A customer pays for her purchases at a fruit and vegetable shop in Brixton Market, south London on December 29, 2021 ( AFP / Hollie Adams)

Social media posts spread inaccurate nutritional information

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Posts on social media make a series of claims about the benefits of eating certain fruits and vegetables, including that three carrots provide enough energy to walk three miles. This is misleading; experts say the posts contain multiple inaccuracies, and make broad generalizations about the foods that do not apply to everyone.

"3 carrots give you energy to walk 3 miles. They were first grown as medicine not food," says a January 11, 2022 Facebook post.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken January 14, 2022
Screenshot of a Facebook post taken January 14, 2022

 

 

Claims about multiple foods appeared on Facebook here and on Instagram here and here, while other posts about carrots circulated on Facebook here and here.

Below, AFP examines several of the claims.

Claim: '3 carrots give you the energy to walk 3 miles. They were first grown as medicine, not food'

"Carrots are nutrient-dense, providing an excellent source of beta carotene and can be included in a healthy eating pattern," but "three carrots isn't enough nutrients needed to walk three miles. Three carrots only provide 75 total calories, while it takes roughly 200-350 calories to walk three miles," said Roxana Ehsani, a dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

"Every person has very unique and personalized needs, which need to be taken into account when determining a person's daily caloric needs and when calculating their energy expenditure," she added.

Zhaoping Li, director of the Center for Human Nutrition and Chief of the Division of Clinical Nutrition at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, agreed.

"I think that it's implied that to do this that is all you need, and that is wrong," she said.

"For people to really engage (in) exercise, it also matters what they're doing the rest of the time for their diet. What I really want to avoid is for people to have the wrong idea, that is: 'I should live on those things.'"

Claim: 'Just 2 bananas will provide enough energy for an intense 90-minute workout'

"It's too generalized a statement to make this claim and apply it for everyone," because it "doesn't specify the size of the banana, and the range of calories for bananas can be anywhere from 90 to 120 calories," said Amy Kimberlain, another dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The type of exercise and the timing of eating the food would also need to be taken into account, she said.

According to Li, "two bananas may not be enough, you may also need protein support."

She explained that although a young person may be able to wake up and eat two bananas before a workout, this may not be true for someone who is elderly.

Claim: 'Apples are more effective in waking you up in the morning than coffee'

"There is no research that looks at comparing an apple to coffee in their effect directly on 'waking you up in the morning,'" said Kimberlain.

"Apples, depending on their size, range in the amount of natural sugar (thus calories) that they contain. This sugar can naturally raise one's glucose levels which can be thought of as a natural energy pick you up.  But here's the thing -- all food can do this, not just an apple when it comes down to it!" she said.

Li said that the apple claim is "not true," adding: "Apples are super healthy, but do not have that kind of effect."

Claim: 'Eating cucumbers before bedtime can help you wake up feeling refreshed and headache free'

Kimberlain said she is not aware of any research which directly links cucumbers to that result.

"If we take a closer look at the nutritional profile of the cucumber, cucumbers are approximately 95 percent water and contain a variety of vitamins and minerals," she said.

"This in turn can help with hydration and fluid needs that one needs daily.  When you are dehydrated you can experience headaches, so if the thought of having a cucumber before bed can remove your headache, it might simply be the connection of its hydrating properties," Kimberlain added.

Li echoed that assessment, saying: "There is absolutely no scientific evidence," to back up this claim.

"It may give you fibers and other nutrients," she said. "But it's not going to make you headache-free."