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Top 20 Food Myths, Busted!

Posted on November 10, 2012 at 1:00 AM

 

They’ve been passed down from your mother who got it from her mother who also most likely got it from her mother too but is there any truth in some of these old myths? Does adding salt to water make it boil faster? Do potatoes really soak up excess salt? Does a spoon prevent champagne from going flat? Well you may be surprised that while some are quite true, some of these myths really are just old wives tales.

 

Here are a few common myths that have been proven to not be true, but hey, I'm not going to try and convince your grandmother otherwise.

 

It’s ok to let chicken thaw out on the kitchen bench.

Food needs to be kept in the correct temperature zone. If meat products sit between 5 and 60 degrees for too long (the temperature danger zone) they have a high risk of developing bacteria. This is even more critical when left in the sun to defrost. Even though the meat may still be frozen on the inside, the surface may be sitting at 10 - 15 degrees giving you a high chance of food poisoning.

 

The best way to defrost meat in overnight in the fridge.

 

Adding salt to water makes it boil faster.

Salt actually raises water's boiling point taking it slightly longer to boil, however, it will hold the boiling temperature longer and at a more stable rate. The amount of salt you would be likely to add though is too small to make a noticeable difference. Salt will add flavour to almost anything you're cooking so it’s definitely worth including it when blanching vegetables or boiling potatoes.

 

Leaving an avocado pit in the avocado keeps it from browning.

It’s the oxygen that actually makes the avocado go brown, as it also does to cut apples. The pit will keep any part of the avocado it's touching from browning, but not any other area that’s exposed to the air. This goes for guacamole as well, you’re better off covering with plastic wrap directly onto the guacamole itself.

 

Putting a spoon into the neck of an open bottle of champagne will prevent it from going flat.

There have been many experiments to test this theory but none have succeeded. Putting a spoon into the neck of an open bottle of champagne will not prevent it from going flat.

 

Cereal bars are healthier than chocolate bars.

Cereal bars can be as high in sugar as chocolate and you can end up eating the same amount of calories or more.

 

A potato will absorb excess salt in a soup or stew.

When you boil a potato in any liquid that contains salt, the potato will absorb some of the salty liquid, but it hasn't actually made the remaining liquid any less salty. The only way that this would work is that if you place raw potatoes into a stew it will soak up some liquid resulting in the need to add more liquid which would water down the original saltiness.

 

Slightly pink pork is not safe to eat.

Back in the day when pigs were fed garbage and lived in filth, it was common for them to become infected with diseases. These days their diet and conditions are better controlled and the meat is free from any harmful diseases allowing us to not have the need to cook it to a crisp but to eat it at a more palatable temperature where the meat is still moist and slightly pink.

 

The best temperature to cook pork to is around 65 degrees internally. This will ensure that the pork will maintain its moisture and tenderness.

 

Salads are always a healthier choice.

Most of the time salads are a healthier alternative to greasy burgers and chips, but not always.

 

Salads usually contain a dressing which can have a high fat content. The content of the salad may also be unhealthy too. Take a Caesar Salad for example, this salad contains pieces of bacon which may have been fried to crisp it up, croutons which also may have been fried or roasted but would almost certainly contain oil, the dressing is high in oil and salt and then there is the cheese.

 

So although a salad may seem like a healthier way to go, have a good look at what’s inside it first and take note of the dressing too.

 

Marinating meat will kill any germs.

Microbes have no taste buds. Spices like chilli powder or mustard taste hot to us, but have no influence on microbes. Likewise, alcohol is not efficient either. It is diluted by the juices from the raw meat and so has no real effect on the growing microbes.

 

Meat should be marinated in the refrigerator and be treated as though it is a plain piece of meat. If it looks bad to start off with, marinating it will only hide the taste of it and not the fact that it’s bad.

 

Fat free food is calorie free.

The misconception that fat free is better is the reason that so many products are labelled “fat free,” “low in fat,” “fat reduced,” etc. Many people who want to lose weight will choose these “low fat” foods thinking they are going to lose weight, they even sometimes tend to eat more of the low fat food than they would have if it were full fat. When fat is removed from food a lot of the flavour is removed as well resulting in the need of extra sugars, salt, flour, starch and chemicals to be added to give back the flavour. These ingredients are high in calories and may lead to weight gain, therefore, fat free food can often be far worse for you than regular full fat food.

 

Brown eggs are more nutritious than white eggs.

Egg shell colour has nothing to do with nutrient value of an egg. The eggs are brown or white depending on the breed of the hen that laid the eggs.

 

If food is organic it must be nutritious.

Manufacturers market organic food as a natural and healthy product free from harsh chemicals and pesticides. While this may be true, organic junk food is still junk food.

 

Lobsters scream with pain when boiled.

Lobsters cannot scream. The sound you hear when dropping a lobster into boiling water is the air trapped in the shell. When heated, it expands and forces itself out through small gaps, causing the sound.

 

Processed foods are not as nutritious as fresh foods.

Many processed foods are just as nutritious or in some cases even more nutritious than fresh foods depending on the manner in which they are processed.

 

Frozen and canned vegetables are usually processed within hours of harvest. There is little nutrient loss in the freezing or canning process so the vegetables retain their high vitamin and mineral content. In contrast, fresh vegetables are picked and transported to market. It can take days or even weeks before they reach the dinner table and vitamins are gradually lost over time no matter how carefully the vegetables are transported and stored.

 

Some processed foods, such as breads and breakfast cereals, have vitamins and minerals added for extra nutrition. In fact, the growing interest in health and nutrition has brought on the production of a range of foods with added health and nutritional benefits.

 

Don't wash mushrooms.

It is perfectly fine to wash mushrooms but you should only do so directly before you use them. You can quickly rinse them under a running tap to remove any dirt but soaking them will cause them to absorb some of the water. It is even advisable to dry them with paper towel.

 

There is also no need to peel skin either.

 

All the alcohol burns off when you cook with wine or spirits.

While you won’t get drunk off a red wine sauce, all the alcohol doesn’t completely cook out. If you simmer for hours, most of the alcohol does go away but if you simmer for 10-20 minutes, you will only burn off about half of the alcohol. Flambéing will reduce the alcohol content but also won’t remove all of it.

 

You should sear meat to keep in the juices.

Searing meat may help keep in the juices but it definitely won’t prevent it completely. It will make little difference in the actual cooking process, however, for a better taste and presentation the meat should be grilled until golden brown. The reason many people say that food tastes better on a bbq is that the hot-plate can reach a higher temperature than you would normally get in a pan on the stove resulting in the meat ‘browning’ and also tasting a lot better.

 

Salting meat before cooking will draw out the juices.

Meat should be salted directly before cooking to give a better flavour. The salt will not affect the meat in any other way. However, salting meat and leaving for several hours will draw out the juices and actually start to cure the product.

 

Eating certain foods will burn calories.

Exercise burns calories. Foods do not burn calories.

 

Eating right before bed causes weight gain

The common rule of thumb is to stop eating at least an hour before you go to bed. However, researchers have found that this rule is not true. The most important thing is that you manage your total daily intake of calories.

 

It is true that you burn fewer calories when you sleep, but that doesn’t mean you’ll gain weight if you eat something right before bed. Overeating is overeating, regardless of when you put the food in your mouth. Manage your total daily intake of calories and you will be fine.

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