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Common Food Myths: 20 Foods We're Told Not To Swallow

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BUBBLE GUM
It's okay to swallow gum -- and these other 20 foods. (You just might not want to.) | Shutterstock

At some point or another, we all believed swallowing a piece of gum would mean it sat in our stomachs for seven years. Which, for the record, is a myth.

Dr. Rachel Vreeman, an assistant professor at Indiana University's department of pediatrics and co-author of Don't Swallow Your Gum says it’s myths like these that scare people from eating certain foods -- and distract them from the actual risks involved in eating.

“Always think about the outside and inside of your food. If something is grown in soil or has been handled by humans who have used chemicals, bacteria may still be on your food,” she tells The Huffington Post Canada.

For the most part, health experts like Vreeman are more worried about the consumption of unwashed fruits and vegetables and undercooked meats than a piece of gum here or there. A 2008 study found at least 13 million Canadians -- almost 40 per cent of the population at the time -- suffered from food poisoning that year, according to The Ottawa Citizen.

Food poisoning often occurs when you swallow foods or drinks that contain bacteria, viruses, toxins and other germs.

“Washing and cooking your food is the best way to kill bacteria. You should also be washing your hands -- you don’t want to touch food after preparing [raw food],” Vreeman says.

But what about eating animal bones, orange peels and insects? Are they bad for our bodies? And will they digest in our systems?

Here are 20 common foods we may think aren't edible, but, in most cases, are fine for our bodies:

Things We're Told Not To Eat
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Swallowing Gum:
People say if you swallow gum, it can stay in your stomach for up to seven years. This is a complete myth. "Your body doesn't digest gum, but it will pass right through your digestive system and go out the other end," says Dr. Rachel Vreeman. In some rare cases, she notes, kids who swallow up to 40 pieces of gum may experience types of digestive blockage.

Cheese Rinds:
Most cheese rinds are edible and they vary on how the cheese is prepared, Vreeman says. "Some rinds are made by sprays and other rinds are natural. The only exception is when cheese is coated in red wax." If you do eat any of these rinds, it will pass through your body -- you may just not like the taste.

After The Best Before Date:
If you are past the 'best before' date on your bag of chips -- don't worry, you can still eat them, but at your own risk. "These are voluntary labels that food producers put on foods as their recommendations. The only items that have these by law are baby formulas and baby foods," Vreeman says. You should always, however, check if food has any mould -- you don't want to eat something that actually went bad.

Kernels:
Swallow a kernel? Don't worry. "Kernels are just seeds of corn, so it's edible. It's not something that will hurt your stomach, but it can hurt your teeth," Vreeman says.

Overripe Fruit:
Some fruits, like pears and apples, often go 'brown' once you cut them. "This is typically a chemical process that happens when certain fruits react with oxygen," Vreeman says. "The fruit isn't going bad. If it's ripe, it is safe to eat."

Bones:
Bones are also completely edible and in some countries are eaten routinely, Vreeman says. Some bones, of red meat for example, have iron-filled marrow and calcium that can be nutritious for your body. Fish bones are tricky -- but also edible. Just don't cut yourself or choke.

Veggie Skin:
Skins are fine -- as long as you wash your vegetables. Carrots and potato skin, for example, even contain more nutrients than the actual vegetable, Vreeman says.

Orange Peels:
The same rule for skins apply to orange peels. Sure, they don't taste as great, but orange peels are high in vitamin C and fibre. "One thing you need to careful for is pesticides. Certain production of oranges can use sprays," Vreeman says.

Coffee Beans:
Coffee beans are also seeds of a coffee plant. If you can handle the strong taste -- eat up.

Apple Core:
Dr. Vreeman suggests staying away from apple cores. "Seeds contain a chemical that breaks down to a form of cyanide and can be poisonous," she says. However, eating a core by accident won't affect your entire body -- you would need to eat many cores to do any real damage.

Stems:
If you've ever wondered what a branch tastes like you, can go ahead and eat some stems. "It won't cause you harm, but it won't digest in your body," Vreeman says.

Dirt On Vegetables:
We get it, sometimes you're hungry and don't want to wash your fruits and veggies. "We do worry about the dirt [even dirt you can't really see] on vegetables. You can get sick from bacteria and pesticides that are added to soil," Vreeman says. Even most organic soils have bacteria -- always make sure you wash your veggies before you eat them.

Raw Eggs:
Again, you should worry about bacteria. But, for the most part, if your eggs are stored properly, eating raw egg yolk won't do any harm to your body, Vreeman says.

Egg Shells:
Find a tiny piece of an egg shell in your scrambled eggs? Make sure this doesn't happen too often. Vreeman says eggshells are coated in bacteria -- but this risk isn't as big as people think. Salmonella is often found in more fruits and veggies compared to eggs.

Uncooked Meats:
Raw meat can be a breeding ground for bacteria, E. coli and salmonella, Vreeman says. However, it is okay -- though not advised -- to eat raw meats when an animal is raised in healthy conditions (away from pesticides/chemicals). The best way to get rid of bacteria and an upset stomach is took cook your meat thoroughly.

Raw Flour:
Conducting an experiment in your kitchen? There is no health risk of eating raw powdered flour, but if you do mix it with water, you could suffer from constipation or an upset stomach, Vreeman says.

Insects:
"In general, the risk of eating insects in relatively low," she says. Or how about that myth that most people swallow seven spiders when they're sleeping? Vreeman says it is highly unlikely. "Spiders will do everything in their power not to be swallowed by a human -- it doesn't want to go near your mouth."

Mouldy Cheese:
These cheeses are also edible as long as you enjoy the taste. "But at a certain point, you might want to throw it out -- especially if the mould overtakes the actual cheese," she says.

Aged Wine:
Only some wines are meant to age, Vreeman says. "There are only some wines that age properly. Others that are old will turn into vinegar." Wines also need to be stored properly to age, so don't try this at home kids.

Casu Marzu:
People have been eating this type of larva-infested cheese for a long time in certain regions, Vreeman says, but they probably shouldn't. "Anything that contains larva does present a potential risk for your digestive system. Your body won't destroy the larva and you could get an infection," she says.

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