Are You What You Eat? Separating Food Fact From Food Fiction

Let us demystify the connections, or lack thereof, between food and your health.

Yesterday’s Omelet Will Skew Today’s Cholesterol Test

Fiction. Eating eggs may cause your blood levels of cholesterol to rise following a meal, but they return to normal within a few hours. But skip the omelet, and everything else but water, on the day you go to the lab to have blood drawn. The usual recommendation is to fast for at least 8 hours before having your cholesterol checked. It helps to schedule your appointment for first thing in the morning.

All Food Reactions Are Allergies

Fiction. Many food “allergies” are actually a food intolerance. True food allergies occur when the immune system mistakes a specific food or ingredient for a toxin, so it produces antibodies to attack it, causing symptoms such as hives, swelling, and gastrointestinal problems. Food intolerance does not involve the immune system. Lactose intolerance, caused by an enzyme deficiency, is a classic example. In other cases, some people are sensitive to specific foods such as the artificial sweetener sorbitol and preservatives called sulfites (used in dried fruits and wine). In general, food intolerance is far less dangerous than food allergy.

Plus: 8 Old Wives’ Tales: The Truth Behind Health Myths

Chicken Soup Clobbers Colds

Fact. There’s science behind this age-old comfort-food remedy. When a researcher from the Nebraska Medical Center tested his mother-in-law’s chicken soup recipe in a test tube, he found that it could reduce inflammation and congestion caused by virus-fighting immune system agents called neutrophils by about 75 percent. No one to make soup for you? No problem. Canned chicken soup worked, too.

Aluminum Cookware Causes Alzheimer’s

Fiction. Lab animals develop dementia-like symptoms when exposed to large amounts of aluminum. The brains of some, though not all, Alzheimer’s patients have unusually large deposits of the metal. But there’s zero proof that the tiny amount of aluminum that transfers from pots and pans to food during cooking causes Alzheimer’s disease or any other form of damage to the brain. (Where else would the aluminum come from? Drinking water contains trace amounts, which can reach the brain.)

Flax Seed–Oil Supplements Are As Good As Fish-Oil Supplements

Fiction. Fish oil is good for you because of its omega-3 fatty acids, specifically, types called DHA and EPA, which protect the heart and brain by fighting inflammation, preventing blood clots, nourishing cell membranes, and more. Flax seed contains omega-3’s, too, but a different kind, called ALA. The body converts ALA to DHA and EPA, but not very efficiently. Get your omega-3’s from seafood or fish-oil supplements.

Bedtime Snacks Make You Fat

Fiction. But that’s not permission to nosh on cookies every night before turning in. Consuming more calories than you burn through physical activity produces belly rolls and flabby thighs no matter what time you overeat. A habit of snacking in front of the television every evening will lead to weight gain, but no more so than having a six-egg omelet for breakfast or vanquishing a bag of jelly beans at your desk every afternoon.

The Atkins Diet Is Easy to Stick To

Fiction. It might seem like eating lots of beef and other high-protein pleasures would make complying with this plan a snap. But many dieters miss their bread and bananas, it seems. Several studies show that most people can follow Atkins for only a few months. After 1 year, most dieters who try it are consuming twice as many carbs as the plan dictates.

You Can Catch Swine Flu from Pork Products

Fiction. You can’t catch swine flu from pork.

A Diet High in Soy Affects Your Periods

Fact. Soy contains hormonelike compounds known as isoflavones that may affect your cycle. According to a British review of studies published in 2009, women whose diets were rich in soy foods increased the time between periods by about a day.

Popular Videos

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest