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Food Facts and Fallacies

Food is always a popular subject on Listverse and facts and fiction even more so. This
list takes a look at ten fascinating facts or misconceptions we all have about food they
should be, for the most part, new to a lot of us. There will undoubtedly be a little
controversy around some of the entries but I believe that people will be able to
comment without too much vitriol or anger. If you can think of other fascinating food
myths be sure to mention them. The excellent book Modernist Cuisine Book 1 History
and Fundamentals formed the basis of research for many items on this list. It is highly
recommended for anyone interested in the science of food.


Fallacy: You are fat and need to lose weight

No magical combination of foods, avoidance of foods, increase in the intake of certain

foods, or special diet plans (no matter how bizarre) will make you lose weight. The only
way you can lose weight is to eat fewer calories than you burn in your daily activities. If
you burn 7,000 kilojoules a day, you need to eat 7,000 kilojoules to maintain your
weight. If you want to lose weight, eat a thousand less (give or take) a day and you have
it. It doesnt matter whether your daily calories come from chocolate, salad, fat, sugar,
or beans. The reason that fad diets work so well is that the people subscribing to them
are initially motivated and ultimately eat fewer calories than they are burning. Diets
like the Atkins (in which you must eat only protein) work in the same way cream and
high-fat meats are so rich you can only eat so much so you eat less. The best diet (which
should be your diet for life) is to moderate the amount of food you eat. It doesnt matter
what you eat just dont eat too much.

Did you know: Robert Atkins, inventor of the Atkins Diet, died after sustaining head
injuries when he slipped on some ice after a snow storm in New York. He was 72 years

Cooking Off Alcohol
Fallacy: Cooking or flaming removes most alcohol

From time to time we have a special event or family occasion that requires some fancy
cooking. These are, for the average home cook, the times we like to cook extravagant
recipes that usually require large quantities of booze. And that is fine for a family meal
because the cooking removes the alcohol making it safe for the alcoholics and children
amongst us. Or at least that is what we have all been led to think. In reality, it is actually
quite difficult to remove alcohol from food by cooking. Setting fire to alcohol in the pan
(which seems to be the most extreme way to burn off the booze) actually reduces the
total alcohol percentage by a mere 25%. In other words, when you add a cup of brandy
to a pan and set it alight, once the flames go out you still have the equivalent of 3/4 of
cup of brandy left behind (alcohol intact). If you want to reduce the alcohol to 0%
good luck; cooking alcohol for 2.5 hours with other liquids and ingredients still leaves
5% alcohol behind. That certainly explains some of the more unusual episodes of Julia
Childs cooking show.

Did you know: Alcohol in high doses has been known to cause increased rates of
regrettable sexual encounters in humans.

Salt Kills

Fallacy: Salt kills

Salt is a naturally occurring substance that, when added to low-salt food, enhances and
deepens flavor. The human body has around 1% salt in it and this is constantly removed
through urination, sweating, etc. The salt is essential to our health so we need to replace
it through our diet. Excess salt does not cause a high salt percentage our bodies are
smart enough to handle it. If you eat too much salt you just pee it out. There may be
some negative impacts on the body through extremely high consumption of salt in
those with blood or heart disorders, but the average healthy human can quite happily
over-consume the substance without ill-effect. To kill yourself with salt, you need to
consume about 1 gram per kilo of body weight. In other words, if you weigh 130 pounds
you need to eat around 5 tablespoons of salt an immense amount of salt and you
would probably vomit before you could finish it (because salt is an emetic).

Did you know: Before Biblical Judaism ceased to exist, salt was mixed with animal
sacrifices. This originated from Moses in Leviticus 2:13 which states: Whatsoever
sacrifice thou offerest, thou shalt season it with salt, neither shalt thou take away the
salt of the covenant of thy God from thy sacrifice. In all thy oblations thou shalt offer
salt. The salt was a symbol of wisdom and discretion. [Stolen with impunity from one
of my previous lists.]

Grill Death

Fallacy: Grilled meat is bad for you

When rats are fed high doses of nicely browned grilled meat they have a statistically
higher chance of getting cancer. But that is rats. So far no study of humans has found the
same result. Despite that, the US National Toxicology Program says that these chemicals
(heterocyclic amines) are reasonably anticipated to be carcinogens in humans. Why?
No one is really sure. Tripterygium wilfordii is deadly to rats but is consumed by
humans as an oral contraceptive with no negative impact. A recent study of humans
consuming grilled meat found no association between that and cancer. Lets face it for
thousands of years humans have cooked meat and evolved (some might say) to be
tolerant to it. When was the last time you saw a rat cooking a barbecue? Humans are
not rats what is deadly to a rat is not always deadly to a human.

Did you know: Potato chips, breakfast cereals, crusty bread, etc. are all crunchy because
of the same chemicals as those that produce the nice browned effect on grilled meat.
Furthermore, these chemicals are known to be antioxidants that suppress the bacteria
that causes peptic ulcers. Speaking of that delicious crust around a good steak

Raw Pork
Fallacy: Pork and poultry should be cooked to high temperatures to make them safe for

Trichinella spiralis, a type of roundworm, is the main culprit behind the huge campaign
for cooking pork to 71c / 160f (beyond well-done). For decades governments around
the world have been promoting cooking at that level as the only safe way to eat pork.
Sadly this is another case of science and governments failure to be able to backtrack
when they are wrong. Between 1997 and 2001 eight cases of roundworm infection
attributed to pork occurred in the US. This is from a total consumption of 32 billion
kilos (70 billion pounds) of pork. Trichinella spiralis infection is one of the rarest
diseases known to modern medicine. When it does occur it is neither fatal nor serious
and is easily treated. Sadly, to prevent such a minuscule amount of infections, virtually
all pork eaten is destroyed in the cooking. Pork can be safely consumed at temperatures
as low as 55c (135.5f) which results in a moist and pink cut of meat. The same is also
true of chicken which can be safely eaten rare (cooked to 58c 136f). At these
temperatures both trichinella spiralis and salmonella are destroyed. Pictured above is a
delicious cut of medium-rare pork.

Did you know: Raw chicken sashimi (toriwasa) is popular in Japan; it is served with a
mirin and soy dipping sauce and a little ginger. Along with the raw chicken flesh, raw
chicken gizzards and hearts are also consumed.


Fallacy: Man is a vegetarian

Utter tripe most regularly spewed by irrational vegans and some vegetarians. The
lengths that these people will go to disprove mans meat-eating disposition are, at times
ludicrous. From posters of Jesus denouncing the consumption of meat (contrary to the
fact that Christs most significant act in the Bible second to his death was the last
supper which was a big roast lamb dinner) to statements from Gandhi denouncing the
practice as evil (they tend to not worry too much about other aspects of his life which
may give one cause to reconsider his words as morally authoritative). In reality, at least
two million years ago our ancestors were eating cooked foods, and a Berkeley
anthropologist specializing in diet has gone so far as to say that we would not have
evolved into humans were it not for meat in our diet. According to said evolutionary
dietician Katharine Milton, its unlikely that proto humans could have secured enough
energy and nutrition from the plants available in their African environment at that time
to evolve into the active, sociable, intelligent creatures they became. Receding forests
would have deprived them of the more nutritious leaves and fruits that forest-dwelling
primates survive on. Her thesis complements the discovery last month by UC Berkeley
professor Tim White and others that early human species were butchering and eating
animal meat as long ago as 2.5 million years.

Did you know: Veganism (not just the refusal to eat meat but the complete abstention
from all animal products) was a concept invented in the 1940s by Englishman Donald
Watson an avowed vegetarian who decided to take his diet to fanatical levels in all areas
of his life.

Organic Produce

Fact: Organic foods are potentially more toxic than non-organic

Plants left in the wild naturally develop complex methods to self-manage pests. Often
this is in the form of mild toxins these toxins can repel pests but, in high doses can be
harmful to humans. In organic farming many plants are left untreated and this allows
those toxins to increase more than in pesticide treated produce. In other cases natural
pesticides are used in place of man-made pesticides such as nicotine infusions.
Nicotine is known to be deadly to humans when consumed (in small doses whats
more) yet the majority of unnatural pesticides have been rigorously tested for human
safety. There are many loopholes in the rules around organic produce which allow
other deadly products such as pyrethrum and rotenone to be used in organic farming
both of these chemicals have been linked to Parkinsons disease. Also many things
labeled as organic contain non-organic mater organic muffins are leavened with
baking soda which is inorganic (not a product of a living thing) and it is purified
through a chemical process. Other ingredients are also allowed despite non-organic
origins table salt, for example, which is heavily chemically processed for purification.
Most of the higher quality products bearing the label organic are not of a superior
standard because they are organic they are superior because they come from small
farms where greater personal care goes into the farming. Unfortunately most organic
produce these days is mass produced by conglomerates jumping on the latest
bandwagon. Thus the quality of organic produce is usually no better than non-organic
and, as has been stated, can be potentially more harmful.

Did you know: No study exists to prove that man-made agricultural chemicals cause
harm to people who buy and eat nonorganic fruits, vegetables, or meats.

Fiber Benefits

Fallacy: High fiber reduces cancer risk

Thanks to Doctor Denis Burkitt who spent some years in Kenya and Uganda studying
the diet of the natives, most of the western world has been fooled into thinking high
fiber helps prevent cancer. Unfortunately for us poor bewildered masses he was wrong.
Dr Burkitt noticed during his tenure that colorectal cancer was rare in that part of the
world. Alas the poor doctor fell for the common logical error of post hoc ergo propter
hoc (Coincidental Correlation). The native Kenyan and Ugandans ate lots of fiber and,
according to Burkitt, consequently suffered low incidences of the cancer which
ultimately took his name: Burkitts lymphoma. His research was ground breaking and
realizing the huge financial benefits, the Seventh-Day-
Adventist company Kellogs (amongst others Uncle Sam, Sanitarium another tax-free
company owned by the Seventh-Day-Adventists, etc) began to propound the benefits of
an excessively high-fiber diet. But what does science say? Unfortunately a lot of
science is reliant on donations from such companies as the aforementioned so they
tend to say little or nothing at all. But the few studies that have been undertaken (and
oft-times buried shortly thereafter) show no benefit to a high fiber diet. In fact,
horrifyingly for those of us who have been persuaded by these multinationals that
excess fiber is good for us, one study (The Womens Health Initiative) showed an eight
percent higher risk of invasive cancer of the colon or rectum in a low fat / high fiber
diet. Food for thought.

Did you know: When studies began to show that Burkitt was probably wrong with his
fiber/cancer link, new studies (from the previously mentioned conglomerates) showed
that a high fiber diet reduces risk of heart disease and diabetes. These new findings
also lack any credible scientific backing. But they are definitely helping the Seventh-
Day-Adventists maintain a roaring trade in the health food business.

Chinese Restaurant Syndrome

Fact: You eat MSG every day

Look back over your food consumption today. Did you eat any of the following:

* Processed snack food (for example, chips, doritos, cheetos, etc.)

* Meat
* Any non-meat protein (for example, beans)
* Mushrooms
* Tomatoes
* Soy sauce
* Cheese (especially hard cheeses)
* Wheat based products (for example, bread)

Every one of the above foods (plus many, many more) contain high concentrations of
MSG. Some (the processed foods) have MSG added, but the rest are all natural. By now
most Listverse readers should know that Chinese Restaurant Syndrome is a huge fraud
unintentionally (maybe) perpetrated by well-meaning people, but, alas, there are still
millions of people who think MSG is the cause of all their woes. There are huge websites
dedicated to helping MSG-sensitive people avoid the dreaded chemical in their daily
lives. Let us get this straight once and for all: MSG occurs naturally in most foods and no
single study ever has been able to give even the slightest hint of evidence that MSG
(naturally occurring or extracted from naturally occurring sources) is harmful in any
way. Parmesan cheese has the second highest concentration of MSG with sun-dried
tomatoes and tomato paste also having massive doses. So why (as Jeffrey Steingarten
famed food critic put it) have we never heard of of a Parmesan headache or Tomato-
Paste Syndrome?) Incidentally KFC chicken coating is not made of 11 secret herbs
and spices it is flour, salt, pepper, paprika, and MSG. Now you know why it is finger
licking good.

Did you know: Europeans and Americans consume an average of 1 gram of MSG from
natural food sources every day of their lives.

Forbidden Fats

Fallacy: Fat kills

Much of this fallacy revolves around the role of cholesterol in heart disease. HDL
(good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol) are actually lipoproteins that contain
exactly the same cholesterol; HDL (high density lipoproteins) are merely the
mechanism used to transport cholesterol from bodily tissue to the liver thereby
reducing the amount of cholesterol in the blood stream. LDL (low density lipoproteins)
deliver cholesterol to places in the body that need it. The failure to properly
differentiate between these lipoproteins has led to many erroneous studies on the
dangers of cholesterol and fat in our diets. Studies have shown that a high fat diet
causes an increase in overall cholesterol in the blood stream. Consequently people have
the idea that high fat = high cholesterol = high risk of heart disease. In reality, more
nuanced studies show that high fat actually causes a dramatically higher ratio of good
cholesterol to bad. This, according to the commonly held views of scientists, should
actually result in a decrease of heart disease risk but no one will admit it. Three
randomized controlled clinical trials recently discovered that a reduced total fat or
saturated fat diet over several years results in no lowering of heart disease, stroke, or
other cardiovascular disease. In other words, high-fat diets (such as the French enjoy)
probably has no bad impact on your health.
Did you Know: Due to government guidelines and what can only be called anti-fat
propaganda from the 1970s until now has lowered fat consumption by over 10% per
person on average per year. Coincidentally (maybe) obesity rates have increased at the
same time by around 10%. It is highly possible that a strict low-fat diet can prevent a
person from feeling satiated and consequently over-eat low-fat but high-calorie foods.

Facts and Fallacies about health and diet

1. Diet soft drinks can help you lose weight!

Only if you are substituting real sugar sodas for diet (save 100 cal approx)
NB: Rats fed artificial sweetners craved more calories than rats fed real sugar.

2. Eating late at night in unhealthy and makes you fat and lead to a poor nights

Fallacy it will only make you feel ill if you aren't used to it and consume more
calories than you will burn off in the next 24 hours. Fallacy - There is no
evidence to support that going to sleep on a full stomach, or the time of eating,
leads to a worse nights sleep, unless of course you are not used to it.

3. Calories consumed after 6pm lead to sleepless nights and make you fat!

Fallacy - There is no evidence to support that calories consumed later in the day
hang around. It is how often you consume these large amounts of calories not
the time they are consumed that lead to fat deposits. Calories consumed late in
the evening can have a beneficial affect on sleep - take hot chocolate for instance,
or a glass of red wine.

4. Commercially prepared children's food are geared to their needs.

only 'beginner' baby foods like simple pureed fruits and vegetables that have no
salt or sugar added.

Most commercial foods targeted to children are sweetened, contain artificial

colors, flavors and bright appealing packaging. None of which are to do with the
'needs' of young children. Many 'regular adult foods containing less sugar and
fewer additivies are far healthier.

5. When you go a long time with little food your stomach shrinks.

Fallacy. The stomach never shrinks it only enlarges to accommodate large

portions of food then returns to its previous size. However the entire digestive
tract can be overtaxed and overworked if it is only used to small portions and is
suddenly called on to deal with a larger quantity. In stomach stapling for
extreme obesity - the original (empty) size of the stomach is stapled so it wont
accommodate as much food.

6. Adding salt to cooking vegetables keeps their colors bright.

Fallacy. Salt has no effect on the color of vegetables. Waters acidity and mineral
content contribute to the molecular changes n vegetables and often affects their
color. NB: Plunging vegetable into ice cold water after blanching will help them
retain their color.

7. Searing meat seals in the juices.

Fallacy. Tests prove that seared meat and unseared meat have about the same
amount of juice. Searing does however gives it better flavor due to the protein
and sugar reaction to heat.

8. Cooking time for roast meat depends on its weight

Although weight is important the shape also affects the amount of time it takes
the heat to reach the center of the roast thus affecting cooking time.

9. Alcohol evaporates during cooking.

It does evaporate faster than water but not all of it evaporates when cooked. e.g.
something cooked in alcohol for 2 1/2 hrs will retain 5% alcohol, a flambe
however retains 85%.

10. You can't deep fry in olive oil.

You can but it does smoke faster(375F/191C) than other oils. It works fine in a
deep fryer and gives food flavor however it is a lot more expensive than other

11. Water is better than milk in an omelet.

It might be healthier but tests have proved that an omelet made with milk is
softer, fluffier and has more flavor.

12. The highest levels of Vitamin C are found in lemons.

Fallacy - per 100gms, the Barbados cherries are the highest with 3,ooomgs, then
rosehips with 2,800mgs and sea buckthorn 1,200mgs. Fruits such as
blackcurrants 190mgs, kiwi 100mgs; green cabbage 105mgs; and red peppers
100mgs. Oranges and lemons only contain 40-50 mgs.

13. The smell of strawberries is made from --well, strawberries.

Fallacy - the so-called fruit aromas are produced by bacteria and fungi.

Fat Facts and Fallacies

Fat is a dietary evilor so you probably think. The food industry has exploited this
belief in order to sell low-fat and fat-free versions of just about every food product
under the sun. But the truth is that fat, in small amounts, is essential to health.


The Facts on Fats

Fats and oils contain many different fatty acids that affect the body in various ways.
They fall into two main categories: saturated and unsaturated fats. Food fats almost
always contain both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids and are classified as
saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated depending on which fatty acids are
present in the greatest concentration. Studies show that the type of fat you eat may be
as important as how much you eat.

The Good

Unsaturated fats can help lower LDL-cholesterol levels when they replace saturated
fats in your diet. There are two types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and

Monounsaturated fats, which are liquid at room temperature, have been found to
lower LDL-cholesterol levels. They are found predominantly in olive, canola, and peanut
oils, as well as avocado, some nuts, and seeds.

There are two kinds of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 and omega-6 fats.

Omega-3 fats are found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines,
as well as flaxseed, walnut, and canola oils and some newer products such as omega-3
eggs. These fats help prevent blood clotting, which can trigger a heart attack or stroke.
They also help lower triglycerides, which can decrease your risk for heart disease.

Omega-6 fats are found in foods that come from plant sources and are liquid at room
temperature. Food sources include safflower, sunflower, corn oil, some nuts and
seeds such as almonds, pecans, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds. These
fats should be eaten in moderation since they still will contribute to your total calorie

The omega-3 and omega-6 fats in your diet provide the two essential fatty acids
that your body cannot produce on its own. Omega-3 fats provide alpha-linolenic acid
and omega-6 fats provide linoleic acid. These two fatty acids are essential to health and
must be provided by foods you eat.

Experts now believe that the ratio of omega-6 fats to omega-3 fats in our diets is too
high. While omega-6 fatty acids do not increase levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, they
may decrease levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. They appear to contribute to the
production of some cell-damaging free radicals. You can shift your ratio by getting more
omega-3 fatty acids from fish and other sources.

The Bad

Saturated fats generally come from animal sourcesmeat, poultry, eggs, and dairy.
The plant sources of saturated fats are coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil. A diet
high in saturated fats can raise blood cholesterol levels.

And the Ugly

Trans fats are a particular kind of fat created when a vegetable oil undergoes a process
called hydrogenation. This process is used to make liquids more solid and is commonly
used by industry to prolong shelf-life.

These fats act similarly to saturated fats by raising LDL cholesterol levels. These trans
fats are found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and some margarines. They are
also found in a wide variety of packaged foods such as crackers, cookies, and
commercially baked products and in many commercially fried foods.