Hungry for the truth? We’ve busted the top 5 food myths

By Ellen Singleton

1 November 2017

Do you really need to drink eight glasses of water a day? Do you miss Mythbusters? Need a good excuse to practice some procrastination (after all, you can finish what you’re working on later right?). Lucky for you we’ve cooked up a nifty little blog that will not only educate, but also fill the Jamie & Adam void that has been left in your heart.

MSG is bad for you/The Chinese restaurant syndrome

Delicious MSG. Image: NSW department of primary industries food authority

Delicious MSG. Image: NSW department of primary industries food authority

In 1946 Dr Ho Man Kwok wrote an article (not even specifically about MSG) published in the New England Journal of Medicine attesting that after eating Chinese food he experienced “a strange syndrome” resulting in “numbness at the back of the neck, gradually radiating to both arms and the back, general weakness and palpitations…” and thus the Chinese restaurant syndrome was born!  Unfortunately the myth persists even after numerous studies have concluded that MSG does not cause adverse reactions or allergies.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is the sodium salt of the non-essential amino acid glutamic acid. MSG isn’t just found in your local Chinese buffet either, free glutamate naturally occurs in protein rich foods which we consume every day (and there is no chemical difference between added and naturally occurring glutamate). Your favourite burger, parmesan cheese and even Vegemite contains glutamate. Glutamate gives food a distinct umami flavour – it’s what gives a dish a characteristic meaty/savoury taste. Just think of it as you would any salt, adding a little to your dish to enhance the umami flavour will not do you any harm.

Still not convinced? Food Standards Australia & New Zealand have given their green light: “MSG is considered safe and is an authorised food additive in the EU and Australia and New Zealand in line with good manufacturing practice (GMP)”.

Microwaving food makes it lose its nutrients

As seen here microwaving can be one of the best ways to cook a delicious and nutritious meal for your fam.

We’re not sure if this myth exists outside of the internet, but we’re going to set the record straight regardless.

Since 1946 we’ve had the pleasure (or pain, if you’ve grabbed a hot bowl too soon) of using electromagnetic radiation to heat our food by way of the humble microwave. And even though we’ve all come to blows with our microwaves at one point or another, they are in fact one of best ways to retain the vitamins and minerals when cooking food.

Microwaves aren’t sitting there waiting to zap your food and deplete it of all nutritional value. Any form of cooking food will destroy some nutrients, and this is all dependent on how long you cook your food, the temperature you cook it at and how much water you’re using. In fact, microwave cooking is preferable to boiling to minimise the leaching of vitamins and minerals into the cooking water, as with steaming. So, if you want to retain the most nutrients in your food when using the microwave just use a little water to steam the food inside. Bon appetit.

Sugar makes kids hyperactive

Won't somebody please think of the children?!

Won’t somebody please think of the children?!

Raise your hand if ever heard an adult cuss out all the lollies for making kids hyperactive.

We’re here to burst that bubble, as this is yet another long standing myth that just won’t calm down. Studies have confirmed that there is no direct link between feeding children sugar and increased hyperactivity*. Sugar does change parent’s expectations of their children’s behaviour though. Studies have shown that parents who believe in a link between sugar and hyperactivity see one. It’s also worth noting that in most cases hyperactivity and excitement in children often occurs around common events like birthday parties, Halloween and other gatherings – where sugary food is available en masse and has helped feed the misconception.

As with all things on the internet though we need to be clear – we’re not advocating that you let the rugrats run free with a 20 pack of Zooper Doopers.  A diet high in sugar for kids can be linked to dental problems, excess weight, impaired learning and difficulty with cognitive control. Any excessive hyperactivity in children should be referred your GP.

*Quick disclaimer: There is evidence that sugar impairs cognitive function & learning ability, but it can be difficult to measure.

You should drink eight glasses of water a day

These myths are making me thirsty!

The ‘8 glasses of water a day’ myth is an excellent case of ‘how not reading all information can land you in hot water’ (pun intended). In 1945 the American Food and Nutrition Board recommended that, “A suitable allowance of water for adults is 2.5 litres daily in most instances.”  This information was then loosely interpreted as eight glasses per day, and the myth was born!

If everyone had read the full paragraph back in ‘45 we probably wouldn’t have been constantly hassled by our parents and teachers to chug eight glasses a day, as there was more to it than first met the eye:

“A suitable allowance of water for adults is 2.5 litres daily in most instances. An ordinary standard for diverse persons is 1 millilitre for each calorie of food. Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.”

There is no set recommendation on how much water we should consume – it’s all dependent on your size, activities and general health. Your body gives you signs you need a drink of water long before you become dehydrated. If you need a helping hand in reading the signs you can check out this nifty urine colour chart from NSW Health (the chart is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules).

Tea/Juice detoxes remove harmful toxins from your body

The only action you should take if someone tries to sell you tea detox.

The only action you should take if someone tries to sell you some ‘tea detox’.

Not feeling so good after a big weekend on the sauce? Been eating a lot of fast food lately? Feel like your colon needs a good cleanse? You might think the answer lies in the organic-free-trade-raw-antioxidant-rich tea/juice peddled by the ‘health and wellness’ entrepreneurs with their brown paper packages and smug smiles (#blessed). But we have good news for you! You already have a whole centre of amazing detoxifiers and the best part is: it’s free!

That’s right – your body is it’s very own detoxification machine, working around the clock to keep you tip top! Your skin excretes waste products, your lungs remove toxins in the form of carbonic gas, kidneys purify your blood and your liver removes toxic substances (just to name a few).

That’s not to say that we’re advocating an unhealthy lifestyle – toxic chemicals from things like cigarettes can’t be ‘detoxed’ out of your system, and drinking in excess is never good for you. Instead of spending your hard-earned dollars on the latest detox fad, head to the supermarket and load your basket with fruit and vegetables for the week ahead.  It’s a much cheaper solution to get your health back on track.

Myths busted

Phew! That’s a lot of science and controversy to digest in a single serve. Maybe you’re still a bit peckish though? If that’s the case please feel free drop us a comment on what science myth you’d like to see busted next.