17 Old Wives’ Tales About Food You’ve Probably (And Falsely) Believed Your Whole Life

food myths

Everyone out there has grown up hearing various old wives’ tales about pretty much everything. A lot of people are actually taught to live by some old wives’ tales, and they grow up truly believing in them forever. The thing is, though, a lot of these statements are totally false. Sure, there are a few that have some truth behind them, but for the most part, an old wives’ tale is probably false — even if it’s something you’ve heard about forever.

Certain old wives’ tales sound like they could be true, like the idea that cracking your knuckles will cause arthritis and that sitting really close to the television can damage your eyesight. You can see how these could be legit, so they’re easy to believe. Others just sound too ridiculous to be believed — for example, that one that claims swallowing a watermelon seed makes a watermelon grow inside of you. That would be, uh, pretty incredible.

There are lots of old wives’ tales out there about food as well, and many of them are often repeated as if they are true. Again, some do have some legitimacy there, while others can totally be ignored. Here, we debunk some old wives’ tales about food so you know what you should listen to and what you should be forget.

1. Feed a cold, starve a fever.

Well, not exactly.

According to Everyday Health, this is only partially true. Hundreds of years ago, doctors believed that fevers meant your metabolism was working overtime, and that eating would only make it worse. They thought that if your body lost energy from not eating, it could fight the fever better. The opposite is actually true: your body needs food as fuel to have the energy to fight off a sickness.

2. Spicy foods cause ulcers.

There are a lot of people out there who believe that eating too much spicy food leads to ulcers.

Even doctors believed it for a while! But in the 1980s, scientists found that while spicy food can irritate an existing ulcer, it can’t actually cause one. An ulcer is caused by a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori, not a spicy food. So if you have an ulcer, you may want to avoid spicy food, which could make it feel worse. But if you don’t have one, don’t worry — eating that hot sauce won’t give you one.

3. Turkey makes you tired.

It’s often said that everyone gets sleepy after a big Thanksgiving meal because of all the turkey that has been consumed.

That myth comes from the fact that turkey contains an amino acid called tryptophan, which does make people tired. But it doesn’t actually make you any more tired than any other foods, and experts say that the reason you’re so sleepy on Thanksgiving is more likely because of an increased amount of carbohydrates than anything else. Think about it. Do you get exhausted after a turkey sandwich? Probably not.

4. Chocolate causes acne.

If you’ve ever dealt with acne, you’ve probably had someone tell you that chocolate is the culprit.

There’s no simple yes or no answer to this one, actually. Some studies find that it can, while others find that it has no impact. According to CNN, it could be the increased amount of sugar from foods like chocolate that causes acne. Some studies show that chocolate can be a contributing factor to acne, while others found no correlation.

5. Swallowed gum stays in your stomach for seven years.

Chances are good that, as a kid, you were warned not to swallow your gum because it would stay in your stomach, undigested, for seven years.

Fortunately this one is definitely not true. Science says that gum is immune to the digestion process, for the most part, but that doesn’t mean it just sits in your body, collecting dust. Instead, it just passes through your body, pretty much untouched.

6. Detoxes remove toxins from the body.

If you’ve ever looked at Instagram, you’ve probably seen someone pushing a detox diet that they swear removes all of the toxins from their body.

This sounds nice, in theory. But according to the National Institute of Health, there is no evidence that detox diets, cleansing programs, or fasting will remove toxins or even improve your health. You’ll lose weight because you aren’t eating a lot, but nothing beneficial is happening.

7. Chicken soup cures your cold.

Chicken soup has been used as a cold remedy for centuries, but does it really do anything?

It kind of does, actually. Chicken stock is made from veggies and chicken bones soaking for hours, which allows minerals like zinc, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium to soak into the stock. According to Food Network, studies have found that zinc can help shorten the duration of a cold, if you started taking it within 24 hours of the first symptoms.

Another study found that chicken soup may include anti-inflammatory substances that could help alleviate a cold. It can also be hydrating. So while it’s not a miracle cure, it could actually help you feel a little better.

8. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Who hasn’t heard this incredibly common old wives’ tale?

The thought is that eating an apple every day makes you healthier and keeps you out of the doctor’s office. Here’s the truth: there’s no evidence to support this theory. Still, Harvard Health Publishing says that there’s no harm in eating an apple (or any one piece of fruit) every day. It’s good for you!

9. Eating a tomato helps prevent sunburn.

Many people believe that eating a diet high in tomatoes could keep a sunburn at bay.

And as weird as it sounds, it’s actually kind of true. The Today Show says that tomatoes have a high amount of lycopene, which can aid in sun protection. One study found that volunteers who ate five tablespoons of tomato paste daily for three months had 25 percent more protection against sunburn. This shouldn’t replace sunscreen, but it’s good to know!

10. Alcohol helps you sleep better.

It’s not that weird to think that alcohol makes you sleep better.

After all, having quite a few drinks can leave anyone feeling pretty exhausted. But while it might help you fall asleep faster, it ruins your quality of sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, having too much alcohol before bed blocks REM sleep, aggravates your breathing habits, interrupts your circadian rhythm, and prevents you from having the deep sleep you need.

11. Hair of the dog cures a hangover.

Another alcohol-related myth: drinking the “hair of the dog” (aka more alcohol) can help cure a hangover.

If that sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is. According to Cosmopolitan, drinking more alcohol when hungover could make you feel better in the short term… because it’s making you feel drunk again. It basically prolongs your hangover. But in the long-term, a few hours later, you’re going to feel even more hungover and absolutely worse. It’s not worth it!

12. Cranberry juice prevents bladder infections.

Many women believe that drinking a lot of cranberry juice can prevent urinary tract infections, or stop them in their tracks.

This isn’t necessarily true. One medical expert told the Cleveland Clinic that while cranberries contain an ingredient that prevents bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall, the juice doesn’t have enough of it to actually be effective.

13. Carrots help you see better.

Another old, popular myth is that carrots help you see better.

This is another weird one that is actually kind of true. According to Scientific American, carrots are rich in beta-carotene, a naturally occurring pigment that nourishes the eye and helps the body make vitamin A. But if you wanted carrots to actually improve your vision, you’d have to eat a ton of them, which just isn’t realistic.

14. Eating before swimming can make you drown.

Who wasn’t told to wait 30 minutes to an hour to swim after eating when they were a kid?

The idea that eating before swimming is dangerous is only a myth. People believe that after you eat, the blood goes to your digestive system and doesn’t go to your arms and legs while you’re swimming, which could make you drown. According to Duke Health, this is an unfounded belief and is nothing to worry about. You might get a minor cramp, but nothing serious.

15. Spilling salt brings bad luck.

This is one of those old wives’ tales that sounds so silly you know it can’t be true.

In fact, it’s almost more of a superstition. Of course spilling salt doesn’t bring bad luck — it’s just a myth that comes out of years of weird coincidences. Buy hey, to each their own!

16. Eating grapefruit increases your metabolism.

Grapefruit is often hailed as one of the best healthy foods out there, something people eat when they’re dieting because they believe it will increase their metabolism and help them lose weight.

And according to Shape, grapefruit actually does help boost your metabolism. It contains naringenin, an antioxidant that can help your body use insulin more efficiently and improve calorie burn. It’s not going to make you shed a bunch of pounds on its own, but it’s certainly part of a healthy diet.

17. Drinking eight glasses of water a day is good for you.

A lot of people strive to down eight glasses of water each day in order to stay hydrated and healthy.

It’s hard… and you don’t need to do it. According to The New York Times, we get more water than we think each day. Water is in foods like fruits and veggies, it’s in juice, and it’s even in coffee. You’re ingesting more water than you realize, meaning you don’t need to strive for a specific eight glasses. In fact, that could cause over-hydrating!

Moral of the story? Don’t believe everything you hear — even if it’s from your grandma!

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