The Truth Behind Doughnuts: Separating Facts from Myths

What could be more satisfying than sinking your teeth into a sweet, warm doughnut? Doughnuts have always been one of our favorite foods to munch. We enjoy them for breakfast with coffee or as a late midnight snack. The humble doughnut has grown in popularity in past decades, becoming a gourmet delicacy with endless varieties found in cafes and restaurants. However, there are many misconceptions associated with this tasty delight.

Many people reason that doughnuts are sugary, and all sugar is bad for you, so all doughnuts are unhealthy. Some are still confused about the difference between a bagel and a doughnut. Others feel guilty about having an occasional doughnut because they are supposed to cause weight gain. 

Truth or myth – are you curious to find out which is which when it comes to doughnuts? We’re here to unmask some of the biggest doughnut misconceptions and explain the facts! Keep scrolling to discover doughnut misconceptions that you shouldn’t believe anymore.

1. Who invented Doughnuts?

Are doughnuts Canadian since Canada consumes the most doughnuts per capita? Or are they American? Or Japanese? In fact, doughnuts have a long history that goes back to Europe and the Middle East, long before discovering the New World.

Ancient Greeks and Romans would deep fry strips of dough and eat them coated with honey or fish sauce. During the Middle Ages, Arabs began to fry pieces of dough and drench them in sugary syrup. These Arab threats spread to England, Germany, and the Netherlands during the 1400s. Doughnuts were initially brought to America by the Pilgrims and Dutch settlers, who called them olykoeks, or oily cakes.

Of course, those olykoeks might not have looked like how we know them today, but now you know that humans have been frying dough for a long time!

2. The Salvation Army Invented Doughnuts 

No, they didn’t! But, it’s understandable why some people think that the Salvation Army invented doughnuts. In 1917 during World War I, 250 volunteers from The Salvation Army sailed to France to provide aid and support to frontline US soldiers. There, these volunteers would give these soldiers clothes, supplies, and food – including doughnuts! These sweet treats won the hearts of many soldiers, who would nickname the women who served them “Doughnut Lassies.” 

In 1938, the Salvation Army started the National Doughnut Day as a tribute to the “Doughnut Lassies” and soldiers of World War I. Many years later, the day is celebrated by all kinds of people to raise military support. So, although the Salvation Army didn’t invent doughnuts, they created National Doughnut Day, which you can celebrate every year on the first Monday of June!

3. Origins Of The Word “Doughnut”

The origins of the name doughnut seem to be shrouded in mystery. There is a myth that the word originated during World War I when “doughboys” (foot soldiers) went nuts for the treats distributed to them. There is yet another explanation that the olykoeks that Pilgrims made looked like wrinkled walnuts, giving the name “nuts.” 

A 19th-century cookbook by British Baroness Elizabeth Dimsdale describes a recipe for “dow nuts.” However, some simply believe the word came after a woman put nuts in the dough before frying it! There seems to be no one answer!

4. Is it “Doughnut” or “Donut”?

The controversy over the correct name for these baked goods has grown heated over time. Is it “doughnut” or “donut”? Should you glaze over the difference? According to the Grammarist, the Americanized spelling “donut” has been around since the late 19th century. Thanks to the rise of Dunkin Donuts, the “donut” spelling now dominates about one-third of the time in American writing. But, technically, there is no correct way!

5. All Doughnuts Have Holes

Or do they? Actually, not all doughnuts come with holes in the middle. Unlike most traditional doughnuts, some doughnuts are hole-free. For instance, cream and jelly-filled doughnuts are stuffed with filling and fried until golden brown.

6. The Whole Point Of The Hole In The Doughnut

Hanson Gregory, a 19th-century American ship captain, claims to have invented the ring-style doughnut. But why the hole?

Was it to skimp on ingredients and make doughnuts cheaper? Or was it to place the doughnut on a ship wheel spoke for convenience? The most satisfying answer is that the hole allowed the insides of the doughnuts to cook as evenly as the outsides – resulting in a perfect doughnut!

7. Doughnut Holes Come From Doughnut Centers

Contrary to popular belief, these round sweets are not leftovers from the center of doughnuts at all.

Initially, doughnut holes were remnants of dough that were punched out by hand from the middle of doughnuts. However, modern doughnuts are designed and machine-made with a hole in them already. So, those bite-sized delicious doughnut holes are now made separately for their own purpose!

8. Cops And Doughnuts

From the Simpsons to the Twin Peaks, the cop and doughnuts stereotype is everywhere. Police officers hanging out munching on doughnuts is a well-established stereotype – but is it a myth without any basis? 

A quick look at history shows that night-shift police officers used to frequent doughnut shops as early as the 1950s. They were one of the only places open until late at night and convenient places for police officers to do paperwork, take a break, and fuel up on sugar and caffeine. The shop owners also felt safe with the cops around and welcomed them to help themselves with doughnuts and coffee.

Of course, not all police officers are fans of doughnuts. But whether or not all cops today visit the doughnut shop in their night shifts, as long as some do, the stereotype will live on.

9. Did JFK Say, “I’m A Jelly Doughnut”?

In June 1963, President JFK stood beside the Berlin Wall and said, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” No, it didn’t mean that he was a jelly doughnut! Although Berliner is a term for a jelly doughnut in southern Germany, Berliners would call a jelly doughnut a “Pfannkuchen.”

So, the president had accurately expressed what he had intended to say. “Ich bin Berliner” implied that he was born in Berlin, and the word “ein” indicated that he was a Berliner in spirit. So, although President Kennedy was not born in Berlin, he meant that he was with the people of Berlin in spirit! 

10. Doughnuts Are Always Fresh

Many doughnut shops claim that their doughnuts are always fresh. Well, they are sort of fresh. Doughnuts are partially baked at a central facility, frozen, and then transported across the country, where they are reheated in stores. The freezing process seals in the freshness.

11. The Sugar In Doughnuts Is Extremely Unhealthy

Sugar causes diabetes. Sugar causes cancer and cavities. So sugar seems like a dangerous enemy, and doughnuts are no less.

But in fact, doctors claim that a sugary diet alone can never cause diabetes but is the cause of a mix of genetic and environmental factors. Some experts believe that sugar cannot directly cause or spread cancer. And cavities are usually caused by acidic food and drinks. Furthermore, humans need glucose to survive, and it’s rarely the reason behind obesity and heart disease!

12. Sugar Is More Addictive Than Cocaine

A few animal studies showed that sugar could have psychological effects and produce pleasure. However, there is no conclusive evidence to claim that sugar is more addictive than cocaine.

13. Bagels Are Salty Doughnuts

Bagels and doughnuts appear very much alike because of the hole that goes through them. But in fact, they are prepared in very different ways. Unlike doughnuts, bagels are made from high-gluten flour, boiled, baked, and have a salty flavor. 

14. All Bagels Are Healthier Than Doughnuts

Contrary to popular belief, a doughnut can be healthier than a bagel! A bagel usually has 42 grams of carbs, whereas a doughnut only has 25 grams. Furthermore, a plain bagel contains an astounding 430 mg of sodium, which is a big chunk of your daily recommended value.

15. Muffins Are Healthier Than Doughnuts

A blueberry muffin certainly looks more healthy than a double chocolate doughnut. But when compared, a regular doughnut might be ‘healthier‘ than a muffin.

16. You Have To Give Up Doughnuts To Lose Weight

There’s a widespread belief that you have to sacrifice all your favorite foods to lose weight. However, the key is controlling your calorie count.

So, you can enjoy that doughnut in your breakfast. Just watch out what you eat throughout the day and make sure to exercise!

Last Word

Now that you know the misconceptions about doughnuts, we would like to remind you that moderation and a balanced diet are the keys to any food. Ultimately, knowing the truth that lies behind these doughnut misconceptions will help you make the best decisions and thoroughly enjoy when it comes to indulging in these savory treats!

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This article was co-authored by our team of writers and editors who share one thing in common: their passion for food and drinks!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco works as a New York-based editor at Foodrinke, driven by his lifelong love for food. His culinary journey began in childhood, as he eagerly assisted his mother with her local sandwich and bakery business, relishing every opportunity to sample her creations. Known among family and friends as an easy eater, JC has a particular affinity for Chinese, Italian, Mexican, and Peruvian cuisine. At Foodrinke, he channels his passion for food into his work, sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge with readers.