Seven common food myths that we’re debunking.
Your mother has warned you the sniff test won’t tell you if leftovers are off. Your girlfriend spends hours trying to convince you that she craves chocolate because her body needs it. And the office ‘health nut‘ has told you your morning cuppa is going to dehydrate you. But are any of these people speaking the truth?
There’s no shortage of myths and misunderstandings about what’s safe or healthy when it comes to what we put into our mouths. So we’re taking a closer look at seven popular food beliefs to see where the evidence lies.
1. You can smell when food is off
Verdict: Your nose doesn’t necessarily know when food is off.
It’s the end of a long day and you’ve gone from hungry to hangry. In desperation you reach into the back of the fridge and pull out a bowl of leftovers. You lift the lid and give it a good sniff to see if it’s still edible.
But trusting your nose is not going to save you from a bout of gastro (or worse), says Lydia Buchtmann from the Food Safety Information Council.
“A lot of people rely on the sniff test, [but] that means nothing whatsoever,” says Buchtmann.
According to Food Standards Australia New Zealand, food poisoning bacteria don’t change the appearance, smell or taste of food. (Bacteria known to cause food poisoning include Salmonella, Campylobacter jejuni, Staphylococcus aureus, strains of E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes. For more see An A-Z of common types of food poisoning.)
When a plate of leftovers starts to pong, it means spoilage bacteria have taken hold. These are different from bacteria that cause food poisoning.
Spoilage bacteria won’t usually make you sick, though food contaminated with them won’t be particularly pleasant to chow down on, and Buchtmann says it’s not a good idea to put it in your mouth.
2. Drinking coffee makes you dehydrated
Verdict: If you drink coffee regularly and don’t drink too much it shouldn’t dehydrate you.
If you regularly enjoy a few cups of coffee or tea a day, then you can rest assured the moderate amount of caffeine your favourite drinks contain isn’t going to cause you to lose more fluid than you ingest, says Lisa Renn, accredited practising dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia.
Nor will your cuppa be any more likely to send you off to the loo than any other drink.
One of the reasons that drinks containing caffeine, such as coffee, tea, chocolate, cola drinks and energy drinks, have been given such a bad rap over the years is because caffeine is a diuretic when consumed in large doses (more than 500mg). Diuretics make your body produce more urine, so not only do they have you running to the toilet more often, they also cause you to lose sodium and water. When you lose too much sodium and water you become dehydrated, and this can have an effect on a range of bodily functions – from temperature control to absorption of food.