Summer is nearly here and that means it’s time for plenty of family barbecues, picnics in the park, camping trips and more. And while we’re all concerned about food safety, particularly when we’re toting our food with us on hot, summer days, it’s possible to go about it all wrong.
It turns out many Americans believe some totally false things about how we eat, use, harvest, prepare, combine and store our food and beverages. But it’s time to put an end to that.
Join us as we dispel each of the following 27 food myths. You may be surprised by how many you actually thought were true!
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1. Don’t swim after eating
If your parents never told you as a child that you had to wait at least 30 minutes after eating to get back into the pool, call them right now and thank them for not ruining your childhood.
While the 30-minute rule is a common misconception (You’ll get a cramp! Your food won’t settle! You could drown!) there’s literally no truth to it. So, if you want to take your plate of ribs directly into the pool and swim around while eating them, follow Nike’s line of reasoning and “just do it.” If you don’t believe us, just ask your doctor. But not your parents. Do not ask your parents.
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2. Hot coffee will make you hotter …
We love iced coffee season just as much as anyone, but in reality, it probably isn’t doing much toward keeping you cooler on your morning commute than a steamin’ cuppa joe would. In fact, it could be just the opposite.
The science goes something like this: When you drink a hot drink, there’s less potential heat stored inside your body, as long as the sweat caused by drinking the hot drink can evaporate. So, unless it’s really humid out, chances are you’ll end up with a cooler core body temperature if you go with the hot option.
Don’t believe us? Fine. Go read the study for yourself.
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3. … and so will hot food
Same reasoning as with the hot drinks, though with food you’re likely to run a higher internal temperature while your body digests the food you just consumed.
Add some spice to your dish and you’ll get an even more rapid cooling effect because it can more quickly induce sweating. Who doesn’t just love sweating at a summer dinner party?
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4. Grilled foods cause cancer
This one’s a little tricky. There are varying degrees to which this is true, but saying that all grilled foods cause cancer is patently false.
Let’s break it down.
Meats: Meats that are in any way browned go through a chemical reaction that not only creates flavor and that lovely caramelization (it’s called the Maillard Reaction) but also heterocyclic amines (HCAs). And the more well done your meat, the more HCAs that are probably present. If your diet consists of a lot of HCAs you may be at greater risk for some cancers. But it’s not just grilling that creates them.
Veggies: Unless you’re charring your veggies over hot coals doused in petrochemicals, you can rest easy that your grilled veggies probably won’t give you cancer. Veggies don’t contain the necessary chemicals that produce HCAs. And that leads us to…
Different types of grills: Gas grills burn cleaner than wood or charcoal grills. That also means you don’t get that lovely smoky quality that so many people love (unless you’re using wood chips). But if keeping your food as carcinogen free as you can, it’s probably your cleanest option for outdoor cooking.
Looking for some great grilling ideas? Check out these nine foods you’d never think to grill (that are actually delicious).
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5. A good grill char seals in juices
We can hear you now: “But that char that causes the HCAs is what seals in the juices and makes my grilled steak tender.”
Sorry. That char is crunchy and flavorful, but it doesn’t do anything to “seal” your meat. In fact, that char actually causes some moisture loss. So don’t worry about your steak being less juicy just because you didn’t brown it as much.
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6. Don’t test your meat by cutting it
No, cutting your meat to test for doneness doesn’t result in all the juices draining from your beautiful pork tenderloin. However, unless you want to look like a grilling amateur, we don’t advise you start doing this. Why?
Looking at the internal color of your meat to test for doneness isn’t really effective. It also can make your final product less attractive. You’re better off using the “hand method” or a thermometer to check whether your meat is adequately cooked.
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5. Pork should always be well done
Nope. Nope, nope, nope. There are too many dry pork chops in the world already, so don’t add to the problem by clinging to this myth.
Sadly, overdone pork was something that even the USDA promoted until 2011. That’s when they changed their guidance for cooking pork to an internal temperature of 145 degrees instead of the previously recommended 160 degrees.
So lighten up on your grill (or pan or oven) time and serve your guests some juicy chops this summer.
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8. Burgers should be cooked well done
Again, nope. If you want to serve juicy burgers, dial it back a notch on how long you cook your patties. And watch those flareups.
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9. Public grills are dirty
All grills are dirty. They sit outside, they get food particles all over them, not to mention all those sooty bits from flareups and/or charcoal.
If you’re going to use a public grill, you’ll want to proceed just as you would with your own personal grill. Get it good and hot, give it a good scrub with a grill brush and you’re good to grill.
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6. Don’t eat restaurant chicken
This myth goes something like this: Keeping raw chicken at the correct temperature during loading, transport, unloading and storage at your favorite restaurant is nearly impossible, allowing bacteria to run rampant. So don’t ever order it at a restaurant during hot summer months.
Maybe there was some truth to this before the advent of modern refrigeration and refrigerated trucks, but today the chicken at restaurants using proper food safety guidelines is just as safe if not safer than what you’re preparing at home.
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11. You need 8 glasses of water every day
Hydrating is especially important in the summer months, but unless you’re incredibly active you probably don’t need to drink eight glasses of water every day, and especially not on top of all the other types of liquids you’re consuming.
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12. Beer hydrates you
Some people love beer as a recovery drink after a long bike ride or other active outdoor sport. And while it’s true that beer contains carbohydrates and electrolytes, the alcohol causes your body to lose more liquid than you’re consuming. So, have that beer, but chase it with a good amount of water so you don’t end up further dehydrating yourself.
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13. Red wine goes to your head in hot weather
This myth suggests that the alcohol is more potent in the wine simply because it’s hot outside. While red wine can be less than refreshing on a hot, summer day, there’s absolutely no truth to it being too strong to enjoy a nice glass, so if red’s your thing, go for it. You can always try a lighter red that still pairs brilliantly with your steak. (Just be sure to keep hydrating too.)
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14. Liquor before beer
Have no fear? Don’t believe it, especially in summer months when alcohol can more quickly dehydrate you. The truth is the order you drink different types of alcohol really doesn’t play a role in whether you become intoxicated or even sick. That has everything to do with how much alcohol you consume and whether you’ve eaten adequately, not the order in which you consume your booze.
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15. Keep foods refrigerated at all times
Most foods are safe to consume at room temperature for up to about two hours. That’s when any harmful bacterias that may be present can reach a level substantial enough to cause an adverse reaction, like food poisoning.
If you aren’t familiar with the “danger zone” for different foods, you may want to acquaint yourself so you can keep your family and friends safe while serving foods at their most delicious temperatures, which isn’t always cold right out of the refrigerator.
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16. Coolers keep foods at a safe temperature
If you’re constantly opening the lid and reaching into a cooler to grab this and that, chances are it’s not keeping your foodstuffs at a consistently safe temperature. Likewise, if you didn’t put enough ice or cooling packs into your cooler, it’s probably not going to keep everything at a safe temperature.
To ensure you keep everyone who’s eating out of the cooler safe, check out some instructional videos or articles for how to properly pack and use a cooler.
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17. Only eat shellfish in months ending in ‘R’
If you grew up believing that you shouldn’t eat shellfish during the summer months because it could make you sick, well, that’s mostly a myth. It once was true that algae blooms known as “red tides” could cause sickness in people who ingested shellfish from these areas, but these blooms are now closely monitored and harvesting is not allowed. It’s also true that a lot of bivalves reproduce during the summer months and they actually taste differently during this time, but so many of these and other seafoods are farmed these days, that it’s not necessarily a concern. Check with your fishmonger or restaurant server about whether their seafood is wild or farmed.
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18. Squeezing lemon juice on shellfish kills harmful bacteria
A nice squeeze of lemon juice may make shellfish (and other seafood, for that matter) taste better to some folks, but it doesn’t do anything to inhibit any bacteria that may be living in or on your fresh catch.
To safeguard against possible food-borne illness always buy your seafood from a reputable seller.
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19. Combining milk and shellfish will make you sick
Ever had clam chowder? How about linguine Alfredo with shrimp or scallops? If so, you’ve consumed a combination of milk (cream) and shellfish, so just stop believing this and go have a big glass of milk with some raw oysters. Or don’t. Eww.
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20. Shellfish increases your cholesterol level
Studies have shown that shellfish, in fact, can reduce LDL levels (bad cholesterol) while raising HDL levels (good cholesterol).
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21. Eating garlic wards off mosquitos
Wouldn’t it be nice if this were true? We could all just sit around outside chawing on garlic cloves like cows on cuds. Sadly, garlic doesn’t do anything to keep mosquitos from bugging us, but it does totally keep vampires at bay. What? You don’t believe it? Name one person you know who loves garlic and has been bitten by a vampire. See? Proof.
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22. A watermelon will grow in your stomach if you eat a seed
It must have been somebody’s drunk uncle who came up with this myth just to mess with the kids who were having a grand old time chowing down on their watermelon. Can’t you see it? All the kids’ eyes beginning to bug out as they envisioned their distended bellies filled with huge watermelons? Yeah. Drunk uncles are fun.
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23. Rhubarb is toxic in summer
Seriously, where does this stuff come from? Was it drunk uncle again? Whatever the origin, rhubarb isn’t toxic at any time of the year, so go ahead and wear a giant rhubarb leaf as a hat or cook something delicious with it. You’ll be fine.
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24. Booze keeps ice cream from freezing
Thank the ice cream gods this isn’t true! Otherwise, we’d all be sitting around sipping boozy, sabayon-esque cocktails and that wouldn’t be nearly as refreshing as boozy ice cream.
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25. Caesar salads are named after Julius Caesar
Not true. Totally, totally not true. And it also didn’t originate in Italy. Or in Las Vegas, for that matter, which is another Caesar salad myth.
The closest thing we can get to fact on this one is that the Caesar salad was the brainchild of Caesar Cardini, a restaurateur in Tijuana, Mexico, who ran out of food items one particularly busy Fourth of July and made do with the ingredients he had on hand. Et voila, the Caesar salad was invented.
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26. Veggies from your own garden don’t need to be washed
If you are absolutely, positively 100-percent certain that your soil and any fertilizer you’ve used are contaminant free and that no animals have gotten into your garden and defecated anywhere, or that no birds have flown over and pooped on your prize tomatoes, then by all means don’t bother washing your produce.
Or you could just give them a good rinse. You know, just to be sure. Your choice.
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27. It’s always the mayonnaise
Poor mayonnaise. Why does it get such a bad rap? Anytime someone gets sick at a picnic it’s always the chicken salad or the egg salad or the mayonnaise on the sandwiches.
It’s not fair, especially since the acid in mayo can actually counter some harmful bacterias. So just quit blaming the mayo. It was probably the lettuce.
This article originally appeared on MediaFeed.org.
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