5 foodie old wives’ tales: busted

senior woman with carrots

They help you see in the dark you know?

Fresh air is good for you, fish is good for your brain and cheese can give you nightmares. All things you have probably heard from an older relative, and all true.

Now while we may have already debunked many modern nutrition myths, there are some old wives’ tales that persist to this day.

So sit down with a healing hot toddy, or chicken soup, and prepare to mend your foodie knowledge.

Spinach is high in iron


Popeye has massive arms, which, according to the narrative, is due to the power of spinach. But in truth, if the sailor man was looking to get iron through spinach, then he’d have more chance of flying to the moon on the back of a unicorn, then he would of saving his Olive Oil from danger.

Why? Blame a German.

Hark back to the year of 1870, when German chemist Erich von Wolf attempted to calculate the amount of iron in a number of vegetables, and you’ll see what on the surface is a bit of a cock up.

You see, the scientist got his calculations wrong, and misplaced a decimal point. So for years, the general public believed there was 3.5g of iron in 100g of spinach, not, as it has proved to be, 3.5 milligrams.

So while spinach is good for you, and gives a truly special pungent taste to a saag aloo, it isn’t the optimum food for becoming strong, and Popeye probably couldn’t even lift your warmup weight.

There’s no point in eating corn because we can’t digest it

corn on the cob

We did think about a picture of a stool for a while…

Corn is lovely. It tastes epic, and makes your KFC feel ever so slightly healthier. But it often ends up looking completely undigested in your poo. But to say that there is therefore no point in eating it, is a load of crap.

Corn is a collection of seeds, with a germ in the middle, this will become a corn plant. Around all that, is the starchy bit you eat. And to keep all this together, is a layer of cellulose.

Now, our bodies can’t digest cellulose, not even the bacteria in our gut can, so, if you don’t chew your corn to the point where it resembles baby sick, you will get big lumps of yellow cellulose skin in your stool.

This doesn’t mean that there is no nutritional benefit to corn, chewed or not; for example, you get 74g of medium GI carbs in 100g, and 9g of protein too. Add in vitamin b6 and magnesium and you have one lovely vegetable.

The bumpy skin that is left, that may well end up making your poo resemble the corn on the cob itself, isn’t all that bad either. All this roughage, adds traction to your stool, and helps to keep your regular.

Eating celery burns calories


While it is true that there are around 25 times more calories in a Big Mac than there is in a stick of celery, that doesn’t make the latter a fat burner.

Celery is very low in calories, has a lot of water in it, and is full of fibre. All this combined has given many the false belief that you use more energy to eat the celery, than you are bringing in. While 10 calories isn’t a lot, you only use about a fifth of that eating a stick.

So sadly, there is no calorie negative food. If you ate celery all day, you would lose weight, due to a calorie deficit, not because of any magical fat burning veg.

Guinness is good for bulking

Pint of stout beer served in two time

Bulky goodness? Nope.

It’s thick, creamy and I personally love the stuff, but after saying “It’s OK, I’m bulking”, I did a bit of research on whether Guinness is good for gains.

In short, no; and on bulking, no.

The thickness of the stout, has nothing to do with the calories it contains. A pint has 210 calories, which is no way near as high as many protein shakes, and lower than the standard fizzy lagers we drink regularly.

Even from a muscle building perspective Guinness is rubbish. There is very little iron in it and it’s alcoholic, so it’s not good for you anyway.

The thickness might make you feel full, but there is no real backing behind the beverage as a bulker. So the next time you have a pint and someone alludes to the calories, or the bulking qualities, bore them with science, and give them another reason to not invite you to the pub.

Don’t eat after 6pm if you want to lose weight


Perhaps the newest of the old wives’ tales, but like the advice of “don’t eat your crusts if you don’t want curly hair”, it isn’t really true.

The major flaw in this plan is that it doesn’t specify when you pop to bed. So if you go to bed at 9pm, not much has changed from a usual person’s routine. If you go to bed at 2am the next morning, then you be hungry, and your metabolism will actually slow down, as your body looks to preserve energy.

The reason this tale might have got a foothold, is perhaps because it is a good way to limit calorie intake, and when you limit calorie intake, you tend to lose weight, though to do this to an extreme level is far from healthy. It’s nothing to do with the time you do or don’t eat in this instance, just that you aren’t eating a lot.

Instead, you are best off eating smaller meals throughout the day, at times that suit you. If this means you don’t eat after 6pm, fine. But that doesn’t mean you will instantly lose weight like your great granddad told you one day.

Final word

So, the next time your nan, dad or great aunty tell you to do something in order to lose weight, grow muscle or fly, then think twice. Read up on it, ask us if you like, and then make a decision. Oh, and I don’t care what people say, hot toddies work.

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