From yet another way to lose weight in a miraculous way to a new study that shows how one food can eliminate an ailment: every day someone has something new to say about (healthy) food. But what should you believe about all that? Food scientist Eric De Maerteleire examines eight persistent myths. ‘Chicken stock does more for your health than fish stock.’
Mythe 1: an apple a day keeps the doctor away
“The expression was first published in an English magazine in 1913, but goes back to a proverb from 1866. You should not take this statement very literally: there is no direct connection between how many apples you eat and how often you go to the doctor. has to,” says Eric De Maerteleire. “The fruits are very nutritious: they are full of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants such as vitamin C.”
Eating apples with the peel is no problem at all. “But be sure to rinse it off. Apples also contain soluble fiber that can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, two risk factors for heart disease. Due to the high fiber content, apples keep you satiated. They also improve your bone strength, support brain function and the fruit could lead to a lower risk of asthma.”
Myth 2: Does chocolate give you pimples?
“People with sensitive skin are advised not to eat too much fat and foods with fast sugars. But the evidence for the influence of a certain diet or specific nutrient on acne is too limited,” says De Maerteleire. “We do know with certainty that a diet high in sugar and fat can increase sebum production and promote inflammatory responses in the body, which in turn increases the risk of acne. Dairy products such as whole milk could also increase the risk of acne if you eat or drink a lot of them. Milk chocolate and white chocolate generally contain more fat, sugar and other additives than pure, dark chocolate.”
“People with oily skin are often more at risk of pimples. Add to that hormonal fluctuations – especially in young people during puberty – and the risk of acne lurks around the corner. In menstruating women, the urge for fatty foods – including chocolate – is present shortly before ovulation, which, in combination with hormonal changes, can cause more pimples. Chocolate is often identified as the only perpetrator.”
Myth 3: Do Carrots Help Improve Your Vision?
“Carrots are popular all over the world, often claimed to keep your eyes healthy and improve night vision. The association between carrots and vision has been circulating since the Second World War,” De Maerteleire explains. “Although they are not magical, as was suggested at the time, they do indeed contain compounds that are good for your eyes and are confirmed by science.”
Carrots are a rich source of beta-carotene and lutein: antioxidants that can prevent eye damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are compounds that can lead to cellular damage, aging and chronic diseases, including eye diseases, when their numbers become too high. Orange carrots are especially rich in beta-carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A. A vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness. Vitamin A is needed to form rhodopsin, the red-purple, light-sensitive pigment in your eye cells that helps you see at night. If you suffer from night blindness due to a lack of vitamin A, this can often be corrected if the deficiency is replenished. Yellow carrots contain more lutein, a substance that helps to better protect your vision later in life.”
“Your body uses beta-carotene more efficiently when you eat cooked carrots instead of raw ones. In addition, vitamin A is fat-soluble, so if you add some butter or oil to the prepared carrots, you will be able to absorb the vitamin better.”
Myth 4: Does pineapple induce labor?
“Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which some people believe makes the cervix more flexible and causes contractions,” says De Maerteleire. “You may have already noticed that effect yourself. If you eat a lot of fresh pineapple at the same time or choose an overripe one, you may experience a burning, tingling sensation in the mouth. This is caused by bromelain, which is laughingly said to be an enzyme that eats your meat.”
Limited research has been done, but the results are inconclusive. One study applied the juice directly to the uterine wall and found no effect, while another study in pregnant rats found an effect, but not when the rats drank the juice. None of the studies showed an increase in how quickly a rat actually gave birth to the babies. Moreover, the study was done on rats and not on humans. Furthermore, there is no medically approved and proven way to introduce pineapple extract into the uterus. Don’t forget that the stomach breaks down the enzymes in pineapple before they can reach the uterus: a myth.”
Myth 5: Does turmeric help you have a stronger heart?
“Studies have shown that curcumin serves as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Because inflammation is the source of problems in many diseases, the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin are very interesting. Science now understands much better how these mechanisms work.”
“Curcumin, the main active compound in turmeric root, has long been used in traditional medicine and for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. Newer studies provide evidence that curcumin, the yellow pigment from turmeric, has positive effects and reduces many parameters that contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in aging and obesity.”
“Conclusion: Use a lot of turmeric in the kitchen, but always add a pinch of black pepper to increase the absorption of curcumin in the intestines.”
Myth 6: Is Chicken Soup the Best Remedy for a Cold or Flu?
Your grandmother always came with a bowl of steaming chicken soup when you had a cold or the flu. “All hot soups help keep the nasal passages moist, thin mucus, prevent dehydration and soothe a sore throat. Cold and flu viruses also multiply less well at higher (body) temperatures. Chicken stock is rich in easily absorbable calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and a series of trace elements and vitamins. All things that contribute to good health. Although this also applies to stock from fish, shellfish and other types of meat.
“Yet there is even more going on with chicken stock,” says De Maerteleire. “There are substances present that act on our immune system, help remove mucus and cough up. In this way they help fight a cold. Chicken soup will not prevent or cure a cold, but it can speed up the healing process. Homemade chicken stock will be the best choice here.”
Myth 7: Does ginger help against stomach pain and nausea?
“Ginger is known as an anti-vomiting and anti-nausea remedy,” says the bioengineer. “In a Danish study in pregnant women, 70 percent of women who received real ginger powder had much less morning sickness than those who received a placebo. The effect on motion sickness has also been well studied. People who travel and suffer from motion sickness benefit from taking ginger powder. Even when you feel dizziness coming on, it can be useful to consume ginger. Thus, some of the ancient uses of ginger as a home remedy have been confirmed to be effective.
Conclusion: “Ginger has been proven to be effective in treating nausea and vomiting – two hallmarks of classic stomach complaints. Ginger is even used to treat morning sickness, muscle aches and menstrual cramps.”
Myth 8: Does apple cider vinegar make you lose weight?
This claim is mainly making the rounds on social media. “The story that vinegar shrinks the stomach so that you eat less is absolutely untrue and purely folk belief. After all, the stomach is very well protected against acid,” says the professor. “The stomach itself produces hydrochloric acid that is many times stronger than acetic acid.”
What has been proven: “American and Swedish research shows that including vinegar (10-20 grams) with a carbohydrate-rich meal curbs appetite in the following hours and reduces energy consumption by 200 to 275 calories. The Swedish study also showed that people who ate some pickles, which contain vinegar, after eating a carbohydrate-rich meal, had lower insulin and glucose peaks in the blood. A teaspoon of vinegar with a bread meal would reduce the sugar and insulin peaks in the blood. This effect was only observed with carbohydrate-rich meals, rich in starch, and not when simple sugars are eaten.”
“Vinegar also does something else: it increases the burning of fats in the liver and stimulates the generation of body heat. It is therefore interesting to use vinegar-containing products wherever and whenever possible before, during and after meals. Think of pickled onions, a vinaigrette, pickles, gherkins or different types of vinegar. For people who want to lose weight, a drink with 15 ml or more of vinegar every day is definitely worth trying. It is best to do this after the main meal, or spread over the three meals.