6 Food Myths Revealed

Myth #1: "Chinese food makes you hungry."

This is a very old myth, at least several decades old, which comes from the way Chinese food "used to be" prepared.

Years ago, portions were much smaller than other cuisines, low in whole-grain carbohydrates (white rice), low in fiber (most dishes didn't have much in the way of veggies) and relatively low in protein. So, this combo of factors can help speed up the rate of your stomach emptying and cause you to be hungrier sooner.

Nowadays, Chinese food has more vegetables, more lean protein and tofu and you can get brown rice. Plus, the portions have grown to meet consumer demand. Quite a difference!

Answer? Chinese food does NOT make you hungrier than any other type of food.

Myth #2: "Turkey puts you to sleep."

This myth is most commonly associated with a Seinfeld episode where Jerry wanted to feed a girl some turkey to put her to sleep. "Turkey has tryptophan" and that will make her fall asleep.

Here’s the 411 on the sleepy stuff: Tryptophan is the precursor amino acid for the brain chemical, serotonin, that does promote sleep. More tryptophan in the brain makes more serotonin, which can make you sleepy, but it's not so simple.

The tryptophan in turkey (and all other proteins) is surrounded by other amino acids that compete with the tryptophan to get into the brain. That's where the tryptophan needs to go to turn into serotonin. In protein, the tryptophan is in smaller amounts compared to others, so when you eat protein, tryptophan can't get into the brain—it's out-competed by the other amino acids. (Have I lost you yet?) No extra trytophan in the brain = No more serotonin = No more sleep. That's why this is a myth. But, people are usually eating a giant meal when they eat turkey, which promotes fatigue, not the turkey alone.

Answer? Myth!

Myth #3: "Drinking ice water helps you lose weight."

Drinking water is always good for weight loss, but this concept is related to the idea that if you drink ice water, your body has to burn calories warming it up.

Technically correct, but the number of calories you burn are really tiny. It's about 1 calorie per ounce of ice water to warm it up. We would think it would take more calories to heat up the water, but it doesn't.

So, drink water, but only ice water if you like it. Of course, you also can’t cancel out the calories of an iced beverage that has calories because it's cold (like soda or juice), although that would be nice!

Answer? Myth!

Myth #4: "Carbohydrates are more fattening than other foods."

Carbohydrates, whether fruits and vegetables, or starchy stuff (like breads, rice, pasta, potatoes) all have four calories per gram of food. This is the same as protein with four calories per gram. It's about half of what fat has at nine calories per gram!

Where people get messed up is that they first don't realize that fruits and veggies are carbohydrates, rich in water and fiber and the starchy carbs can be fiber rich, but of course, low in water.

It's a lot easier to gobble down refined starchy carbs (white flour), since there's no fiber to expand in our stomachs to signal we're full. So, people have the perception that carbs are more fattening, because it's easy to overeat on them and then tend to eat less of the 100% whole grain starches. Plus, carbohydrates are combined with fat for dessert items, which means lots of added sugars (still carbs). But, don't blame the carbs on that!

Answer? Myth!

Myth #5: “Spicy foods burn calories."

While this feels like it should be true, it's a myth, when it comes to burning significant calories. We eat spicy foods, start sweating, and feel warm. Is that a metabolic effect? Yes, but such a tiny one, you can't count on that to burn many calories, and certainly not to justify eating a spicy meal just because you'll be burning calories from the spices.

The effect on us is more superficial—sweating and warmth—and not a robust metabolic one. But, you can use spices to rev up the flavor of lower-calorie foods like chicken, fish, and vegetables!

Answer? Myth!

Myth #6: "Avoid dairy products when you have a cold."

This is such a common myth that a number of scientific studies have been done to test this. The myth is that dairy products have been thought to promote mucus production, and thus should be avoided with colds and other upper respiratory problems, including asthma.

There is no consistent effect of dairy products on mucus production. It cannot be demonstrated that this is a problem. If you feel that you are affected, then don't do it, but don't avoid needlessly. It is possible to have this sensation, since milk can have a filmy residue in the mouth after drinking, but this has nothing to do with mucus.

Answer? Myth!

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