I have gotten some nice feedback on the article I wrote a few weeks ago called "Adhering to these food myths? Stop" (All About Food, May 22) and have decided to do a second installment.
1. Sugary foods make kids hyperactive.
This has been debunked in many studies. The problem is what sugar is often combined with — namely, store-bought candy, sweet drinks, cakes and cookies — because these products also contain food chemicals that may provoke a reaction in a small portion of sensitive kids. Food coloring and preservatives may behave more like drugs on the nervous systems of sensitive individuals, affecting mood, attention, concentration and impulsivity. Caffeinated foods like cola, chocolate bars and energy drinks may cause headaches in small kids because of the amount of caffeine they contain.
2. Potatoes are bad for you.
Potatoes are high in carbs, which provide energy and stimulate the feel-good brain chemical serotonin. They are a good source of vitamin C, B6, potassium and fiber if you eat the skin. Eat them in moderation and prepare them in healthy ways. Slathering them with butter or sour cream, or making a batch of French fries, pretty much defeats their health benefits.
3. Butter is better than margarine because it's natural.
Butter is rich in cholesterol-raising saturated fats. Most margarine is made from vegetable oils, so it contains no cholesterol. It is higher in good fats, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, than butter. However, some brands of margarine still contain trans fats. The more solid the margarine, the more trans fat it contains. Get the soft or liquid kind.
4. Chocolate causes acne.
This is a myth I remember from my adolescence. Acne appears to be more related to sex hormones and genetics, but new research suggests that diet may also be important, possibly because of its effect on insulin levels. There is no evidence that chocolate causes acne. However, emerging studies suggest that a diet high on the glycemic index may increase the risk of an outbreak.
5. Milk will increase mucus if you have a cold.
A 1990 study revealed no association between the intake of milk or other dairy products in increasing mucus. This notion may have originated because, after eating ice cream or drinking milk, there is a thin coating left in the mouth that people might mistake for mucus.
6. Gum will stay in your stomach if you swallow it.
Nope. It will pass on through.
7. Thin people are healthier.
Thin people can still carry fat around their organs, which can place them at risk for chronic disease. It appears that there is a new name for this state: metabolically obese. Measure your waist to find out if you have too much fat on the inside. A Mayo Clinic study conducted over nine years found that 20% to 30% of people fell into this "thin but fat" category. A general guideline is that men have an increased risk if their waist measures more than 37 inches and a high risk if it is over 40 inches. For women, it is 31 1/2 inches or 37 inches, respectively. The body does need some dietary fat. The good news is excess fat can be removed by eating less and moving more.
8. Sea salt is healthier.
Think about it: All salt is sea salt! Yes, some exotic varieties have subtle differences in flavor or texture, but they have as much sodium as regular table salt. The amount of minerals in sea salt is too tiny to be of benefit. As we all know by now, most of us consume too much sodium anyway.
9. Coca-Cola can be useful as a household cleanser.
No way. It doesn't dissolve teeth or cause kidney stones either. It does, however, have a lot of sugar that can make you fat.
10. Some foods have negative calories.
Actually, it is impossible for a food to require more energy to digest it than it contains, even celery.
TERRY MARKOWITZ was in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. She can be reached for comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.