The Truth Behind Nutrition Folklore
all information

The Truth Behind Nutrition Folklore

HCA image for food myths Do you eat carrots because they are good for your eyes, avoid chocolate because it makes you break out, or not let your kids eat sugar because it will make them hyper? Unfortunately, when stacked up against medical facts, many of these beliefs are misperceptions. Test your knowledge of nutrition folklore by answering the questions below.

Do Eggs Raise Your Cholesterol Levels?

Although egg yolks (not whites) contain cholesterol (about 213 milligrams [mg]), many scientists think that eating foods high in saturated fats and trans-fats has a greater impact than dietary cholesterol in raising blood cholesterol levels. Still, the daily recommended limit for people with normal cholesterol levels is 300 mg per day. This means that if you eat one egg, the rest of your day’s diet needs to be very low in cholesterol.

Eggs are a source of high quality protein and provide many vitamins and minerals, including the amino acid tryptophan, selenium, vitamin A, iodine, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B12, vitamin D, among other nutrients.

A study from the University of Washington has found that eating two eggs daily may lead to a small but significant increase in LDL “bad” cholesterol. Other studies suggest that people vary quite significantly in how much effect egg consumption has on their cholesterol levels. If you have high cholesterol or are at risk for developing it, talk to your doctor about your diet and whether you should limit how many eggs you eat. Remember, too, that you can always just eat the eggs whites, which have protein but no cholesterol.

Does Eating Chocolate or Other Sugary Foods Give You Acne?

There is no scientific evidence that eating any food (chocolate or other sugary foods) leads to acne. Acne results from a combination of factors such as heredity, overactive oil glands, dead skin cells that block skin pores, and hormonal changes. However, some new research has been done that suggest that nutrition-related lifestyle factors may play a role in the development of acne. Specifically, a low glycemic index diet has been associated in one study with improvement of acne. However, more research is needed to clarify this.

Will Carrots Improve Your Vision?

It is true that carrots are rich in beta-carotene , which the body converts to vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for sight, and an extreme vitamin A deficiency can cause blindness. But, only a small amount of beta-carotene is necessary for good vision. So, if you are not deficient in vitamin A (and most Americans are not) your vision will not improve no matter how many carrots you eat. Nonetheless, carrots are a great contribution to your recommended fruits and veggie intake!

Does Sugar Make You Hyper?

Many studies have looked at the effect of sugar on children’s behavior and none have found evidence of a “sugar high,” even in children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Keep in mind, however, that there are healthy and unhealthy sources of sugar. Natural sources of sugar, like fruit, add other important nutrients to your child's diet. This is not the case when sugar is added to foods like candy and soda.

Does Eating Chicken Noodle Soup Help You Get Over a Cold?

Researchers have not been able to prove that chicken noodle soup can cure the common cold , but they have developed theories to explain the apparent healing properties of this popular home remedy. Some believe that steam from the hot soup clears congested noses and throats. Others believe that it may have inherent anti-inflammatory effects, thereby providing symptom relief. Still others say it is purely psychological. In any case, there is no known cure for the common cold. If you’re sick, what you need to do is drink fluids and get plenty of rest.

Will Eating Carbohydrates Make You Gain Weight?

Low-carbohydrate diets are popular these days, but the truth of the matter is that carbohydrate foods are an important source of energy, fiber, vitamins, and minerals for your body. Carbohydrates, like any other type of food, can cause you to gain weight if you burn fewer calories than you consume. So, if you want to lose weight, do so by eating less (of any type of food), exercising more, or doing a little of both. Most adults should get about 45%-65% of their calories from carbohydrates, but under special circumstances your doctor or nutritionist may advise you to follow a specific diet in which the carbohydrate content might be different.

Are Nuts Fattening?

Yes, nuts are fattening if you eat too many. But, eaten in moderation, nuts can be a healthy addition to your diet. Studies have found that tree nuts (eg, almonds, cashews, walnuts) added to a healthy diet may help to reduce the risk of heart disease, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in women with type 2 diabetes, and improve cholesterol levels. Plus, having a serving of nuts provides nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and the mineral manganese.

Will Eating Extra Protein Build More Muscle?

Weight training is the key to building and strengthening muscle. The only way to build bigger, stronger muscles is to exercise them. To fuel heavy weight training, the body needs extra calories, especially from carbohydrates. If you eat excessive amounts of protein, the extra calories will simply be stored (as fat) or burned. According to MyPlate, most adults need 5 to 6-½ ounces (142-184 grams) of protein per day, but this really depends on a number of factors (like your gender, age, and activity level). If you are participating in a weight training routine, you may want to work with a nutritionist to make sure that you are getting the nutrients that you need.

Is Red Meat Bad For You?

Red meat, which includes beef, veal, lamb, pork, and wild game, contains saturated fat. But, it also provides an excellent source of the minerals iron and zinc , vitamin B12, and protein. A review of 17 studies found that processed meat, not red meat, increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes. And, compared to lean white meat, lean red meat does not seem to worsen cholesterol levels.

If you trim visible fat and choose lean cuts, you will minimize your saturated fat intake. Note, too, the “select” grade of meat is lower in fat than “choice” and “prime” grades. Also be aware that a serving size is just 2-3 ounces (56-85 grams) of cooked meat—not a whopping ½ pound (226 grams). Also, you may want to choose meat that comes from organic farms, where the animals are allowed to graze and use of hormones or antibiotics is minimized.

Are Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Better for You Than Canned or Frozen?

Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables can be just as nutritious and fresh. In fact, fruits and vegetables sitting on grocery store shelves or in your refrigerator often lose some of their vitamins (to heat, light, and water), while frozen produce tends to keep most of its nutrients because packaging occurs right after being picked. Canned produce loses some vitamins during the heating process, but still contains fiber and other nutrients. But, bear in mind, canned vegetables are high in sodium, and canned fruits packed in syrup are high in sugar.


American Dietetic Association


Canadian Council on Food and Nutrition

Dietitians of Canada


Acne. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: . Accessed July 31, 2007.

American Heart Association website. Available at: . Accessed May 4, 2009.

Beef: nutrients that work as hard as you do. American Dietetic Association website. Available at: . Accessed July 31, 2007.

Colds and flu: time only sure cure. US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website. Available at: . Accessed July 31, 2007.

Cold remedies: What works, what doesn't, what can't hurt. Mayo website. Available at: Updated February 2010. Accessed November 12, 2010.

Common eye myths. Prevent Blindness America website. Available at: . Accessed Accessed July 31, 2007.

Cooking for lower cholesterol. American Heart Association website. Available at: Accessed April 13, 2011.

DynaMed Editorial Team. Acne. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated February 3, 2011. Accessed April 13, 2011.

DynaMed Editorial Team. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated March 9, 2011. Accessed April 13, 2011.

DynaMed Editorial Team. Dietary recommendations for cardiovascular disease prevention . EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated April 1, 2011. Accessed April 13, 2011.

DynaMed Editorial Team. Upper respiratory infection (URI). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated March 3, 2011. Accessed April 13, 2011.

Eggs. American Heart Association website. Available at: . Accessed Accessed September 2, 2003.

Eggs. The World's Healthiest Foods website. Available at: Accessed April 13, 2011.

Food groups: how much food from the protein food group is needed daily? US Department of Agriculture, Choose MyPlate website. Available at: Updated June 4, 2011. Accessed June 23, 2011.

Heap J. Good food/bad food: rediscover eggs! A newsletter for active adults. 2003;6:1-2.

High cholesterol. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: Updated December 22, 2009. Accessed April 13, 2011.

Kassel KS. Eating a Diet Moderate in Protein-Rich Foods. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: Updated July 2010. Accessed November 12, 2010.

Muscle myths. American Dietetic Association website. Available at: . Accessed September 2, 2003.

Nutrition myths 101. University of California at Los Angeles website. Available at: . Accessed September 2, 2003.

Protein foods: what foods are in the protein foods group? United States Department of Agriculture, Choose MyPlate website. Available at: Accessed June 8, 2011. Accessed June 23, 2011.

Smith RN, Mann NJ, Braue A, Makelainen H, Varigos GA. A low-glycemic-load diet improves symptoms in acne vulgaris patients: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;86:107-115.

Weight loss and nutrition myths. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: . Accessed September 2, 2003.

Which is best, canned, frozen, or fresh? Colorado State University Cooperative Extension website. Available at: . Accessed July 31, 2007.

Vision facts and myths. Kids Health website. Available at: Updated August 2010. Accessed April 13, 2011.

Last reviewed April 2011 by Brian Randall, MD

Last updated Updated: 6/23/2011

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Your Health and Happiness