Mighty Carrots and Spinach? Not Really

ByABC News via logo

April 15, 2006 — -- When grandma told you that eating carrots would help your eyesight, she was actually spreading government propaganda.

Men's Health magazine nutritionist Heidi Skolnik appeared on "Good Morning America Weekend Edition" to debunk the myth of the mighty carrot and other health myths that have survived through the ages.

But some myths, as it turns out, are true, so eat your breakfast!

Blotting pizza makes it healthier: True.

People who blot their pizza always look neurotic. But, they are saving themselves from consuming extra fat and calories. By blotting the grease on top of a pizza with a napkin, you'll eliminate at least 4.5 grams of fat per slice.

Eating chocolate causes acne: False.

Prevailing wisdom in the dermatology community is that diet and acne are not related. There is no evidence that chocolate, sugar, oil, milk or any other food causes acne. It has more to do with the dirt in your pores than the food in your stomach. Some people insist that a certain food causes acne for them, in which case the doctor will recommend that they avoid that food.

Turkey burgers are healthier than hamburgers: True.

Substituting ground turkey for ground beef will save 200 calories -- provided you're getting the lean white turkey meat. The leaner the turkey meat is, the greater the difference is from beef. If you're eating the fattier, darker part of the turkey, then it may not be significantly healthier than beef.

Eating carrots improves your eyesight: False.

Carrots contain a high concentration of vitamin A, which is essential for healthy eyesight -- and a deficiency of vitamin A can cause blindness. But unfortunately, consuming extra vitamin A or carrots can do nothing to improve your vision. The myth of the sight-improving carrot dates back to World War II. British intelligence didn't want the Germans to know that they were using radar to detect their bombing raids, so they spread the rumor that they were feeding their pilots carrots to improve their vision. This campaign of misinformation was so successful that people still believe in the mighty carrot today.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day: True.

When we're sleeping, we're also fasting, so it's important to "break" this fast. Our blood sugar is low, as well as our liver glycogen, so we don't have much fuel to feed the brain. One study followed 133 students before and after the start of a free breakfast program. The students who ate breakfast more often showed significantly larger gains in math grades, compared to those students whose participation in breakfast did not increase.

Also, on a dietary note, people who miss breakfast tend to make it up with a mid-morning snack that's high in sugar or fat.

Spinach makes you stronger: False.

Popeye got his strength from spinach, but it won't work for you. In the 1920s, it was reported that a half cup of cooked spinach contained a whopping 34 mg of the all-important nutrient iron. It turned out that 34 mg was a typo and a half cup of spinach only contained 3.4 mg of iron. Plus, spinach actually is inferior to other iron-containing vegetables, because it has a chemical that blocks most of the iron from being absorbed by the blood.