People have plenty of beliefs about food. We are constantly besieged with information from news agencies or the Internet, urging us to eat this and not that, or warning us that such and such would cause health issues while others would bring about unexpected health benefits.
And no one is more emphatic than our own family members. From not being able to eat seafood or chicken after a major surgery to avoiding spicy foods while pregnant because it might induce labour, these food myths have plagued us since we were children but, is there even an ounce of truth in any of these myths?
We take a look at some of them and set the record straight.
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Text: Atika Lim
Myth 1: You should avoid chicken and seafood after surgery
According to traditional Chinese medicine, chicken and seafood should be avoided after surgery because they affect wound healing. However, according to a post on SingHealth’s HealthXChange, there is little evidence to support this claim.
As chicken and seafood are generally high in protein, consuming them after surgery could help to strengthen the body’s immune system. This is especially important as surgery can stress the body out and deplete it of much needed nutrients.
Myth 2: Chocolate causes acne
Good news chocolate lovers! This myth has long been debunked. For decades, chocolate has been blamed for the breakouts on the faces of teenagers and as kids, we were told that eating too much chocolate is “heaty”.
Despite this, chocolate has received a clean bill of health according to VeryWell Health and is perfectly fine to consume in moderation — even when you’ve got acne. Healthline says it is more likely the sugar in the chocolate bar that is to be blamed, rather than the cocoa itself.
Image: Nataliya Arzamasova/123RF
Myth 3: If you swallow chewing gum, it stays in your stomach for seven years
First of all, we’re not entirely sure how this myth came about and why the number seven of all numbers.
If there’s one thing we know though, is that this is not true. While it’s true that your stomach cannot break down chewing gum the way it does with regular food, your intestines are actually able to move gum along so it will come out through regular bowel movement.
Myth 4: Consuming soya sauce can result in scarring
Just like the myth about eating chicken and seafood after surgery, soya sauce too has been on the list of banned foods after surgery. People are generally told to avoid soya sauce because it might darken scabs and in turn, leave a scar. This myth has been debunked by both TCM and Western medicine practitioners.
However, scratching and bumping your wound will lead to scarring.
Myth 5: Eating butter before drinking could reduce the effects of a hangover
So there is some truth to this myth. While eating butter itself before drinking might just make you sick, eating greasy foods with cheese and butter could help to absorb alcohol. These greasy foods provide a sort of inner lining to prevent the effects of a hangover the next day.
Myth 6: Expectant mothers should avoid spicy food
Spicy foods are supposedly able to trigger labour in heavily pregnant mothers. According to what Associate Professor Tan Thiam Chye of KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital told the Straits Times, there is no such evidence of spicy food triggering labour.
Instead, pregnant women should continue eating a balance diet throughout their pregnancy and after giving birth. One thing to note, however. While eating spicy food will not cause any harm to the baby, it might make pregnant women feel uncomfortable, especially if they suffer from heartburn, as spicy foods can aggravate it.
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Myth 7: Caffeine lowers chances of pregnancy
There’s a mix bag of responses for this one. According to a 1988 study, women who drank about a cup of coffee per day were half as likely to conceive. However, no studies were able to replicate that finding and some studies have reported that fertility rates have increased when consuming caffeine.
If you’re concerned though, a safe bet is to consume about one to two cups of coffee a day, says Dr Loh Seong Feei, medical director of Thomson Fertility Centre.
Image: Pheniti Prasomphethiran/123RF
Myth 8: Microwaving food reduces its nutritional content
Some nutrients do in fact break down when they’re exposed to heat — one such example is Vitamin C. However, because microwaves expose food to high amounts of heat over a short period of time, cooking with a microwave doesn’t affect the food’s nutrient levels all that much, based on Harvard Health Publishing’s findings.
Myth 9: Eating and drinking before exercising causes stitches
Truth be told, researchers are still puzzled as to what causes stitches. However, we’re often told not to drink too much water or eat too full a meal before working out to prevent stitches. Most agree that this would reduce the odds of a stitch the next time you get active.
The Sports Dietician Australia organisation advises that we eat and drink at least two hours before working out to optimise energy levels and get the most out of our workouts. Dr Darren Morton, a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education and Science at Avondale College of Higher Education in NSW, also says we should drink only small amounts of water in the two hours before exercise to prevent bloating. He also says to make sure we’re well hydrated by drinking lots of water in the 12 hours before the work out.
Myth 10: Vitamin C prevents colds
We’re often told to consume Vitamin C effervescent tablets whenever we feel a cold coming but, little evidence has supported that doing so will thwart a cold.
That said, the myth does have some evidence to support it. Researchers found that extremely active people (think army troops and marathon runners) who took 200mg of Vitamin C every day reduced their risk of getting a cold in half.
To benefit from Vitamin C though, you ought to take 100mg every day to prevent getting a cold instead of when you start to feel display symptoms of a cold.
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