Debunking Common Food Myths


These days, it’s easy to hear all sorts of information about food on the Internet, television and kitchen scuttlebutt. The hard part is digesting the entire gastronomic gospel and separating the facts from the fiction. The doubt is out, as we have finally investigated some of the most common myths about food.

1. Peanuts Are One of the Ingredients in Dynamite

Peanut oil can be processed to produce glycerol, which can be used to make nitroglycerine, an explosive liquid used in dynamite. However, there are other processes that can be used to make dynamite without using peanuts at all. So, this little factoid isn’t completely false and it isn’t completely true. But it’s enough to make us wonder why they make us take off our shoes at the airport, and then serve us dynamite ingredients on the plane.

2. Yogurt Isn’t a Good Source of Both Calcium and Fiber

Though yogurt usually contains 20–30 percent of your daily dose of calcium, it rarely has significant amounts of fiber. To make sure you get plenty figure-friendly fiber, buy plain flavors and add your own berries, nuts, raisins, flax seeds, oats or bran cereal.


3. Heavy Cream Does Not Weigh As Much As Milk

The term “heavy cream” is a misnomer that describes the product’s density, not its weight. The scales will prove that an equal volume of whipping cream weighs less than the same volume of whole milk. In fact, the heaviest form of milk is skim milk, which has the fewest calories. (We just helped you with your child’s next science fair project, by the way. You’re welcome.)

4. You Can’t Use Wooden Cutting Boards with Meat

Both wood and plastic are safe. The key is to clean the board properly after each use. Wash the board thoroughly with soap and running water—the hotter, the better. Then dry it with a paper towel (if you leave it wet, bacteria could grow). As an added precaution, use two cutting boards—one for meat and one for fruits and vegetables—to prevent meat juices from contaminating produce. Bottom line: Feel free to use a wooden board, but keep it very clean.

5. Honey Is the Only Food That Does Not Spoil

Bee-lieve it or not, it’s true! The “nectar of the gods” will supposedly last indefinitely if kept sealed and properly stored at room temperature. How do we figure? Well, honey has been found perfectly palatable in Egyptian tombs. However, it can develop mold if improperly stored. Like any other packaged food, honey should be rotated through the storage cycle and replaced with fresh product.

6. You Can Put Hot Food in the Fridge

Ideally, when you refrigerate food, it should be cool enough to prevent it from warming up the food around it to an unsafe temperature (above 40°F). But leaving food out to cool at room temperature also makes it a potential breeding ground for bacteria. An easy solution is to separate it into smaller portions so it cools to a safe temperature quickly. But what’s okay for the food may not be okay for your fridge! Avoid putting hot plates on a cold glass shelf.

7. Milk Isn’t Going to Increase Your Mucus

For centuries, dairy has been blamed for increased mucus production—and in turn for a range of other conditions such as asthma and snoring. But while many people swear milk produces mucus, there is no scientific evidence. Until researchers can prove that congestion connection, we’re going to enjoy our milk and stick with a neti pot.

8. Add Salt to Your Pasta Water

The claim that salted water cooks food faster (because of its higher boiling temperature) is exaggerated; you’re not adding enough salt to raise the temperature more than about one degree Fahrenheit. However, salted water does flavor the pasta. Adding 1–2 tablespoons of salt to a large pot of rapidly boiling water seasons the pasta internally as it absorbs the liquid and swells.

9. Chocolate Does Not Cause Zits

Studies have unequivocally shown there is no connection between chocolate and skin problems, and that some varieties of dark chocolate, in fact, may even be good for you.

10. Microwaving Plastic Can Be Toxic

When certain plastic containers get hot, plasticizers (additives used to make them flexible) can dissolve in food. Some plasticizers, such as phthalates, have been linked to reproductive problems. Phthalates are found in soft plastics, like the kind meat is wrapped in, and flexible containers, such as those used for take-out food. Not all plastics run the risk of contaminating hot foods. Containers labeled as microwave-safe have passed strict Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines for resilience and can withstand repeated use. As for using cellophane wrap to reheat food faster and prevent splatters, skip it. Instead, place a vented microwave-safe plastic cover or a white paper towel over the dish.

11. Coffee Does Not Cause Dehydration

You may be running to the restroom an hour after you finish your cappuccino, but that’s just because of coffee’s fluid content, not because you’re dehydrated. Although caffeine is a mild diuretic, a Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at Oregon State University, Balz Frei, Ph.D., says that caffeine consumption of up to about 500 milligrams per day does not cause dehydration. For perspective: A 7-oz. cup of coffee has about 100 milligrams of caffeine.