Most annoying urban myths debunked – part 7
There are countless urban myths floating around. Some are amusing, some are terrifying and some are just plain weird. But there are also plenty of urban myths that I just find utterly annoying. Most of them are things I’ve believed in myself in the past, but when thinking about it logically realising couldn’t be true. Which is why I find them so annoying!
13. Natural ingredients are better
Ok. You know these adverts where they state that a particular food product only contain natural ingredients? And how they always imply that this is somehow better than the other brands containing (I presume) ‘unnatural’ ingredients? It’s all very wholesome and annoying, but is it true? Are products made with ‘natural’ ingredients really better?
No, they aren’t. First of all, let’s look at the definition of ‘natural ingredients’. What is a natural ingredient? Tomatoes grown in soil, perhaps? Grown without the aid of insecticides, fungicides and inorganic fertilisers? Only water, sunshine and animal poo then. I’m sorry to break it to you, but the image of naturally grown vegetables and fruit is just that – an image. No matter where you grow stuff on earth today you will subject your plants to man-made chemicals. Both rain water and ground water contains levels of chemicals, as does almost all soil and even the dung you use for fertiliser. So, it is all but impossible to grow things ‘naturally’ these days. You simply cannot find fully natural ingredients anymore.
Secondly, assuming you could find any, would natural produce be better in any fundamental way? Well, not really. There are no magical components in rain water, sun light and soil. It’s all about chemicals and electromagnetic radiation. By controlling those factors using inactive synthetic soil, inorganic fertilisers, greenhouses with shades and water drip distribution systems (also known as hydroponics), we can in fact improve on both productivity and flavour of the resulting vegetables and fruits.
Obviously, you could argue that the term ‘natural’ has more to do with not using pesticides, which of course would be a good thing, especially since there are many biological alternatives nowadays. But does a product become ‘natural’ just because we haven’t sprayed them with poison?
In the end, the phrase ‘natural ingredients’ is lacking a coherent definition while having a strong positive emotional charge, making it a perfect marketing tool. Call something natural and it will sell, even if you up the price. Ka-ching!
14. Eating cheese before bedtime will give you nightmares
Ok, this is a popular one: Don’t eat cheese before you go to bed or your sleep will be interrupted by countless nightmares. Apparently, there is some kind of substance in cheese that will give you weird and scary dreams, and we should all take care not to consume any cheesy food late at night.
No. Eating cheese doesn’t induce nightmares. Even though many cheeses contain casomorphins (a type of morphine that acts like an opioid and can cause dizziness and hallucinations in high concentrations), no studies have managed to show any link between consuming cheese and more frequent or more intense nightmares.
Cheese is addictive, however. This is due to the casomorphins mentioned above, as they trigger the reward-centre in our brain every time we eat cheese. So, according to that logic, you’re more likely to experience nightmares if you stop eating cheese as you’d be suffering from withdrawal symptoms. Also, cheese contains tryptophan which will help induce sleep and should therefore help you sleep sounder. In addition it’s a potential anti-depressant.
To top it off, eating cheese is probably good for you teeth, as the calcium, proteins and phosphorus will strengthen your tooth enamel. Cheese also increase the production of saliva, which will help rinse your teeth and gums clear of any leftover foodstuffs that could otherwise cause tooth decay.
The bottom line is this: cheese is good for you; it will help you sleep, keep you from becoming too depressed and stop your teeth from decaying. It is addictive however, and fattening, so some moderation in consuming it is probably in order.