By Eleanor Knowles

Most people love food, whether they admit it or not. And lots of us don’t mind a drop of nostalgia now and then too. Combine the two and you’ve got a recipe for one of those “I remember my Granny making the most delicious apple pie from the fruit tree in the garden” kind of moment. In fact there are loads of old wives’ tales about food, and we’re not the only ones interested in them.

Doctors and various other experts are all digging up old sayings and brandishing them on the internet and in newspapers and magazines. Traditional wisdom is suddenly cool, or at least worth a second look. And lots of the advice concerns food and drink! Whether it’s chicken soup for colds (surprisingly, it works) or beer to encourage a nursing baby (please don’t try this at home), there is something for everyone.

So, did our mothers and grandmothers know more than we give them credit for when it comes to eating? Let’s see…

Alcohol affects women more than men – true. Women don’t have as much alcohol-metabolising enzyme as men do; they retain more alcohol in their bloodstreams and stomachs. So a man and a woman of similar size can drink the same amount, but the effect on the woman will be greater and last longer – drink sensibly girls!

An apple a day keeps the doctor away – true. Apples are full of antioxidants (and fibre) and may lower our risk of breast and colon cancer, as well as keeping us away from the doctor.

Eating cardamom cures garlic breath – true. This does seem to work, chew a whole cardamom pod until only the husk remains and then spit it out (discreetly).

Eating carrots improves your eyesight – true and false. Carrot consumption won’t prevent night blindness but it can help reduce the chance of age-related macular degeneration.

Chocolate gives you acne – false. No foodstuff has been proven to trigger acne, which is caused by blocked pores, but eating too much chocolate will make you fat.

Coffee stunts your growth – false. Coffee doesn’t affect growth but too much caffeine can prevent you from absorbing calcium and some other nutrients.

Cranberry juice prevents cystitis – true. Cranberries inhibit the spread of the bacteria that cause cystitis, by preventing them from clinging to your bladder, as do blueberries.

Eat your crusts, they’re good for you – true. Bread crusts contain eight times more antioxidants than the rest of the loaf. But eating them won’t make your hair curly or your teeth whiter.

Fish is brain food – true. Fish and seafood contain omega-3 and zinc, which are linked to slowing the rate of cognitive decline, so try to eat fish once or twice a week.

It’s better to eat fruit on its own or after a meal – true. Fruit is digested more quickly than other foods, so eating it during a meal may cause it to begin fermenting in your colon – which can cause bloating and flatulence.

Eating grapefruit will increase your metabolism and burn fat – false. No food burns fat, but grapefruit is low in calories and full of nutrients.

If you swallow gum it takes seven years to digest – false. It goes straight through your system, along with any other non-food foreign bodies.

Oysters are the food of love – true and false. Oysters don’t boost libido but they are rich in zinc, which can aid fertility in both men and women.

Red wine is good for you – true and false. Red wine can stop arteries clogging, but that doesn’t mean you can imbibe gallons – one a glass a day is all you need – and red rather than white.

Spicy foods cause ulcers – false. Bacterial infections or overuse of certain medicines cause ulcers, not spicy food, although spices may aggravate an existing ulcer.

Spinach makes you strong – false. Spinach does contain iron, but it also contains oxalic acid which discourages iron absorption.

Eating sweets and snacks rots your teeth – true and false. It depends what you’re eating, the stickier it is the longer it hangs around on your teeth and gums, which gives tooth-destroying acids a chance to form. Things like hard sugar candy and chocolate shouldn’t cause tooth decay, as they are easily washed out of your mouth by saliva. But eat crackers, biscuits, cookies, peanut butter, toffees, sugar-coated cereals and other more “claggy” snacks and you should brush your teeth sooner rather than later!

Water hydrates you better than other drinks – false. There is no significant difference in the hydrating properties of water, coffee, tea or soft drinks – they all contain mostly water anyway. But sugary or fizzy drinks won’t help your teeth or your waistline.

Remarkably, half of the 22 adages above actually are based on facts. So Granny really did know her onions!

For a health-boosting supper tonight you could try some baked fish with carrots and a warm crusty roll on the side, maybe with a glass (just one!) of red wine. And if you feel peckish later, how about a fruit salad of apples and berries? Your Mum will be so proud of you…

© Eleanor Knowles 2008

And for lots more suggestions for healthy meals that will do you good, go to http://EatLeanNotMean.com

You’ll find plenty of helpful ideas on eating a healthy balanced diet, what superfoods can do for you, plus recipes and lots of tips about food. So give it a try, and you could find out how to achieve lasting weight loss too!

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