By Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D.
Some persistent food and health myths just don’t seem to go away. To really be healthy this summer, stick to common sense and don’t get duped by these five summer food myths.
Myth No. 1: Garlic is a natural mosquito repellent.
The truth: Garlic wards off vampires, but it won’t keep mosquitoes at bay. Researchers at the University of Connecticut tested the theory without success, although they did suggest that perhaps participants hadn’t eaten enough garlic to see results. Other research suggests it may have a slight effect if rubbed on the skin, but there are better ways to repel the pesky insects.
Myth No. 2: Doing crunches is the only way to get swimsuit-ready abs.
The truth: Crunches may help tone your belly, but they’re not the only route to a flatter stomach. Eating whole grains, such as quinoa, brown rice or bulgur wheat, may actually help you shed belly fat. People who ate three servings of whole grains (such as 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal, a slice of whole-wheat bread and 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice) a day lost more weight and, specifically, more abdominal fat than those who ate less than a quarter of a serving, according to findings reported in a study in The Journal of Nutrition.
Myth No. 3: Watermelon’s tasty, but not terribly nutritious.
The truth: Even though watermelon is very watery (read: hydrating) and low in calories (only 46 per cup!), it packs a healthy nutrition punch. In addition to some vitamin C (20 percent of the Daily Value per cup), watermelon delivers lycopene — the same red-tinged antioxidant found in tomatoes, linked to a lower risk of certain cancers.
Myth No. 4: Buying fresh produce at farmers’ markets is expensive.
The truth: Farmers’ markets might seem more expensive than grocery stores, but prices at farmers’ markets for conventionally grown produce items were lower than they were at supermarkets in a study conducted by Jake Robert Claro for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, according to a blog on the topic written by Barry Estabrook. The same was true for organic produce.
Myth No. 5: Raw foods are healthier than cooked foods.
The truth: Raw-foodists claim that eating food in its raw state preserves all its nutrients, including enzymes that get destroyed by cooking. They make a point, kind of. Cooking can destroy water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C, but it also makes other nutrients, like lycopene in tomatoes, more absorbable. While cooking does break down, or “denature,” enzymes, so does stomach acid. So, even if you preserve the enzymes by sparing them the cooking process, most of the enzymes will be destroyed through digestion anyway. This is not to say that eating a raw-food diet is necessarily unhealthy. It typically prioritizes plenty of veggies, so most people eating a raw-food diet get lots of colorful produce.
(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.)