The Bullshit We’ve Been Fed…Literally

Health information about food has been passed around for as long as humans have been eating food and talking. A lot of times, maybe even most of the time, this food information is passed on as proven facts. In the old days (like before everyone was on the Internet), these nuggets of wisdom were sometimes called old wives tales. Nowadays, these kernels of advice spread through social media faster than a salmonella or norovirus outbreak. Here’s a review of some of the bullshit we’ve been fed. Literally.


Carrots are good for vision, according to one common food legend. After all, as is sometimes observed “tongue in cheek,” you have never seen a rabbit wearing eyeglasses. While carrots do contain a lot of vitamin A, which is good for eye health, eating carrots will not guarantee that you never need glasses.


Many people don’t really start their day until they have had a cup (or two, or three) of coffee. Parents have been telling kids for generations that coffee was an adult beverage, and that drinking coffee would stunt a child’s growth. This coffee “fact” may have had more to do with parents not wanting their children being hyperactive on a caffeine high than with any science. Drinking coffee does not stunt a child’s growth (though it may indeed make them more excited).


Everyone loves chocolate. Well, at least almost everyone anyway. Chocolate has long been blamed for causing acne though, which is a real bummer for chocolate lovers everywhere. In an effort to decide once and for all if this is actually true, a group of brave people were fed chocolate candy bars for an entire month. The result? While all of the candy bars may have wreaked havoc in other ways, there was no difference in acne between the chocolate eaters and the unlucky members of the control group.

Five-Second Rule

Photo of strawberry on floor

Robert Witham

We have all heard of the five-second rule, or a similar equivalent. This is the “rule” that says food is still safe if you drop it on the floor, but pick it up within five seconds. This idea may have gained popularity because of a lack of knowledge about germs in the past, or it may have spread because we all hate to waste a good dessert. In any case, the five-second rule is just one more food myth. Bacteria are a lot faster than you are, even when it is your favorite food that just leapt from the table, and can contaminate food in mere milliseconds rather than seconds. The real question is not how long the food was on the floor, but how clean the floor was when the food was dropped.


We all know that milk is good for us, and is particularly important for the calcium and vitamin D that will keep us from breaking our bones when we have a clumsy moment. Plenty of money has been spent promoting this idea, and even the U.S. Department of Agriculture has jumped on the milk wagon. As it turns out, at least if you believe a number of studies done on this issue, drinking milk does not help you develop strong bones. It may, however, be related to some other negative health issues.


What are your favorite examples of bullshit we’ve been fed?




Robert Witham
Robert Witham
A freelance writer and journalist, I am also a wandering minimalist. I never sit still for too long in one place. When I am not writing I can be found reading, enjoying a good cup of coffee, hiking, fishing, installing a new OS on my laptop, or building a website.