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Common Food Myths PDF Print E-mail

Many of the miracle cures we hear about are merely old wives' tales passed down by relatives, or new fads that are championed by the media.  Or are they? Here are some of the most popular myths about foods and the realities behind them.


Brown sugar is better for you than white False.  Refined white sugar is 99.9 per cent pure sucrose.  Brown sugar is less refined but is still 98 per cent pure sucrose and 1 per cent water.  Although it does retain tiny amounts of minerals and vitamins, these amounts are far too small to do you any good.


An apple a day keeps the doctor away False.  While it is true that eating plenty of fruit can help you obtain adequate fibre, vitamins and minerals, just one apple a day cannot.  An apple will provide about 40 calories of energy, 3 grams of dietary fibre, 2 milligrams of vitamin C and very small amounts of iron, thiamine and niacin.


Meat is essential for strength False.  There are large numbers of strong and healthy vegetarians and vegans, who eat no animal foods at all.


Margarine is less fattening than butter False.  By law margarine must contain at least 80 per cent fat - the same as butter.  Only low-fat spreads have fewer calories than butter and margarine.


Spinach makes you strong False.  There is no medical basis for this idea.  Spinach is a good source of vitamins A and C and contains the minerals iron and copper, but it is no more or less nutritious than other leafy green vegetables.


Garlic is a herbal cure-all Partly true.  There is a firm scientific basis for the old belief that a few raw garlic cloves (or garlic oil capsules) a day are beneficial to health.  Various studies show that garlic can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, so helping to prevent heart disorders, and there is some evidence that it can help prevent colds, chills, flu, sinus problems and bronchial complaints.


Bran is best to regulate the bowels False.  It is better to eat more food that is naturally high in fibre than to sprinkle bran on top of a refined carbohydrate diet.  Include lots of fibrous vegetables like celery, cabbage, carrots, fresh fruit and wholegrain cereals.  Too much bran can irritate the bowels and cause uncomfortable bloating and wind.  It t should only be taken in small amounts in conjunction with a fibre-rich diet, and plenty of fluids.


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