[COLUMN] 12 food myths

MYTHS abouts food, other matters, fake news, and other mis- and disinformation abound in social media. What a waste of a wonderful, valuable technological advance in communication! In this column today, we shall debunk 12 common myths about food and diet.

  1. Eating out is healthier

Unless you are a lousy cook or have poor choice of food items, home cooked food items could certainly be a lot healthier than restaurant food. The quality and quantity of ingredients are under your total control.

  1. Fasting is good

Occasional fasting, within reason, is fine, but eating small, portioned quantity more than the usual 3 times a day, even up to 8 times a day, can be healthier as far as having a more even keel in blood glucose level (less fluctuation), so long as you eat within your normal total calories a day. Dividing the total calorie intake into several times a day is healthier than fasting or missing a meal or two a day. The less blood glucose fluctuation the better.

  1. Eating healthy is costly

This is false. If one eats less red meat, which is healthier (it even lowers your risk of getting cardiovascular disease and cancer), the grocery bills would be leaner. Some frozen food items are cheaper than fresh ones. Eating fish and vegetables, combined with regular physical exercise could even make one look and feel younger, and improve longevity.

  1. Fat-free and low-fat are healthy

Low-fat and fat-free diets were popular in the 80s and 90s, but fat protects our organs, absorbs essential vitamins, supports our cell membrane and promotes growth and development. Not all fats are the same. Saturated and trans fats in fatty red meats and high-fat dairy products are unhealthy. Unsaturated fats from olive and canola oil, avocados and nuts provide healthy fats.

  1. All big fishes are safe to consume

Big fishes, like albacore tuna, shark, orange roughy, southern bluefin tuna, ray, swordfish, barrasmundi, marlin, king mackerel and gemfish have high mercury content. Regular mackerel, salmon, canned yellowfin and regular small tuna, are safe. Unlike eating red meat that increases the risk for cardiovascular diseases and cancer, consuming fish five or more times a week helps boost the immune system, improves brain health, prevents blood clots, and reduces the risk for heart attack, stroke and cancer.

  1. Unrefined sugars are healthier

A popular myth is that unrefined sugar, like raw sugar, maple syrup, coconut sugar and honey, provides lesser calories. All sugars, except artificial sweeteners, are sugars and carbohydrates, with high calories and fattening. The calories from consuming unrefined sugars should be counted accordingly, especially among diabetics or those trying to lose weight.

  1. Processed foods are safe

While it is commonplace to see people all around us eat processed foods like hot dogs, bacon, ham, salami, sausages, processed veggies, etc., they increase the risk for the development of cancers, especially of the gastrointestinal tract, including pancreas and the colon. The risk is greater with meats grilled at high temperature, with burnt edges or surfaces. Eat fresh – it is healthier.

  1. Detox pills are necessary

False! These pills or bowel cleaners (irrigation, enemas) could be dangerous to health. The best detox items are foods like vegetables, fish, nuts and fruits, which are all antioxidants and detoxifying agents via our liver, gastrointestinal tract, and kidneys, which are our natural detoxifying organs, day in and day out, 24/7, cleansing our body of toxins and poisons. Eat a healthy diet, avoid processed foods and minimize fast food, drink a lot of water (not poisonous soft drinks) and exercise daily to rejuvenate yourself.

  1. Drinking water after 8 PM is good

Not for seniors or anyone who do not want to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Even those in their 80s and 90s could avoid or minimize getting up at 2 or 3 AM to empty their bladder if they refrain from drinking after 8 p.m. During the daytime, it is a good idea to drink a lot of water, at least eight glasses a day, to flush our kidneys, keep these “filters”  healthy, and get rid of toxic waste through urination.

  1. Soft drinks are better than water

Although soft drinks may contain some minerals, they are all (cola or uncola, diet or regular, caffeine-free or not) toxic to the body of adults, and more so to children. The phosphoric acid in them is only one scary chemical, which many use to clean car carburetors or flush a blocked toilet or kitchen drain. All soft drinks increase the risk for metabolic syndrome. They are indeed poison.

  1. TV food ads are vetted

Not true. There is no government oversight that screens the ads on TV or other media. There are many claims about products that are not true. Unfortunately, manufacturers and vendors get away with them and ignorant consumers are the victims, and the perpetrators get richer in this trillion-dollar food industry. Caveat emptor (buyers beware)!

  1. All veggies are good

In general, yes, they are super-foods, but not for people with arthritis, who should stay away from nightshade vegetables (Solanaceae), which include eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, bell and cayenne peppers, paprika, etc. They contain toxic alkaloids that aggravate arthritis (neck, spine, hips, knees, etc.)  Broccoli, kale, celery, asparagus, green beans, cauliflower, spinach, mushrooms, turnips, beets and bell peppers are the choice veggies for the general population.

Evidence-based scientific data show that eating red meat more than once a week is associated with higher risk for cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and a shorter longevity.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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The main objective of this column is to educate and inspire people live a healthier lifestyle to prevent illnesses and disabilities and achieve a happier and more productive life. Any diagnosis, recommendation or treatment in our article are general medical information and not intended to be applicable or appropriate for anyone. This column is not a substitute for your physician, who knows your condition well and who is your best ally when it comes to your health.

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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, Health Advocate, newspaper columnist, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian foundation in the United States. Websites: FUN8888.com, Today.SPSAtoday.com, and philipSchua.com; Email: [email protected].


Dr. Philip S. Chua

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States.

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