15 Myths About Food You Should Stop Believing

Despite an increasing consciousness of healthy eating's importance, many fallacies surrounding food stubbornly remain.

Newsweek has spoken to experts to help dispel some of the most common food myths.

What's the best source of vitamin C? Is the gourmet salt trend really worth it? Take a look through list below...

Bread is 'bad'

bread
Bread can be a great source of important carbohydrates KucherAV/Getty Images

Bread can be a great source of carbohydrates, which are not only essential for providing energy, but also important for producing the happy hormone serotonin.

Nutritionist Jenna Hope told Newsweek: "Carbohydrates allow the amino acid tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier, tryptophan can then be used to produce serotonin.

"As a result, those on a low carbohydrate diet can often experience low mood.

"Furthermore, bread is often demonised in society but it can be an affordable way to get fibre and B-vitamins into the diet.

"Where possible opt for more nutrient-dense options such as sourdough or wholegrain varieties."

"Gourmet" salts are better than regular salt

Pink Himalayan salt
Pink Himalayan salt contains the same amount of sodium as regular table salt Professor25/Getty Images

Dr. Sarah Jarvis, an advisor for LoSalt stresses the importance of avoiding being duped into thinking expensive gourmet sea and rock salts, such as Pink Himalayan salt, are better for you.

She told Newsweek: "Some of these manufacturers make very misleading claims.

"They all contain exactly the same amount of sodium as regular table salt and any other trace minerals will be present in such small quantities that you won't get any benefit."

Dried fruits are a healthy snack

Dried fruits
Dried fruit can actually be harmful to teeth egal/Getty Images

Amanda Napitu, of Dentaly, reveals dried fruit can actually be harmful to teeth.

She told Newsweek: "Dried fruits contain less water than fresh fruits, which means their nutrients are more concentrated.

"While they can be an excellent source of fibre, vitamins and antioxidants, they are also packed with sugar.

"Consuming sugary snacks throughout the day can not only contribute to a number of health problems; it's also really bad for your teeth since your enamel is under constant attack from the acids produced when you eat sugar.

"The result is enamel erosion which leads to sensitive teeth and, eventually, cavities.

"Eat dried fruit as part of a meal instead to get the full benefits without risking your teeth."

Eating fats make you fat

Eating fats make you fat
It is untrue all fats should be avoided kerdkanno/Getty Images

It is incorrect to say that all fats should be avoided, says Saskia Gregson-Williams, CEO of Naturally Sassy.

She told Newsweek: "There are good, unsaturated fats (like those in avocados, nuts and seeds) and bad trans fats (like those in fried and frozen foods), but people often believe they need to steer clear of all fats to avoid putting on weight.

"Consuming more calories than you burn is the real reason you gain weight, regardless of where the calories come from.

"And for a healthy diet, it's recommended that roughly 30 percent of your daily calories come from fat.

"But choose good fats which are linked to improved immunity, cardiovascular functioning and brain functioning, as well as reduced inflammation."

Detox diets are vital for healthy lifestyles

Detox diets
There is little science to support the idea of detox diets Merinka/Getty Images

Detox diets have become more and more popular in the wellness industry in recent years. They can claim to rid toxins from the body and even help issues like obesity, bloating and digestive problems, although there is little research to support this.

Ms Gregson-Williams told Newsweek: "In reality, you don't need to bother with these to be healthy because they aren't actually cleansing you of anything.

"The body is actually very good at removing toxins itself. What's more, detox diets can be unhealthy.

"For instance, starving the body of calories and protein can cause nausea, dehydration, light-headedness and even compromise the immune system."

A balanced diet must include meat

diet must include meat
Nuts, pulses and leafy green vegetables are all sources of iron Martin Barraud/Getty Images

Cutting out meat does not have to be bad for your health.

Gregson-Williams said: "While it's true that a plant-based diet can fall short of iron, as well as other essential nutrients like vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids, it can be balanced and healthy with the right planning.

"Nuts, pulses and leafy green vegetables are all sources of iron, while soya-based foods contain omega-3, and you can buy things like cereals and unsweetened soya drinks that have been fortified with vitamin B12."

Snacking is bad for you

Snacking is bad for you
Snacking is not necessarily a bad thing Julio Ricco/Getty Images

While indulging in too many snacks between meals can lead to excessive calories and weight gain, snacking is not necessarily a bad thing.

Gregson-Williams said: "If you're genuinely hungry between meals, a snack can help sustain you and prevent you from overeating at your next meal.

"Protein-based snacks are also useful for muscle recovery after a workout.

"Of course, healthy snacks like fruit and nuts are more nutritious and beneficial, but the odd chocolate bar or bag of crisps won't do any harm in moderation."

Dairy is required to consume sufficient calcium

Dairy products
Many people believe the only way to get enough calcium is through dairy products Elena Medoks/Getty Images

Many people believe the only way to get enough calcium is through dairy products, therefore anyone that follows a dairy-free diet must be deficient.

However, Gregson-Williams reveals calcium can be found in a much wider variety of foods such as green, leafy vegetables, pulses and sesame seeds.

She said: "Calcium is even added to bread in the UK. With effective planning, it's possible to consume enough calcium in your diet, even without dairy."

The "five-second" rule

five-second rule
Many people still believe food dropped on the floor for fewer than five seconds is still safe to eat Michael Blann/Getty Images

Many people still believe food dropped on the floor for fewer than five seconds is still safe to eat.

However, Dr. Deborah Lee, of Dr Fox Online Pharmacy, reveals this is not true at all.

She told Newsweek: "In one 2016 study four foods, watermelon, bread, bread with butter, and gummy candy, were inoculated with the bacterium E. aerogenes, a bacterium that attaches to food in a similar way to Salmonella, and dropped on a variety of floor surfaces for one, five, 30, and 300 seconds.

"A significant amount of bacterial transfer occurred after only one second, although more bacteria were transferred the longer the food was in contact with the surface.

"Moist foods such as watermelon had the highest contamination rates.

"Transfer rates of bacteria were lower from carpets than from floor tiles or stainless steel."

You can tell if food is not safe by sight alone

Best before
You cannot tell by looking at food, or sniffing it, whether it is safe to eat KenTannenbaum/Getty Images

Contrary to popular belief, you cannot tell by looking at food, or sniffing it, whether it is safe to eat.

Dr. Lee said: "To consume food safely you need to understand out of date food labels and store food correctly in a refrigerator at the correct temperature.

"Best before – when a food should be used by for best quality. Use by – the last date to use food for its peak quality. Sell by – how long a food store can sell a food product.

"To stay safe, only eat foods before their best before dates. Do not eat anything after its use-by date."

Chewing gum takes 7 years to digest

Chewing gum takes seven years to digest
Tthe belief chewing gum requires seven years to digest if swallowed is untrue Estradaanton/Getty Images

Nope. Dr. Lee says this claim is a complete myth. She said: "Chewing gum is a tacky sweet product, designed to be chewed and not swallowed.

"It contains a gum base, plus resins and polymers, plus colours and flavourings. It is completely undigestible and passes through the intestines in around 24 hours just like other foods.

"There are rare reports that repeatedly swallowing chewing gum can cause constipation. Inhalation of chewing gum can cause choking and asphyxiation."

All calories are identical

Dr Lee states how, although all calories produce the same amount of energy, the body uses that energy differently.

She said: "Foods with a high GL [Glycaemic Index] release glucose quickly after you've eaten them.

"This means they cause a spike in blood glucose levels, and as the levels fall, you start to feel hungry again and crave more food.

"High GL foods are refined carbs – such as rice, pasta, cakes, and biscuits.

"Foods with a low GL release energy slowly after eating them, so they help you feel fuller for longer.

"There is a much smaller peak of glucose after eating and the curve rises and falls more slowly.

"This means as time passes, you don't feel the same hunger pangs.

"Low GI foods include vegetables, and unrefined carbs, such as oat-based cereals, and wholemeal bread and pasta."

You should never skip breakfast

skip breakfast
The importance of never skipping breakfast has been overestimated Arx0nt/Getty Images

The importance of never skipping breakfast has been overestimated, believes Dr Lee.

She said: "Most studies now show that longer periods of fasting and restricting calories are associated with health benefits and increased longevity.

"Some studies show that those who skip breakfast consume fewer calories per day than those that don't.

"People who skip breakfast burn the same number of calories per 24 hours as those that don't.

"Research also suggests that those who skip breakfast tend to be unhealthier in general, in that they are more likely to smoke, drink more alcohol, and do less exercise. Don't let yourself fall into this pattern."

Coconut oil is good for you

Coconut oil
Coconut oil is almost 90 percent saturated fat and diets high in saturated fat are dangerous for heart health bhofack2/Getty Images

Coconut oil is almost 90 percent saturated fat and health professionals are increasingly keen to point out diets high in saturated fat are dangerous for heart health.

Dr Lee said: "These diets increase your risk of heart attacks and strokes.

"There is currently not enough medical evidence on the use of coconut oil to be sure of its risks or benefits for health.

"For the time being, you are recommended only to cook with coconut oil sparingly."

Oranges are the best natural source of vitamin C

Many other fruit and vegetables contain as much or more vitamin C as oranges, which contain on average 79mg of vitamin C.

This is compared to 190 mg vitamin C in a red pepper, 137 mg of vitamin C in two kiwi fruits and 80 mg in kale.

Dr Lee said: "To increase absorption of vitamin C, eat fruit and vegetables raw when you can, and leave the skin on where possible.

"Smokers and those who drink large amounts of alcohol tend to have lower vitamin C levels."

vitamin C
Many other fruit and vegetables, such as red bell peppers, contain as much or more vitamin C as oranges Donhype/Getty Images