Healthy Or Unhealthy? Common Food Misconceptions

Celery has negative calories. Cranberry juice cures a UTI. Healthy meals contain low fat. Believe it or not, all of these are myths that many of us grew up hearing. Research has debunked many of the food myths that people still pass around. Keep reading to improve your health by understanding the science behind many food misconceptions. How long have you been following some of these diet rules that turned out to be wrong?

Don’t Forget About Healthy Fats!

Sven Braun / picture alliance via Getty Images
Sven Braun / picture alliance via Getty Images

Having low fat does not necessarily make a dish healthy. Several foods contain monounsaturated fats, otherwise called healthy fats, that actually help people lose weight and lower cholesterol. Healthy fats exist in avocados, olive oil, and nuts.

Besides, most pre-made low-fat meals are not as healthy as they advertise. To preserve the meals, providers have to fill them sugar, salt, and additives. If you want to lose weight or strengthen your heart, you’re better off eating healthy fats.

False: Celery Has Negative Calories

celery has negative calories misconception food myth
Pinterest / Morriz Gomez
Pinterest / Morriz Gomez

Negative-calorie foods supposedly require more energy to digest than the number of carbs they contain. Celery is often listed as one because it’s mostly water and fiber. However, no research supports the idea of negative-calorie foods. In reality, the human body only spends about 5-10% of energy digesting foods, which is not enough to “subtract” the low calories from most foods.

Theoretically, negative-calorie foods could exist, but science has yet to back any claim that foods like celery fall beneath that category. However, plenty of fruits and vegetables still provide low-calorie options for anything hoping to lose weight.

Brown Sugar Is Not Healthier Than White Sugar

brown sugar white sugar
Twitter / @ChristinePasalo
Twitter / @ChristinePasalo

Many believe that brown sugar, similar to brown bread and rice, has some health benefit over its white sugar counterpart. However, the difference between both is barely apparent. Brown sugar contains small traces of minerals, but these do not make a profound impact on the body.

Above all, brown sugar is still sugar. Many people prefer brown sugar for its taste (due to its molasses content), but it still gives us the same risk of heart disease and tooth decay.

Bottled Water Is Not Healthier Than Tap Water

Shishkin Les bottled water factory in Moscow bottled water health over tap water
Artyom GeodakyanTASS via Getty Images
Artyom GeodakyanTASS via Getty Images

Zero scientific studies have supported that bottle water contains healthier minerals than tap water. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) managed a four-year study on bottled water and found it to be no different than tap water. They even concluded that 25% of bottled water just contained tap water.

Some research suggests that bottled water could actually worsen our health. Chemicals from plastic, called phthalates, could leak into the water over time, especially if the bottle sits in a warm environment. It’s better to buy a water filter and fill it with tap water.

Vitamin C Won’t Prevent You From Catching A Cold

Vitamin C Herbal Supplements for the immune system, tissues strength and elasticity. vitamin c prevent colds misconception
Getty Images
Getty Images

This misconception stemmed from a seemingly reliable source. In 1970, Noble Prize winner Linus Pauling declared that vitamin C helps prevent colds. At the time, however, no studies supported that theory. In 2013, an analysis of 29 studies and over 11,000 participants concluded that vitamin C does not reduce the risk of catching a cold.

However, the study did confirm that taking vitamin C during a cold can decrease its symptoms. For instance, taking vitamin C supplements assuaged symptoms and reduced the length of the cold by an average of 18%.

Drinking Cranberry Juice Won’t Cure A UTI

cranberries and cranberry juice heart health prevent uti cure urinary tract infection
Twitter / @FSHN_Illinois
Twitter / @FSHN_Illinois

One popular method to cure urinary tract infections (UTIs) is to drink cranberry juice. Most research debunks this theory, however. Cranberries do contain compounds that prevent infections from bacteria, which is where the misconception started.

In 2010, a study explained that drinking cranberry juice can prevent bacteria from entering the urinary tract, but not cure the actual infection. New studies suggest that cranberry juice could also fight against E. coli, but more research needs to be conducted.

Food Allergy Is Not Interchangeable With Intolerance

Manuel Machacawa Maezane (R), 76, takes an asthma puffer as he meets his son Aristides (L)
YASUYOSHI CHIBA / AFP / Getty Images
YASUYOSHI CHIBA / AFP / Getty Images

Many believe that allergies and food intolerances are one and the same, or at least give similar symptoms. The two are actually quite different. In fact, most people who believe they may have a food allergy more likely suffer from a food intolerance.

Food intolerance means that the body struggles to digest the food. Lactose intolerance, for example, results from the body’s difficulty digesting lactose in milk. Whereas intolerances lead to a day or two of discomfort, allergies result in more severe symptoms, such as facial swelling, which could be life-threatening.

Eggs Do Not Necessarily Lead To High Cholesterol

deviled eggs
Pinterest / iamhomesteader
Pinterest / iamhomesteader

Some nutritionists advise against eating too many eggs as they contribute to high cholesterol. However, recent studies have followed people who ate eggs seven days a week and found no evidence of increased cholesterol. Some research demonstrates that eggs can actually help the heart by preventing certain kinds of strokes.

Eggs also provide a lot of nutrients, such as iron, zinc, antioxidants, vitamin D, and the brain-boosting chemical choline. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that most of the egg’s cholesterol lies in the yolk, so if you wish to decrease your cholesterol intake, eat egg whites.

Natural Does Not Mean Healthy

Organic bananas and passion fruit natural does not mean healthy are organic foods healthier than nonorganic
Wolfgang Kumm / picture alliance via Getty Images
Wolfgang Kumm / picture alliance via Getty Images

One of the fastest-growing misconceptions is that natural food, or organic, is healthier. Although organic produce may include fewer pesticides, plenty of organic foods still contain saturated fats, salts, and sugars. Always check the labels of organic food before buying. In general, organic fruits and vegetables may be healthier, while packaging organic foods may not.

In addition, all-natural ingredients do not automatically make a product healthy. Consider that sodium is a natural chemical that could poison us if consumed, as is chlorine. But combining both chemicals creates sodium-chloride, which we can safely consume (in moderation).

Cravings Don’t Mean That Your Body Needs It

Pastry: chocolate muffin
Andia / UIG via Getty Images
Andia / UIG via Getty Images

One common misconception is that food cravings signal to us that our body lacks a particular nutrient, so we must supply that nutrient by satisfying the craving. Research has yet to support this claim, however. Cravings have more to do with what food we’re surrounded by and which foods we’re actively resisting.

A study published in the journal Appetite explains that people only crave meals they remember the taste of. This means that if you consistently eat a healthy, balanced diet, your body will eventually desire those foods.

Pumpkins and Cucumbers Are Actually Fruit

Schimmel peels cucumbers in the kitchen of the farm pumpkins and cucumbers same food family fruits or vegetables
Rainer Jensen / picture alliance via Getty Images
Rainer Jensen / picture alliance via Getty Images

Pumpkin is a fruit? Well, it grows on a vine and contains seeds–but cucumbers? Both pumpkins and cucumbers stem from the same plant family called Cucurbitaceae. This type of gourd grows from flowering vine plants, which pumpkins and cucumbers both do.

Other members of the Cucurbitaceae family include squashes, melons, zucchini, and watermelon. That means that all of these foods are officially classified as fruits also. Technically, they fall under the berry category.

Freezing Your Fruit Doesn’t Lower Its Nutrients

A zookeeper prepares animal snacks of frozen fruits at the zoo is fresh fruit healthier than frozen fruit
SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP / Getty Images
SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP / Getty Images

Many believe that drying or freezing fruits dissolve some of the fruit’s nutrients. But science confirms that the drying and freezing processes have little impact on fruit nutrition, and juicing does not affect their vitamin count at all.

While some studies suggest that a few nutrients decrease in the freezing process, these numbers hardly impact the body. Smoothies, fruit juices, and even substantial fruit desserts will still add to your recommended fruit consumption (although the latter may impact your overall heart health).

Raw Carrots Don’t Benefit Us More Than Cooked Carrots

roasted carrots
Twitter / @diginn
Twitter / @diginn

It is a myth that cooking or boiling vegetables “destroys” all their nutrients. Heating vegetables can break down some nutrients, but not many. In the case with carrots, cooking makes them healthier to eat, because the heat breaks down tough cellular walls that are otherwise difficult to digest.

Both cooked and raw carrots provide substantial amounts of vitamins B and A. The healthiness of heated and raw carrots pretty much equal, except that boiled carrots tend to be easier on the digestive system.

The Myth About Cutting Carbs

Freshly baked homemade sesame biscuits in wicker basket. Sicily. Italy. Europe
Rosario Scalia / REDA&CO / UIG via Getty Images
Rosario Scalia / REDA&CO / UIG via Getty Images

Many believe that carbohydrates, as found in bread, contribute to more weight gain and heart disease. In reality, we have many different types of carbohydrates to choose from. Whole carbs (often called whole grains) actually lower our risk of heart disease and weight gain, as opposed to refined carbs (or simple carbs).

Whole carbs appear in fruit, legumes, veggies, and dark grains. According to a 2010 study, eating these carbs in regulation lowered body weight in over 13,000 participants. On the other hand, refined carbs featured in sugared beverages, white bread, and white rice, make us gain weight.

Go Ahead, Go Nuts

honey and sriracha roasted cashews

This myth possibly originates from people eating too many nuts. One serving of nuts equates to about a handful. So if you stick to the serving size, you’ll find that consuming nuts help stabilize your blood sugar levels. Harvard researchers reported that women who ate one serving of nuts five times a week became 20% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Different types of nuts benefit the body in different ways, but almonds, peanuts, and cashews are the best choices to avert heart disease. Walnuts and peanuts boost brain health and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

You Don’t Need To Avoid Drinking Milk When You Have A Cold

Set of non-dairy milk (rice milk, almond milk and oat milk) food myth don't drink milk with a cold truth
Natasha Breen / REDA&CO / UIG via Getty Images
Natasha Breen / REDA&CO / UIG via Getty Images

You might’ve been told not to drink milk while having a cold, because dairy supposedly increases mucus production. But according to the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, we have no scientific evidence that milk will make you more congested.

Julie Baughm, M.D. says that milk may thicken your phlegm and irritate your throat a little bit. However, frozen dairy products can soothe a sore throat, and provide protein that your body needs while sick.

False: Feed A Cold, Starve A Fever

WWoman blowing her nose. Feed a cold starve a fever food myth misconception
BSIP / UIG via Getty Images
BSIP / UIG via Getty Images

You may have followed this saying to eat less while feeling feverish, and eat more while having a cold. The truth, according to research, is that eating less during the early stages of fever could endanger the sufferer. The body needs more calories to build immune cells to fight off the illness.

According to Dr. Mark Moyad, M.D, M.P.H., the saying may have sprung up around 1574, when doctors of the time believed that activating the digestive process would lower the body’s energy. In reality, eating gives your body energy to fight off the illness.

Spicy Food Does Not Trigger Ulcers

Spices sold in Shuk Hacarmel market, Tel Aviv, Israel spicy foods cause ulcer truth food myth micsonception
Michael Jacobs / Art In All Of Us
Michael Jacobs / Art In All Of Us

Many believe that over-indulging in spicy food could give you an ulcer. However, we now know that the most ulcers stem from an infection caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (or H. pylori). Other cases could result from long-term use of aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, such as Advil and Aleve.

Consuming too many spices could irritate your bowels, which some people mistake for an ulcer. And while spicy food and stress could exacerbate an ulcer, they don’t cause the ulcer to form.

Vegetarian Meals Don’t Necessarily Lack Protein

Vegetarian food grilled zucchini salad with green pea. yogurt dip. garlic and rye sliced bread vegetarian meal contains no protein
Natasha Breen / REDA&CO / UIG via Getty Images
Natasha Breen / REDA&CO / UIG via Getty Images

The misconception that only animal products contain sufficient protein is not supported by science. Dairy products, of course, provide plenty of protein, but so do beans, tofu, lentils, and eggs. Depending on how one structures their vegetarian diet, they can obtain the amount of protein their body needs.

Several grains, vegetables, and fruit also contain protein. Grains such as quinoa and buckwheat contain substantial proteins. So do fruits such as avocados (yes, avocado is a fruit) and vegetables including edamame, broccoli, spinach, and artichokes.

False: Potatoes Count As A Vegetable

A dish with meat and young potatoes food festival on the Mill Island in Bydgoszcz, Poland are potatoes a vegetable
Jaap Arriens / NurPhoto via Getty Images
Jaap Arriens / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Potatoes, in any form, classify as a carbohydrate. They possess decent fiber and potassium, so cooking potatoes in light oil will contribute to a healthy meal. But overall, potatoes do not add to our daily vegetable servings.

The USDA recommends adults to consume anywhere from five to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, depending on dietary needs and weight. To fulfill your vegetable intake, you’ll want to add some green beans or broccoli with your potato dish.