• Culture

Food Myths, Debunked

Few aspects of modern life have more myths, misconceptions, and urban legends devoted to them than food. After all, everyone needs to eat. Myths about food and nutrition are incredibly prevalent, incredibly lucrative, and most of all, virtually impossible to get rid of. Urban legends related to how much water we should drink and what cooking does to certain types of foods have been around for decades. And because of the growth of alternative medicine, they've been joined by myths about microwaves, carbohydrates, sugar, and fat.

These food myths have us questioning everything about what we eat, and more than that, obsessing about it in ways we never have before. The internet has fueled our paranoia about food and what's in it, giving us access to unlimited information - much of it biased, incorrect, or written solely in the service of expensive fad diets and "cleanses." So anywhere you look, you can find chemicals to avoid, additives that will kill you, types of cooking that are harmful, and foods that nobody should ever eat.

Is any of this true? Are any of the urban legends, nutrition myths, false food facts, and assumptions about food and cooking actually true? Most aren't - and the reasons why they're not have solid scientific evidence supporting them. Here are some the most prevalent. Many of these are pretty harmless, but others can inflict great damage to both your body and your wallet.
  • Adding Salt to Boiling Water Makes It Boil Faster

    This is a persistent myth that's believed by both home cooks and professional chefs. While it is technically true, practically speaking, it's not. Adding salt to water will change its boiling point, but only by a tiny fraction. You'd need to add so much salt to a pot of water that it would ruin whatever you're cooking.
  • You Should Drink 64 Ounces of Water Every Day

    A fragment from a government report from 1945, the idea that everyone needs to drink 64 ounces of water was seized upon by anti-soda crusaders. But what people forget is that the 1945 study said that while that much water was best, people would get most of it from prepared food. There's no scientific research that confirms how much water people need, and you don't need to drink anywhere near that much. It is still better for you than soda, though.
  • Eggs Are Full of Cholesterol

    While it's traditional for people with high cholesterol to avoid eggs, it's not necessary, and not really even helpful. Eggs are high in cholesterol, but they have little saturated fat, and no trans fat - along with high quantities of over a dozen vitamins and minerals. And little of the cholesterol in eggs actually makes it into a person's bloodstream. If it's a serious issue for you, avoid the yolks and just eat the whites.
  • Grilling Meat Can Lead to Cancer

    This myth seems to stem from the discovery of small amounts of the chemical acrylamide - a compound used in a number of industrial and manufacturing contexts - in some burned foods. While acrylamide has been linked to nervous system toxicity and fertility issues, you'd have to eat so much grilled meat to have a problem that you'd be dead long before you had any toxicity issues. Not to mention that acrylamide is found naturally in many foods.