Everything makes you fat! Cutting out dairy will make you skinny! Full-fat cows milk will prevent your osteoporosis! Carrots help you see in the dark!
Whether it’s an old wives tale or a convincing article found online, health myths are EVERYWHERE. Anyone that has a keyboard can make up a health tip; we’ve put together eight examples of myths that miss the mark.
1. You should drink 8 glasses of water a day
We need water to survive. That is an undisputable fact. But one of the most commonly heard health myths is “everyone should drink 8 glasses of water each day.” There is a lack of scientific evidence to back this claim.
Firstly, every person is unique, and their bodies have different requirements. A petite 5”5 non-active male does not need the same amount of water as a 6ft marathon runner.
Your water needs depend on many factors, including your health, your size, how energetic you are and where you live. There is no one formula that fits all.
Here are the facts:
· Your body is well equipped to let you know if you are dehydrated
· If you drink enough fluid so that you rarely feel thirsty and your urine is colorless or light yellow – and has little odor – your fluid intake is probably adequate
· If you exercise or engage in strenuous activity that makes you sweat, or live in a humid climate, you must compensate for the fluid loss with water or a healthy alternative
· Water is in fruits, vegetables, juice, tea, coffee and even BEER. Drinking water is great for you, but it’s not the only way to provide your body with fluids!
· It’s recommended to drink water with each meal, before during and after exercise, first thing in the morning when you wake up and after you urinate
There is no one magic formula for everyone, it’s good to carry a reusable water bottle or flask with you, sip water throughout the day and always quench your thirst. If you’re concerned about your fluid intake check with a doctor or registered dietician.
Check out our previous blog post “How to get clean water in Hong Kong.”
2. Egg yolks are bad for your health
One large egg has roughly 186 milligrams of cholesterol, all of which is found in the yolk. In the past, cholesterol has been widely demonized/has had a bad rap for causing high cholesterol and heart disease. Cue egg white omelets, egg white scrambled eggs, and a whole lot of yolks down the sink.
Don’t get us wrong; egg whites are high in protein and low in fat. But the majority of the nutrients found in eggs are in the yolk.
Medical researchers have learned that dietary cholesterol is a different measure than blood level of cholesterol, which is associated with increased risk of heart attack and stroke. The effect of egg consumption on blood cholesterol is minimal when compared with the effect of trans fat and saturated fats (who are the real bad guys in the fat fight!)
Most healthy people can eat up to seven whole eggs a week with no increase in their risk of heart disease.
3. Sugar makes kids hyper
Sugar high, sugar rush, sugar crash. How many times have you heard (or said) ‘my kids ate too many sweets at a party and were bouncing off the walls for hours’? This is widely believed, deeply entrenched, and lacks scientific basis.
It’s much more likely that at celebrations like Christmas, birthdays and Easter, children get caught up in the fun and egg each other on, resulting in higher levels of excitement.
4. Eating fatty food makes you fat
An unbalanced diet and lack of exercise makes you fat!
There are good fats and bad fats. Fat is a rich source of energy, and the British Department of Health recommends that fat intake should not exceed 35% of our total daily energy intake from food, saturated fat should not exceed 11%.
Low-fat products have much higher sugar content, and can actually cause weight gain when consumed in vast quantities. What’s the bottom line? Have everything in moderation.
5. You can detox your body e.g. juice cleanses
Detox smoothies, water, juice, tea, shampoo, masks, herbs, cleanses, yoga, seeds, powders, pills, pads…people will add the word detox to almost anything these days, and chances are it will sell. But can we really ‘detox’ our body?
The reality is most of us don’t need to. Our kidneys, liver, skin and even lungs do it for us. And if toxins did build up in a way your body could not pass, you would be in serious medical trouble. Diet and exercise is the only way to get healthy. Whilst some of these ‘detox’ and ‘cleansing’ products might have some positive effects on a person, it’s likely that the weight loss people experience from going on a juice cleanse is because they are starving themselves of a normal balanced diet, and the weight will pile back on when their cleanse ends.
As for the so-called toxins we have grown to fear, in 2009, the UK charity Sense about Science assembled a team of scientists who contacted the manufacturers of 15 products marketed as ‘detoxifying’ sold in pharmacies and supermarkets across the UK. Ranging from dietary supplements to shampoos, when asked for evidence behind the claims, not one manufacturer could define the meaning of detoxification, never mind name the toxins.
6. A vegan/vegetarian diet is healthy
The health and environmental benefits associated with a healthy and well-balanced vegetarian or vegan diet are indisputable. There is an abundance of research showing that a well-planned, nutritious, plant-based diet is associated with a lower risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes and stroke.
What many people don’t emphasize is the importance of the “well-planned, nutritious, plant based diet.” To become a vegetarian by simply omitting meat from the diet is not a one-way ticket to health. It is just as easy to be an unhealthy vegan or vegetarian as it is to be an unhealthy omnivore! The real benefits of the vegetarian lifestyle are seen when meat and/or animal products are replaced with more vegetables, fruits, beans and pulses, whole soy and high-nutrition foods.
People choosing to become vegetarian - and especially vegans – should also be aware of the risk of deficiencies they may face, and ensure they get enough vitamin B12, calcium, iron and zinc, which usually come from meat, fish and dairy.
7. You can eat whatever you want as long as you exercise and burn enough calories
Many self-appointed diet ‘experts’ will say energy in = energy out, but to put it plainly, this is wrong.
Working out on a regular basis has many health benefits, but this does not give you a free pass to eat whatever you like whenever you like. Fueling your body with fast food is like running your car on cheap gas. It works, but not to it’s full potential.
A huge issue with this mentality is “compensation”: when people exercise they feel they have earned a self-reward, and often treat themselves to something which cancels out the calories they burned and sometimes more.
8. Eating ‘miracle’ and ‘super foods’ will make you lose weight, and may help prevent/fight cancer
Firstly, lets look at the meaning of the word miracle: An extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency. When we hear this we think of remarkable tales from the Bible or history, not goji berries and coconut oil. People want a quick fix. Using the word miracle to sell a product that can burn fat, help maintain cognitive function or prevent cancer and heart disease is clever marketing, but vague and misleading.
“There is certainly no such thing as an anti-cancer diet,” says Justin Stebbing, a consultant oncologist and professor of cancer medicine and oncology at Imperial College London.
Then we have superfood: There is no official definition of a superfood and the EU has banned the use of the word on product packaging unless the claim is backed up by convincing research.
We still have a lot to learn. Science makes new discoveries daily that tell us more than any generation before knew. Unfortunately, sometimes studies or research can be taken out of context, which leads to myths like the list above.
When reading about health online, check that the author or source is reputable, that the information is up to date and try to stick to medical/government websites and journals. Poor spelling and grammar, or a badly designed website can be indicators of an untrustworthy source.