.

Healthy eating: In moderation, an occasional sweet treat is fine. The key to maintaining healthy blood glucose levels is balancing meals and snacks to provide a mixture of carbs, fats, and proteins.

Food myth: Cranberry juice can cure a urinary tract infection


Healthy eating: There’s no proof that cranberry juice or supplements can treat an infection, which should be medicated with antibiotics. But drinking the juice or taking supplements regularly can prevent such infections in the first place because compounds in the juice stop infection-causing bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall.

Food myth: Don’t drink milk when you have a cold


Healthy eating: There’s absolutely no truth to the idea that milk increases mucus production, so there’s no need to skip it when you feel congested, according to Ronald McCoy, senior medical educator and spokesperson for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners

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Food myth: Spicy food gives you an ulcer


Healthy eating: Spices don’t trigger ulcers. We now know that the bacteria Helicobacter pylori causes almost all ulcers, except those triggered by certain medications, like aspirin. What spices can do is exacerbate an irritable bowel, which people often mistake for an ulcer.

Food myth: Feed a cold, starve a fever

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Healthy eating: There’s no medical reason to limit foods when you’re feverish. While you may have less of an appetite, you should eat whatever you can tolerate. In fact, when you’re sick, your nutritional needs increase because your metabolic rate goes up.

Food myth: Fat-free and low-fat foods are always better than full-fat versions

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Healthy eating: When it comes to meat and some dairy products, it’s generally true that the less fat, the better. But not so with packaged, processed foods. Call it the “Snackwells” lesson: When manufacturers remove a certain ingredient (fat) from a certain food (cookies), they need to compensate for the taste by adding other not-so-healthy ingredients (sugar). Companies are constantly tinkering with the ratios of sugar, fat, salt and other ingredients in such foods. Now, most nutrition experts believe you’re better off avoiding artificially fat-free foods and opting instead for whole foods with healthy fats, like nuts.

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Food myth: Frozen and canned fruits and veggies are less nutritious than fresh ones


Healthy eating: Fresh fruits and vegetables are more nutritious than the frozen and canned variety—the instant they are picked. However, the foods you find in the produce section have often had a long journey, often spending days or even weeks in transit from the farm or orchard. During shipping and storage, natural enzymes are released in fresh fruit and vegetables that cause them to lose nutrients. By contrast, food processors quick-freeze fresh-picked produce, which preserves much of its vitamin and mineral content.

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