From Organic Food Labels to the Truth About Caffeine: Grocery Store Myths Revealed



Before you shell out hard-earned dough on what you think are healthier choices, there may be a few everyday assumptions about your favorites foods that you should reconsider next time youre at the grocery store, or even just cooking at home.

1. Organic food isn’t all organic
Foods bearing the word organic on their packaging may not be entirely organic. Only those specifically labeled 100 percent organic are actually completely organic, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And even foods with the USDA Organic label might only be 95 percent organic. Packages that list organic ingredients on the front of their package may only be 70 percent organic.

2. Organic food isn’t always cleaner
Organic fruits and vegetables may still be grown with pesticides. Theyre just not synthetic chemicals. Biological pesticides are allowed in the treatment of organic produce including pyrethrum, a potentially cancer-causing substance that happens to be organic. Plus, if an organic farm is located near a non-organic farm, theres always a chance that pesticides from the synthetic chemically treated land can be carried by the wind to the organic farm. Plus, organic produce can still harbor bacteria including E. coli, notes Marie Claire magazine. There are a number of fruits and vegetables that may actually be just as clean and pesticide free– not to mention cheaper– compared with their organic counterparts.

2. Decaf isn’t caffeine free
Decaffeinated drinks are drinks in which natural caffeine is removed, but some caffeine usually remains. That remaining caffeine may still be a high enough concentration to cause someone to develop a caffeine addiction if they dont already have one, according to Science Daily. This is an especially important fact to know if you suffer from hypertension, in which case any amount of caffeine– even in the amounts found in decaffeinated coffee– could make your condition worse.

3. Non-fat foods contain fat
So-called fat free foods may actually contain just under 0.5 grams of fat per serving. Thats because when foods are analyzed to determine their fat content, any amount of fat thats less than 0.5 grams can be rounded down to zero, according to government regulations. The same goes for nutrition labels referring to trans fats, notes the American Heart Association.

4. Chicken isn’t always the leanest choice
Many cuts of beef are actually lower in fat content than some cuts of chicken. Three ounces of cooked top sirloin steak, for example, has 4.9 grams of fat, while a skinless chicken thigh has 9.2 grams of fat per cooked three ounces, according to USDA research. So, whether youre dining out or staying in, pay attention to the cut of meat youre considering and dont just assume that chicken is better.

5. Fresh v. frozen veggies
Farmers market purists might think theyre making the healthiest, most vitamin-rich produce choices, but if fresh produce stays in the fridge too long, essential vitamins could be lost. In fact, nutrients in produce are being lost as soon as fruits and vegetables are harvested, and can lose much of its nutritional value if left in the fridge for more than a few days, notes The New York Times. On the other hand, vegetables that are frozen soon after being harvested retain more nutrients than many of those picked fresh, then stored.

6. Whole wheat isn’t always the best
Contrary to what one might assume, whole wheat bread may not be your healthiest option when youre making a sandwich. Whole wheat bread actually had a worse impact on blood sugar levels than white bread, according to research by the University of Guelph in Canada. Furthermore, packages boasting hearty grains may only provide one gram of fiber per slice, notes The Wall Street Journal. Make sure the first ingredient contains the word whole,” the Journal says, like whole grains, which include the outer, more fiber rich grain materials called the bran and the germ. Dont be convinced that any bread thats brown is healthy. Some bread is just brown because coloring has been added, so its important to take a look at ingredients labels and steer clear of so-called wheat breads that contain white refined flour and caramel coloring.

7. The fat-free dressing myth
Were not saying its OK to dump half a bottle of ranch dressing on a bowl of iceberg lettuce, but limiting yourself to fat-free dressing may not be the healthiest way to approach salads either. It turns out that for certain salad ingredients like tomatoes, nutrients are more easily absorbed when theyre accompanied by a little bit of fat, according to the Chicago Tribune. Ideally, youd stick to good fats like olive oil, walnut oil, or avocados.

8. Raw beef: brown doesn’t mean bad
Beef thats fresh from the grocery store or the butcher might be bright red, but if parts of it are brown when you take it out of the package, it doesnt mean your meat is spoiled. Beef can turn red when its exposed to oxygen in the same way your own blood does. If its brown or grayish brown in the middle, that may just be because it hasnt come in direct contact with oxygen. On the other hand, if your meat has turned completely gray or brown, it could be starting to go bad, according to the USDA.

9. Sick in five seconds?
We have to admit that in a few cases well employ the five second rule. But even if you pick up dropped food quickly, if its fallen on your kitchen floor, it may still pick up some potentially-dangerous bacteria. More bacteria may be detected if you leave your food on the floor for longer than five seconds, but you can still pick up 150 to 8,000 bacteria even if you pick it up immediately, according to

10. Vitamins: more isn’t always better
Your health isnt boosted proportionally with the amount of vitamins you take. There are actually upper limits set for most vitamins and minerals, and if you go over that amount, it could actually be harmful to your health. For example, if you have too much calcium in your diet, it could lower your bodys ability to absorb iron, notes Real Simple. If you take too much vitamin A, it could affect your absorption of vitamin D.

To read more grocery store myths, visit

Contributed by Althea Chang for Main Street.

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