Healthy living is a noble goal, but sometimes our ideas about how to get there aren't supported by science. Here are some common health myths that have crept into our lifestyles.
Since the '60s, vitamin C has been thought to prevent and cure colds, thanks to Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling. But study after study has shown that megadoses of the scurvy-preventing vitamin have no effect. Sure, our immune systems need vitamin C to function properly, but this isn't a case of more is better. Enough is actually enough.
At some point in the 1980s, we decided that fat was bad. It's a myth that persists to our detriment, because we kicked out the good with the bad. The truly bad fats are trans fats, which are chemically processed. Other fats, even the saturated ones, aren't the heart bombs we've been led to believe. Embrace fat—your body will love you for it.
With few exceptions, dietary supplements are generally unnecessary. In fact, they can even be dangerous. Vitamin supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as many people assume, and so the burden is on the consumer to know what and how much is in the supplements and whether they're safe. Generally, it's best to get your nutrition from real food, unless your doctor recommends otherwise.
For those who have been diagnosed with celiac disease, gluten-free foods are crucial. For everyone else, gluten is not the harmful agent it has been accused of being. There's no science supporting the need to give up gluten altogether, while there's plenty of evidence showing that it's not at all necessary for most.
Of all the health myths, one of the most persistent and dangerous is that vaccines cause autism. The one study that claimed they did has long since been debunked, and the doctor behind it discredited and stripped of his license to practice medicine. And yet, an increasing number of parents are refusing to get their kids vaccinated fully and on time, putting others at risk, especially very young children, the elderly and those with a weakened immune system.
You can't actually "detox" your body (unless you're coming off of an addiction), but the detox industry is a big one and ready to sell you a week's worth of juices. Your body—cells, blood, various organs—work hard all the time to process and excrete toxins, so you don't need an expensive green juice to do it.
Good news for some, bad news for others: Exercise doesn't always make you lose that much weight. Of course, exercise is great for your body and your health, but evidence is mounting that it has little to nothing to do with your ability to lose significant weight and keep it off.
Sure, if you're thirsty, the best thing you can do for your body is to drink some water. But do we really need eight 8-ounce glasses a day for optimum health? A resounding no has come from health experts and research. If you're sick of feeling bloated from getting in the last few glasses for the day in a span of an hour, feel free to stop. You're not harming your health.
Too many people think that antibiotics are helpful, even necessary, in getting over a cold. Once their mucus turns green, they head to their doctor for a prescription. This has led to the overuse of antibiotics and to no end. Antibiotics aren't the answer to surviving colds. Rest, fluids and time are.
For generations, parents have insisted that their kids wear a coat in cold weather so that they don't get sick. But here's the thing: That's a myth. Colds and the flu are caused by viruses, not cold, snowy days. Coats are great for frostbite prevention and general discomfort when it's cold. But if it's sickness you're worried about, make them wash their hands.
For a long time, people worried that cell phones caused brain tumors. And considering how much time we're on our devices, if it were true, we'd be seeing an epidemic. But fortunately, according to the National Cancer Institute, there is no credible link between cancer and cell phones.
You hear it all the time: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And yet, truth be told, it isn't. Sure, if you're hungry, you should eat breakfast. But it doesn't have to contain eggs or cereal or pancakes. In fact, while the American Heart Association reports that people who eat breakfast tend to have lower rates of heart disease and high blood pressure, the organization admits that the data isn't strong enough to recommend that people should start eating breakfast if they don't already. And like any meal, if you're trying to go for optimal health, eat foods that keep you full. And only eat them when you're actually hungry, not because the clock tells you it's time.
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