Food Myths

Many people believe most myths they grow up hearing about food before they even realize how silly the myths are. The following is a list of food myths broken down to their truths. You may not be surprised by all of them, but most people believe one or two of these at least in some point in your lifetime.

When people get into their post-Thanksgiving nap, expect someone to quote the popular myth that turkey specifically makes you sleepy. If they’ve read up on it, they may even suggest that a particular chemical in turkey, tryptophan, gets converted into the neurochemicals that make you sleepy, and so after you eat a bunch, you get drowsy. They’re almost correct. Turkey does contain tryptophan, and if you eat a lot of turkeys, you’ll get sleepy. But the amount of this chemical isn’t really enough to alter your alertness. You get tired after eating a lot of turkeys because you’ll get tired after eating a lot of anything. Your body just takes a break and focuses on digesting all that food you just took in.

Another myth isn’t so much about the food as it is the animal that has to be killed before it can be made into food. Namely, lobsters. Most people get pretty freaked out when they first see a lobster being boiled, as they hear what sounds like a scream from the lobsters as they are dropped into the boiling water. Contrary to popular belief, they are not screaming. They aren’t even in much pain, as they lack the necessary nervous system complexity to have much of a capacity for pain. The sound you hear is the steam inside a lobster’s shell escaping. When they are heated so rapidly, there is nowhere for the steam to exit the shell slowly. In much the same fashion as a tea kettle, the rapid movement of air creates a loud sound that can sound like screeching.

When people diet, they may sometimes seek out negative calorie foods. That is, they try to find food that takes more calories to digest than it gives the body. While this works, the basis for the diet is untrue. Your body does burn calories throughout the day to keep you alive. On average, you’ll burn 2000 calories doing absolutely nothing but living. But the actual process of digestion requires barely any calories at all. You can’t eat a ton of celery and lose weight because you’ll eventually gain more calories than you burn through your metabolism.

Another healthy eating myth is that fresh is always better. Again, right in principle, but wrong in practice. If you’re growing your food and directly harvesting and eating it, then yes, fresh is better. However, fresh food purchased from supermarkets is likely less good for you than canned or frozen veggies. You have to keep in mind that “fresh” vegetables have traveled many miles to get to you, losing nutrients all along the way. If the vegetables are frozen or canned, they’re preserved in every sense of the word. No nutritional value is lost in transit, and it’s likely cheaper to boot.


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