Food Myths, Debunked
From the five-second rule to digesting gum, we get to the bottom of these food tales
Keywords Tips, Food Myths, Cooking Advice
We’ve all done it before: midway through eating the best sandwich of your life, you happen to drop it on the floor. “Quick, pick it up! The five-second rule!!” Too slow? OK, let's call it the 10-second rule.
Alas, while this sounds good in theory, and prevents many foods from being wasted, what we believed as kids (and probably what we believe as adults) isn’t always true. Case in point, the five-second rule. Sadly, there’s not a window that gives you that take-back chance — a crucial period of time offering you a blank slate after you've dropped your slice of pizza on the floor at 4 a.m, without it being contaminated with germs.
For better or worse, check out the truth behind these food myths, that tend to be more like old wives' tales than actual fact.
Verdict: While cooking destroys some of the nutrients in food, some foods actually benefit from being cooked (like tomatoes and carrots) because their cell walls are broken down, making the nutrients easier to digest. However, for leafy greens like kale and spinach, boiling them can cause the nutrients to leach out. Luckily, if you salt the water just right, you can minimize the loss. Or try steaming as a gentler alternative to boiling.
It Takes 20 Minutes for Your Stomach to Tell Your Brain When Its Full
Verdict: It's true, except that you actually have to be paying attention to what you're eating (not just scarfing down food on-the-go or munching on a bag of buttered popcorn at the movies.)
The Five-Second Rule
Verdict: While food that's been on the ground for five seconds versus a few minutes or hours will have less bacteria on it, you can still get sick from it, so probably not the best idea. Although, as Food Scientist Harold McGee suggests, you might want to consider where you dropped your food before picking it up (i.e., the just-cleaned floor of your apartment versus New York City subway platform — your call).
Verdict: If you've ever tried this, then you know it doesn't work. All you end up with a browned layer of avocado on top. What you can do though is to squeeze a little bit of lemon or lime juice on the avocado to prevent oxidation (the acid prevents the browning).
Gum Takes Seven Years to Digest
Verdict: You probably heard this as a kid, and, let's be honest, seven years sounded like a long time then (and still does today). Plus that image of gum decaying in your stomach is not pretty. Luckily for us, it's not true! Unfortunately, the underside of many middle schools desks have paid the price for this false claim. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/lilCystar)
Verdict: Don't fall prey to the Atkin Diet's preaching — there are Carbs That Are Actually Good For You. Yes, eating tons of refined carbohydrates (like white bread) and soda is not healthy, but there are carbs that are full of fiber and nutrients that are essential to any balanced diet. (Think lentils, chickpeas, and edamame.)