A lot of misconceptions float around in the kitchen, and you need to separate fact from fiction: While some myths are just silly, others can be detrimental to your health. Here are some persistent fallacies you might still believe.
Myth #1: White Meat Is Healthier Than Dark Meat
While it’s true that dark meat has more calories than white meat, the difference is only about 30 calories per serving, so it shouldn’t affect your food choices on Thanksgiving day. Turkey and chicken legs are darker thanks to a compound called myoglobin that helps muscles store the oxygen necessary for prolonged activity. Flightless birds use their legs to get around, so the muscles they use for running contain more myoglobin, making the leg meat darker than the breast meat. Although slightly higher in calories, dark meat has more iron, zinc, and other vitamins than white meat.
Myth #2: Washing Raw Meat Before Cooking Gets Rid of Bacteria
While it’s commonly believed that rinsing your meat will remove some bacteria, it’s actually recommended that you don’t wash your meat before you cook it. As long as you cook your meat thoroughly, all the bacteria will die. The act of washing, meanwhile, could contaminate your kitchen. Bacteria could end up in your sink and any other areas that are splashed with water, so it’s safest to just skip that step.
Myth #3: Eating Late at Night Leads to Weight Gain
The myth that you should eat less as the day goes on has persisted for a long time; “don’t eat after eight,” is common advice given to people trying to lose weight. Today, contemporary nutritionists say that calories cannot tell time and it does not matter when you consume them. The misconception probably arose because midnight snacking leads to calories you wouldn’t have otherwise consumed.
Myth #4: Avoiding Gluten Has Health Benefits
Unless you have celiac disease or a diagnosed gluten intolerance or sensitivity, there is no real reason to seek out gluten-free food at the grocery store. People with celiac disease can’t eat foods like wheat or barley because the gluten in them will damage their small intestine. This illness affects about one percent of the population, so gluten is perfectly safe (and healthy!) for the remaining 99 percent. In fact, studies have shown that avoiding gluten has no health benefits for those without a diagnosed health condition such as celiac disease. A gluten-free diet may even be too low in fiber and other nutrients such as B vitamins if you aren’t careful.
Myth #5: All Preservatives Are Bad for Your Health
Preservatives are added to food to extend its shelf life and prevent bacterial growth. They are an essential part of the food we buy from the supermarket, as otherwise it may not even make it from the farm to the store without spoiling.
While there are select individuals who are sensitive to some preservatives such as sulfite and benzoic acid, people have been consuming these compounds for centuries, from both natural and synthetic sources, with significant benefit to food quality, availability, and safety. As is the case with all compounds we use to improve our quality of life, synthetic and natural preservatives should not be used in excess, as excessive use can lead to some possible health effects (for example, too much natural vitamin E may inhibit blood clotting, leading to bleeding). Fortunately, guidelines are available from regulatory agencies around the world to guide food manufacturers to ensure the concentration of preservatives, whether natural or synthetic, used in food is safe.
Myth #6: Brown Eggs Are Healthier
Brown may seem more organic or wholesome, but that’s just natural marketing. The color of the egg depends on the kind of chicken that lays it. Single Comb White Leghorn hens lay white eggs and Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire, and Plymouth Rock hens lay brown eggs. While the egg-laying chicken’s diet can affect the nutritional value of the eggs, assuming the chickens’ diets are the same, white and brown eggs are equally healthy.
Myth #7: “Multigrain” and “Whole Grain” Are Interchangeable Terms
“Multigrain” and “whole grain” mean different things, so it’s important to be able to distinguish between them. Foods labeled multigrain are made with more than one kind of grain, while whole grain products are made with the entire grain (the names are pretty accurate descriptors). Multigrain foods tend to deliver a richer texture and flavor, while whole grain foods tend to deliver more fiber and natural sources of nutrients; so choosing between the two is more a matter of personal preference.
Myth #8: Microwaving Your Food Reduces Its Nutritional Value
Opponents of the microwave have long propagated the idea that zapping your food makes it less healthy. But in reality, this couldn’t be much farther from the truth. Microwaving—especially if you add some water to the dish, loosely cover, and use the microwave to steam your veggies—is actually one of the most sound food preparation methods. The best cooking methods for retaining nutrients in your food are ones in which the food is exposed to heat for a short amount of time, minimal amounts of water are used when steaming, and the food cooks quickly—all things achieved with a microwave. Therefore, by using a microwave to steam your food, you'll retain more vitamins and minerals than with almost any other cooking method.
Want to learn more about common misconceptions we have about food? Check out our video below.