5 food myths that never seem to die

vapour in a pot
CC BY 2.0 Mathanki Kodavasal

Why do we cling to this kitchen wisdom so strongly? It's time to use some real science to see which ones actually hold water.

You know all those ‘food rules’ that you’ve been hearing about for ages? Things like, “Don’t cut meat on that wooden board!” and “Fat is bad for you!” and “Remember to salt the pasta water to make it hotter!” Well, it turns out they’re not true. As part of its 10th anniversary celebration, Lifehacker published a list of “10 stubborn food myths that just won’t die, debunked by science.” Here are five that I found quite interesting.

Myth: Adding salt to water changes the boiling point, cooks food faster.

Wrong! Or, rather, you’d have to add and dissolve so much salt to alter the boiling point that the water would be inedible. “The amount of salt you’re likely to add to a pot of water will only alter the boiling point of the water by a few tenths of a degree Celsius at most.” Still, even that small amount makes pasta taste pretty darn good, so I’ll keep doing it.

Myth: Dairy is the best thing for healthy bones.

Dairy and calcium are not the same thing. Dairy contains calcium, but there are many other sources of calcium, such as dark leafy greens. And why is all the attention given to calcium? Magnesium and vitamin K are also crucial for bone health, and you get those from eating almonds, cashews, potatoes, and oatmeal, not dairy products.

Myth: High-sodium foods taste salty, so avoid salty snacks.

Read the label, people! Sodium is about more than just visible surface salt. Food labels will reveal many facts that may surprise you. The fact is, a Dunkin’ Donuts corn muffin has as much sodium as McDonalds’ Chicken McNuggets.

All processed, packaged foods generally have far more sodium than anything homemade, so if you prepare your food from scratch, you probably don’t need to worry about sodium intake at all.

Myth: Aluminum foil and cookware is linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

My husband replaced our aluminum mocha pot with stainless steel because of this one. There was research in the 1960s and 70s that showed elevated levels of aluminum in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, but in all the follow-up research since then, scientists have been unable to show any connection.

“Most experts at this stage believe any aluminum absorbed by the body is processed by the kidneys and urinated out, and it does not pose a threat for Alzheimer’s disease.”

Myth: Wine is good for you, but beer and liquor are not.

Wine is known for its antioxidants that raise the body’s HDL, or ‘good cholesterol.’ It turns out that beer and liquor do the same thing, according to researcher Alannah DiBona, a Boston nutritionist. Other alcoholic beverages also raise HDL, which “protects the heart against the plaque buildup that may cause strokes and heart attacks.” Just be aware of the extra calories!

You can read more of Lifehacker’s debunked food myths here.

5 food myths that never seem to die
Why do we cling to this kitchen wisdom so strongly? It's time to use some real science to see which ones actually hold water.

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