Common Food Myths Exposed

We are often bombarded by magazines and media with fad diets and revelations around what is good for our diets and what’s not so good. Here, we expose some of the common food myths, many of us follow everyday, get ready to be surprised.

1. Food combining helps you lose weight

There are several fad diets that promote ‘food combining’-or not eating certain foods together. They advocate this way of eating for wellness and weight loss. They promote avoiding the consumption of proteins and carbohydrate foods together (such as meat and pasta, or egg on toast), and eating only fruit until midday. They say that certain foods digest at different rates and can interfere with one another, and that fruit should never be eaten with other foods because proteins and fats take too long to digest, causing fruit to ‘ferment’ in the stomach. How this relates to weight I’ll never know!

Some bad food combos to avoid

• Don’t sprinkle unprocessed bran on everything because bran contains phytates which bind to minerals such as iron and zinc and reduce their absorption.

• Don’t overdo caffeine because it can interfere with calcium balance and impair bone health. Enjoy caffeinate containing foods and drinks in moderation.

• Go easy on the salt as more sodium in the diet increases the body’s need for calcium. Skip added salt and buy salt-reduced products.

• Don’t drink tea with meals because the tannins reduce the absorption of iron from plant foods such as breads and cereal-enjoy your tea between meals. If you follow this diet, you end up eating less (and thus lose weight) but it has nothing to do with food combining. It’s more to do with the number of meals and dishes that are off limits because they break the rules.

Key info: The body is absolutely capable of digesting all kinds of wild and wonderful food combinations.

Long story short: Food-combining diets are unscientific.

2. Carob is healthier than chocolate

I’m not sure how this myth started but it was probably around the time ‘alternative health’ took off and ‘health food stores’ started appearing. There is no support for it. Carob ‘chocolate’ (a misnomer) is a sweet chocolate-like treat made from carob powder instead of cocoa. Carob powder is derived from the seed pod of Ceratonia siliqua, a legume tree native to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions.

The use of carob pods dates back to ancient Egypt. They are sweet and the flour and syrup made from them are still used to make traditional foods in countries such as Turkey. The carob bean inside the pod is also known as the locust bean and is used as a thickener in food processing and manufacturing. Although its health benefits have been researched much less than those of cocoa, carob is known to contain antioxidants. But any nutrient and phytochemical content is diluted by the process of making carob’chocolate’.

Key info: Milk chocolate and carob ‘chocolate’ are made in a similar way, but carob ‘chocolate’ uses carob powder instead of cocoa solids.

Long story short: Milk chocolate and carob ‘chocolate’ have the same kilojoule (calorie) content, but carob has double the saturated-fat content which makes it less healthy than milk chocolate.

3. Chocolate is addictive

Calling chocolate an addictive substance is off-base for a number of reasons (although this doesn’t help those struggling with overeating the stuff). Firstly, the term ‘addiction’ refers to drugs (yes, that includes cigarettes and alcohol), not food, and is defined as strong physiological and psychological dependence. Although so-called ‘chocoholics’ may say they are psychologically damaged by skipping their beloved brown stuff, it is a far cry from a true addiction to alcohol or drugs. The feel-good chemicals in chocolate are present in very small amounts. Eaten in modest portions, the drug-like effects are negligible.

The potentially mood-altering chemicals are found in even tinier amounts in milk chocolate, yet chocoholics tend not to be too fussy about which type of chocolate they crave. It’s all about the taste and the mouth-feel and psychological aspects of enjoying a treat. Some people say they ‘crave chocolate’, but this is due more to cultural conditioning and psychological effects than physical need. We all know you can feel like chocolate even when you’re not at all hungry.

Chocolate tastes wonderful and can be used as a delicious distraction to emotions such as boredom or sadness, and stressful situations. But chocolate doesn’t really fix the underlying problems you want distracting from.

Key info: Addiction or substance abuse relates to drugs rather than food and ‘chocoholism’ does not meet the criteria.

Long story short: We eat chocolate because it tastes good, and for emotional and behavioural reasons rather than physical dependence.


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