Registered dietitian separates fact from fiction when it comes to common food myths. Does gum really take 7 years to digest?
Myth 1: Gum Takes 7 Years to Digest
We’ve all heard the tale that it takes seven years for gum to be digested by the human body, but it’s unclear when or how this myth got started. And why seven years? In any case, you’ll be pleased to know that if you accidentally swallow chewing gum, it’ll go through the same digestion process, at the same pace, as anything else you eat. Enzymes will break down most of it, and the rest will be eliminated. So if you’re just a sporadic gum swallower, no harm, no foul.
The key here is “sporadic.” According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there have been a couple of rare cases in which young kids have had intestinal distress due to blockages caused by gum, but only after regularly swallowing chewing gum over a short period of time. The bottom line: Don’t make chewing gum your entree of choice, but swallowing an occasional piece is not dangerous for healthy people. And if you choose to chew gum, do it at work. Research suggests that doing so may boost attention and work performance.
Myth 2: Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day
Sure, go ahead and aim to drink eight glasses of H2O every day. The zero-calorie drink quenches thirst and plays a vital role in maintaining body temperature, ridding waste and much more. But drinking eight cups of water daily is only a rough estimate, not a rule. Fluid needs vary based on age, sex, weight, activity level and climate and will vary from day to day. Plus, you can satisfy your body’s need for fluid with more than plain ol’ water.
According to the National Academies of Engineering and Sciences, most healthy people can meet daily hydration needs by letting thirst guide them. The report also provided general guidelines for women to consume about 91 ounces (roughly 11.5 cups) of total water from all beverages and foods daily. For men? Aim to drink about 125 ounces (approximately 15.5 cups) daily. If you’re eating a lot of produce, know that it has a high water content and contributes to your overall goal. So eat right and drink whenever you’re thirsty or, better yet, before you’re thirsty.
Myth 3: Cooking Veggies Destroys Nutrients
Thinking about trying the raw-food diet? It turns out that may not always be the best way to get the most from your veggies, at least from carrots and tomatoes. Not only are a significant amount of nutrients retained in veggies throughout the cooking process, in some cases cooking makes nutrients more available, not less.
A study from the National Center of Biotechnology Information suggests that steaming carrots until medium firm can increase beta carotene by 40 percent. And another study found that heating (or thermal processing) tomatoes can enhance their lycopene content. This happens because heat breaks down cellular walls that typically “trap” nutrients like beta carotene and lycopene. Bottom line? Eat cooked (think al dente, not mushy) vegetables and raw vegetables too.
Myth 4: Sulfites in Wine Cause Headaches
Is your throbbing head the result of that glass (or glasses) of wine you drank last night? While there are naturally occurring chemicals in wine associated with headaches, sulfites are not to blame.
Alcohol acts as a vasodilator and a natural diuretic. Mild dehydration from a night of overimbibing alcoholic beverages can trigger headaches as well. But the real culprit when it comes to wine? Histamines or tannins present in wine are more likely the cause of a wine drinker’s headache. Sulfites can trigger shortness of breath or other allergy symptoms for those sensitive to sulfites. If that’s the case, look for USDA-certified organic wines with no sulfites added (NSA); they’ll contain less than 10 parts per million of sulfites. But if it’s an aching head that you’re complaining about, it’s not the sulfites.
Myth 5: Wash Chicken to Remove Bacteria
It’s probably something you saw your mom or dad do, or perhaps it was a grandma. In fact, this advice has been around for decades — rinsing chicken under running water before cooking it, that is. But this is one time you can tell grandma or your parents that they’re doing it all wrong.
First, water won’t wash away bacteria; cooking chicken or other poultry to the proper internal temperature (165°F) is the only thing that gets rid of it. Second, washing off chicken can cause “bad” bacteria from uncooked poultry to splatter onto countertops and beyond. Anything that’s within three feet of the sink is fair game. This rinsing habit increases the likelihood of foodborne illness due to cross-contamination, which occurs when a ready-to-eat food comes in contact with uncooked poultry, meat or fish, for instance. Research from Drexel University supports this safer “no-rinse” approach. The school even produced a “Don’t Wash Your Chicken!” campaign.
Myth 6: Salt Is Bad for You
Salt isn’t inherently dangerous for you. In fact, it’s fundamentally good. First, know that table salt contains sodium. One teaspoon salt contains 2,300 milligrams of sodium. Your body needs sodium to manage blood volume, regulate blood pressure and maintain proper functioning of nerves and muscles. It’s vital for the human body to operate.
So why does salt get such a bad rap? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Americans often consume it in excess — more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily. Too much sodium in a diet can contribute to high blood pressure and heighten the risk for stroke and heart disease. And according to the American Heart Association, about 70 percent of that sodium comes from processed and restaurant food. In general, the “2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans” recommends consuming less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. So salt isn’t bad for you — but too much salt can be.
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