It’s that time of the year again when we make an active push to ‘fix’ our diets and health food shelves at supermarkets become one of the most frequented places. But do we really know what we're doing? Probably not, as many health food myths remain popularly believed and actively practiced. Myths like these:
Celery – or anything – has ‘negative calories’
Regurgitated by fitness trainers and moms concerned about weight alike, the notion that celery (or anything else, really) has negative calories due to its high water content is persistently gaining popularity.
It’s not just ridiculous, it betrays a lack of basic knowledge about bodily functions – namely that eating anything can burn calories. There is nothing called negative-calorie foods - a fact backed by qualified nutritionists around the world - and yet this myth somehow lingers on.
Raw food is healthier than cooked food
Many dieting routines are based around this notion and many quacks swear by it.
Many studies have found that cooked food actually increases the number of antioxidants in a variety of vegetables (like tomatoes) or at the very least preserves the ones already present (like in carrots). Sure, it may be true for certain vegetables like beetroot and broccoli, though that’s more because of Vitamin C and a few other nutrients being heat-sensitive in nature than any inherent evilness of the act of cooking. Not cooking your veggies also means that your body will have to work harder to process them.
Microwave makes your food unhealthy
The microwave has got a lot of bad press in recent times, mainly due to the widely held belief that it strips your food of essential nutrients. There isn't any proof to back this.In fact, microwaving your food may just be better than regular cooking. When you cook in water, the water takes away many nutrients as it evaporates. Many studies have proven that microwave in itself has no disadvantages over any other methods, and it may actually be helping preserve more nutrients due to being quick and using less liquid. Yet it remains a widely vilified method of cooking for absolutely no verifiable reason.
MSG is bad for your health
For the uninitiated, MSG is a chemical that’s widely used in Chinese cuisine, and is the primary ingredient that causes the ‘Umami’ flavour – a meaty taste associated with MSG. Its condiment form – Ajinomoto – is widely popular in restaurants around the world, as is the belief that it’s harmful for you.
This is one of those myths which has racist connotations, as the demonisation of MSG has largely been attributed to American writers in the 20th century suspicious of Chinese (or other Oriental and Eastern) culinary culture. Multiple studies have found that MSG has absolutely no negative effects on the human body (except for the tiny population that’s allergic to it, but then probably as many people are allergic to, say, bananas as well), and results of the original study that claimed to prove its effects in mice and rhesus monkeys have never been replicated. Many studies, however, have conclusively proven that MSG does absolutely nothing bad to the human body.
Fat-free dressing on salads is healthier than full-fat dressing
Fat-free = healthy, isn’t it? As with most popular knowledge that has never been tested in a lab, this one is as inaccurate as they come. How do we know? Well, they tested it in a lab.
In one of the studies done at Purdue University in Indiana, USA, scientists fed two groups of people the same salad with fat-free and full-fat dressings, respectively. As the scientists found out, fat is required for the body to fully process the nutrients from raw veggies, especially carotenoids that act as antioxidants. The subjects who had the fat-free version reported a higher rate of carotenoid absorption, compared to the fat-free dressing folks.
Sugar-free is better than sugar
For all the ‘diet soda’ fans out there, this oft-repeated pseudo fact may as well be gospel. And why won’t it be; it says sugar-free, and sugar is obviously bad, so this variant must be better for the body, right?
Well, sure, if you plan to substitute every form of sugar you have with sugar-free supplements, and we’d like to see you try that. In a study conducted at Washington University’s School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, researchers found that if you get your body hooked to artificial sweeteners, it starts to react to sugar differently when you do decide to get back on it, which you are very likely to, realistically. The reason is that when you have sugar-free supplements, the taste buds trigger the same response as when you have sugar. When it doesn’t receive what the taste receptors promised, our metabolism trains itself to compensate by releasing as much as 20% more sugar in your bloodstream when you have regular food. Yup, sugar-free actually increases your chances of being diagnosed with everything you’re avoiding sugar for.
Not a sweet realisation, this!
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